Wendell Nope SCUBA Pages
Cave Diving
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Cave Diving is an experience that is practically indescribable. For many of those who have not done it, diving in an underwater cave seems foolish, dangerous, and undesirable. For those who have done it, diving an underwater cave is intriguing, tittilating, and incredibly desirable. This page is dedicated to my Cave Diving experiences.

If you are a certified Cave Diver, please enjoy my Cave Diving web page and all the videos. If you are NOT a certified Cave Diver, please view the following video, at least before leaving my Cave Diving web page. NSS-CDS Cave Diving Video

Below are some excellent Cave Diving videos. Some are large, but they are worth it!
Jackson Blue (135MB) My favorite video! Mark Laukien Production.
Carwash Cenote (96MB) One of the most beautiful cenotes, especially "The Room of Tears!" Slawek Packo Production.
Devils Ear (108MB) This is one of the most popular cave dives in the world! Slawek Packo Production.
Nohoch Cenote (117MB) This entire dive consists of never-ending formations! Slawek Packo Production.
Peacock 1 (65MB) P1 to Olsen Sink ... perhaps the most-dived traverse in the world! Slawek Packo Production.
Madison Blue (48MB) (48MB) This could be your next "most-favorite" cave dive! Slawek Packo Production.
Eagles Nest (62MB) The famous "Mount Everest" of cave diving! Slawek Packo Production.
Manatee (24MB) Catfish Hotel Sink at Manatee Springs ... y'all gotta see this! Perrone Ford Production.
Dans Cave (174MB) Incredible cave in the Bahamas! Bahamas Underground Production.
Hart Spring (98MB) Tectonic fractures in the limestone create fascinating geology in this awesome cave! Unknnown Producer.
Cow Spring (120MB) One of the coolest dives you'll ever make! Courtesy Andrew Ainslie.
Harry's Crack (67MB) Swiss Cheese tunnel in the Devils System. Courtesy Andrew Ainslie.
Buford Spring (111MB) Y'all gotta see this beautiful site in the middle of the swamp! Slawek Packo Production.
Devils System Mainline (111MB) Here it is ... everybody's first big cave dive! Slawek Packo Production.
Pet Cemetary Cenote You have never seen anything like this! Enlarge to full-screen to get the effect. Slawek Packo Production.
Crystal Caves of Abaco The most beautiful underwater formations you will see! Must see full-screen. Marc Laukien Production.
Rocky Horror Tunnel This is the dive you don't tell your wife about. She will take back your Kitchen Pass. Jason B Production.
I never know what's going to happen when I show up for work each day. On this one day, I got a telephone call from CNN stating they wanted to fly to Utah and make a video segment of me diving Ricks Spring. They said that Ricks Spring had similarities to the Tham Luang Cave, where the Thailand soccer team was trapped. The next morning, Richard and I are being videoed going into Ricks Spring with CNN cameras strapped onto us. This video segment was broadcast world-wide. I even got a phone call from a Japanese radio broadcaster wanting me to talk about the adventure. You cant make this stuff up!

Wendell Nope & Richard Lamb CNN Thailand Cave

Well, I have finally done it. I made a video about my love-afffair with Ricks Spring Cave System. Here you will see mostly me diving, something that is unusual in itself. Most of the time I'm videoing someone else. Anyway, enjoy this 52 minute video of Wendell Nope and Ricks Spring. This is a very large video file and may take a while to download. I think it is worth the wait!

Wendell Nope & Ricks Spring

This is a tribute video to my friend and cave diving mentor, Wayne Kinard. He sustained a devastating knee injury one day when making an entry to Freedman Sink at Manatee Springs cave system. Most people would have quit diving, much less cave diving. But Wayne Kinard is not like most other people. After excruciating rehab and encouragement from all his "Amigos" the day came when Wayne was ready to try again to cave dive. This video is about that attempt. I feel honored to have been with him on this day. This is a very large video file and may take a while to download. I think it is worth the wait!

Wayne Kinard Rehab Dive 20150609.

Here is the latest video of the back section of Ricks Spring Cave, from the Moon Pool to Vestal Falls. The video was taken by Richard Lamb using gear on loan from Wayne Kinard. I think you will find the video enthralling. The two links are of the same video footage, except that the "Large" video is much higher quality and worth the additional wait for it to download. Enjoy! Photo courtesy of Josh Thornton.

