Deep Sea Jack-O’-Lanterns


Deep Sea Jack-O’-Lanterns

Scuba divers compete in a decades-old pumpkin carving contest in the Florida Keys

By Kelly Umenhofer

One day in late October, a host of scuba divers from around the USA descended 25 to 30 feet underwater at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Clad in snorkels, air tanks, weights, and carving tools, they got to work on the ocean floor whittling a pirate-themed design on a pumpkin for a chance to win the grand prize: a free diving trip at the Amoray Dive Resort in Key Largo, Fla. “The Keys are famous for being quirky and the underwater pumpkin contest is one of many examples,” Dan Eidsmoe, the 2021 contest winner, said.

For the past 25 years, the Amoray Dive Resort has held an annual underwater pumpkin carving contest to create a fun Halloween challenge for scuba divers and carvers alike. Each year, the Amoray Dive Shop removes the pumpkins’ insides to make them easier to carve. Once the gourds are handed out, the divers sketch their pre-planned designs onto the pumpkins. The designs must be related to the contest’s theme, which changes every year. Past themes have included pirates and fish, but whatever the topic, divers are encouraged to let their imaginations run wild.

 Carving team, Josephine Walker and Stephanie McClary, with their winning entry.

Tools for Underwater Carving

Contestants use a variety of tools to carve their pumpkins on the ocean floor, including X-ACTO® knives, potato peelers, deburring tools, and tweezers. Some divers attach features to their carvings with crafting wire and toothpicks. Mesh bags can be used to hold your tools, but make sure to weight the bag down so it doesn’t float away!

Photo by Frazer Nivens, Florida Keys News Bureau

In 2021, former attorney Dan Eidsmoe carved a traditional jack-o’-lantern, adding a toy shark and waterproof strobe light to the inside of the pumpkin. He then angled the shark so it was peeking out of the gourd’s side. Dan designed the winning pumpkin to highlight the experience of carving with sea creatures all around him. “The schooling fish and other scavengers eat up the remnants of the discarded pieces as you carve,” Dan said.

Besides being surrounded by hungry marine life, divers also must keep in mind the ocean’s current and the pumpkins’ buoyancy. For divers working in teams of two, there is an additional challenge of not being able to talk to one another while carving. “Without being able to speak to each other, we passed the pumpkin back and forth and closely watched what the other was carving,” Josephine Walker, who won in 2018 with her daughter Stephanie McClary, said.

Photo by Tiffany Drong/Keys Weekly

TIP: Shine a Light

To highlight the features of the carving details underwater, divers often add a waterproof light to the finished piece.


From the moment the contestants dive in to when the winner is announced, the dive resort films and photographs the entire competition above and below water to share the unique contest around the world. “It was broadcast all over and I saw myself everywhere from the local news to news outlets in Australia, Singapore, and Malaysia,” Dan said.

No matter the outcome of the competition, each diver walks away with one-of-a-kind memories. “It’s an experience that I’ll never forget; I would do it every year if I could,” Josephine said.

For more information on the Amoray Dive Resort’s annual underwater pumpkin carving contest, call 305-451-3595, or email


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