Cave diving rescue in France

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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 2, 2010 10:04 am

Flood damages from the Sunday flood at the Puits de Ronze are serious, on the outside as well as inside. There are big ruts, undermining and settling on the surface near the pit entrance. Inside it’s even worse. The first team to go in on Monday November 1 was tasked with checking the stability of the entrance, replacing the ropes, and assessing the damages in the cave. They found all ropes shredded, cut or otherwise destroyed. The telephone cable was broken in many places. The 220 V electrical cord seems OK, but plugs and connectors were ripped off. The telephones are flooded and full of mud. Same for the fan’s remote.

On the surface, teams were busy putting back into operation the ventilation system to bring fresh air to the bottom of the cave. The incave team started removing all the rocks and debris that got washed into the entrance pit and deposited in unstable positions. Finally, the first three pits were descended. At the bottom of that third pit, pooled water was found, a lot of it. The flood had plugged the conduit. This suspended syphon will need to be pumped out, unless it empties itself overnight.

The objectives for Tuesday November 2 are to reinstall the telephone wire, install a new, larger-section 220 V power cable, and place a high-pressure pump at the bottom of the entrance pit series, with a flow-inversion capacity of 70 meters.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby NZcaver » Nov 2, 2010 2:48 pm

Would waterproof cave phones be useful to them?
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 2, 2010 4:56 pm

Are you willing to send them some?
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby NZcaver » Nov 2, 2010 8:07 pm

If they need equipment which is not available locally, and this will help with the dig/recovery effort - yes.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 2, 2010 9:40 pm

NZcaver: I will send you a private message to discuss this, thanks.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 3, 2010 10:03 am

On Tuesday morning, November 2, the first mission was to check the level of the water in the newly formed siphon at the base of the entrance pits. Unfortunately, the passage was still full of water and impassable. Pumping started in the early afternoon. Since the pump is located at -75 meters, it was pumping at almost the limit of its capacity, and the debit was low, but the water level did drop and the passage became accessible again after about one hour. The bad news was that the bottom of the pit was totally clogged with sediment, sand and boulders. Work had to continue with shovels and buckets.

On the surface, in order to help with logistics and increase comfort for the volunteers, a trailer was brought in as a command center, as well as two containers for gear storage. A tent was installed over the pit entrance to help protect from the rain.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 5, 2010 9:17 am

On Wednesday Nov 3, the pump together with its discharge hose and electric cable were removed from the entrance series so that the bottom of the 3rd pit could be cleared of debris, sand, and rocks. Finally, the passage was again passable and a crew went down to assess the damages to the lower part of the Puits de Ronze. Luckily the CO2 levels were manageable for a short reconnaissance to the bottom of the cave. Ropes were in much better state there than in the upper cave. The tools and gear had gotten soaked, so they were taken out, washed, dried and tested. This work lasted all day Wednesday. Another team worked on ventilation. A specialist studied air currents in the cave, and his findings should help determine what would be most effective.

On Thursday Nov 4, there were two work phases.
One: the cave was reequipped with telephone wire to the bottom of the cave with various links possible. The large-diameter power cable now supplies a power box at the current workplace at the bottom. Drills and fans can work off it simultaneously, and the line can be extended should the passage become horizontal. By the end of the day, all the damaged tools and gear had been brought back to the surface. Some of it was destroyed and will need to be replaced.
Two: the plug of debris and sediment at -75 m was cleared. Now only the bottom lead is still filled with sediment 3 feet thick. That will need to be put in bags and a storage area will need to be built. This is imperative before being able to resume blasting. Again, air was found to be bad. The air hose that reaches halfway down the cave will need to be lengthened to reach the bottom lead. That hose will then enable either to suck the bad air from the blasting up out of the cave or to push outside air into the workstation.

Teams from all over France, organized through their caving clubs, are taking turns every day to help with this body recovery, taking time off from work without pay. What great solidarity!

There are pictures of the turbines, shredded rope, sediment in the bottom lead etc. on the Speleo Secours site:
http://www.speleo-secours-francais.com/ ... 182#photos

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 5, 2010 10:26 pm

Here is a touching note that Eric's wife Evelyne Establie just posted on the French forum Plongeesout.com:

Good evening to all of you in the field.

