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Mainland and Sweet Surprise Circuit @ Ginnie Springs

After having swam the Mainland and Sweet Surprise tunnels  a few times, I had still not done the crossover tunnel, which connects the two.  Circuits aren’t necessarily all that appealing to me, I’ve only done one of them outside of training before today, but Allen has been talking this one up to me for a while, so I went along with it :).  After meeting up with Rob Culbert and Allen Beard at Cave Excursions East for some tank fills, we headed to Ginnie Springs to sign in and get to diving.

Because swimming in the Devil’s cave system just plain sucks, the plan was that we would all 3 scooter to the Sweet Surprise jump, and then swim the rest of the circuit, returning to main line to grab scooters with assistance of the flow.  We would each breathe a stage to breathe during the DPV portion of the drive, drop it at the jump, and swim on back gas (we had all swam at least half the circuit before this dive to verify gas).  The swim would be from about 2400ft to 4000 (ish) where there’s a T, and the left side leads to the “crossover tunnel” which heads towards mainland.  Once we hit mainland, the flow would be at our backs and the rest of the trip would be a breeze.  Due to the small nature of the crossover tunnel, they allowed me to lead since I hadn’t seen it before, and limited visibility was to be expected from diver traffic.  This tunnel is very pretty, with surprisingly little damage given how small it is.  After the crossover tunnel, we arrived at Mainland, which is my favorite area of the cave to date.  Unfortunately, there was substantial river intrusion, so even my 21w HID didn’t produce the beautiful blue glow I’ve grown accustomed to seeing.  Once out of Mainland, we coast from 3000ft to around 2400 where our scooters were waiting, ready to spare us from any more swimming!

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.

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Jupiter Dive Center & TDS Divers in Jupiter, FL

I saw a post over on Scuba Board by Errol Kalayci with TDS Divers about a DIR charter, with lots of people attending who I’ve chatted with quite a bit on forums, but never met in person; as well as several people who I’ve met before.  Now, before reading the review, realize I’m by no means someone who enjoys ocean diving.  I’ll do it from time to time with friends to be social, but I don’t exactly look forward to it like I do do when I find out about a new cave…but the diving was so great that hearing me talk about it, you’d think I was in love with it.

We arrived to the boat slightly late, my Garmin GPS doesn’t seem to know exactly where Jupiter Dive Center is for some reason.  Their website notes that GPS’s don’t find it, and to use a different address…I’m thinking since my GPS has been updated that I should have used their correct address and not the one suggested.  Anyways, we got there, and the boat was being loaded, and I got to meet and greet the guys we would be diving with.  This was an excellent crew on the charter, and everyone diving was a pleasure to be around.  Because of the DIR charter, everyone was using 32% nitrox, which meant we got to do a deeper ledge than I had been able to do in the past when diving out of Jupiter when the boat had divers using air.

On the first dive, the boat dropped us for a drift dive on Jupiter Ledge.  Upon descending, we nearly immediately found a loggerhead turtle, my favorite reef animal.  Matt, Cris and I followed at a safe distance to avoid harassing it, since it was swimming away from us.  That made my dive, as it has been a few dive trips since I’ve been lucky enough to spot one!  This site was the most “alive” Jupiter reef I had been on.  A few minutes later, Cris found a shark, although I never saw it.  Other highlights of the dive were the gorgeous coral, several “angelfish” and seeing a group of divers not touch the reef for once; something that happens all too often.

The next dive was the highlight of the trip for me.  We dove a site called “Area 51“, which was a series of sunken cement pillars with several large Jewish and Lemon Sharks nearby.  I’ve been to Jupiter a few times and never had this good of luck, there were over a dozen lemon’s, most of them more than 8ft long!  At one point, you could see about a dozen of them swimming around together.  As they floated with the current, they ran into a few nearby Jew Fish, which I thought would be an interesting conflict between the two species, but the Jew Fish swam directly through the middle of the Lemon Sharks  , without either species paying attention to each other.

The boat ride back in was a real pleasure, Errol introduced me to Bill Mee, who had lots of stories from back when the WKPP was first starting.  It was kind of interesting hearing stories of how the group introduced new technologies as needed, such as the RB80’s and PVC based scooters.  These guys really laid the foundation for what we’re able to accomplish today.  I have had a recent conversation with Bill Rennaker about  how Sheck Exley frowned upon his “aggressive” teaching style, because he was doing training dives that took multiple dives to setup only a few years before he started teaching.  It’s quite interesting to hear stories from the old timers, and other than a few Exley books, WKPP articles, and old copies of NSS/NACD magazines, this history is being lost each day.

Back to shore, we rushed to unload the tanks, grab lunch, then get to the hardware store to get some Gorilla tape for a leaky dry suit patch.  I was really impressed with how quickly Jupiter Dive Center was able to fill all the tanks, and having lunch delivered was an excellent idea, as it kept everyone together.

The final dive would be about an hour long, on the “Zion Train“, a series of three wrecks.  I’ve dove this before, but today was the best life I’ve seen on it, with tons of large barracuda, jew fish, angelfish, etc.

Photos below courtesy of Peter Rothschild.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago.

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Trying to find the infamous funnel…

If you’re familiar with cave diving, you know that sites under active exploration are taboo to talk about.  While that’s nice if you’re the one exploring it, it makes it incredibly difficult to find various sites if you hear rumors of them and want to follow up to see what all the fuss is about.  That was the case with the site Andreas and I set out to find, we’ll call it “the funnel” in this blog entry to avoid giving the real name away.  We had been told about it, and finally had a general idea of where it was located.  After spending almost 5 hours driving around the forest, we finally found an access road that allowed us to access the riverbank near the GPS coordinates we had.  Because of how late it was, we didn’t have time to dive this site.

Along the drive, we found several sinkholes which we marked on our GPS to look out for next time.

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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“Wreck Trek” with Parrot Island Scuba

Since I was already in the South Florida area, I couldn’t leave and not go diving.  Cris had some friends of hers that were going out, so I decided to join them.  After borrowing a set of LP85 doubles from a cave diving friend who lives in South Florida, I was ready to dive.  We met Nate and Brian at Dennys for some breakfast before heading off to Wm. J. Alsdorf Boat Launching Park where we would board with Parrot Island Scuba.  As it turned out, everyone on the boat knew each other, so we were able to rent the boat out for $300, or $50/person, which is a great deal!  Furthermore, we got to choose where we would dive.

After we talked it over, it was decided that our first dive would be on Wreck Trek, and the second would be on a reef.  As odd as this might sound coming from a cave diver, wreck dives don’t really do much for me, but I do love reef dives.  For the first dive, I brought my video camera along.  Here’s some video that I took-

Wreck Trek from James Garrett on Vimeo.

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago.

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Photo Shoot with Becky Kagan Schott of Liquid Productions LLC

Tonight I finally had the opportunity to go on a photo shoot with Becky of Liquid Productions LLC, something I had wanted to do for a long time.  Andreas was my buddy for the shoot, which worked well, as we had tons of time with a single stage and back gas since we’ve both dove Devil’s quite often.

This was my first shoot with a professional photographer, and I was very impressed.  I had worked with Becky before when I was Vice President of the UCF Dive Club, where her and her husband David gave a presentation on shooting video and photos underwater, as well as the Weeki Wachee exploration footage.  Becky did an excellent job on the surface explaining the complex shots that she had planned, and also with directing “on the fly” underwater after we completed the staged shots.

Posted 7 years, 9 months ago.

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A weekend of frustration…with huge excitement to wrap it up!

I’ve been slacking on my blog posts, but this weekend had an interesting find worth sharing.  It went about like every other weekend around here, lots of diving with hopes of getting a cool project to work on.  Here’s a brief summary-

Saturday we went to Wilson Springs.  This system goes about 3600ft, with the original line laid by Kevin Jones.  Here is about the only information you’re going to find online about it.  I would ask that if you choose to dive here be very realistic about your experience in low viz caves, this one is very silty and viz is never really all that good to begin with.  At the time of Claire’s article, viz was close to 20-30ft, but it hasn’t been that good in almost 5 years.  We went in a tiny ways here and realized that it’s just 3-5ft, with no signs of clearing up.  Once the viz improves, we’ll make a map of it.  For now all I can tell you is that the first 400ft is gold line, shortly after it becomes white, with a T which goes a ways before the split meets up again at the 2nd T at around 1000ft back.  If you’re interested in diving here, please contact me, I do have land access via a landowner, so there’s no need to trespass!