Ricks 20141018 Moon Pool - Vestal Falls (Large).

Ricks 20141018 Moon Pool - Vestal Falls (Small).

I have finally figured out how to decrease the size of the HD video taken by Giovanni Barr of the new section of Ricks Spring.

The link will show the video but it is still rather large. It is worth the wait. Gio Barr Video New Section.

After the tremendous snowmelt of 2011 (see 2011 Boil video below), the passageways in Ricks Spring experienced some change. A spectacular new tunnel appeared just up and to the left of the Eye Socket tunnel. It has no name yet so we are just calling it the New Tunnel for the time being. Anyway, it appears to be going passage and we wonder if it connects back to the main passage at some point. Only further exploration will tell.

The link will show a short video of the unexplored Arrowhead Tunnel and also the New Tunnel. Arrowhead Tunnel & New Tunnel.

An interesting phenomenon occurs in Florida when there is excessive rain in north Florida or Georgia. Some of the beautiful crystal clear springs reverse flow and become siphons. Little River Spring, shown at the left in its normal condition, is one such spring. Instead of gin clear water flowing out from the spring and into the basin, when it floods the basin fills up with dark brown water that floods into the spring and underwater passages. Sometimes there is even a surface vortex.

Watch a short video of Little River Spring being flooded by river water and a strong vortex swirling large logs as if they were toothpicks. Compare the video images to the photo on the left to get a reference. Little River Siphon.

The 2011 diving season at Ricks Spring is approaching. The peak of high flow is diminishing. The following video shows Ricks Spring at approximately a 12" boil. The increased snowpack of this winter has definitely affected the spring runoff. Normally, diving has already begun. Hopefully, diving can begin around 1 August.

Watch a short video of Ricks Spring at Boil 2 July 2011.

Ricks Spring is primarily fed from snow-melt from the mountainous drainage plain above this location. Dye tests show that water originating from Tony Grove Lake surfaces in the spring. Also, the Logan River intrudes into the spring passage, as proven by dye tests. The location of the river intrusion has been found, although not yet scientifically accepted as such by the US Forest Service and the US Geological Survey.

During certain times of the year, the snow-melt flow is so high that diving is not possible. It would be comparable to trying to swim up a fire hose. It is hard to believe, when you visit the spring at any other time of the year. You have to see the high flow stage to believe it!

Watch a short video of Ricks Spring at High Flow Stage.

On 13 September 2010, the group of intrepid divers shown to the left helped fulfill a fantasy for Wayne Kinard. Since his first attempt at diving Ricks Spring was a dismal failure AND there is a beautiful waterfall named after him ... Wayne Kinard's life has been incomplete. He had never seen his own waterfall ... until today.

Not only did Wayne get to see his waterfall, he poked his head into several of the side passages along the way. He was speechless when he climbed out into the first dry cave and saw his waterfall. He spent almost an hour exploring the dry cave and wading into the Moon Pool. When he saw the size of the passageway leading from the Moon Pool, he gasped, "You could drive a Tractor-Trailer Rig through there!" It was really something, watching this pioneer of cave diving giggling like a teenager.

Of course, no Wayne Kinard dive is complete without the famous "Wish You Were Here" sign that has been all over the planet.

From left to right are Jack Weimer, Amy Smith, Wayne Kindard, Wendell Nope, and Richard Lamb.
On 28 August 2010, Richard & Thomas Lamb and I dove Ricks Spring to repair the line and prepare for the big day of diving planned for 13 September. A professional photographer named Robby Lloyd happened to be there and shot this picture. Kind of a cool ... almost looks like a studio photo.

Today, we did fix several breaks in the line and tightened up slack where the intense flow had flipped the line off of several tie-points. But the most exciting thing that happened today was the discovery of a side passage that appears to be the river intrusion source. It seems 100% certain, since the overwhelming majority of Ricks Spring passages are clean rock ... without any silt at all. This passage is covered in seveal inches of silt from top to bottom. It is located just beyond Tibby's Table.

