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BUBBLEHEADS SEE THE SEA IN A DIFFERENT WAY

Aug. 8, 2002 – Those not quite ready for scuba diving now have a new way to check out life beneath the surface of the sea. The BOB Underwater Adventure has come to St. Thomas.
BOB, short for "breathing observation bubble," is several steps beyond snorkeling, allowing non-divers to explore the oceans without totally immersing their heads in the water — and while sitting down at that.
Laura Edge and her husband, Bob, the owner/operators of Aqua Adventures, brought BOB to the territory in April. Edge said the apparatus is "basically an underwater motor scooter that you drive individually at about two and a half knots under the water."
She said their BOB tour takes place in a shallow site, at a depth of only 15 feet of water. The BOB is tethered to a floating buoy that moves through the water with the device. The tether keep the rider's head at a depth of 6 feet. "That's less than the deep end of an average swimming pool," she said.
According to Edge, the BOB operates on the bell theory. "If you take an upside-down glass and push it down really hard under the water, the glass won't fill up with water," she said. BOB riders sit on their scooters with clear acrylic domes over their heads and are lowered underwater by safety divers who accompany the riders on the tour. Under the dome, the rider breathes normally, with air supplied from a scuba tank attached to the front of the BOB "scooter."
Edge said the tour takes place off Water Island, where participants are transported aboard a 60-foot custom dive yacht. "Everybody is really comfortable," she said.
The half-day excursion also includes a guided snorkel tour, snacks and beverages. All equipment is provided and complimentary rum punch is served after the watersports activities are concluded.
Edge said BOB tours have been around for 12 years. They can be found in 15 locations worldwide — primarily in Europe, Hawaii and Mexico. "We're the first ones to bring it to the Caribbean," she said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for non-divers to see the underwater world."
Aqua Adventures takes five people at a time on its BOB tours, with three safety divers keeping them company. Edge said her safety divers are all at divemaster level or above. The tour is very ecologically sensitive, she said, and extreme caution is used to keep riders from coming into contact with reef systems while they're in the water.
Residents interested in trying a BOB tour can contact Aqua Adventures at 715-0348. The business offers a local rate of $69 per person for the half-day tour.

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