Journal and Log of the Cavern and Introduction to Cave Diving Classes

August 19-22, 2004

Prepared by Donald (Skip) F. Kendrick

Submitted to Jeff Bauer, Instructor,

for Partial Fulfillment of Course Requirements

"Anticipate to Eliminate." Larry said with a flourish of his hands. "Anticipated problems are usually eliminated before they have a chance to occur." He continued. "Anticipate to Eliminate." Larry repeated. He turned to Jeff, our instructor, and said, "I like that, and I'll use that again. Anticipate to Eliminate."

The message is almost a Zen message. What you learn in the cavern and intro to cave diving won't just be how to do this kind of diving; it will make you a better diver in all kinds of diving; it will improve not only your diving, but your life.

Over the next four days we lived and breathed, ate and drank, cavern and cave diving. It was all we did from waking to sleeping, and for me, it consumed sleepless nights and created my dreams on those nights I did sleep. We listened to lectures, watched powerpoint slideshows, took notes, asked questions, and got more answers than we bargained for. We practiced skills on land, with eyes closed, as if in the darkness of cave with light failure, we practiced underwater in the caverns and caves without light, without vision. And we practiced with lights and with vision thankful for the twin gifts of light and sight. We "died" by wrong decision, inept coordination, and minute-wasting and air-wasting confusions, but our instructors were there to ensure our dying was virtual, as best they could at least....

We had come from the Cumberland Valley of Tennessee to the Springs Country of Central Florida to learn to scuba dive in caves. It was a combined class, both cavern and introduction to cave diving (there are two more classes after these two for full cave certification), and offered by Jeff Bauer with the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD). Larry Green, the director of NACD, and Lance (whose last name I do not remember), helped out. There were four of us Tennessee Divers and a local diver, Josh, who was there for the cavern class only.

We arrived late Wednesday night and checked into the motel. We were at Ginny Springs early the next morning ready for class. Jeff passed out the usual stack of papers, mostly various kinds of permission and release forms, of the typical variety promising that no matter what happens no one but yourself is to blame and that all your relatives and friends also agree that it's your own damn fault. Which of course it is. I drove down here to do this. Friends ask have asked me for years why cave diving? How can one possibly do such a thing? Air caves, maybe, but water-filled caves, tunnels, cracks, and crevices? How can a person swim down into such a place and why would anyone want to? I can only smile and say "It's another planet. You are weightless in a world unlike any world anywhere; a world beyond your imagination. Some only read of wonders, cave divers experience them. Here is a place where one can visit the stars without leaving the Earth; where one can go where few have gone before. Where do Explorers go? Exploring."

And that's what we went to learn to do: Explore the underwater caverns and caves of Central Florida. Cave Diving Country.

Thursday morning we sat in the classroom at Ginnie Springs, met our instructor Jeff Bauer, and his assistants Larry Green and Lance, and introduced ourselves before settling down to the powepoint slide show and lecture from Jeff. We interrupted his lecture often and when one asked or commented, all responded in one way or another. We quizzed our instructors and were quizzed in return as the lecture and slideshow turn and spun becoming more of a free for all tangle of information than Jeff's finely structured lecture with logical tie-ins and smooth transitions. Larry stood talking at length on subject, gesturing his meaning as much as speaking it, while Lance tossed in short tidbits of fact. Colin always had a twist, usually humorous, while Jim remained mostly serious and on target. Brian met Colin twist for twast, wrapping meanings around funny bits. Their interaction was good-natured bickering, as if Laural and Hardy were both doing Don Rickles on one another. Josh, up from Tampa, sat quietly, probably aghast at this Tennessee horde and their irreverent, yet informative banter. And I sat even more quietly, reserved and thoughtful, or so I remember myself. I want to visualize this information, see the logic of it, the diagram, the mental image of how it all works; I am searching for its' heart, because that's where all comprehension starts. When you find the heart of the matter, you find enlightenment. All the particulars, the wheretofores, the specific ways of doing, become as one and logically flow from the heart. How else could it be? Memory is no longer necessary, the lessons are not remembered, the facts and information not retrieved from some biological hard drive where they were last updated and saved; the lessons are generated, are re-created, are logical flows from the enlightenment. One does not have to know, because one recalculates from first principles and their theorems and axioms. It has become "common sense."

After class and lunch, we set up our gear on the picnic tables, I did mine in the back of the trailer. Jeff, Larry, and Lance went over every bit of our BC, regulator, tank set ups and we spent hours changing things. We made lists of the new lengths of hoses we needed, the new lights, spare batteries, connection methods, tanks, and little details of securing straps and danglies with bicylce inner tube pieces. My SPG's, two, were reduced to one, on a shorter HP hose, and all my plastic cable ties were replaced by cave string, all hoses rearranged in HP and LP first stage ports, and more and more.... My computer failed, so I relied on my back up bottom timer and depth gauge and dove tables the first day; purchased a new wing and computer for the second day, and new hoses too of proper length. It took me three days to get my gear set, including moving and removing weights to adjust trim and buoyancy.

