I made it down to Florida Cave Country by 1:00 on Friday, so I decided to go over to Ginnie Springs and practice line work in the Caverns. I spent about 75 minutes in the water working on some skills and just blowing some bubbles. After a quick run over to Amigos for a fill, I made it back to"downtown" High Springs by around 8 to meet up with my buddy Chris who was running a bit late due to heavy traffic coming up from Fort Myers
Saturday we took our time, but made it over to Peacock Springs in Lureville http://www.floridacaves.com/PeaockMapFull%20copy.pdf
by 10AM. As we were getting our gear ready; we were surrounded by some of the Who's Who in of cave and technical diving. Lamar Hires, founder of Dive Rite was readying a Optima rebreather class next to us, and just across the parking lot was Jill Heinerth http://www.intotheplanet.com/About_Jill.html
, a true explorer (how about cave dive inside a crumbling Antarctic iceberg), UW photographer and cave instructor.
We made two dives before lunch from the Orange Grove sink entrance. I'm really starting to feel more comfortable in this unique environment. On our second dive, we followed a side mount group going in. With a slow pace, we made it to within about 150' of the distance tunnel taking it nice and easy.
After some fills at the Dive Outpost (a full service cave resort right near the entrance to Peacock - http://www.diveoutpost.com/index.htm
) we had a quick lunch at the Lureville General Store. Our timing was perfect as we made it the water well before the 4:00PM last dive start limit that Peacock observes. This dive was from the Peacock 1/Peanut entrance. Most groups were gone, and it was just Chris and I and one other two man team left in the park.
This was an awesome dive - funny, but the slower we go ,the farther we get. On this dive we made it all the way to the Olson Sink (refer to the Peacock cave map). We surfaced at this hole in the middle for the forest for a short break. The hole is about 40' across give or take. Chris scouted out the continuation of the main line for future reference as Olson is just a stopping point that allows for continued egress into the system. This was our turnaround point, so we soon were on our way out of the cave the same way we came in.
After 82 minutes (about 61" max depth) and an estimated 3000' of swimming; we were back on the surface, big smiles on our faces - simply fantastic!
Sunday we decided to go over and give Manatee Springs a try. This would put us closer to home after our dives. While Chris had been in the basin at Manatee a couple of times, this would be his (and mine) first run into the cave system at this beautiful state park located near Chiefland,FL. Manatee is a bit deeper (we hit 95' max) and has moderate flow in general. Here is a link to the cave map at Manatee http://www.floridacaves.com/manateeoverlay.JPG
Our plan was to enter at Catfish Hotel, go into the flow toward Sue's Sink and then exit back at Catfish (covered with some of the thickest duckweed matting I had ever seen). The good - the dive went as planned and we easily found the gold/main line. Once out of the cavern zone this cave got very dark with pretty iffy vis when compared to Peacock or Ginnie. On entry, we typically could not even seen across the wide cave opening as it was totally black ant the vis was limited due to lots of particulate in the water. We made it about 75% of the way to Sue's before we turned the dive. Coming out we stayed a bit higher in the water column and this helped a lot in getting a better perspective of the cave.
Now for the stupid diver activity of the trip
. I was leading on the way out when we came upon two divers about 300' into the system. God was really shining on these two morons with their single ALU 80's, no back up regs/tanks and just a couple of yellow beam open water lights to guide them in the dark. Chris got them turned around and they exited most likely with no air to spare (they did not do a safety stop as they were out of the water before Chris and I even hit the cavern zone). Why would somebody pass by two signs that expound upon the dangers of cave diving without proper training is beyond me.
Upon surfacing at Catfish for an in water SI, I told Chris that was one spooky cave. We have been told it really clears up after Sue's, but I am in no hurry to go back without a local guide or diver experienced with this system - we were certainly underwhelmed as we expected better visibility.