Every day, I follow your progress in the pit. I know that you spare neither time nor effort, and that you are "dogged" and hardcore. Our hope is in your hands, and you know it well. I know that in spite of being tired, you continue to fight. And in our eyes, you are admirable. You will answer that it is normal, that Eric was a brother, that he would have done the same thing for any of you, but you still make us discover again how good human nature can be when the will is there.
It’s been a month since Eric left us, and Arthur and I believe that we can now muster the strength to come and meet you, and in doing so, to get closer to Eric.
We send you our warmest thoughts and much courage to you all.

Until soon, in person.

Evelyne and Arthur Establie
----------
(My translation above - Original below -Yvonne)

<http://pscausette.plongeesout.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1734&start=100>:

de EVELYNE ESTABLIE Sam 6 Nov 2010, 01:01

BONSOIR A VOUS TOUS SUR LE TERRAIN.

JE SUIS CHAQUE JOUR VOS AVANCEES DANS LE PUITS. JE SAIS QUE VOUS NE MENAGEZ NI VOTRE TEMPS NI VOS EFFORTS ET QUE VOUS ETES DES "ACHARNES". NOTRE ESPOIR EST ENTRE VOS MAINS ET VOUS LE SAVEZ BIEN. JE SAIS QUE MALGRE LA FATIGUE VOUS CONTINUEZ. A NOS YEUX VOUS ETES ADMIRABLES. VOUS ALLEZ ME REPONDRE QUE C' EST NORMAL QU' ERIC ETAIT UN FRERE QU' IL AURAIT FAIT LA MEME CHOSE POUR L' UN D' ENTRE VOUS MAIS VOUS NOUS FAITES QUAND MEME REDECOUVRIR CE QUE LA NATURE HUMAINE PEUT AVOIR DE BON EN ELLE QUAND ELLE LE VEUT.
VOILA DEJA UN MOIS QU' ERIC EST "PARTI" ET MAINTENANT ARTHUR ET MOI-MEME PENSONS POUVOIR AVOIR LA FORCE DE VENIR VOUS RENCONTRER ET PAR LA-MEME NOUS RAPPROCHER D' ERIC.
NOUS VOUS ENVOYONS NOS PLUS CHALEUREUSES PENSEES ET BEAUCOUP DE COURAGE A VOUS TOUS.

A BIENTOT SUR PLACE.

EVELYNE ET ARTHUR
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 7, 2010 6:59 pm

Friday, November 5 was devoted to clearing the plug at the bottom of the cave of debris and sand. Finally, the lead at the beginning of the narrow passage is reachable again. The widening efforts can now restart during the night shift.

During the day, the ventilation system was improved. A wooden shack was built above the entrance. It’s a support for the large fan capable of handling 20,000 cubic meters per hour, the most powerful fan on site. The ventilation hose was extended down to the bottom of the cave. The level of CO2 dropped to 0.1 percent, almost the same as outside.

Now conditions are ready for getting back to work as hard as ever. The echo heard a few days ago will finally reveal its mystery.

-Yvonne
(There was no report today for Saturday’s work. I will update you as soon as another report is posted on the Speleo Secours site.)
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 8, 2010 11:58 am

Summary of the last four shifts (night and day) in the Puits de Ronze since last Friday:

On Friday night, widening continued at the tight lead after the plug was cleared of sand and after the air hose was lengthened to reach down to the bottom of the cave. Most of the night was spent widening, but finally the passage was opened enough to get through. A low passage was reached where one could actually turn around, and then after a few downclimbs, a new tight spot was encountered.

The day shift opened that up, and after a few meters, they encountered a pool full of water. The passage continues down into it, and the air space under the ceiling is only 4 inches. The passage is 32 inches wide by 24 inches high, of which 20 inches is flooded. Widening must restart to enlarge the ceiling. That takes up most of Saturday. The air ventilation system is working well. The telephones were all numbered so that the callers could more clearly convey where they are calling from.
During the Saturday night shift, a caver suited up in diving gear and crawled into the low passage with 4 inches of air space. After about 30 feet the passage gets bigger. The ceiling height is about 4 feet, but you’re still wading in water. A small infeeder comes in on the left, but it does not look passable. A bit further, another infeeder joins the passage. This one looks passable. Ahead, the ceiling of the main passage plunges again under water; it’s a sump. According to the position in the cave, this can only be a hanging sump. Work halts for the night.

