Wis. diver to attempt record for longest underwater submergence

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Posted by on May 16, 2005 at 04:08:03:

PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. - A Franklin man says he will use mind over matter when he spends seven days underwater trying break the world record for the longest underwater submergence with scuba gear this summer.

The current world record of five days was set by Tennessee resident Jerry Hall in August 2004.

Rich Henry, 35, will attempt the feat the week of July 24 at Lake Andrea in Prairie Springs Park.

"... If I can keep my mind off of what is happening, I'll be fine," said Henry, whose previous longest underwater dive lasted 12 hours.

The event, called Wish Dive Week, will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin and the volunteer Kenosha County Dive Rescue Team. Howard Cooley, former president of Jockey International and a longtime diver, is managing the event.

Hall, reached Sunday by The Associated Press at his home in Bluff City, Tenn., wished Henry well.

"It's not about competition, he said. "It's actually a brotherhood of duration divers."

Seven days underwater would be incredible, Hall said.

"I spent five days and I thought it was plenty enough," he said.

Henry will always have one member of the volunteer rescue dive team with him below water and one above the surface.

He will have a liquid diet, his air tanks will be changed almost hourly, and the dive team will make sure he is hydrated.

He will also have a waterproof MP3 player, iPod, palm pilot and DVD player.

"When the divers go down to replace his air, they can also slip him another DVD to watch," Cooley said.

After fulfilling a Guinness requirement to spend 30 minutes in 30 feet of water, Henry will move to a dive platform secured to the lake floor 15 feet down.

But Cooley has warned that Henry's temperature, blood pressure and pulse would all have to be monitored, and the group is working to secure someone who can do that.

"We've made a pact if we can't get all these things, he ain't going under," Cooley said.

Henry said he decided to go for the record after watching national media coverage of Hall breaking a Guinness World Record.

Then while working at Diver Dan's Scuba Center in Kenosha, Henry met a young student who inspired him.

The diver he was teaching had been referred to Diver Dan's from the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

It wasn't until after the dive that Henry realized that the girl was suffering from a connective tissue disorder - the same disease his 21-year-old stepdaughter has lived with since she was 12.

"It was at that point that I realized I could set a new record while holding a great fund-raiser," Henry said.

Henry has been training at LakeView RecPlex in Pleasant Prairie for several months.

And from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Henry slept at the bottom of the RecPlex pool as part of his training.

"Sleeping under water is the most euphoric sensation I've ever had," he said.

While Henry is underwater, there will be events taking place on land, including diving demonstrations, exhibits and an opportunity for people over the age of 12 to go on their own scuba dive for $25.

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