Here we were in the afternoon of the first day of class and everything I ever thought I knew about streamlining and equipment was replaced with a new view, a new way of doing things, and a new outlook on all my diving. How much cleaner and more efficient is this for open-water reef diving? For wreck diving? For quarry and lake diving? How much of my past diving problems were due to not understanding what I now comprehend? I was amazed by the "new me." My friends would no longer recognize me underwater. I was a new diver and it took them only four hours! But was I enlightened? It did not occur to me to ask about enlightenment then, and would not again until the end of the classes, during the long drive back to Tennessee, late at night and comfortably tired, that monotonous time on the interstate system when thoughts are nearly dreamlike, freely associated, and more true. I only know that Thursday afternoon began my transformation from the diver I was into the diver I now am; my friends would not recognize me underwater.

With a new way of arranging our equipment came a new understanding of what we were in for. And the next drill drove the point home. Jeff tied a reel off on fence post and unreeled line to a tree, around the back of it, and off to a corner of a picnic table, then to another fence post. We followed the line holding it with an Ok hand sign and the string in the middle of the O made by thumb and forefinger. Then we returned with eyes closed, in single file, with the lead man holding his arm and hand out in front to touch obstacles before his head hit them. Blind we and walking slowing, in touch contact with the one in front of us, we shuffled back home, back to the tied-off reel. As the line rounded the tree trunk it split off in two directions!What? Was I feeling this right? The line split like a fork in the road and I had to decide which path was the one home and which was the one unknown. I could not decide and put one hand on one and the other Ok's around the other line and followed them until they split too far apart to hold. I let go of one at random and followed the other deeper into the cave. I chose the wrong one and died that day, another victim of cave diving. They told us that something like 457 people have died in caves since whenever they have been keeping records (total number, not annual). Additionally, there have been something like 40 cave-trained divers killed in caves. Training saves lives. Dying on shore and then learning why you did and what signs you failed to identify that indicated which line to follow and which to avoid, is much better than dying the same way in a silted out cave. I'll take virtual death over live death any day....

Next we practiced line drills in teams, with eyes closed and touch contact signals. Then, our line drills complete we got wet. Jeff teamed up with Josh and me, Skip (Lance came with us too), while Larry took Colin, Brian, and Jim. After doing S-drills, bubble checks, air-sharing, and such, we dropped down through a slit in the rock wall. The instructors led the dives in two teams, laying the line into the cave. Josh and I follwed Jeff as if on a sightseeing tour. It was a short dive just to see what the Ballroom looked like, and so the intructors could watch us underwater, to evaluate our buoyancy, trim, technique. The open water disappeared and a rock ceiling took it's place. Then it opened into a large round room, a ballroom, of boulders, sand and gravel, rock walls. The current hove the middle making swimming difficult, but near the bottom the current relaxed making a lazy frog-kick adequate propulsion. We were no sooner in than Jeff called the dive and turned to leave. On the way out, Jeff signaled "lights out," and we reached for the line, turned off our lights, and shut our eyes; silt-out drill. I waited until I felt Josh's hand on my forearm signaling "get going" and we swam out in the dark. At the tie-off in open water, Jeff tapped my head, signaling drill over and I squinted into the bright sunshiny crystalline water and smiled real big. Cool.

We surfaced and talked about the Ballroom. Soon we dropped down again and re-entered the Ballroom with me, Skip, as the reel person, laying the line. Jason came next, and Jeff and Lance hung back watching, sometimes approaching with hand signals to begin drills or to point out problems, like a back up light is on, or the reel is not tied off correctly. I don't remember not tying off correctly, but at one point Larry gave us a lecture on wrapping and wrapping and how unnecessary it is and how potentially dangereous it can be, yet it seemed that three wraps was better than two. But is one sufficient? Why not? If you secure the line/reel properly, it does not take wrapping it round over and over. Yet when I saw three wraps I felt secure and that security spread through the dive. I knew the number of wraps and knew how many times to go round to retrieve even in the dark with my eyes closed. Three. By Saturday I found that one was sufficient and just as secure and did indeed take 1/3 of the time to unwrap at the end of the dive when you are tired and ready to go home.

