Record-breaking dive attempt

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Record-breaking dive attempt

Postby Wayne Harrison » May 20, 2006 5:50 pm

Divers dare to break record
Team to examine unexplored passage
By Bruce Ritchie
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER


Divers could be breaking their own world record today when they descend into the Wakulla Springs cave system and venture into an unexplored cave passage.

Woodville Karst Plain Project divers set a world record six years ago when they went 19,100 feet. They don't know how far they'll go today, but they'll be looking to enter a passage more than three miles from the spring.

"Hopefully we will go straight to that lead (passage), it will be a big lead, we will knock out 5,000 feet and come home," diver Jarrod Jablonski said.

The group isn't diving to set records, Jablonski said. The mission is scientific: Exploring more than 14 miles of caves has helped state officials, planners and scientists understand the threats to Wakulla Springs State Park.

An average of 220 million gallons of water flows daily from Wakulla Springs. Increased nitrogen may be fueling the growth of aquatic weeds choking the swimming area at Wakulla Springs State Park.

Dirty stormwater, wastewater and septic tanks are possible sources of nitrogen in groundwater. Scientists say Tallahassee's spray field on Tram Road, where wastewater is sprayed on crops, is a likely source of nitrogen at the springs 10 miles away.

Six major cave tunnels lead away from Wakulla Springs along with smaller interconnected tunnels. The longest winds nearly four miles toward Shadeville south of Wakulla Springs. That tunnel, called P Tunnel, is where the world record was broken in 2000.

An unexplored passage
The divers will be looking for the unexplored cave passage when they get about 16,000 feet from the spring. They say the new passage could lead them to other cave systems that also carry water from Leon Sinks in the Apalachicola National Forest and to the Spring Creek spring along the Gulf coast.

The divers will go as deep as 320 feet. They travel through 40-foot-wide passages that sometimes open into "rooms" 160 feet high and 100 feet wide.

Cave diving is dangerous. Eighteen years ago this month, Bill McFaden drowned 50 feet short of the entrance of Little Dismal Sink in the Apalachicola National Forest.

Jason Eric Burns of Port St. Lucie drowned in nearby Emerald Sink during a dive five years ago. The Woodville Karst Plain Project has promoted cave diving in the region and helped improve dive safety. The divers downplay the risk involved.

"It's all relative," Jablonski said. "We've invested a significant amount of energy into reducing the risk and into making the dive as safe as possible."

In addition to exploring the caves, the divers also have installed devices that allow scientists to measure water quality and flow.

Protecting groundwater
The cave mapping led the state to acquire thousands of acres in northern Wakulla County to protect groundwater flowing to the springs, said Ron Weiss, assistant park manager.

"If we had never had the divers go down into the spring and map all the passages, we would never have all that information to manage the spring properly," Weiss said.

Other researchers this month announced that a fluorescent dye placed in a test well at the city's Southeast Farm spray field in March was detected five weeks later in Wakulla Springs.

Tracer studies are important, the divers say, but they can't replace cave exploration. A dye test reveals only where the water shows up; the divers help scientists understand how much water moves through individual passages and where it's coming from.

The divers and the Woodville Karst Plain Project members aren't paid for their work. The WKPP is a nonprofit group that survives on member donations.

The dive today is expected to cost about $10,000. Jablonski and fellow diver Casey McKinlay, who run a High Springs company that manufacturers diving equipment, will be wearing about $50,000 in equipment.

They won't be able to eat or rest during the dive but can relax during decompression. Despite the discomfort, the divers say the work and expense are worth it.

"People often ask why we do it. I answer why not?" Jablonski said. "It's a neat experience as well as being able to make a significant contribution to an environment we all care about."

Contact reporter Bruce Ritchie at (850) 599-2253 or britchie@tallahassee.com.

Originally published May 20, 2006

http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dl ... 00351/1010

What does it take
By Bruce Ritchie
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER

Here is what's involved in the record-breaking dive attempt today:

More than 30 members of the Woodville Karst Plain Project, including several other divers, are needed to help two divers go deep into the Wakulla Springs Cave system.