To see this river intrusion tunnel, you first have to squeeze past Tibby's Table. Instead of turning left and following the main passageway, go straight ahead from Tibby's Table and you'll find the tunnel hidden away back in the corner to the right. The tunnel is big enough to side-mount into, except that, as soon as you stick your body into it, you get a nuclear silt bomb. Luckily, the flow pushes the silt down the passage and out the exit relatively quickly. Thomas Lamb made the discovery so we are waiting for him to officially name the new passage.
I am prouder than proud to receive this certificate. I know there are many cave divers out there with far more experience than me, however, every one of them was at this point sometime in their experience. The next level certificate is for 500 dives.

Abe Davis is recognized as the first American cave diver. He was also a "freed slave" who lived in north-central Florida. His specialty was diving the Little River cave system, where he would enter the main entrance and exit the side entrance (which is no longer passable). He did this by breath-hold diving and without a light.
I am all geared up for a complex dive into the Devils Spring Cave System. Here's a description of the equipment I'm using. The scooter is a Silent Submersion UV-26 ... capable of pulling me faster than I care to go! I am sporting back-mounted double-104cf tanks with a total of 306cf of EAN32. On my left side I am slinging an Aluminum 72cf stage bottle, also containing EAN32. On my right side, I am slinging a 40cf Aluminum bottle of oxygen. On my right wrist I am using two SUUNTO Vytec dive computers. On my left hand I have a 15 watt LED Primary Light with a 10 hour canister battery. I am breathing from the stage bottle and will do so until it is 1/3 depleted, at which time I will begin to breathe off my main gas supply on my back. I will drop the oxygen bottle at the beginning of the Gold Line and pick it back up upon my return.