We did a third dive, this time with Josh laying the line, being the reel man (no pun intended). As second, I monitored the lay of the line and found placements for it as we dropped and turned into and around the Ballroom. Near the gate, in a crevice near the bottom, a goose egg lay as if in a nest of some mutated gill-endowed species of fish-geese. We tossed it back and forth amusing ourselves as it floated slowly, nearly neutrally buoyant, between us, then lay it back to rest in the nest, and proceed to the side tunnel that arced up across twisting along the left wall. The line drooped, so I stretched it taut and placed it around a rock. We ascended into the tunnel and rose up among littered boulders. Jeff waved down at us from the top opening, but running a line meant we had to return the way we came. We turned the dive and proceeded home to the surface.

We packed up our gear and arranged for the next day's class at Peacock Springs. It had been a long day, from an 8:15am start to 8:00pm that night. We were starving, so drove nonstop into Lake City and ate late at the Texas Roadhouse. By the time we got back to the motel, it was late, we were fed and tired, so after a bit of conversation to wind down we retired. I lay awake, maybe dozing a bit, all night. The day's activities rewound on the mental tape and would not stop. My stimulation level was overloaded and sleep was nowhere to be found. I watched the clock and was not surprised when at last the alarm rang. It was odd, but I was suddenly tired and fell asleep as Jim took the lead in showering and dressing. We had some early morning errands to do, I needed a new wrist computer, mine had failed yesterday, and the wing I was using was a rigged up system from an old Sherwood Outback BC I had patched several times with a waterbed patch kit; a new dedicated wing would be nice. My high pressure hose for the submersible pressure gauge was too long, so I was in the market for a shorter one for a more streamlined profile. Jim, Brian, and Colin all had their shopping lists too, so we were off to the dive shops before heading out to the dive site, Peacock Springs.

We arrived at Cave Excursions about 9am for air fills, after buying stuff at Extreme Exposure in High Springss. Richard filled our tanks and entertained us with stories and witty comebacks making us feel like wayward children left at home with the family's odd uncle. And just like the odd uncle, Richard's oddities held experience and wisdom. He spoke with an accent of South London, England, his birthplace, merged with the sourthern drawl of Central Florida, U.S.A., his adopted home. His gestulations and change of topics was wild and uncharted; he bounced from theory and skills (and fun) of riding scooters into the far reaches of underwater caves to playing lead air guitar during a Motley Crue tune blaring from the outdoor speakers, louder than the air compressors filling the banks, filling our tanks.

Off we went to Peacock, a caravan weaving through the backwoods of Central Florida, on roads unmapped, numbers not reported, routes known only locally. Peacock State Park appeared in the woods and we drove onto sand roads cut through woods, paid on the honor system (with a Ranger making daily rounds), parked and gathered in the sand parking lot of Peacock Springs. Larry led us to the entry site, along a board walk to a small pool of dark green water, with branches and muck floating about, and a small alligator eyeing our activity. Larry described the site, asking if Jeff and Lance had anything to add, which they always did, providing us with in-depth information, differing perspectives, and a stereoscopic view which combined the words of three into a muliti-dimensional cube of knowledge and like a rubics cube, fitting together in systematic methods of manipulation of the possibilities. They describe the conditions, the drills, the dive, in details that excite visualization and as one contemplates, it's as if the Force takes over and the particular methods, the specific manipulations, give way to a serene trusting of hunch. Use the Force, Luke, not Microsoft Bullets. Numeration, analytic outlining, rote memorization, works fine and is one way of developing skill, but another is seeing how it all fits, seeing the patterns of behavior that work and those that do not.

Peacock is a small pool, barely holding a dozen divers at the same time, half of which would be touching bottom. The cave entrance is just below the stairs leading down to the water. There is a restriction, then an open room or chamber, then two openings leading to tunnels and the entire cave system. Peacock is extensive. We stayed in the first 150 feet, the cavern area. Josh, Jim, and me, Skip, teamed up with Jeff and Lance instructing for this day of diving, the last day of our cavern class checkout dives. After gearing up, we stopped for pictures in the shade, then followed the board walk through the woods a short way, down a flight of stairs to the green pool. We stepped off the bottom stair in a giant stride, splashed down, popped up, gave big Ok's all around, and floated in the cool water. We did bubble checks and S-drills, swimming along at 8 feet deep taking turns being the out of air diver in need of help, then gathered on the surface for our dive briefing from Instructor Jeff. Today we'd be practicing out of air emergencies and air-sharing. Our first dive had me Skip as the reel man, leading us in, with Josh in the middle and Jim bringing up the rear.