Other divers entered the cave system in April to help store more than 20 scuba tanks for Jarrod Jablonski and Casey McKinlay when they dive today.

The pair will breathe a mixture of helium and oxygen, with each carrying five tanks and rebreathers, devices that recycle the divers' exhaled air to extend the distance they can dive on a tank.

The other tanks are stored about every 3,000 feet. If a rebreather fails, a diver can use the tanks to exit from the cave system safely.

Five electric-powered underwater scooters will help the divers move through the water. A thin but strong nylon cord guides them to keep them from getting lost.

Six hours is the expected length of the exploration, but the divers could spend 19 hours in the water.

Thirteen hours under water near the spring entrance are needed to go through decompression.

http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dl ... 00353/1010
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looks like they broke it!

Postby hewhocaves » May 22, 2006 3:39 pm

Divers break own record at Wakulla Springs
By Bruce Ritchie
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER

Divers broke their own world cave-diving record over the weekend at Wakulla Springs State Park, discovering a new passageway and venturing more than 20,000 feet from the spring opening.

Everyone from the Woodville Karst Plain Project dive team returned safely Sunday morning after nearly seven hours in the cave and 14 hours of decompression.

Park officials say the dives help scientists and planners understand the origins of water flowing to the springs. They say it also helps them understand and protect the spring against water-quality threats.

The divers ventured 3,000 feet into a previously unexplored cave passageway along the cave's P-Tunnel. They found it 17,000 feet south of the spring along a previously explored passage.

The new tunnel averaged about 75 feet wide and 60 feet high, said Casey McKinlay, project director of the Woodville Karst Plain Project.

For more on this story, read tomorrow's Tallahassee Democrat.

Originally published May 22, 2006

http://www.tallahassee.com/apps/pbcs.dl ... /605220326


awesome passage dimensions, btw.. makes me long for an ice age to drop sea levels. Either that or everyone fill your nalegene bottles, quick!
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Postby Mike Cato » May 23, 2006 9:04 am

Mike Cato
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Postby Buford Pruitt » May 24, 2006 4:39 pm

Ok, I give up. Who did it?
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Postby batrotter » Jun 9, 2006 10:20 am

I was reading the historical article in the June 2006 NSS News about the springs and was fascinated. But, it was also very depressing reading about a drowning every few paragraphs. I have to admire you cave divers but I also have to wonder about you. It's almost a death wish.
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Jun 9, 2006 10:48 am

batrotter wrote:I was reading the historical article in the June 2006 NSS News about the springs and was fascinated. But, it was also very depressing reading about a drowning every few paragraphs. I have to admire you cave divers but I also have to wonder about you. It's almost a death wish.
If you read the thread about what scares you, cave diving is it. Yet I still do it. I think a lot about who dies cave diving. There are lot of people, like Paul Heinerth and Wes Skiles who've been cave diving for decades and are alive and kicking. I don't think cave divers have any greater death wish than dry cavers.
:scuba:
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"Weird people are my people."
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Postby batrotter » Jun 9, 2006 11:01 am

I agree, cave diving scares me, but then again, I'm not going to do it, so it's a moot point.
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Postby Cindy Butler » Jun 10, 2006 7:46 am

Ah, but you miss flying over formations fragile and pristine, untouched by human footprints. We hold our breath in these areas. We pass over chasms 300 feet deep with no more effort than the flick of a fin. We waltz over rippled sand and layered clay and don't get dirty. We have the flow of water carry us when we get tired down halls decorated by millennia.

I used to be afraid of heights. I learned to rappel into pits. I still don't like open elevators because I don't have my harness and rope. Every time we step into the natural world we give up or dominion. I am more comfortable in the water. Some in the air. Cindy Butler
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Postby Cindy Butler » Jun 13, 2006 9:08 pm

Just a couple of photos. Cindy :DImage
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