It seems like a lot of gear but is necessary for extended penetration, which for today is planned to be in excess of 4000'.
So, here I am all ready to begin the dive. This dive will be to the end of "Mainland" which is a beautiful series of passages named after Bill Main, one of the cave divers who has pretty much set the standard for modern cave diving. Some people may not know that it is Bill Main who invented the Hogarthian System that had a major role in the development of DIR and GUE. Marc Bryan, Jeff Reeves and I scootered to the top of the Devils Ear entrance and went single-file down to the Gold Line. We tied off our Deco Bottles and then headed down the Gallery. As I approached The Lips, I moved my scooter to my left side and at The Park Bench, I stopped and geared the scooter down to "6" to give me more battery life. The ride from here to Stage Bottle Rock (1800'), the perfect place to drop a stage, was awesome. From here, the ride was absolutely exhiliarating. When we got to 2800', the point where the Mainland Tunnel goes off to the right, we jumped and tied off our scooters. From here, we swam through the Mainland Tunnel and experienced some of the most fantastic underwater cave that is known to man. It literally defies description. There are several tight restrictions and it is pretty much impossible not to create some silt. After a total of 1400'+ swimming, we came to the end of the line. Here we paused and smiled at each other, then turned the dive and made our way back out, picking up the scooters. By the time I got to The Eye, I had 89 minutes of deco that dropped to 39 mins when I switched to oxygen at 20'. Thank goodness for oxygen. We exited out the The Eye, which has a temporary permanent line in it, due to volume of tannic water at the opening of The Ear. When we finally breached at the Little Devil steps, I felt as chatty as a teenager. This is what I signed up for!
This is one of the proudest moments of my Cave Diving experience. I thought I knew what Cave Diving was about ... until I took a scooter class. It's a good thing I'm happily married, because scooter-diving in a cave is the most thrilling experience I've had with my clothes on! Talk about addicting! I don't know how to describe how much fun this is. It might be comparable to a Recreational Diver going into a cave for the first time in a Cave Diving class. For example, I have made swim-dives along the main line in the Devils Cave system and thought I had gone a long way back in there. On my first training scooter dive, DPV Instructor Jim Wyatt said, "Let's go on a short-simple scooter dive down the main line to 2000' ... nothing big." It would take me almost an hour to get back that far and we scootered there in 14 minutes! Oh-oh-oh, you don't know the "rush" I felt when we got to the 2000' point and I looked down at my dive computer! All I can say is, y'all Cave Divers with rocky marriages ... don't try this. It will be all over!
In anticipation of another article on Ricks Spring Cave System, I have uploaded a copy of the first article, published in the NSS-CDS Journal which is entitled Underwater Speleology. Click on the following link to read the original article! Ricks Spring Article #1.
The Ricks Spring cave system is unique, mysterious, and glorious. Less than a dozen divers have ever experienced its wonder. I have attempted several times to video the main passage but, until now, I have not done the cave system justice. Standard video camera configurations are too bulky, while small digital camera video is too grainy. Hopefully, you will find the following video of sufficient quality to enjoy the beauty of Ricks Spring. Unfortunately, one of the four video lights malfunctioned only a few minutes into the dive. Nonetheless, this video is the best to-date of Ricks Spring Entrance to the first Dry Cave (P1300'). Large File Small File.
When you dive Ricks Spring cave system and get to the 2300' penetration point, you will have to either climb a 20' waterfall or enter a small side-passage that leads into a bedding plane that ends up at this no-mount restriction. As of today, this is the end of the Ricks Spring cave dive. But, the next dive may change all that ... as it appears that a big of digging in the loose gravel may produce just enough room to continue into the passageway that appears to continue on the other side of the restriction. For an exciting look at new photos taken of the "new passage" and "new dry cave" and "new BIG waterfall" discovered just recently by Josh Thornton & Matt Mimnaugh, click on this link New Discoveries in Ricks Spring!.
This is a screen capture image from a video which Richard Lamb made of a Cavern Dive we made at PeacockSprings. Richard and I had just finished a beautiful Peacock 1 - Olsen Sink - Peacock 1 dive and he wanted to take some video of the Park and the Cavern. I took the opportunity to try and find Peacock 2, which I have yet to dive. So, I searched for the P2 entrance and he videoed. Richard uses a Sony video camera and an Ikelite housing. The lighting consists of four UK Light Cannons, so the footage up close is nice, but the distant images are not as clear as with some of the big-dollar lighting systems. Still, it's interesting to see the Cavern, as many people just swim through it to get going down one of the two gold lines found there. Click on this link to see the video. Peacock Springs.
What happens when you turn loose a couple Rednecks with a homestyle video camera at your business. This was a lesson learned by Mr. Wayne Kinard, owner of Amigos Dive Center in Fort White, Florida. Click on the following link to see the result. Everything about this video is ad lib and nobody knew what was going to come out of each other's mouth next! Amigos Dive Center Infomercial
Dive Addicts dive shop in Draper, Utah set up a two week trip to cave country from 11-24 March 2009. One of the sites we dove is the spring known as Blue Hole Spring or more commonly, Jugg Hole. Although it is only diveable for 600', it is nonetheless a magical dive. From the surface, a vertical shaft goes straight down to 60', then the cave passage begins and leads to a huge bedding plane that is from 18"-24" high and some 80' wide. This feature makes Jugg Hole a Sidemount only dive. The bedding plane goes for about 50' and then changes to a typical cave passage. As you swim down the main passage, you come to the "Diamond Sands Restriction." The floor of the cave at this point is covered with a unique variety of sand that has the appearance of tiny dark colored diamonds. The geology here is such that one must squeeze through the rocks. Past the Diamond Sands Restriction the cave passage continues for a short distance and then pinches off into two small tunnels. Follow this link to find a map of Jugg Hole Jugg Hole Map. Richard Lamb shot some video of this dive. The divers are Josh Thornton, Randy Thornton, Richard Lamb, Mike Robinson, and Wendell Nope. Click on the link to see the dive. Jugg Hole RLamb
Once upon a time there was a world-class cave diver named Wayne Kinard who looked down at "... just a 2" boil ..." coming out of Ricks Spring in Utah. Having mastered numerous underwater caves in Florida, penetration was certain to be a cinch. Well, this ain't no Florida cave. Watch the video as Wayne attempts to get inside Ricks Spring with its "... little old 2" boil ...." Wayne Kinard vs. Ricks Spring
On 19 January 2009, I successfully completed a training class entitled "Cave Diver Rescue/Recovery" which was conducted by the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section in High Springs, Florida. The classroom portion was held at the Ginnie Springs lodge and the in-water phase was conducted in the Devil's Spring cave system. This particular training was mentally, emotionally, and physically grueling. It is challenging enough to Cave Dive, but to recover a deceased diver within a cave is considerably more challenging. The skills developed in this class allowed me to be inducted onto the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery Team (IUCRR), an esteemed group of Cave Divers who are called upon to conduct victim recovery dives in the cave environment. God willing, I will never have to employ these skills in a Utah cave.

