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.
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.