Champion freediver, stunt diver and all-around underwater badass Mehgan Heaney-Grier is featured in the upcoming TREASURE QUEST: SNAKE ISLAND, a six-episode Discovery Channel series that chronicles a small team of treasure hunters seeking millions of dollars’ worth of ancient gold hidden on an island off the coast of Brazil.
In the show, Mehgan serves as the expedition divemaster, and DeeperBlue.com recently caught up with her for a brief telephone chat about the diving aspects of the series:
DEEPERBLUE.COM: How did you get involved with the show?
MEGHAN: Cork [Graham], our expedition leader who put the team together, got me onboard, inquired if I’d be interested because of my dive expertise and background. I also have a degree in anthropology and studied marine archeology and things like that, and I have a rich history of expeditions and adventure as well so just kinda that combination together seemed to work in his head for being part of the team and then when he got in touch with me I jumped at the opportunity because how exciting and fun, you know?
DB: When were you first contacted about the show?
MHG: It was sometime last July I want to say, just about a year ago, and then there was a little bit of a process where we talked more and about six months later I left for Brazil and got my passport checked by the end of January.
DB: How long were you in Brazil?
MHG: Just about three months we were down there.
DB: How many dives did you log during the project?
MHG: Oooh, let’s see. I think probably, man, we did so many dives when we were down there. Full disclosure: It’s never enough diving for me! I would have liked to have been underwater a lot more than we were but we still did a lot of diving. I don’t have the log in front of me in terms of how many dives we actually did but i would say we were upwards of 25, 30 dives, something like that. We did a lot of diving.
DB: How many of the dives actually turn up in the series?
MHG: I haven’t seen yet, I’m not sure but it’s probably gonna be a handful of all of them but obviously the audience can’t sit through whole dives every dive because we would need, you know, to totally take over the Discovery Channel for that, but honestly I’m not sure, I’m hoping a mix of all of them get in there, because every one was unique and a lot of them too we were working down there, so there was some exploration and some working.
DB: What kind of dive gear did you use?
MHG: I actually used all my own gear, I have an eclectic mix. I have stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years when I was doing my stunt diving, it was just kinda the stuff that was functional for working on the marine crews and things like that that I’ve done in the past, so I just had the regular setup. I dive with a [back] plate, I don’t have a regular BCD, I have a plate BC, and then I have the basic reg[ulator] with the octopus and my own freedive gear and stuff like that.
DB: How was the freediving incorporated into the show?
MHG: A lot of the freediving came into play because it’s so much more streamlined, right? You don’t have to, I mean, as a freediver you don’t have to gear up . . . So I actually utilized the freediving a lot for reconnaissance, so it was like, “Hey Meghan, check this site, see if it’s worth dropping the anchor and getting everybody geared up” and the whole thing and get the [camera] crew in and so there was an element of that, and then just checking different sites and stuff like that, so you know, there was a good component of it but a lot of times when you get on location and if you are finding anything, it’s a lot more conducive if you’re working with other scuba divers to be down there on a tank and work in that capacity if you really mean to stay down for a half hour or something like that, so it is quicker to get the job done in some cases with scuba.
DB: What were the dive conditions like — visibility, etc?
MHG: The viz off and on was really good, and then the — where we were, there was a lotta swell and a lotta current ripping through off and on, so it was definitely at times pretty treacherous, just dealing with the different environment and stuff like that, but you know, overall the waters off Brazil are phenomenal. It’s a beautiful place to dive.
DB: What was the biggest challenge you encountered during the dive segments?
MHG: I would say sometimes it was the visibility. We were dealing with weather conditions because we were down there at the end of summer, where it was turning over to winter, and the latitude is very similar or almost exact, I think, to the Florida Keys where I grew up diving, so when you get that change of seasons you feel that more than anything in the water so, you know, the water started getting colder, the storms were kicking up more and stuff like that, so definitely I would say that the weather was the biggest challenge because it does change so frequently as well from minute to minute down there because you’re dealing with the really high altitude right on the shoreline all the way down to deep drops right offshore so, you know, it’s a mixed bag but I would say that that was creating the most havoc with us, with our diving, because of the surface conditions as well as how it would kick up the bottom and really diminish our visibility.
DB: What lessons learned did you take from this whole experience?
MHG: You know, I think there’s always something to be learned, so for me it was definitely — it was so amazing to be back out on an expedition. I took a break with school and then I had my son, who’s just over two now, so that was a big personal adventure for me of kind of getting back to who I’ve always been and all that, and also as far as the diving goes, it just reaffirmed the fact that I cannot ever get enough diving. (Laughs) It just stapled that in. So if we go to season two, I’m gonna be working that diving angle really strong and trying to get everybody to get on board with a lot more freediving and if the job calls for it, scuba diving. (Laughs)
Many thanks to Mehgan Heaney-Grier for taking the time to chat with DeeperBlue.com. TREASURE QUEST: SNAKE ISLAND debuts in the USA on The Discovery Channel on Friday, July 17 at 10pm Eastern and Pacific.
For a sneak peek, check out the video below: