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Cave Diving Articles

Cavern Diving Deep in an Old Florida Swamp

Buford Spring/Siphon Tops the List of Cavern Dives Anywhere in the World!
by David Miner

Deep in the Chassahowitzka swamp lies the cavern diver’s dream. A semicircular pool, with a run flowing further into the swamp, sits quietly providing a home for alligators, fish, turtles, and snakes. For thousands of years this little gem has gone unnoticed, adjusting to the changing environmental conditions and only answering to the heartbeat of the swamp. Today, it’s a cavern dive that can be equated to few others. It’s big, deep, and beautiful. But diving it requires an effort that few are willing to undertake. As the saying goes, “you have to pay to play,” and this is certainly true if you want to dive Buford!.

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The Five Rules for Safe Cave Diving

Cave diving has been taking place since the 1960s, and unfortunately, there were some accidents. But, after reviewing many of the accidents, cave diving instructors and explorers, like Sheck Exley, determined that many of the accidents had resulted from the same mistakes. As a result, the following five rules for safe cave diving were developed.

Proper training and not exceeding your skill level and limits – diving beyond you abilities is the primary reason for cave diving accidents. Many of the cave diving fatalities over the years have been because the diver wasn’t cave certified or was trying to do a dive that was well beyond his/her abilities. Without the proper training, cave diving can be an extremely dangerous sport. Cave diving requires a special mindset, special techniques and equipment, and procedures that you can only get in specialized cave and cavern diving courses. No amount of experience, number of dives, or open water certification level is enough to safely cave dive; you must participate in cavern and cave diving courses to conduct safe cave dives.

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Grotte de La Mescla – “A Dive Rite of Passage”

by Geoffrey May

I was ecstatic as I punched “send” and officially bought my airline tickets to the French Riviera. I really would be flying to La Cote d’Azur on the Mediterranean Sea, and my heart pulsed wildly as the primal urge to go cave diving began to kick in.

Immediately I began banging my computer keys in the quest to find a great cave to explore. My first email was to Segytek, the Dive Rite Distributor for all of France. They were kind enough to forward me the email address of their friend and fellow cave diver, Frederic Bonacossa. Frederic lives close to Nice and knows all about the diving in the area. From the moment we established contact, Frederic proved to be the ultimate guide. We began our email correspondence exchanging niceties, but soon enough we were beginning to devise our plan. My first questions: “What is the must-do cave dive in the area?” And, “How soon can we go?”

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Accident analysis and safe cave diving

Photo: Steve Straatsma

Accident analysis over the years has played a big role in developing the safety guidelines for safe cave diving. The NSS-CDS in the late 1970s organized a study of the cave diving fatalities for which information existed. As a result of this study, Sheck Exley discovered that three primary safety violations accounted for, at least part of, all of the fatalities. The three safety violations were the beginnings of organizing a list of safety guidelines that could be taught to new cave divers and shared with current cave divers in the hopes of making cave diving as a whole much safer. In 1984, Wes Skiles, who was the Training Chairman for the NSS-CDS, expanded the safety violation list to account for two other accident-contributing factors.

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Setting up and attaching side mount cylinders

Diagrams below by Curt Bowen

Proper set-up of your side mount cylinders is essential to maintain proper buoyancy and streamlining. Cylinders mounted on your side must be positioned correctly for ease of use, safety, comfort, and proper swimming techniques. If your cylinders are hanging low and riding on your torso, the ability to navigate tight restrictions is lost and your streamlining is gone. Knowing how to rig your cylinders is essential for keeping them stationary in their correct position on your sides.

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