Countdown to a new world record begins

  By Jennifer Lassiter
 
 star staff
  jlassiter@starhq.com
  Jerry Hall, 39, of Bluff City receives praise from friends and family members as a crowd curiously watches him slowly sink below the surface of Watauga Lake in an attempt to break his current Guinness world record for longest underwater submergence using scuba equipment.
  "Good luck Jerry," said a dive team member, Richie Leighton. "See you tonight." Leighton, along with other dive team members in groups of four will rotate 12-hour periods to monitor Hall's safety and comfort. Hall's team includes one paramedic in each crew.
  Hall plans to remain underwater, unteathered to the surface for 94 hours and 9 minutes in the cool, calm waters of Watauga Lake at Fish Springs Marina to beat his own world record of 71 hours and 39 minutes.
  Seth Hall, Jerry's son, will be meeting his dad tomorrow for a game of underwater checkers. Seth became a certified scuba diver last Wednesday just so he could be with his dad during his underwater tour.
  Seth said his dad would be wearing a full-faced mask. "He can talk to us, but we can't talk back," said Seth.
  Seth is confident his dad will make the estimated time, but he said it's not something he'll ever attempt.
  When asked right before entering the water on Sunday why he was putting himself through this, Hall said, "To raise money for the Ronald McDonald House."
  This year's dive will serve as a fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House in Johnson City. With radio station Electric 94.9 as the media partner for the event, the station will solicit pledges from the public based on how long Hall will stay underwater.
  Hall also promotes the cleanliness of the regions lakes as well and scuba diving as a sport. Two years ago Hall set the current record on South Holston Lake in Bristol.
  The first dive gained national and international recognition, and this year National Geographic is including the dive in a documentary series, "Marine Machines".
  The 13-part documentary series is about the relationship between people, technology and the lakes and oceans of the world. The series will air on National Geographic Channels International and on History Canada.
  Hall was originally set to start his dive on Aug. 9, but those plans were put on hold when days before the dive was scheduled to begin, the dive team discovered another diver, Tony Smith, planned on breaking Hall's previous record at the Pennyroyal Scuba Center in Hopkinsville, Ky. on Aug. 28.
  After several meetings and discussions with the members of the dive team and sponsors, they made the decision to postpone Hall's dive until the day after Smith entered the water, Aug. 29.
  On Aug. 19, the Hall team received word that the Pennyroyal Scuba Center pulled the plug on Smith's dive after apparent concerns over safety issues and diving logistics.
  A press report released by Pennyroyal Scuba Center stated the possibility that Smith may proceed with his dive at an undisclosed location.