A Fairmont native has purchased a quirky new mode of transportation.
Hank Pronk recently returned from Florida with a two-person submarine in tow and restored it at his East Kootenay home.
I take it to Premier Lake a lot, and I take it to Kootenay Lake, said Mr. Pronk, adding it works well as a centralized hub for diving. I do a lot of diving in the winter because the water clarity is the best. Kootenay Lake doesnt freeze, so thats where I go in the winter.
Mr. Pronk added that Premier Lake which is fresh water was another favourite of his.
Theres a lot of fresh water coral in it, he added, so I go take pictures of that.
But this isnt his first independently operated watercraft with underwater capabilities (his submerged exploits were previously reported on in The Pioneer in June 2012).
Ive been building submarines since I was a teenager, said Mr. Pronk. I have graduated to buying a sub that goes quite deep.
His latest purchase has 1,000 foot depth capability, while the ones he built could only go a couple of hundred feet.
But the submarine I have now used to be a commercial submarine, explained Mr. Pronk. I bought it as a wreck and then I restored it. Then, I removed the front of it and installed a large bow dome window so its like a huge window in the front.
While Mr. Pronk is a passionate hobbyist, he has no formal ties through his career to be operating the underwater aircraft.
Its exciting, he replied when asked about the unique pastime. Some people go snowmobiling, some people go dirt biking. I go submarining.
Winter is coming, and Mr. Pronk is making arrangements to search for a gold boulder that was lost in Kootenay Lake during the 1890s.
Im going to be looking for the lost gold boulder this winter, he explained. In Grey Creek on Kootenay Lake, a gold boulder supposedly was lost in the late 1800s and because the lake is 400 feet deep, its very difficult to get to those depths, but I mean, back in those days, it wasnt even possible.
The gold boulder of Kootenay Lake is a legend that states a miner and prospector had partnered up to stake a claim on a mountain above the body of water.
But the prospector was allegedly betrayed by the miner who he had hired to help when the size of the job became too much for one person alone and his wife. The prospector remained unaware of their lovers tryst, and continued to work hard to profit from the golden nuggets he scoured the mountains for.
Eventually, when the duo found a boulder of solid gold, they were motivated to turn a profit.
The men decided to use ropes and pulleys that were attached to sturdy trees to lower the gold boulder down the mountainside to their moored boat, then transport it to a buyer and collect their fortune.
But, as the legend goes, the men spent several days getting rip roaring drunk, recovering from hangovers and trying to build a suitable device to move the gold until an argument prompted the miner to murder the prospector with a rifle.
The miner attempted to test gravitys strength, and rolled the gold boulder down the hill, but after it gained momentum, nothing could stop it.
The gold boulder bounced on the rocky shores and disappeared into the lake never to be seen again.
While another version of the local legend insists that Randal Kemp stumbled upon the fortune while searching for lost cattle, but ultimately lost the gold boulder while trying to lower it into a boat with two others and the rope gave away from its weight.
In spite of both versions of the story, neither legend has been proven true nor has anybody found the gold boulder.
However, Mr. Pronk plans to sink into the deep, dark depths of the water in search of the lost treasure that many East Kootenay explorers have looked for, but this time, using his newly acquired submarine.
Its a local legend and its a fun thing to go and do, he concluded. Its a pretty well known story out in the Kootenay Lake area.