Seen in this photo, from left to right are: Lamar Hires (IUCRR Training Director), myself, and John Jones (NSS-CDS Training Chairman). Lamar, well-known as the owner of Dive-Rite Manufacturing, is equally recognized for his extraordinary skill at recovering deceased divers in the most challenging of situations. One example is the 2008 recovery of a cave diver who died at a distance of almost 4000' back in the main passageway of the Devil's Spring system.
This is a photograph I took of the simulated deceased Cave Diver who had gotten stuck in a crack in the Devil's Spring cave system. In reality, the sidemount diver had wedged herself in this crack quite deeply and was no easy task to extricate. I took several photographs from different angles to help show the situation. As you can see, there just isn't much space to maneuver in. After documenting all we could without moving her, we gently wiggled her body back and forth until she slid out. She remained stiff to simulate rigor mortis, which complicated things even more. After checking all the important issues, such as gas supply, regulator in/out of her mouth, mask on/off, etc., we guided her along the passage and eventually out through the Devil's Eye restrictions. We then turned her over to other divers once we exited through the Eye.

This is not a task for the faint of heart. There may be signs of intense struggle or other disconcerting issues associated with a dying diver in a cave. Handling a deceased person is already an emotional struggle, without adding the challenges of an underwater cave environment. Nonetheless, it is a noble and critical task, when it must be done. Bringing closure to a family is the overwhelming motivator for me, as I have already experienced this in 11 real-life drowning incidents.
On 10 October 2008, Richard Lamb and Tibby Petrescu dove Ichiban Cave system to the dry cave at the 1300' penetration point. They were amazed and ecstatic as they exited the water and explored the dry cave. There is so much to see, it is almost sensory overload. The underwater passage now becomes a waist-to-shoulder deep stream running along one wall of the cave. After another 260', the upstream flow again becomes submerged. Here, the passageway is huge, big enough to drive a truck through. Once again, Tibby brought along his "McGyver" video system and got some phenomenal first-glimpse video. Watch as these grown men become giddy as teenagers from the awesome sensation of going to a place where no other human beings have ever been before. More people have been on the moon than in this dry cave! Ichiban Dry Cave
On 3 August 2008, Richard Lamb, Tibby Petrescu, Konstantin Kovalenko, and I dove to Ichiban Cave system, the second outing of the season. We knew there was damage to the main line beyond the Honey Hole. This needed to be resolved before anything else could be done. We gained entry easily but struggled against the flow as we attempted to replace the broken line. We were excited to have Konstantin along with us, as this made it possible for two teams of divers to trade-off dives. Plus, the more the merrier. Tibby brought along his video system again and we got some really cool video. Enjoy! Large File Small File

