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Cave Diving

Uchben Bel Ha – Mexico

by Sergio Granucci

A new cave to explore just 5 minutes from my house…

Over the past years, the Labnaha exploration team has explored more than 80 cenotes north of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico.   In this area, a great number of cenotes are still waiting to be discovered and explored.

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Cave Diving Records

Largest Underwater Caves (Total Surveyed Passage)

  • Sistema Ox Bel Ha, Tulum Mexico: 134, 048 meters with a maximum depth of 110 feet
  • Sistema Sac Actun, Akumal, Mexico: 61,941 meters with a maximum depth of 82 feet
  • Sistema Nohoch Nah Chich, Akumal, Mexico: 61,143 meters with a maximum depth of 235 feet
  • Cenote Dos Ojos, Akumal, Mexico: 56,6971 meters with a maximum depth of 391 feet
  • Leon Sinks Cave System, Florida: 30, 480 meters with a maximum depth of 240 feet
  • Wakulla Springs Cave System, Florida: 42,100 feet with a maximum depth of 300 feet

Deepest Underwater Caves

  • Zacaton, Mexico: 1,148 feet deep, Jim Bowden
  • Fontain de Vauluse, France: 1,033 feet deep
  • Boesmangat, South Africa: 1,016 feet deep

Deepest cave dive by a Woman
In October 2004, Verna van Schaik from Gauteng, South Africa set a world deep diving record by diving to a depth of 725 feet (221 m) at Boesmansgat cave.


Longest Solo Swimming Dive into a Cave

Sheck Exley, 1989, Chips Hole cave system, Florida, solo swimming penetration of 10,444 feet
Longest Solo Scooter/DPV Dive into a Cave
Gilberto Menezes (Brazilian), September 20, 2004, Bananeira Cave, state of Bahia in Central Brazil, Solo scooter/DPV penetration of 6,400 meters (21,000 feet) in the upstream sump of the cave system. The dive lasted 11 hours 23 minutes and was stopped in going passage. The Bananeira sump starts 400 m inside the cave and comprises a narrow passage 3 m wide and 2 m high in average with a silty floor. Although the water is warm (c. 25 ºC), visibility is never more than 3 m being only 1.5 m during the 2004 dives. The underwater passage is generally shallow in the first 3,500 m (25 m maximum depth) becoming gradually deeper until a short loop at around 6,000 m penetration brings the depth to 50 m. The dive was stopped in the ascending portion of the loop at 20 m depth. In his longest push two Submerge Inc. UV-42 scooters (specially adapted with 65-amph @ 24-volts NiMH batteries enabling a total range of about 10,000 m per scooter!) were used. The dive used conventional (open circuit) apparatus and a total of 33 tanks were either used or were in place at the sump during the longest dive. Trimix 25/50 was used from the surface to 25 m depth (up to 5,800 m penetration). Trimix 16/70 was used from 25 to 50 m in depth (from 5,800 m to 6,400 m penetration). Nitrox 70 was used for decompression from 12 m to 7 m in depth (3,000 m to 1,800 m penetration) and pure oxygen was used at 6 m depth (1,800 m penetration) and 3 m depth (1,500 m penetration).


Longest Cave Penetration Dives (scooter/DPV and swim)

Scooter/DPV:

  • Gilberto Menezes, September 20, 2004, Upstream sump of Bananeira cave, state of Bahia in Central Brazil, 21,000-foot penetration scooter/DPV dive at a maximum depth of 164 feet
  • WKPP divers, 2000, Wakulla Springs cave system, Florida, 19,000-foot penetration scooter/DPV dive at a maximum depth of 300 feet

Swim:

  • Sheck Exley, 1989, Chips Hole cave system, Florida, 10,444-foot solo penetration swim dive

Longest Cave Traverse (distance from one cave entrance to another)
WKPP divers, May 29, 1999, Leon Sinks Cave System from Big Dismal to Cheryl Sink, Leon County, Florida, 14,000-foot scooter/DPV traverse at a maximum depth of 220 feet
If there are records you would like us to add to this list, please contact us with the details.

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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Frequently Asked Questions – Side Mount

What is side mount diving?

Side mount diving is mounting one cylinder on each side of your body. It is used mostly by cave divers for exploring into restrictive underwater cave passage that isn’t accessible by standard back mounted cylinders. A BC harness system is responsible for holding the cylinders in place on your side.

What are the advantages of side mount diving?

Side mount configurations allowed the diver to maneuver through much smaller passage by placing the cylinders on the divers side, thus reducing the overall girth of the diver. Side mount rigs also allowed for the easy removal and replacement of cylinders underwater, enabling the hard-core cave explorer to squeeze through even smaller restrictions by removing one or both of the cylinders and pushing the cylinder in front of them through the restriction.

Do you need a special certification to side mount dive?

No, you don’t need a side mount certification; however using a side mount system does require training and practice. Before diving a side mount system in a cave, practice in open water to get your buoyancy, technique, and kicking technique correct.

Do you need special equipment to side mount dive?

You need a special BC harness system that accommodates attaching a cylinder to both sides of your body. You need two cylinders, two regulators, and two pressure gauges. There are a couple of manufactures such as Dive Rite that uses the Transpac system and Advanced Diver Magazine that makes the Armadillo system. Proper sized tanks, such as steel 80s are extremely important for proper technique. Using large steel tanks are cumbersome and difficult to swim. Tank valves with a left and right handed post are also important so that it’s easy to access the valves when diving.

How much does side mount equipment cost?

A side mount BC harness system can cost $450 to $550.

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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