DIVING INSIDE THE UNDERWATER SECRETS
I don’t know if you have ever watched the movie “Sanctum”. Maybe you did and you forgot it but I cant forget the scenery of underwater world, hidden in the mysterious caves and people who did it and fought for life. The movie itself made me think, a lot, about cave diving and made me investigate how those stuff actually work, in reality, in site of fact that this movie has been grounded on the true story. It was all about the expedition that has been trapped in the Nullarbor cave, back in 1988, the same that has described the experience over there like floating in the space.
What is so thrilling about cave diving? I would say, almost everything. It is not just like diving, it is like a master skill of diving, under all possible and impossible conditions. For me, personally, diving is such a perfect combination of art and sport but cave diving is the great collage of science, art and sport capability. The one who is an expert is cave diving is , at the same time, explorer, artist and athlete. Since I watched that movie, I cant stop thinking of that discipline and start reading almost all about it. I am more than amazed by it and I admire the people who reached that level of self-control, precise behaviour under water and tranquility that comes from boosting confidence in underwater cave navigation. Because, cave diving is a risky thing, don’t try it alone or without any monitoring. This is a skill that can bring you new perspective in your life and it can also bring you to death. It is all about you, water and the cave.
The beauty of cave diving is even more glorious due to the rarity. Not everyone is capable to do cave diving. Many have been interested, they tried to learn and they gave up, facing with fears bigger than the ocean secrets. Underwater cave exploration is one of the extreme sports that push you on your final limits, provoke you and put you on the edge. If you lose, you are lost. Your only option is to win, against your own demons and against the darkness of the cave that is somewhere in the ocean.
It is interesting to keep in mind that Florida is a birthplace of professional diving and also cave diving. Silver Spring has taken many innocent lives of cave divers and that caused more interests from official science circles and more investment in good technology and research capacity. The high advanced gear and equipment is 50% of your safety in underwater universe. The researchers like to warn people to think twice before they turn out their hobby into the practice because cave diving is not so much recreational like it is technical diving, full of challenges and risks. To be able to jump into the dark water and search for unknown caves, you need years of learning, training and permanent certification and improving in gear. At the end of the day, you are a cave diver, elite among open water divers and cavern divers.
Which equipment is typical for cave diving? My friend Robert from Croatia is a professional cave diver that is located in Mexico, for the purpose of expeditions with National Geographic. Robert is almost 50 years old and very fit in this discipline. Otherwise, he would have never been there, leading expeditions in the underwater darkness. He told me that he would never give up on cave diving, even if he would know the death is waiting for him, over there. Robert believes that his life is there, under ocean, in the deepest corners of the dangerous caves, which are able to take his last breath or to make him experience the breathtaking moments. He believes that key questions and key answers are hidden underwater and he is ready to search for them, with no surrender but with professional equipment that is his last shelter, beside own skills.
The mask is the first important part of the gear. Not any mask but solid mask for cave diving that is simple and stable. Then, there are black rubber fins that must be light, since the whole package is not easy. Regarding suits, they could be used dry or wet, depending on the purpose. Majority of underwater cave explorers are using dry suits since they protect more from heat loss. The oxygen tank, knife, flashlight and gadgets are the part of cave diving typical accessory.
Nevertheless, the heart of cave diving is breathing under high pressure underwater. If you are experienced in such a skill, you nailed it, according to one scientific article about cave diving skills, published by John Fuller.:“To understand the dangers of diving at high pressures underwater, it’s best to look at a soda bottle. When you shake a soda bottle, some bubbles go up to the surface. It doesn’t look like much at first, but if you quickly open up the cap, there’s a burst of fizzy gas as bubbles continue to climb up toward the surface.There’s a way to keep this from happening and making a mess. If you’ve dropped a bottle of soda on the ground, you can prevent it from bubbling up and creating too much pressure by opening the cap very slowly. If the gas inside the bottle is gradually let out, a small amount of bubbles will form, and the pressure will be decreased. Our bodies act very much like a shaken soda bottle when we’re under high water pressure. We breathe about 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen on land — our bodies use the oxygen, but nitrogen is either discarded or dissolved into our blood and tissue without any harm. At lower depths, however, increased pressure from all the water on top of us causes nitrogen to form in our blood and tissue. If we go down and come up too fast, nitrogen is released from our bodies too quickly and creates bubbles in our blood, much like opening a bottle of soda too quickly. This causes a condition known as decompression sickness (DCS), or ´the bends ´– mild cases can lead to a tingling sensation or joint pain, while more serious ones may cause heart attacks, strokes or ruptured blood vessels.”
Robert advised me that cave diver must learn how to think that way and how to learn to calculate dive table and time at the certain depth, before ascending. That is the only way to avoid bends and further problems. You need to follow your common sense, training rules you had and to have respect for the environment. You are there to explore and not to disturb. Those people are mostly photographers and scientists that learn how to conquer the underwater conditions, with the purpose to research unknown and give new discoveries. Once when you are certified cave diver, you are allowed to join many groups and teams for exploring but it may be that some locations have limitations or even prohibitions.
If you are one of those who are ready to get into this adventure, you must have some previous open water diving experiences, at least 50, to even be considered for a training module. The following societies can give you more information and recommendations : National Speleological Society Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS), the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD), the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD) and Global Underwater Explorers (GUE). All of them are professionally active in this field and they offer basic, medium and advanced courses for people who are capable to be future cave divers.
I don’t think I would ever dare to try to learn cave diving, because of my fear from underwater mysteries and my own panic when it comes to breathing under water but I like to imagine myself floating in underwater caves, being free and brave, like those people who risk their lives, everyday, for science and new exploration goals.