On Sunday morning, objectives are assigned: widening the ceiling above the low air-space passage; pumping out the pool and exploring the side infeeders; preparing for a potential dive; getting the government’s permission to dive; etc. Once a sump-pump and hoses were brought down and installed, it is the beginning of the afternoon (it started raining again, which stopped the activity for a while). The pool is emptied, but a small infeeder needs to be watched so that the pool does not fill again. A diver is brought down to the terminal sump and starts his dive. In the meantime, widening efforts continue over the low air-space passage. Finally the diver returns with very good news: the syphon is 60 feet long, 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide and has a volume of approx. 50 cubic meters. As suspected, it’s a hanging siphon, but its depth is shallow, less than 6 feet. Once out of the water, the diver found a larger passage going upstream and downstream. It’s clearly a collector. It’s easy going, 7 feet tall by 3 to 9 feet wide. It points directly towards the Dragonnière. The diver turned around after about 150 feet. It appears possible to pump out this sump. However, before attempting this, the infeeder before the sump will be explored on Monday, in case it will bypass it. The objective is getting closer, but there is still a long way to go. This part of the cave will also need to be mapped.

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 9, 2010 3:41 pm

On Monday November 8, the plan was for one team to go to the entrance of the infeeder just before the bottom sump in order to widen that opening. The second team was to work on widening other passages in the cave, to facilitate passing through these very tight areas. On the surface, other teams worked tirelessly on logistics. Towards the end of the day, rain started falling again, forcing the bottom teams to come back out of the Puits de Ronze, bringing with them the more sensitive equipment.

The bottom team managed to squeeze into the infeeder but unfortunately, this potential bypass to the sump did not work out: the passage narrowed into an impenetrable fissure. Therefore, it looks like the sump will be the way on. On Tuesday, the plan is to have diver(s) cross the sump, then to pump it out.

The village of Labastide de Virac was recognized for its continued support of the operations, with their generous presents, drinks, fruit, cakes, jams, and fruit-paste snacks.

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 10, 2010 5:54 pm

The plan for Tuesday Nov 9 was simple: the divers would pass through the sump, install the pump, and empty the sump. Luckily the rain was slight, so work could start right away on Tuesday morning. The first team down had to replace a worn rope, and finish the work of widening a very narrow meander, which had to be stopped on Monday due to the rain. That work, which proved quite difficult, slowed the divers’ descent to the bottom of the cave. Finally the divers passed through the sump, and started pumping it out after about two hours. A new difficulty comes up: the sump is shaped like a horizontal slot and a significant water course feeds it. This infeeder washes all the sediments towards the middle of the passage, and almost plugs it shut. The sediments had to be channeled and removed in order to be able to pass through the emptied sump.

Finally the divers went on to explore along the main river passage that followed the sump. They arrived at the 15-foot drop previously seen during the first dive. A new team came in to rig the drop and descended to the bottom of the pit. After only a few dozen feet, a new sump barred the passage. On Wednesday, a new strategy will be implemented in order to address this new difficulty.

The last task of the day was to survey the new passages. This is very important in order to see where the passage is headed and to see how far they’ve progressed.

The group thanks Petzl for their donation of exploration gear.
-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby yvonnedroms » Nov 11, 2010 10:04 am

After the discovery of a second sump, the strategy was clear: a dive is required. Therefore, Wednesday November 10 was dedicated to preparing for it. In the meantime, a team finished securing the bottom of the cave. The telephone line was pulled to Sump 2. A second pump was set up in Sump 1 to ensure redundancy and safe passage of the teams downstream. After all this was accomplished, by the end of the day it was felt that the conditions are now ready for a dive on Thursday.

-Yvonne
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby graveleye » Nov 11, 2010 10:43 am

This is fascinating. Please keep on with the updates.
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Re: Cave diving rescue in France

Postby NZcaver » Nov 11, 2010 12:25 pm

graveleye wrote:This is fascinating. Please keep on with the updates.

Agreed. Incidentally, in just over a month this topic had more than 20 thousand hits.
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