Sunday we decided to go to Vampire Sink.  This site (I think) is owned by the city, and I’m not really sure if it’s legal to dive here or not.  There’s a cable gate across the access road, but you can tell there’s trails around the sink as well, so I think you just can’t drive on it.  It’s right by the road, so beware of toxic runoff during high rain periods.  The water has a foul smell to it and the sink bottom is often littered with trash.  This sink was featured on the Water’s Journey: Hidden Rivers of Florida, but I think that they just surfaced there, splicing the cave footage from elsewhere with a surface scene here, as we didn’t really find any cave.  I have been told at one time it went a short ways under the road, but not much further.  maybe a collapse has blocked that fissure, or maybe we didn’t see it with low viz, but either way, we didn’t get anywhere.

Frustrated, we decided to head over to a hole that we had heard about near Newberry.  I don’t know what this one is called, and again I’m not sure about the access rights.  Upon arrival, we were greeted with a very steep slope, which ended in a vertical drop into an underground cavern, with the bluest water and purist white walls you’ve ever seen!  I’ve heard that many of these don’t go very far, but I’m very anxious to find out!

Posted 7 years, 10 months ago.

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5 Hole, Suwannee River State Park

This weekend we were off to 5 Hole, an extensive cave system at Suwannee River State Park. A few of us had been asked to help make a video to show the park staff what a beautiful system they’re protecting. Since this site is permit only, it’s very pristine, but lines aren’t kept up to date as well as park caves. We were only able to get usable video for the first 400-500ft of the system due to lines being ripped out from recent flooding. Jeff Marchand and Michael Gibby are going back next weekend to fix that. Conditions are amazing for this site right now, so we’ll be back VERY soon!

5hole from James Garrett on Vimeo.

Posted 7 years, 11 months ago.

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Jug Hole – Well worth the walk!

8am sharp my alarm clock disrupted my sleep pattern, and it was time to clean the car out to make room for dive gear!  Today was the first weekend that Jug Hole would be open to cave diving for the season!  My dive here almost a year ago was one of my first side mount dives, so revisiting it should be a whole lot more fun.   It’s close to home, cheap ($4 entry fee), and a beautiful walk to the dive site, even though it’s far.  After talking to the ranger, we found out that we were the first to dive here since it opened yesterday.

Jug is a beautiful cave, albeit a short one.  Most popular for it’s amazing cavern and light chimney, the cave is just under 700ft in linear penetration, with a single jump which leads to a nasty restriction where most of the water comes from.  It has a well known restriction, called “Diamond Sands”, which refers to the minerals  in the sand near it, which reflect like diamonds.  There’s a clay room with beautiful layering, and several large rooms along the way.

October is FINALLY here! One of my favorite springs! from James Garrett on Vimeo.

Posted 8 years ago.

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Convict Springs – Doin’ it once to say you’ve done it…

Convict Springs is located at the River Rendezvous campground.  The people who own this are very friendly, and allow diving here free as long as you can prove side mount experience and full cave and sign their liability waiver during business hours.  Since it is free, if you choose to dive here, please at least eat something from their store, or tip them so that they continue to see some benefit in allowing cave diving.

The dive was tough to shoot video.  We decided to let Jeff Marchand be the lead diver, so that he could do all the gaps where the line has gone under the sand, as well as mark all the T’s for us.  This wasn’t the best decision, as the site is way too silty to have 3 divers in the cave at once.  I’ll at least post the video that I was able to gather, Michael Gibby is the diver in front of the camera.

Another Florida Spring from James Garrett on Vimeo.

Posted 8 years ago.

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Airport Sink – One of the most beautiful caves in Florida

After a fun night of camping, Jeff and I stopped by my parents place to drop off the scooters from the Ginnie dive the night before, grab fresh batteries, and head over to Tallahassee to dive one of my favorite caves, Airport Sink.  Now, I’ll be honest, it’s not the real name of this cave, but I hate to post the real name anywhere Google can find it.  This site is open to Wakulla Co Dive Club members ONLY.  Anyone else who dives here is trespassing and can be charged.  Please be careful when here, as site cleanups have revealed drug needles.  Broken glass is everywhere, as are beer cans and an assortment of other junk.

Airport Sink from James Garrett on Vimeo.

Posted 8 years, 1 month ago.

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