On 26 July 2008, Richard Lamb, Tibby Petrescu, and I dove Ichiban Cave system for the first time this season. We anticipated some damage to the main line and some possible changes in the cave geology. This is due to a monster 12" boil in the spring for an extended period of time. Nonetheless, we were able to gain entry after moving rocks for an hour. The strong flow blows golfball to basketball rocks into the restriction. Tibby brought along his home-made video system, which consists of a Canon digital camera attached to his primary light. Click here for video from this most recent exploration. Large File Small File
In June 2008, a group of Utah Cave Divers (Richard Lamb, Tibby Petrescu, Konstantin Kovalenko,Suzanne Capener, and myself) travelled to Trout Creek Spring in Idaho. We had been informed there might be a dive-able passageway there and we had to check it out. This spring is not easy to access due to a long walk through heavy brush, followed by unstable rocks up to a pool outside the spring-head, and - finally - appears to be a side-mount only dive, if at all. Of the three cracks we found, only one was accessible. The strong flow was a miniature version of Manatee Spring in Florida. The biggest problem encountered was the flow flooding the masks. This is frigid snow-melt water that exits a very small opening with a lot of loose rocks from baseball to basketball size. This photo was taken by Suzanne as Konstantin (left), Richard (middle), and Tibby (right) discussed the challenge they were facing. On this day, the deepest penetration was 20' but the passageway does continue past that.
Here is a picture of Richard Lamb as he prepares to challenge the strong flow of Trout Creek Spring on 21 June 2008. The helmet helps prevent head injury if the flow should smack his head sideways against the rocks. The three helmet lights provide light so that Richard can have his hands free to negotiate the passage. Notice the thick gloves which are necessary to give sufficient tactile ability in the 41F water. The 40cf tanks are side-mounted, to provide more maneuverability in the tight passageway. Even with all this specialized gear, the flow was so strong and the passageway so tight that only 20' penetration was possible on this first outing. This photo was taken by Suzanne Capener.
Here is a picture of Tibby Petrescu (aka McGyver) with his home-made side-mount BC, home-made helmet with lights, and 40cf side-mount tanks as he gets ready to "swim up a firehose," as the strong flow of Trout Creek Spring was described on 21 June 2008. All of Tibby's McGyver Gear didn't help him get further than 20' penetration today. This photo was taken by Suzanne Capener.
In May 2008, I traveled with a group of cave diving colleagues to the Yucatan peninsula. We spent a week diving different cenotes, or I should say having the greatest cave diving experience I've had to-date. You need only look at this formation, just one of the innumerable formations we were privileged to see during one of the best weeks of my life. Just when I thought I'd seen the most unique or beautiful formations, I'd round the corner into another section of passage and see something even more awe-inspiring.
The formations found in these cenotes defy description. There are massive columns which obviously took eons to form, while others are thin and delicate. I saw numerous stalactite and stalagmite formations which were within 1/4" of touching each other. One passage even had a 48' foot long formation hanging from the ceiling, the largest underwater stalactite in the world.
Some rooms had literally thousands of formations. After several hours of diving, the sensory input was overwhelming. Yet, the urge to see what was around the next turn was equally overpowering. Most passageways were less than 40' deep and penetration was extensive, in spite of the fact we used Aluminum 80's for backgas.
Try to decipher this cave line and arrows! Which way to the exit? And look ... there is even a "T" in the line! If you were on this dive, you know that there is a white line arrow with "W. Nope" engraved on it in the lower center portion of the line. Seeing this confusion prompted me to place my own line arrow, just so I wouldn't be confused on the way out. It turns out that if there is one line arrow pointing one way and two arrows pointing the other way, it is understood to mean that there are two exits, with the double arrow exit being closer. Oddly, there are alarmingly few line arrows marking distances. I didn't see a single line arrow with an exit distance written on it.

