Mari Fester holds up a carved spaghetti squash that filled in for a pumpkin during an underwater carving event held Sunday at Auke Rec. With more standard fare in short supply locally, acorn pumpkins, warty pumpkins and even a pumpkin sourced from Anchorage thanks to a traveler passing through served as canvases for the aquatic artists. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Mari Fester holds up a carved spaghetti squash that filled in for a pumpkin during an underwater carving event held Sunday at Auke Rec. With more standard fare in short supply locally, acorn pumpkins, warty pumpkins and even a pumpkin sourced from Anchorage thanks to a traveler passing through served as canvases for the aquatic artists. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Splashing pumpkins: Underwater carving puts a twist on Halloween tradition

Alternative headline: The knife aquatic.

Some niche traditions could be described as underground. This one was underwater.

Sunday marked the ninth annual underwater pumpkin carving event in Juneau. Ten divers carrying gourds and carving implements made their way into the waters at Auke Recreation Area and emerged with completed jack-o’-lanterns.

“It’s a group of people that love diving in cold water, and it’s a fun added challenge to a Halloween tradition,” said Carter Johnson, who noted Juneau divers are far from the only ones to partake in underwater pumpkin carving.

A sort-of companion event also took place in Kodiak, and internet search results show competitions across the nation and world.

“It’s a ridiculous thing to do underwater,” Johnson said.

his photo shows a jack-o’-lantern carved underwater near Auke Recreation Area. (Courtesy Photo / Carter Johnson)

his photo shows a jack-o’-lantern carved underwater near Auke Recreation Area. (Courtesy Photo / Carter Johnson)

Johnson is a Ph.D. student in the University of Alaska Fairbanks fisheries science program. Most of Sunday’s participants are part of the program. Carvers paired off and reviewed a safety plan before submerging.

[Fall together, now: High schools hold seasonal celebrations]

Pumpkins — as well as a few other types of gourd necessitated by standard pumpkins being in short supply locally — were cut open and scooped prior to the dive, but the actual carving was done in the water at depths ranging from roughly 20 to 50 feet.

A variety of gourds await carving under the Eagle Shelter at Auke Rec. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

A variety of gourds await carving under the Eagle Shelter at Auke Rec. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Designs included a snorkel and goggles, a sassy cat and classic grinning faces among. Some were planned ahead of time, others were improvised during the dive. Muriel Dittrich, a multi-time underwater carver whose effort depicting a submerged diver, went on to claim the Best In Show award, said she always makes up her designs on the spot.

Muriel Dittrich’s pumpkin won Best In Show at an underwater pumpkin carving event held Sunday at Auke Rec. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Muriel Dittrich’s pumpkin won Best In Show at an underwater pumpkin carving event held Sunday at Auke Rec. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

The pool of participants included both practiced hands and first-timers.

“It was kind of cool,” said Wyatt Lee, who was a first-time participant in the event but has diving experience at Auke Rec.

He was among the divers to report visibility wasn’t especially bad despite dismal, blustery conditions topside.

A jack-o’-lantern depicting goggles and a snorkel rests on a ledge next to damp flippers on Sunday at Auke Recreation Area. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau EmpireP)

A jack-o’-lantern depicting goggles and a snorkel rests on a ledge next to damp flippers on Sunday at Auke Recreation Area. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau EmpireP)

After the pumpkins were completed, attendees enjoyed chilli in the relative warmth of the recreation area’s Raven Shelter, and awards were distributed for jack-o’-lanterns.

Winners included: Dittrich for Best In Show; Alaska Award, Tamsen Peeples; Scariest, James Crimp; Most Unique, Courtney Hart; Picasso Award, Lia Domke; Best Science-Themed, Alex Reich.

Divers make their way into the water at Auke Rec to carve their pumpkins. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Divers make their way into the water at Auke Rec to carve their pumpkins. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson (left) answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies.

(Getty Images)
Alaska Republicans head to the polls Tuesday with Trump, Haley and Ramaswamy on the ballot

On Super Tuesday, March 5, Alaska Republicans will join their counterparts in… Continue reading

Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake, speaks March 20, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Proposal to define a fetus as a person in Alaska’s criminal code faces pushback

Opponents testified that the bill would threaten Alaskans’ abortion rights

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska House approves bigger merit scholarship for in-state high school students

The Alaska House of Representatives voted on Monday without opposition to raise… Continue reading

A mountain biker takes advantage of a trail at Eaglecrest Ski Area during the summer of 2022. The city-owned resort is planning to vastly expand its summer activities with a new gondola and the facilities by 2026. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Eaglecrest’s big summertime plans, including the gondola, get OK from planning commission

Ski area also planning new summit lodge, snowtubing park, bike trails and picnic pavilion by 2026.

Spruce Root was invited by the U.S. Forest Service to help roll out the Tongass National Forest Plan Revision process. (Photo by Bethany Goodrich)
Resilient Peoples and Place: Stronger Together in 2024 — A letter from the Sustainable Southeast Partnership

Founded in 2012, the Sustainable Southeast Partnership (SSP) is an Indigenous values-led… Continue reading

Students, parents and teachers rally outside Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé prior to a school board meeting Tuesday, seeking a change in the board’s decision to consolidate Juneau’s two high schools beginning with the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Layoffs and larger classes planned along with consolidation at local schools, but BSA increase would help

District leaders not counting on funds approved by Legislature, due to veto threat by governor.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, Feb. 26, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Most Read