A group of volunteers who remove vehicles from rivers and lakes and film it for YouTube attempted this week to remove a Sno-Cat at the bottom of Island Lake on Grand Mesa, but were unable to complete the project.
The group of volunteer divers, called Adventures with Purpose, are mainly based around the state of Oregon and have been filming their activities for a little more than a year.
Jared Leisek, who runs the channel, said his group was not giving up on removing the Sno-Cat.
“We’re definitely coming back,” Leisek said. “We’re making plans for it.”
The U.S. Forest Service was on hand for the attempts this week, and Grand Valley District Ranger Bill Edwards said he would be happy to have the team return.
Leisek said the team completed preparations Monday to raise the 15,000-pound machine from its resting place nearly 80 feet below the surface.
Divers using 10 lift bags, which are inflated with air to float the vehicle to the surface, managed Tuesday to get the cat off the lake bed.
It floated about 10 feet above the bottom, but Leisek said the straps they were using rubbed against the metal, causing them to snap.
“The Sno-Cat was moving,” Leisek said. “It was coming to the surface. The straps slid across the metal and sliced them open, which then ended up dropping the Sno-Cat back down.”
The diving and work below the surface were complex. More than 10,000 feet of elevation has to be accounted for by the divers, adding an extra calculation to determine how long they can safely remain at depth.
Visibility at the bottom was just 3 feet, diver Leah Guliasi said, requiring the use of a light. This was the first hands- on salvage work Guliasi said she has been involved with.
“It’s pretty cool,” Guliasi said. “It’s definitely a different experience like nothing I ever thought I would do when I started diving, but it’s fun.”
On Wednesday the divers had more luck, actually surfacing the lift bags with the cat suspended around 30 feet below. Unfortunately, several of the bags had become damaged and were leaking air, and one bag was accidentally deflated, Leisek said.
After that, they decided to regroup and try again later this year using larger custom-built heavy-lift bags.