We dove right in and was amazed at the large flattened room just inside the narrow restriction. The walls were blackened and ate our lights, but the places where the two tunnels lead deeper and further shown back a rare gem-like blueness. It was cool and relaxing and beckoning. I fell towards it slowly, weightlessly, straying from the line, head down, fins up, like a sky diver in freefall, but slow as if air were molasses. But the reel work brought me from my trance and I got to work tying it off to the permanent line just at the end of the cavern and the threshold of the blue brillance of the cave mouth. We turned the dive. On the way out we all had to go to our back up lights, then Jim ran out of air and Josh furnished his long hose. We exited safely and after a short safety stop surfaced and talked about the dive. Again we dropped down, this time our lights go out on the way back I run out of air and Jim provides his long hose, then the lights go out, and we go blind on the line, in three-way touch communication, and I somehow manage to tangle my leg and foot and fin, not once, but twice on the way out! Of course this was all planned, and just drills, but back on the surface I learned only one line entanglement was planned, I did the other one all by myself just like nature intended!

The pictures above show our group. Lance took the pictures, and no one thought to get his photo! Josh, Brian, and Colin are on the right, and those two guys doing impressions of Count Dracula and Frankenstein are Skip and Jim. On the right are Larry and Jeff, our instructors, along with unpictured Lance (all names in order, left to right).

The did two more dives that day, with Josh and Jim in the lead, running the reel, and various light out and out of air emergencies. By 4:00pm we were done, in the parking lot, making plans for the next day's dives, the first dives of the introduction to cave diving. Cavern class was done, and I guess we all passed, because we all showed up the next day! Well, everyone except Josh who had the weekend off and could do only the cavern class; back to work. But us Tennessee divers had come down for the intro to cave part and took the cavern just because the classes are ordered and one requires the completion of the other.

We packed up and headed back to Extreme Exposure. Primary cave lights had gone out, one flooded, my newly purchased wing BC (Halcyon) had a leak in the inflator control, and we needed some new gear too, hoses and such. We stopped at the Lauraville Market for sandwiches, then split up, two taking the lights to Halcyon in High Springs and two taking the return and the shopping list to Extreme Exposure. Jarrod was working late at Halcyon, so Brian and Colin lucked out and got the canister lights fixed, Extreme Exposure switched out the BC and sold Jim and me, Skip, the hoses and such. Before we knew it, the errands were done and it was time to put it all together. I knew before I came I would buy new gear, dump old gear, and generally it would all cost two or three times what the obvious known costs were. And this trip was not failing my expectations! I was streamlining, I was altering my way of being in the water, I was experiencing a massive change in latitude, indeed from longitude to a whole new latitude, a 90-degree shift in attitude. And with the new view came reconfiguring old gear, purchasing new gear, deleting some gear. I was being remade as a diver; on my way to a new baptism, to become a born again diver. We spent that evening reworking and readjusting our gear to finally fall into bed and into deep sleep.

Introduction to Cave!

Class started bright and early the next morning, a Saturday. We were back at Peacock Springs, this time to go beyond the cavern, to enter the caves: Pothole and Peanut. As was becoming usual, we started our day at Cave Excursions getting air fills (some of us were diving nitrox). Then it was off to Peacock Springs again for our first day of cave class. We stopped at Diver's Outpost, where Jeff showed us how to use line arrows and how to conduct lost buddy and lost line drills. We went on to Peacock Springs and there, in the parking lot, Jeff, Larry, and Lance briefed us on the days activities, which were to include lost buddy drills and lost line drills, plus the silt-out drills, and maybe out of air drills too, just depending on what they wanted us to do during the dives. In addition, we were shown how to go through a valve drill, reaching back and turning off and on the tank air valves and manifold valve in order. They suggested we do this drill as part of the S-drills and/or during our safety stops. When we forget, they reminded us!

We divided into two teams of two, with Brian and Jim forming team one and Colin and me, Skip, being team two. Colin and I completed our S-drills, calculated our Turn Around psi and volumes (using the 1/6 rule for doubles), and agreed on our dive plan as given to us by Larry. We dropped down and tied off our line outside the entrance to the cavern, then proceeded in through the restriction, tied the line again, and continued on to the entrance to Pothole. We tied off the reel on the permanent line just inside the cave entrance and followed Jeff through the narrow passage that opened into a large round tunnel winding 1000's feet before us. There was almost no flow, no current, so we wandered along in more or less single file, giving light signal ok's, stopping to look back, and glancing down side tunnels. The rock walls were smooth, but bumply, full of fossilized shells, and reflected our bright HID lights, creating dancing patterns of light in the clear water. The bottom was gray sand, with bits of water-logged wood, but the side tunnels appeared covered in a fine dark mud.

On the way out, I lost my buddy! Larry swam up and signaled "question," then "buddy," then shrugged. I located the line and got in close to it, then cupped my light creating total dark. Not a light could be seen. If my buddy was anywhere nearby, even around the corner a little ways, I should be able to see his glare. But there was nothing. I searched again with my light, looking for silt outs all around. I could see pretty far ahead and behind, but there was a large side tunnel off to the right; had he gone in there? I checked my air supply to make sure I had enough air to search and to share if I found him out of air, then took out my safety reel and tied the line to the permanent line. I added a line arrow, pointing the way out. If I were going off down an unknown tunnel, I'd like to be able to find my way back and my way out! I searched about 30 feet down the tunnel. It was a large side tunnel, just like the main tunnel, except that the floor was black, not grey. I dropped down a bit to get a better look at the bottom. It was a fine dark silt, mud, and easily stirred up. This was trouble. I rose slowly, took one last look for my buddy deeper back into the blackness of this side tunnel (both searching with my light and cupping it to create darkness in search of his light glare). He was not there, so I turned and proceeded back to the main line, reeling in my safety line as I swam along.

In the last few feet of reeling in that line, a sense of relief joined my sense of awe. I was back on the permanent line, I knew the way home. And there waiting for me was my Buddy! Hey guy! Good to see you, let's get out of here! He had not been actually lost, this had been a drill, and we all knew it, but still, it was a relief to see him! We turned to go and kicked only a few feet when Larry swam up with another drill - Lights Out! I latched onto the permanent line and switched off my light. Colin did the same and Larry and Lance cupped theirs. Darkness was instant and total. I swam up to Colin, who was waiting with eyes closed , and grabbed his forearm and pushed forward. We began swimming out of Pothole. A hundred feet later, a felt the line arrow in my hand pointing the direction home and for the second time that dive, felt a wave of relief. We were heading the right direction! Another hundred feet and another line arrow, then Larry tapped my head for end of drill. But now it was time for out of air drill and light failure too! Colin signaled out of air and I handed over my long hose regulator, grabbed his arm, and he led us on out of the cave using his back up light and getting his air from my twin aluminum 80's.

We were soon on the surface, talking about the dive, some about what we did right and wrong, but mostly about how incredible the dive was; the majesty of the underwater cave, the wonder of white surfaced rock rubbed bumply smooth by millions of years of erosive flow of fresh water, and the scary suddenness of darkness when lights fail, when buddies go wandering, and when fins kick up the black mud silt....

The second dive was into the Peanut cave. Colin led this one, tied off the line, and proceeded to follow the main line into the tunnel. It twisted and turned, with a room full of boulders to scramble down. Then Larry swam up beside me and gave the signal for cupping my light! At first I did not understand, my light? Turn it off? I was still marveling at this cave, this tunnel that has been the conduit for trillions and trillions of gallons of water for millions of years.... Turn it off? No, cup it, just for a moment or two. Then I got it and realized this was a test to see if my buddy, Colin, up front and leading, would get it. If he would notice that his buddies light was out and turn to check. Sure enough, he turned and flashed his light back and forth (the signal for attention), and I released my light and circled the beam in the Ok sign. On we proceeded. At the bottom of the boulder room we entered a narrow restriction barely tall enough for us to fit. My tanks hit the ceiling and my chest rubbed the floor. Finning was nearly useless, so I put a finger or two in a depression or gently wrapped a knob and pulled forward hard to make a glide. It was like finger-walking on the bottom, pull and glide, pull and glide. On and on the tunnel went, 200 feet, 300 feet, 400 feet, 500 feet.... I checked my spg and found I was a mere 100 lbs from my turn around pressure. I grabbed Colin's fin and tugged. He turned and I gave the thumbs up signal. He agreed with a return thumbs up (not that he had to agree; the Golden Rule of Cave Diving is that any diver can turn any dive any time for any reason, no questions asked). Just as we turned, Larry signaled for the out of air drill! I turned to Colin and waved my hand across my throat: Out of Air! Colin, half-turned in the tunnel, almost stuck even, did not hesitate. He removed his regulator, ducking his head to release the hose from around his neck as he handed it to me and released it from under his light canister. I took it eagerly and took a deep breath, then signaled ok, and thumbs up. I turned to proceed out of the cave and felt the regulator pull sideways in my mouth. Fortunately, I was holding the hose and pulled gently on it. Then Colin swam up and grabbed my leg and we proceeded out and home.

On the surface, Colin asked me if I had felt the tug. "Why yes, I did." I replied. He laughed and said, "That was me. When you signaled out of air I was half turned around and was having trouble getting turned all the way around! So when you took the long hose and turned, I just let you pull me around!"

