Darren Jaeckel smiles near a jack-o’-lantern he carved underwater at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Darren Jaeckel smiles near a jack-o’-lantern he carved underwater at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Divers carve out time to make underwater jack-o’-lanterns

They had to wait to light candles.

With hissing respiration, a black-clad figure emerged from the water.

They held a one-eyed, whiskered face in their hands. A knife protruded from the animalistic head.

Sherry Tamone emerges from the water with her catfish jack-o’-lantern at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Sherry Tamone emerges from the water with her catfish jack-o’-lantern at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

“That was pretty fun,” said Sherry Tamone after setting her cat-faced jack-o’-lantern down.

“It’s a catfish,” Tamone said of her handiwork. “It has gills.”

Tamone was one of eight divers to participate in the Sixth Annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event at Harlequin Point near Point Lena Loop Road.

Divers at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event at Harlequin Point prepare to turn their hollowed-out pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Divers at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event at Harlequin Point prepare to turn their hollowed-out pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

During the annual event hosted by University of Alaska Fairbanks-College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and the Scuba Tank, divers swam with hollowed-out pumpkins before diving with them and carving the pumpkins while submerged. It took about an hour for everyone to return to land, and divers moved in pairs or small groups for safety.

“Most of us are scientific divers,” said Jared Weems with UAF, who helped start the underwater pumpkin carving event. “A lot of us are grad students.”

A pumpkin-clutching skeleton marks the way to the dive at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

A pumpkin-clutching skeleton marks the way to the dive at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Weems said there are both pros and cons to carving a pumpkin underwater.

On the plus side, Weems said chunks of pumpkin flesh float to the surface during carving. But, thick gloves make dexterity a challenge, and hollow pumpkins aren’t stationery in the water.

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“The real problem is that the pumpkin is very buoyant,” Weems said.

Divers said they combated that by piling rocks inside the hollow gourds.

Many of the jack-o’lanterns had some sort of marine theme, like Tamone’s catfish or one that depicted a diver and a geoduck. Others drew inspiration from Southeast Alaska in general, such as Tamsen Peeples’ pumpkin, which used negative space to portray two ravens.

Finished jack-o’-lanterns sit in a row at at Harlequin Point at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Finished jack-o’-lanterns sit in a row at at Harlequin Point at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

There were also some wild-card works, like Weems’ poop emoji jack-o’-lantern and a grimacing face carved by Darren Jaeckel.

Jaeckel scraped away some of the pumpkin’s skin to give it light-orange teeth.

“I tried something similar last year,” he said.

Annie Raymond used some of her pumpkin’s innate qualities to add biological realism to her jack-o’-lantern, which was covered in depictions of sea stars.

Some fibrous pumpkin innards were left to droop through the jagged openings.

Annie Raymond and Tamsen Peeples rinse off with warm water after carving pumpkins underwater at sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Annie Raymond and Tamsen Peeples rinse off with warm water after carving pumpkins underwater at sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

The orange, stringy goop was meant to be a stand in for small tubular protrusions sea star use to move and eat.

“Mine’s titled ‘Starry, Starry Dive,’” Raymond said. “I left some pumpkin guts in to be sea star tube feet.”

Annie Raymond returns to dry land with her jack-o’-lantern titled “Starry Starry Dive” at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)

Annie Raymond returns to dry land with her jack-o’-lantern titled “Starry Starry Dive” at the sixth annual Spooktacular Dive and Underwater Pumpkin Carving event Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (Ben Hohenstatt | Juneau Empire)


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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