Here is our cave guide "Tito" who ranks #1 in my book. He was so calm and accommodating and helpful. I'm convinced he doesn't keep up with the daily postings on The Deco Stop, as he does his "talking" underwater. You won't hear any bizarre questions or statements from Tito, only "We go dive another good cenote next, OK!" As far as experience, he has been a daily cave diving guide for 18 years and does two dives a day. Calculate that number. When asked how many cave dives he had, he quietly said, "Don't know, lost count many years ago." Tito, you are the man!
I'm following Tito into a smaller passageway which ultimately led into a huge room full of formations on the ceiling and the floor. Many touched at some point and made thin tubular collumns barley thicker than a cigarette. The view was breathtaking. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the room! Anyway, the experience of viewing these underwater passageways will remain with me the rest of my life.
After 18+ months of searching for a diveable cave in Utah, this photo shows my excitement when discovering a passageway which has been named Ichiban Cave system to keep its location from being known to reckless Open Water divers. Exploration is still ongoing, with 1300+ feet documented as of May 2008. The exploration team, under the guidance of the US Forest Service, is collecting data to be used to have this system designated a "Significant Cave" under the 1998 Federal Cave Resources Act, meaning that it a protected site similar to an official Wilderness Area. This is the most exciting thing I've done in my diving experience to-date. Click here for 19 minutes of exciting video from the most recent documentary. Ichiban Cave System
There is a cave in north-central Florida known as The Blue Hole which is located in the Ichetucknee Springs State Park. It is not often dived and then only by a select few who know what actually lies below its cobalt blue year-round boil. Anyone who has dived this cave cannot resist coming back to it each time they travel to Cave Country. This is a photo of me decompressing in the "celestial lights" which shine down into the cavern at midday. This is a side-mount cave which has three exciting features. The first is the cavern zone which you see here. The second is the bedding plane which is shown in the top-right photo. The third is the Black Diamond Sand Restriction which is seen in the top-left photo.
This is a photo of the famous Wayne Kinard flag that has been all over the world. Everywhere Wayne goes he takes this flag. When he sees a good spot to open it up, he displays it and somebody takes a photo. This particular photo is taken in The Blue Hole.
My Cave Diving buddy, Richard Lamb, is showing off his side-mount gear in this photo. He is proud that he's got it all tight and looking good. In reality, Richard is an excellent Cave Diver with whom I have spent many hours diving and crawling through tight spots. The benefit of the side-mount configuration is gaining access to passageways that are not conducive for back-mounted cylinders. Interestingly, the side-mount configuration is such that either or both cylinders can be disconnected from the rear attachment point and the tanks can be pivoted out in front of the diver so that even smaller passageways can be negotiated.
Far back into Manatee Springs the alert Cave Diver encounters a creature that - normally - only Cave Divers encounter ... the Blind Crawfish. Notic that all pigmentation is lost, as is its vision. In the total darkness of deep caves, vision is not necessary to survive. This crawfish was feasting on the corpse of a turtle that made the mistake of trying to be a Cave Diving turtle. In all seriousness, encountering this unique creature was very-very touching. Click on the link to watch a segment of video on this encounter. See Blind Crawfish.
Hart Springs is one of the finest cave dives known to man. The cave geology is unique and it is full of the mineral geothite, which gives it somewhat of a haunted house appearance in places. Also, at several places along the main passage, there is evidence of sinkholes above, which is evident at this line arrow. Finally, if you know where to look, there is a prehistoric shark's tooth imbedded in the wall of the main passageway. To access this cave is that you have to dive into "The Black Swamp" and descend 70' through a corkscrew passage to get to the main passageway. For quite some time, a 10' long alligator also resided there. On a particular day I was there the gator was nowhere to be seen. I was quite relieved when we got down into the passageway without any gator-encounter. After a great dive, I ascended up the corkscrew into the Black Swamp. I had 19 minutes of deco and wasn't even thinking of the gator. As I got to a comfortable spot and began deco, I happened to notice movement about four feet in front of me ... there he was ... right in front of me! I froze and was a bit afraid to move. After several minutes, I remembered that I had my digital camera with me but - no sooner did I begin to video - the gator started backing up. I had to move back down the passageway or he would have backed up right next to me. See Gator Deco.
This is one view of the cave entrance at Little River Cave. This is one of the most popular cave diving sites in the USA. It has enough flow that when a diver "turns the dive" and begins his/her exit, the current carries the diver along without having to use fins at all. It is akin to the canyon-type flying scenes seen in some of the Star Wars movies where sudden zig-zag movements are necessary to negotiate the route. Little River is similar in the main passage. One does have to be vigilant in this cave, as some of the side passages are not clearly visible on the way in, but could be misleading on the way out were it not for the "Gold Line" of the main passageway. This is, of course, not a problem for the attentive diver.Although Little River is not my favorite cave to dive, it is my most memorable cave dive to-date.