Just then, Jeff swam over and asked if I had the car keys. Seemed that Jim was locked out and needed his second tank for their second dive. I left the water, took my gear off at the bench and took the car keys to Jim. When I got back, I put on my gear and walked back into the water for the next dive. Larry looked at me and asked what I was doing. "Aren't we diving again?" I asked, "We still have the lost line drill to do, I thought." Larry explained that we probably did not have enough air for a third dive and would do that drill tomorrow. "How much air do you have?" He asked me innocently. I checked my spg and it read Zero psi! Zero?! That's not possible. "Uh, I don't have enough for another dive that's for sure!" I exclaimed. I could not imagine what had happened to my air, then thought I must have turned it off during the safety stop, when we do our valve drills. But surely I would have turned it back on too. I reached back and turned the knob, yep it had been off. Then I checked the isolator knob and it was off too! Odd. Then it occurred to that I had left my gear unattended on the bench just above the stairs. This was another test! I bet Colin turned it off when he got out, or maybe it was Brian.... Or maybe it was not a test, at least not one intended by the instructors, but I had learned the lesson. Check your air and don't assume it's on, especially after leaving your gear unattended!

I stayed in the water a while longer, a bit ashamed for not having been brighter, and then not wanting to admit it to anyone. Jim returned, and I stayed floating in the water to listen to Jeff brief Brian and Jim on their dive. A small alligator circled around behind Jeff's head. It was the resident alligator and had been living here for years. It swam slowly, hardly moving the water, until came over to the rock ledge. It lay there staring at us. Jeff continued the briefing and soon the three of them dropped down and disappeared under the water. I moved to the stairs, removed my fins, and walked up and out of the water.

It had been another long day and we still had needed to return a rental tank to Dive Outpost and get some dinner. The written test was coming up and we had that to study for too. Another long day was getting longer. Everything was fine until we lost Brian and Colon on the way home. We missed the turn, and they didn't, so we kept going straight and they didn't. By the time we figured out and everyone had gone on or back to search for the lost buddies, it was even later and longer. We ate at Gators in Lake City, then returned to the Motel. We all studied hard, up past midnight, then turned in.

The next morning we were diving Little River, on the last two of our cave dives, taking the written test, and finding out if we passed! Once again we met at Cave Excursions, got our gas, and drove in a caravan to Little River. It was beautiful above the water, wooded, and developed with parking area, boardwalk and stairs on two sides of the narrow shallow inlet that formed the mouth of the pool and the cave. Little River is not a river at all, but a tiny cove or inlet from the Suwannee River. The spring water from Little River is crystal clear and flows into the dark tannic water of the Suwannee (this the famous Suwannee River of legend and song). The merging of the clear spring water and dark river water creates a distinct halocline, the line between clear and dark is obvious. Larry again briefed us on the days' dives and the line drills we were to do (those that did not do them the day before). We were soon gearing up and heading to the water. We layed out our stuff on the asphalt of the parking lot in the hot sun. I sat up a beach umbrella on the side of the trailer for some shade. It was not nearly large enough and I found myself turning this way and that to stay in the shade and to catch the slight breezes that puffed up from time to time. We all hurried to finish getting our gear together knowing that the cool spring water was waiting just down the stairs. As I connected my regulators and turned on the air, I noticed the spg read 2,000 psi! Yikes! I had left the isolator valve in the off position and Richard had not noticed when he did the fills that morning. Larry came to the rescue with a whip to transfer gas from one tank to another and I had brought two full aluminum 80's and a pony bottle (I usually carry more gear than needed, which often turns out needed!). So we were able to dive the first dive on the 2,000 and between dives, refill my doubles back up to near 2,000 psi for the second dive. Not nearly enough gas (nitrox on the first dive, air on the second). I wish I had big tanks, 95's or 108's, or those new steel 131's. I won't be cave diving again until I do. Well, maybe I will, but only if it takes too long to get them!

Today, Brian and I are dive buds. Every day we switched buddies, created new teams. We got to dive with one another, see more ways of doing things and of doing them wrong and generally benefitted from the diversity. We discussed the idea of DIR involving everyone being the same, but generally concluded that such dedication to one way of doing things is not necessarily a good thing. When members of a species all become too much alike, the species becomes extinct. When cultures stagnant, they die. Variety is the basis of all living things; uniformity the basis of dead things. When all things "fall apart" and the end of time occurs, all will be homogenous. Entropy reduces all to sameness, devoid of complexity, devoid of variety. As with all things however there is some good, the notion of constancy which breeds familarity which leads to automaticity of responses. One maxim: Diving the same gear every dive, may be a good thing applied to dives of the same type. Another maxim: All divers with same gear may also make team responses to individual emergencies more organized and ultimately more successful. But it again it may be limited to type of diving; most divers will dive with others or at the same time as others in a variety of gear configurations. To be blindly dedicated to one set up does not prepare a diver to understand and to react properly when diving with others. We discussed these issues as they came up, but as for me, in a cave, I like to know that my buddy has a long hose and keeps it in his mouth until I need it. I don't care if it's black or yellow and I don't care if it's ScubaPro or Atomic.

