Archive for July, 2006

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A Week of Cave Diving in NFL During a Hot Dry Spell July 2006

July 26, 2006

A week before I took off to Northern Florida, I saw my cave instructor at an Ohio quarry. After a brief conversation, he mentioned that he was headed down for some cave diving with one student and a small army, and there was one bed available in the trailer they were renting from Rennaker’s. As things worked out, I claimed the bed as my own!!

I drove down to Luraville, FL by myself, leaving at 5am and arriving by 5pm. Even though I was staying at Rennaker’s trailer, I know more folks over at Dive Outpost (Cathy’s), so I got my gas and supplies there all week long. Cathy throws a dinner on Saturday evening, so I accepted an invitation for some food. Low and behold, BabyDuck, JasonB, and Bobby, along with other NC Divers were there for the weekend.

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On Sunday, we spent the day diving Peacock 1 and Orange Grove caverns. This gave me a great opportunity to practice using the camera strobe in a cave environment. Still have a long way to go, but the strobe makes a big improvement, especially when silt starts to fly during cave drills.

Sunday afternoon, I ventured off with Gil and Sandy to dive down Nicholson and lower Cisteen passages back around to the Wishbone area.

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Monday turned out to be my first trip to Little River. Every time I’ve been to Florida previously, there had either been construction or flooding that prevented me from seeing the inside of this system. Since NFL is experiencing low rainfall, the flow in Little River cave system is down considerably. Evenso, I figured since it was my first time in the system, I didn’t want to fuss with a camera rig, so I wimped out on pics!! It was great doing dives with the class past Table Rock to around the “T”. This gave me allot of time to scope things out. On my first dive into the system, I hit my 100th cave dive.

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Tuesday we were back at Peacock to do some longer dives with the student, so I got the camera back out. We trekked down the Peanut Line first and turned just prior to the Peanut Restriction.

Later, we went down the Pothole tunnel and came up inside of Olsen Sink.

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Wednesday was another first for me. Telford was finally diveable after being tannic on all of the previous trips to NFL. Pretty cool system with lots of different character. We went past both of the sinks and past the high vertical structures to the point where it drops down to approx 70ft. Since this my first time in the system, I again opted to leave the camera behind.

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On Thursday, some of the group went to Ginnie Springs to continue their class, but I opted to go to Madison Blue with Gil and Sandy. I’d only dove this system before with Joe Steffen, so I wanted to the beauty of this system again. Since the flow can be a bit high in this system, I left my camera behind because Gil and Sandy were diving wet, while I was diving in a drysuit. Since I already had great resistance than they did, I didn’t want to add to my drag with a camera/strobe rig. Madison was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it to be!! I got some nice surface pics of the incredibly blue spring pool that empties into the river a few feet away. We found the flow to be quite a bit lower than expected, so we made it a couple hundred feet past the Mount offshoot. I can’t say enough about this beautiful system!

The cave entrance for Madison Blue is located below the high dive platform, so you need to peacefully co-exist with the swimmers!

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Friday, Gil and Sandy twisted my arm for a dive in Upstream Cow. I’ve been in Downstream Cow a few times, but had never ventured upstream. Gil and Sandy warned me that the restrictions at the beginning would be “interesting”. Boy were they! With both my back and my tanks rubbing and had to go back and forth a couple of times to maneuver through the sandy floored passage and squeeze inside. Once inside, the flow was quite a bit higher than I expected. There is a “ski rope” installed along some of the more fragile areas to aid in the “pull and glide”. Even despite the attempt to preserve such a spectacular system, it was sadly obvious that there had been some malicious divers poking holes in the beautiful marbled clay banks that were off to the side of the beaten path. Makes you just shake your head and say

We ventured back past “?Not my fault” where it drops down to 100ft, and continued until it started to ascend some where we turned the dive. On way back I took in the cool features of this cave. When we got back to the restriction at the entrance, I had to do some digging to clear out some sand after I made a couple of attempts to wriggle out. I was the bigger of the three divers, and to boot, I was wearing a drysuit and larger tanks, so I had to work a little more to make it out. However, with plenty of gas in my own tanks, and a buddy in front of and behind me, I just calmly persisted to clear enough room to scrape out. What a hoot! I can’t wait to go back to this one again….seriously!!

I got some surface pics of Cow Springs, and some of the Cavern area where I’d left my camera.

On Friday afternoon, we went back to Peacock 1 where Gil and Sandy had me lead a dive down the Peanut line to Waterhole Sink. As we reached the sink, we turned the dive and came back out the same entrance we went in. I’d forgotten how varied the Waterhole tunnel is. Some areas require good technique because there is lot’s of soft silt just waiting to be lofted into the water column. This is complicated by the constant up and down of the silt dunes throughout the passage. Other areas offer high domed ceilings that are pretty when lit by three primary lights. It was very satisfying to have 3 divers exit the tunnel with nary a wisp of silt to indicate that we’d came in through this same passage. My last trip through this tunnel was behind two other divers that didn’t exercise this kind of restraint, so my view had been seriously impeeded.

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On Saturday, my last day of diving, I had decided to hook up with Mike McCaullife (a Ranger at one of the local State Parks and a former Michigander). I’d been wanting to check out the Wishbone Tunnel in the Peacock System, so Mike let me lead back down Pothole line and make the jumps into the Lower Cisteen line, then into the Wishbone tunnel. You can certainly tell that this tunnel doesn’t see much traffic. There is hardly a mark on the floor or ceiling, and your bubbles dislodge the albino crayfish and ?isolapods. There was lots of “smoke” in the Wishbone. Apparently, there is some tannic river intrusion that enters these passages because it was pooled in some of the dips in the tunnel.

On the way out, we took our time, so Mike poked his head into several side passages and gave me some photo ops.

I’d hoped to meet up with Perrone on Saturday afternoon for a dive at Troy Springs, but the timing didn’t work out this trip, so maybe next time buddy!

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I had several firsts this week. After three years of cave diving, I finally made it to Little River, Telford, and Upstream Cow. Woo Hoo! I also hit my 100th cave dive early in the week for my first dive at Little River, as well as my 700th dive while diving Upstream Cow. What an awesome way to hit some minor milestones!!!

It was a great week! I met some new folks while socializing at Cathy’s (Dive Outpost), and dove with some skilled divers that showed me some new passages. Who could ask for more?!? Even at Saturday night dinner on the final night, I ate with Netmage (Tim) who had taken Fundies class with Kelly (Alisa) and Dave (CaverDave). He was taking class from Leslie (RunawayLobster) with a group from South Florida. Always good to meet more folks in the cave community!

On Sunday, some snoring in the adjacent bedroom woke me up at 2am, so I went ahead and got up and headed back north for my 12 hour jaunt back to reality. I think I need to find a way to be a cave bum and do some industrial training in Northern Florida!

Can’t wait to go back at the end of August!!

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