Here is a photo of me making a primary tie-off on the Gold Line in Madison Blue Spring. It is one of the "first magnitude" springs in Florida. There are two different entrances, a large one and a small one named the "Rabbit Hole." Of course, we had to go through the Rabbit Hole. Madison Blue is one of the most fascinating cave dives in the USA. The geology is awesome and at one time it was considered the longest underwater cave. At the conclusion of a previous dive outing with Wayne Kinard - my first Madison Blue dive - we were decompressing near the Rabbit Hole. Wayne Kinard swam up to me and stuck his slate in my face. Written on it was this question, "What is your new favorite cave dive?" The answer was obvious ... Madison Blue!
Here is a photo of a primary tie-off onto the Gold Line in Madison Blue. The primary-reel tie-off is a very exact procedure. First, a tie-off is made at a stable point in open water. Then, the line is played out until the diver is in the Cavern zone, where another tie is made. Then the diver makes his way to the Gold Line and ties the reel off and leaves it there. The reel is attached such that the snap will be pointed in the direction of the exit. This is a procedure developed so that if the worst happened - a complete siltout which creates zero-visibility - the divers can follow the Gold Line to the reel and the snap will be pointed in the direction of the exit. Then, in a siltout, divers can follow the line out to the open water tie-off point and surface safely at that point.
This is maybe one of my most favorite photos. The gentleman I am standing next to is the legendary John Harper. He is one of the pioneers of Cave Diving and I certainly am not qualified to even begin listing his accomplishments. He is one of the people who gave Sheck Exley pointers on cave diving. Up until a few years ago, he still used gallon plastic jugs as buoyancy compensators, which was the original cave diving BC. He invented the term "Squirrel-Tracks" for careless cave divers who leave marks in the cave with their hands, fins, etc. Even though I'm sure he will never remember someone as insignificant as me, he is a cave diving hero. He is an example of the well-known axiom, "There are old Cave Divers and there are bold Cave Divers, but there are no old-bold Cave Divers."
There are Cave Divers all over the planet who would look at this picture and smile. This is the world-famous Luraville Country Store, which is certainly the most international site in the entire county. Cave Divers from all over the planet have eaten breakfast there and enjoyed the famous biscuits and sandwiches offered. It is not unusual to encounter Eastern-European, Asian, South American, and other international Cave Divers here in a single day. There is a big table inside the store that has a map of Peacock Springs Cave on it. The Luraville Country Store is an icon of Cave Diving.
On the left is my friend, Richard Lamb, with his instructor, Jim Wyatt, on the right. Richard had just passed off his last Full Cave checkout dive under Jim's tutelage and he was so proud and excited that it was infectious. Richard is my main cave diving buddy in an exploration project that will be announced at a future date. If you ever meet him, ask him how glad he is that I was his buddy the day he decided to explore the "Eye Socket Tunnel." He's the only guy I've met that is more eat-up with diving than I am.
Here I am after a week of serious Cave Diver training, with the sure signs of a rookie ... "Cave Fingers." Due to poor palming technique in areas of the caves where my instructor suggested "Pull & Glide" propulsion, I had bloody finger tips. The pain was excruciating and the only defense was to duct tape the tips of my fingers. Almost as embarassing was the fact that when we went out to supper that night at a local restaurant, the waitress walked up to our table and looked at me, saying "New Cave Diver, are ya?" All I could do was bear the pain and the shame while my "buddies" laughed their heads off. The waitress was just nodding her head and smirking. It was such an un-manly experience.
This picture was taken after I completed the Full Cave Diver course. If you examine my face closely, you will seee that I'm trying to smile in spite of being a nervous wreck. My instructor, Jim Wyatt, had told my buddy and me that we had one more chance to get it right, and if we made even one minor mistake on this final dive that we would go home NOT Full Cave certified. I had gone through the last several days feeling extremely stressed and, upon hearing this, I thought "I feel so numb inside I don't care if I don't make it (get Full Cave certified) on this trip. I am just gonna dive and not worry about what he says. My buddy, Mike Robinson of Salt Lake City, was so jazzed to get it done he was acting like a cheerleader towards me. So, I just did the dive and didn't worry about the pass-fail consequences. This is the best thing that could have happened to me because I performed a mistake-free Full Cave dive. I'm was trying to express the jubilation I felt inside but I was so mentally fatigued after this Zero-To-Hero experience that I appear exhausted.
This photograph was taken during my initial Full Cave Diver training. Prior to attending this course I did not really have a good idea of the importance of streamlining your gear configuration. Nor did I have a clue of how challenging the "Zero-to-Hero" approach to Cave Diver training would be! It didn't take very long for me to realize that the OMS 94# double-bladder and six-pound steel backplate, along with the PSA steel tanks would cause so much drag in the water. I now dive a much more streamlined rig ... OxyCheq Razor + Aluminum backplate + Worthington 95's. It is like night and day going into a moderate amount of flow! I was so proud of myself at the time of this picture, because I had passed Apprentice Cave Diver and was beginning the Full Cave portion.

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