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Jun 25, 2014

Cave Diving in Florida: the underwater river experience

"How to Scare Your Family, in One Easy Lesson"

No-one in my immediate family bats an eyelid at the idea of me scuba diving for a living. However.....  take that hobby deep underground into dark caves that are full of flowing water, and the comments about the films I'm producing become more abusive and emotional.

"That made me feel sick!" wrote my little sister.
"I don't like you doing that Peter. What's wrong with diving in the ocean?" wrote Mum.

Even to me, the idea of swimming along narrow corridors of springing water, pitch black but for the beams of light shooting from our thousand dollar torches... well I question it too, especially during occasional, fleeting moments of doubt during our journeys away from safety, near the turning point of the dive, and we are at maximum penetration. "What am I doing here? This is crazy. Go back."
But controlling the natural flight response is part of the deal, and if you can't do that, you don't pass your training anyway.
Many divers who successfully complete full cave training never venture into a cave again. It's an adventure that many prefer to avoid once they see and feel what's involved mentally.

Tiger Woods is a certified cave diver. There was a photo of him at the dive shop where I was staying in Gainesville, posing with the owner. Apparently his sponsors have banned him from the sport. Too risky for Nike.

Florida's caves have water flowing through them, and the flow can be quite strong, to the point where you have to drag yourself in and along, much like a rock climber, only without so much gravity. Doing this with a video camera and lights takes some getting used to. It's not for the faint of heart.

The caves in Florida tend to be deeper than the ones I trained in in Mexico. Watch the Video.
A hundred foot dive in a cave such as Ginnie Springs can incur a good bit of decompression as you near the surface. Hanging around at ten to twenty feet can be fun if you are warm enough. 25 minutes can slip by quickly surrounded by all the natural colors of the river, autumn browns and tropical blues.
Ryan Christie doing Deco
The fun part for many is the 'going with the flow' part of the dive.
This past week, we would dive into the flow at the beginning, having calculated how much gas we would like to keep for the return journey and a reserve for pear-shaped situations.  The exit leg of the journey, aided by the laws of water dynamics, would be more of a joy ride without much kicking, more steering than anything, and with the knowledge that you have already fit through any and all restrictions on the way in, well it's comforting. It's mainly the navigation that you have to keep at your mind's forefront.

We all read the accident reports and learn from them, following a set of rules that has been developed and fine tuned by those who have gone before us. It might seem crazy, but we wouldn't do it if we didn't all love it.

Just added this video to youtube:

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