In the water at last, the sweat stopped running and I floated relaxed on inflated BC. We got organized, did our S-drills, and joined Jeff for the dive plan. It was my turn to do the lost-line drill. Brian ran the line, led the dive. I followed him in. This was an incredible cave system. It's tunnel ran flat, then dropped, then flattened, then dropped again deep and dark and straight down. We dove down and leveled off at 90 feet. We tunneled on in and just where it all came down into a small rounded enclosure, we had to turn the dive. We turned and headed back out, 17 minutes into the dive. We ascended as we followed the line winding it's way among large cracks, crevices, chiminey's and all matter of depressions and angles. This was at once the most beautiful, convulted, multi-faceted, and deadly cave of them all. Then Jeff stopped me and signaled for the lost-line drill. Not here! This was a maze of possibility! Dutifully, I turned off my light and let him carry me off a short distance and place me blind near a wall. I was disoriented. It seemed he pushed me upcurrent and down, then up into a crevice. My head was touching the ceiling and my arms grabbed a large outcropping of rock. What now? I've lost the line and must find it. It's too dark to see my gauges, too dark to see. I search for a place to tie off my safety reel to establish a base, a last known place. I can't find one. It's one large flat rock, like an ear turned sideways. Nothing to tie to. I reach further this way and that, I feel along the rock below and over my head, but find nothing. I search further and a hand grabs my arm and pushes it further yet and I feel the cut in the rock. It seems so frail, so shallow. Can it really hold a line? I remove my safety reel and as I let it out, it fouls. It won't unwind! I can't tie off! I wrap the line around the reel and tie a knot to hold it, clip it back, and unclip my backup saftey reel. This one works fine and I get it tied off. Now to search. Off I go feeling my way around the wall. I try to judge the current, which is strong, but all sensation of movement is gone, nonexistent. I try relaxing and letting my hand scrap across the rock surface, but it does not. I am in a hole with no current flow? I put out a finger in jest, as if to feel the wind blow on the wet side. I begin to search again, resigning myself to the endless search. There is only so much rock after all and the line is here somewhere. Will my air last? Will I find the line? I search, and search, and search.... Jeff taps my head, the drill is over, and I did not find the line. Later he assures me that I would have, but he was concerned about my low gas supply (it was only 2,000 psi to start). We regroup and head on out and home.

On the surface we talk about the dive. I am disgusted and upset that I did not find the lost line. What if it were real? I'd be dead. I'd be like a ghost ship, wandering the underwater cave world, appearing to startled divers, wailling and rattling empty tanks, an apparition haunting Little River. I thought of the ones who had died here for real and a cold shiver shook me. "Get those air tanks and bring them down here and we'll fill your doubles," Jeff spoke loudly waking me from my daydream of dead divers in caves. "Ok, will do." I replied. He walked up with me and we unlocked the trailer, removed the tanks, and took them back down to the water's edge. We filled my doubles from the singles and the pony, and once again the spg read about 2,000 psi. Time for Dive Two!

This dive is our dive. A dive with the instructor just hanging back and watching, not interfering or requiring drills. A cave dive of our own. We plan our turn pressures and volumes, do our S-drills, then I lead us in, tying off the line outside the entrance, inside the entrance, and again on the permanent line inside. We then follow the permanent line and I drop down quickly, pulling and gliding. The bright yellow line snakes along beside and above me, I stay close to that side and the floor, pulling and gliding rapidly. It's like flying, the gliding part, with the pulling part like firing the rockets for a sudden burst of speed. Down we go, zoom-zooming along as I hum in sound effects to match the moves and the speed. I check the line above and to my right, then concentrate again on zooming along the bottom. Brian is pacing me, his light glancing off the rock walls in front of me, a signed ok circliing here or there. I check for the line again and it now is beside me and on the left wall so I make the small adjustment to follow along with it and pull and glide. Suddenly, my fin is pulled hard! I stop and look back to see Jeff giving my the balled fist stop signal. Brian is behind me and we stop. Jeff points to the line, and back along it where it is tied around a column of rock. There is no line on the other side of the rock. The line is broken. This line does not take us back to the surface! This is not our main guideline! Oh shit.

We have lost the line for real. Oh shit.

I search with my light and there, 20 feet across the tunnel, is another yellow line. It must be the line home right? I want to swim there now, but Jeff stops me. No. Lost line. Brian takes out his safety reel and ties it to the guideline near us, the one that goes in, but not out. We then swim slowly over to the other yellow line and swim back along it the way we think is the way out. A line arrow points out. This is the main line and it goes out! We found the way home! I stay on the line, Brian retrieves his line and returns. We then give ok's and thumbs up all around and begin our ascent home. We are alive! I retrieve the our reel from the main guideline back at the entrance and wind it up to our safety stop. It jams! Just call me the Jam-King! I think I must be batting a .5 on line jams. I spend the safety stop trying to unjam the reel, but it's no good, so I wind it up on itself and Brian and I, along with Jeff, exit the cave and the cavern and surface. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. The birds are singing, and life is good and warm and bright....

