Saturday, July 15, 2006

Intro to Cave

What a blast!!

Mike and I drove up to Luraville and checked in to the place my friend refers to as "The Scuba Hostel." We ran into a friend who had just arrived to Florida and would be joining us on our dives. Though we knew we'd be spending several days together, we couldn't resist catching up and stayed up until the wee hours.

After a quick breakfast in the luxurious Luraville Country Store (how nice to see the farmers leave after 8 and we got to sit at the big table!), we headed to Peacock I for our first official cave dive.

Paul was easy on us for the first dive and we were allowed to dive to 3rds in the direction of Olsen Sink. Since it was our first time in the system, we spent too much time looking around and reached thirds about 300' prior to Olsen. After turning the dive, Paul signaled for us to do the return trip on our weakest back-up lights. I had thought that it would suck on such a little light, but with unlimited visibility, the tiniest light gives you ample power to follow the line. Whew!

Our second dive of the day, Mike redefined the term goal-oriented and was going to reach Olsen or die trying. He set an Olympic pace, wearing us all out...and hit 3rds at the cavern entrance. He got a tiny scolding, but who's going to bicker about 30 PSI? The 300' we missed the day before were the most beautiful. I *loved* the keyhole that we had to swim through, and how cool to see the line disappear into the wall. I can't begin to describe how awesome it was to fit through that tiny opening. It seems silly to think that crawling through a hole was incredibly fun, but if youve ever watched children amuse themselves with a refrigerator box, it was like that, except that we are grown-ups.

The way back was interesting. Our first lights-out air share drill. Those who have done it can remember how spooky. I learned something during my first real experience with absolute total darkness. I never realized that I could in fact see the backs of my eyelids. It was pretty cool seeing the little red spots every time I blinked. On the other hand, I felt so sorry for the cave. We banged and bumped and generally sucked. Our gear was covered in little pebbles and rocks that had been ripped out of the cave due to our poor technique. The following day, Mike led during this drill and we made Olympic time again.

Our third day was the beginning of apprentice class and we head to Ginne Springs to do some drills in a high-flow system. I had read so much on the internet about how beautiful and pristine Ginne Springs was, but frankly our visit there in December didnt impress me at all. Clear water, so what? I have that in my swimming pool too. The little cavern in Ginnie Spring, called the ballroom was neat, but not cool enough to justify the expense. I really had not planned on ever returning. What changed my mind was reading an internet post about cave diving there, and I decided to give it another chance.

We lucked out that there was another instructor there who wanted to borrow Paul's oxygen analyzer and mentioned that he had a reel in place. Yeah! We didn't have to run one now! Our first dive was into Devils Eye.though a tiny bit of flow. My first impression of the cave was that everything was black. The rocks are covered with a mineral called goethite which makes the place look like theres been a fire there recently.
For some reason, this makes it particularly appealing to me. Yes, Im a pyro. We made it 750 back (just shy of Maple Leaf) and didnt have to do any drills (yeah!) We exited the water with shit-eating grins, all smiles and in love with the cave system here. After getting an almost perfect score on our exams, we came back for a second dive, and our first jump! We made the jump from Cornflakes to the Bone Tunnel, but didnt make it all the way to the Bone Room. All that heavy breathing.

All in all, it was a spectacular weekend and we are terribly eager to do the next step. I cant wait to take another cave-diving trip!

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