Thursday, January 27, 2011

2 for 3: Not a Bad Day of Cave Diving

Today (1/27/11) was my first of four days back in North Florida.  Since I began cave diving, I was usually limited to 1 or 2 days, minimum travel time of 3 hours one way and no dive buddy most of the time, therefore I stuck with Ginnie Springs & Little River.  On this trip I wanted to dive some other systems and go off the beaten path some.

For this I started on Walter's caveatlas.com website and began looking at systems near Dive Outpost/Cave Excursions & near Amigo's/Cave East.  From here I compiled my list and began making inquires to some cave diving friends to find out what I could.

Last night (1/26/11) I mapped the locations of the sites I wanted to visit and laid out the plan of attack.  My plan was to try and get in 3 to 4 dives in at different systems.

I started out the morning going to the copy center in Gainesville to get my CCR bailout tables printed and laminated for the following days, since I realized they were still in NJ.  After wasting an hour or so there I started driving north.  My first site of the day to checkout was Ruth Springs, upon arriving on site I was greeted by nothing but nature and a clean spring.  Doing a quick walk to the water to check out the hole and it looked clear, I was excited to dive.



Ruth Spring
  I reached the exit of the cave at 54 minutes in to the dive, did a 5 minute safety top and surfaced.  I really enjoyed this cave and liked how it would go from low bedding
plans to bigger rooms then back to bedding plans.  The only real restriction was a sand bottom, rock ceiling before the next sink Rock spring is definitely worth checking out, but not to learn to sidemount dive in.  The visibility in the system was 15-20', water temperature was 71 F, max depth 55' & average depth was 29'.
My Surface Support

After surfacing I loaded my truck, and headed to Cave Excursions to top of my tanks and head to my next destination, Anderson Spring.  When I arrived at Anderson, the river was tannic and no prominent boil on the surface.  I threw on my suit and tried snorkeling to find the opening, no luck.  I had all my gear setup and suit was already on therefore I went for a swim to try and find the entrance.  Tying a primary to the surface, my search began.  Soon realizing this river diving is best left fro the warmer months and I was not finding this cave today.  It was time for plan B, and back on the road I was.

Anderson, but no boil.

Plan B, was to see if I could dive Convict Spring, but wasn't sure if it would be possible.  Well it was and the owners were a pleasure, no hassle, no issues, very helpful.  This was to be new cave number two today for me and my excitement level was high.  The pool was crystal clear and there were fish all over the place.  After about 50' in to the cave I knew it was going to be a little challenging, but I was up for the task.  There seemed to be zero flow in the cave and it was very silty.  The line was very dark and went into the bottom at some places and out the other side.  It seemed the line was anchored down to something covered with sand.

I made it past the two Ts and hanging tree root, turning the dive around 700-800' with 30 minute BT thus far.  Looking back now at the dive I should have kept swimming in but wasn't sure how clear the visibility was behind me after going thru some tight spots.  On the way out the flow was noticeable, visibility was decrease but no enough to impede progress.  There was loose spots in the mainline, and I fixed what I could while exiting.  Reaching the exit at 51 minutes, and the cave being shallow, no deco or stop was needed.  Visibility in the system was clear and dark around 15', max depth was 30' & average depth of 24'.

      
Convict Spring Overview & Spring Basin


I had a first great day back in the water cave diving and can check two new caves off the list.  By the time my truck was loaded again it was too late to attempt another dive somewhere.  Round two tomorrow, time to go get ready.


In about 20 minutes, my gear was setup and I was in the water tying in my primary reel.  This dive was already exciting because I had no clue about the cave really and had to look around for the main line.  About 20' into the system my primary was attached to the main line and I began my swim.  The line was in good shape, but it was very dark in color, and easily blended in with the cave wall/floor.  I made it to the next sink in the system, at 31 minutes in to the dive around 900' from my starting point.  I was feeling good at this point and from the map didn't think there was much more, therefore I turned  the dive and headed back out.  On the way out I noticed there was a very slight flow, that I had not noticed before.  While on my exit I tightened a few area in the line where it had came loose from the survey posts.

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