This weekend I decided to test the new camera and housing out at Peacock Springs State Park.
Today Andreas and I headed off to Ichetucknee Springs State Park to dive Jug Hole. Since this cave has a few restrictions, we had to dive side mount. Andreas brought his camera along and got a few good photos, which I’ll try to post up here later. We were hoping to explore a few going leads that we had heard about, but found that the 50w HID battery packs were simply too large to manage going through tight restrictions and will have to save those leads for another day :(. Once beyond the lead, we had plenty of time to see the entire cave and poke around everywhere we could find on the way back, but Jug simply doesn’t have many side passages, or really even any potential leads at all. It is however, a beautiful cave with some very pretty clay banks, as well as black and white layered walls.
After a few weeks out of the water (drysuit zipper was being replaced), it was time to get some cave diving in! I had been talking with Heather about a NAUI Tech 1 course, and had both agreed to meet up for a familiarization dive with each other before class since we hadn’t dove together, and we could pick dive sites from there. One room I had heard a lot about was the “Crypt”, which is a known water source for the Peacock Springs Cave System. Since neither of us had been, we decided to attempt it. Celia and her husband Scott helped us out with directions.
Although it wasn’t necessarily required, we elected to use a stage. My first stage was dropped about 300ft shy of Olsen, and then I continued on with back gas. Because of the head start the stage gave us, we didn’t have to worry about running low on gas in the lower, more silty areas, and also had time to turn around and find a jump again if we happen to have missed it. Fortunately their directions were excellent, and we found the Crypt first attempt. Round trip was 117 minutes. The room was a disappointment for me, just a normal Peacock room with a bunch of snakes, bats, skulls, and various other man made items littering the room.
Here’s a video that someone recently posted of this dive on a diving forum.
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!
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.
After waking up early the morning after our 5 hour drive from Orlando, we arrived at Cave Adventurers around 8am to get tank fills. We were going to meet Matt Bull and Kevin Carlisle at Florida Caverns State Park since they only have 6 canoes, and we wanted to ensure we could get one with it being memorial day weekend. We arrived at the park, where it’s $5 per vehicle to enter, and $15 for 1/2 day canoe rental. The spring is located on your left after a little over 1 mile of upriver paddling, which was a semi difficult canoe trip compared to what I’ve experienced on the Wekiva and Ichetucknee Rivers.
Upon arriving at the spring, Matt showed us that we can enter at the main spring, swim to a karst window, surface in a pool, and then swim over about 50ft to an easy back mount entry to avoid beating the crap out of the cave and trespassing. Tips like this are why it’s always a good idea to go with someone local if you can manage it. We swam to just about the second T before turning the dive to avoid having much deco since we were on back gas (limited space in the canoe). I’ve attached the dive profile to the gallery just for reference. This dive is best done with 21/35 or 25/25 to limit o2 exposure and narcosis, as it reaches depths of 120ft quickly. The cave has incredible white walls which have been preserved by the long canoe trip that it takes to access the cave and relatively few divers who come there. I was told that the white walls are due to the fact that this spring almost never floods, which was good to know for when everything else is flooded. Another nice feature of this cave is it’s large size. After a restricted entry way, the cave seems to open up, and stay big enough for an easy back mount trip (larger than most of Peacock) at least until the second T, and I hear it keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Photos courtesy of Matt Bull.
Got off work a few minutes early and decided to use whatever daylight was left to go for a quick hike in Oleno State Park with Whitney. We took the suspension bridge across the river and hiked the obvious trail (not sure if it has a name). After walking about 1/4 mile beside the river, we encountered several deer having their afternoon meal. Each time I head to Oleno, I see deer, but with the brush, it’s often hard to get a decent shot at one, always sticks and trees in the way.
[simpleviewer id=”11″ width=”700″ height=”650″]
Breathing Gas– 32% Backgas / 100% Deco
Water Temp– 72F
Met up with Brian Richardson at Extreme Exposure in High Springs around 8am since he needed some Halcyon stuff, and then headed towards Cave Excursions East to get fills. Talked with Rich about our dive plan, and was given the advice to just scooter through the buoyancy changes that we would encounter in this cave.
Upon arriving at Manatee Springs State Park, we were told by a park visitor that there’s now a courtesy cart that divers may use to carry their gear (it’s a long hike from the parking lot to Catfish Sink). This is a REALLY nice upgrade since I had dove there last. With 2 stages, deco, and a scooter each, it would have taken several trips with the dolly. The air was cool, which made the walks back and forth much easier than it typically is during the summer months.
Once in the water, I ran the primary, as you have to go a ways here before reaching gold line. Brian had offered before hand to “tidy up” the line behind me. Since we had so much crap on us, and the flow really is bothersome at this site, teamwork is the best way to get a primary into this system.
The flow was up, and visibility was down. This cave is so dark, with this poor of visibility I felt as if I were scootering and blindly following a line in hope that the cave would clear up somewhere and I could actually start to see something. Because it was cloudy, we couldn’t even see light come through at Sue Sink or Friedmans. About 1900ft beyond Friedmans, my 21w HID decided to fail! I swapped to my Halcyon Scout and began the near 4000ft journey back home. Having trouble keeping my eye on the line due to the particulate reflecting Brian’s light in my face, I had Brian go to his Scout as well, amazing how fast things escalate!
In the end, we exited via Catfish with an uneventful deco. While packing up, we did get a pleasant surprise, 5 deer decided to visit us in the parking lot!
Whitney hadn’t been to Troy Springs so we decided to go there since she had the weekend off and I wanted to go diving. We decided to play with the scooter, and she had some new gear to play with, so Troy Springs was a great place. One thing that surprised me was that the catfish which used to enjoy hiding under the cavern zone when I came here several years ago were no longer there. The cave is still pumping as usual, showing off as we look into it frustrated by the fact that it’s all too delicate to explore, with breakdown everywhere. Steps have also been added, a nice addition for public access, but certainly takes away from the nature of the pristine spring that I was used to seeing.
Breathing Gas– 32%
Max Depth– 61ft
Avg Depth– 30-40ft
Water Temp– 71F
Dive Time: 39min
Took off work to dive with Whitney. For some reason the water has a green tint to it.