Jeff asked us if we knew what we had done. I said I assumed the main guideline had passed over my head and dropped down so when I saw the other line....well, it was the same right? Wrong. It was a jump. We had made a jump, without tieing a line, and would have been in for a real shock if we'd have turned the dive later, came back and found the line at a dead end. It was a fright as it was. I think the intro class should discuss or at least define jumps and gaps. I did not know anything about them, but what I read in the book. I did not recognize one when I saw it. As it turns out, jump lines are typically white, not yellow, which is reserved for main lines. But here, as many places, the "conventions" are not necessarily followed 100%. Just because other divers have mapped it out, laid some lines, does not mean you can blindly trust in what you see. You can not assume.

Our cave class was over. We had been trained. We packed our gear and headed out for some dinner and conversation, a written test and review, and the final signing of forms. And the word on whether or not we had passed.

Most places were closed, so we wound up at a local Hardies for the Angus burger and fries, but mostly for the tables and space to talk, test, and review. We all passed and felt elated and shook hands all around. We were cave divers. We got in our cars and began the long drive home. As the miles drifted by and the highway blurred in a monotonous drone I remembered a dream from my childhood. There was a man in a hat, a fedora, and wearing a suit. He stood on the edge of a small round pool with concentric circles as if a stone had been tossed in the middle. The pool was green and the whole scene was green and black. The man stood in a posture of diving, bent over at waist and knees with his arms bent, hands together in the classic cartoon diving board stance. He saw me and turned to look at me and said, "How can I plunge for it?" The dream melts away at that point and, with each recurrence over the years, I wonder what it means; I wonder, "How can I plunge for it?" What does it mean? It has taken on significance at various points in my life when I saw the message as a suggestion on which decision to make, which life-path to follow. Just Plunge For It. Which of two decisions are the one that is "plunging" and which is not? Plunge for it. It become a philosophy of life. But it never really satisfied the dream; the true meaning escapes me. How can I plunge for it?

As I drove home, reviewing the weeks' diving I realized that I was no longer a Scuba Diver. I was born again. My friends would not recognize me underwater. My whole view, my attitude, my very being, was now changed forever. I could never be the diver I was, never again dive like I had. "S.C.U.B.A." was insufficient a term for what I had become. I had become a Diver. I was no longer a Scuba Diver. I had been shown the simple things that reach out and kill. I had been shown how to anticipate them to eliminate them. I had plunged into the recesses of the Earth and seen the lurking of dragons and fortunately had not felt their hot breath. This was not scuba diving. This was plunging for it....

Here's the Dive Data:

Date Dive # Location Buddies Instructor Max Depth Average Depth Start Time End Time Bottom Time Water Temp Start Pressure End Pressure Reel Person Penetration Gas
8-19 1 Ginnie Springss Josh Jeff Bauer 43 feet 13 feet 4:56pm 5:45pm 25 min 73F 3000 2400 Jeff B. <150 feet air
8-19 2 Ginnie Springss Josh Jeff Bauer 40 feet 24 feet 6:03pm 6:24pm 20 min 73F 2400 1900 Josh <150 feet air
8-19 3 Ginnie Springss Josh Jeff Bauer 47 feet 28 feet 6:48pm 7:06pm 17 min 73F 1800 1200 Skip <150 feet air
8-20 1 Peacock Springs Josh & Jim Jeff Bauer 27 feet 18 feet 1:25pm 1:44pm 18 min 72F 3100 2400 Skip <200 feet air
8-20 2 Peacock Springs Josh & Jim Jeff Bauer 28 feet 19 feet 2:21pm 2:41pm 19 min 72F 2400 1900 Josh <200 feet air
8-20 3 Peacock Springs Josh & Jim Jeff Bauer 29 feet 19 feet 3:01pm 3:21pm 19 min 72F 1800 1100 Jim <200 feet air
8-21 1 Peacock Springs, Pothole Colin Larry Green 65 feet 43 feet 2:21pm 3:04pm 43 min 72F 3100 1900 Skip 550 feet air
8-21 2 Peacock Springs, Peanut Colin Larry Green 38 feet 23 feet 3:35pm 4:17pm 41 min 72F 1800 800 Colin 500 feet air
8-22 1 Little River Brian Jeff Bauer 94 feet 52 feet 12:38pm 1:37pm 50 min 72F 2000 300 Brian 500 feet EAN32
8-22 2 Little River Brian Jeff Bauer 94 feet 45 feet 2:26pm 2:59pm 33 min 72F 1800 500 Skip 600 feet air