Free Diving Lucky Near Miss in the UK

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Free Diving Lucky Near Miss in the UK

Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 12, 2007 10:45 am

Someone let me know about an interesting near miss on Sunday in the UK. A guy thought he was free diving a 2 m (6 ft) sump, but was confused and free dove a 30 m (100 ft) sump instead!!!!!! He managed to make it to the far side and then was found by folks using a bypass crawl

Here's the link:

http://ukcaving.com/board/index.php/topic,4538.0.html
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Postby batrotter » Sep 13, 2007 6:22 am

Geez, he's lucky. I don't think I could free dive 100 feet in my better days. Plus it said he had a furry suit and garb on.
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Postby paul » Sep 13, 2007 7:01 am

Yes- very, very lucky indeed.

There have been a few similar lucky escapes in the past in British caves, mistaking the length of sumps while free-diving.
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Postby fuzzy-hair-man » Sep 13, 2007 7:14 pm

paul wrote:Yes- very, very lucky indeed.

There have been a few similar lucky escapes in the past in British caves, mistaking the length of sumps while free-diving.


SamT's suggestion of putting a small sign on the rope with the name and possibly the length (normal water levels) seemed like a good one, but I can see how lengths particularly might encourage people to try when they shouldn't.

So I was thinking last night that maybe if there was a convention that the lines in free diveable sumps had a knot a at say 1/3 and 2/3 the way through then the person going through could get a good indication of how far they have to go whilst they still have the option of backing out. ie if you are getting out of breath and you still haven't reached a knot turn around cause it's not going to get any better if you've passed your second knot keep going it further the other way.

The knots would be out of sight so it shouldn't get tampered with any more than the line it'self and if it's out of sight so hopefully no one will play stupid tricks like swapping them or something.

Idea maybe ? :idea:
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 13, 2007 9:17 pm

I get the impression that people have "plans" to dive the sumps, but just go to the wrong ones. So actually, notes at the start would solve the problems and the knots wouldn't be necessary, but might provide a comfort factor.

I would doubt that people would play pranks by messing with the signs. But it's certainly possible.
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Postby paul » Sep 14, 2007 7:06 am

Personally I agree with some of the other comments on UKCaving.com - notably from experienced cave divers.

Quoting one example:
"Free diving sumps seems to me to be a fairly advanced caving technique. People doing it ought to:

a) Know how to make sure they are diving the right sump
b) Wear reasonable equipment.
c) Have enough sense to turn around if the situation gets sticky, i.e. longer/tighter/nastier than expected

I think it's reasonable to expect the above as a minimum. For at least 99% of people I also think it's a good idea to do your first dives with someone experienced who has dived that sump before.

Or...we could have a labelling system. While we're at it, we could also put a laminated rigging topo at the top of every pitch in the country and a signpost at every junction. Oh, and a picture of a "well dressed and equipped caver" at every entrance...."

Of course the last paragraph was typical British ironical humour!

Sumps in the UK are cold (cave tempratures are in the low 40's) and often small with very limited visiblity.

Really, if you are going to attempt to dive a sump, you should at least be able to locate the correct one in the first place!

In a way having labels and signs giving distances could have the opposite effect without prior knowledge. A sump of say 20 feet may not seem beyond possibilty (you've free-dived a sump of 12 feet before after all) - until you find actually it goes 10 feet deep, has a tight section and the rope is liable to slip into a narrow section as there is a bit of a dog-leg to the right plus you cannot see your hand in front of your face even with a dive mask on...

There was a well-publicised program on the TV ("Ultimate Caving" in case you come across it on YouTube or wherever) here in the past few weeks showing a well-known TV presenter, Kate Humble, who had no caving experience, being taken on trips into 3 different caves.

The first of these was Swildons Hole in the Mendip Hills near Bath in Somerset. There is a well-known sump called Sump 1 which is probably only 4 or so feet long and pretty straight-forward. Many, many cavers have free-dived Sump 1. She got through (eventually...) with some assistance. Her co-presenter, a mountaineer who accompanied on her caving trips, also free-dived through Sump 2, about 25 feet long.

It makes you wonder whether this particular case (the free-diving of the 100 foot sump by mistake) was precipitated by watching this TV program...
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Postby Phil Winkler » Sep 14, 2007 8:32 am

I was in the UK a couple of weeks back and watched that very program on BBC. I thought it was well done.
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Sep 14, 2007 9:17 am

You could convince me that free diving 4' is OK, but I don't think you could ever convince me that it makes sense to free dive 25'. Yeah, some people may have done it OK, but I still think it's a bad idea. There are just too many opportunities for problems. I'm not saying that some people can't do it OK most of the time. But I just don't think it's a wise thing.
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