Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park, California

Recently I was invited by Marc Blackwood and Chris Hersch to attend a dive on the Spectre, which was one of the best dive boats I’ve been on.  JetBlue currently offers a direct flight MCO->LGB, which was about 30 minutes from Marc’s house, so things worked out and it was an easy non-rev flight for me, with several open seats.  Around 7pm Friday night I arrived at LGB, a very small airport where baggage collection and deplaning are both done outside.  Marc was nearby and within a few minutes we were on the road to a friends house to pickup a scooter for Saturday’s diving.  After that, we went to a burger place which had nearly every imaginable topping you could put on a burger, you simply mix and match…kinda cool, we don’t have that in Florida.

Our next stop was the Spectre dive boat, which is kind enough to allow divers to load gear and spend the night on the boat the night before their dive day.  This was very helpful, especially for those of us who have come from out of town and don’t want to pay for a hotel!  While loading, I met Chris and the rest of our group.


Seeing what all the fuss is about…the “New Ginnie”

Having resisted the temptation for several months now, I finally decided to venture beyond the old end of line at Ginnie Springs and see the new section.  For those of you who have been living in the dark for the past two years (or don’t cave dive), the “New Ginnie” refers to a newly explored section of the cave.  Ginnie was believed to have been walled out years ago, but Swiss cave diver Marius Frei discovered a no mount lead through clay which opened into a new, reasonably large passage.  Over time, Mark Fyvie would extend this line (and survey, which Marius isn’t known for), but passed away in a diving accident in the process.  Shortly after, UCLA professor Andrew Ainslie added additional line (5600ft at that time) and provided Anita Berman with an extension of the existing map that her husband produced.  Agnes Milowka added some line, and also produced photos in the NSS-CDS journal.  Finally, James Toland came along and as he seems to do literally everywhere he dives, he extended Ginnie’s end of line out to 7100ft, which only a few have managed to even follow his line, which is currently EOL at this time.  Bob Schulte is in the process of surveying the section and will produce a map in the future.

Anyways, enough with the history of the section…Andreas and I had talked about going here for a decent amount of time, but never went due to other sites taking priority.  Ginnie is pretty hard to motivate me to do a “big” dive in, due to the substantial amount of damaged cave that you have to go through to get to anything pretty.  I typically consider it a training cave with a few pretty sections, but this was different.  Scubaboard hosts an annual megadive event, where close to 100 divers invade the park to camp, eat, and throw one massive bonfire party.

Our plan was reasonable simple, 3 stages, using helium to make them easy to carry, sidemount gear configuration (due to the rock restriction) and DPVs.  Because of the high flow, a 6 man team taking forever to exit while we held on for dear life (cave courtesy is to allow exiting teams to pass), and drag from the stages, my SAC was abnormally high and I burned through my first stage by stage bottle rock at 1800ft.  The next stage got me to just beyond the Heinkle Restriction, and the final stage got me to the end of the old gold line.

Beyond the old end of the line, you’ll find somewhat pristine cave (this tunnel is no secret– and traffic shows), with a few large rooms where the rock alternates between jet black and a very unique tan color.  We made it to the third T, which was right at 5000ft penetration.

Jug Hole – A cave too short…

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.

Peacock Springs – The Crypt

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.

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.

“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.

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!

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.

“Trapped” in History….

“Trapped” in History….

After a long weekend of moving (I live on the 3rd floor, it wasn’t fun), it was time to goof off a bit.  North Florida is currently having some of the best conditions I’ve ever seen since I started cave diving.  Sadly these conditions are still terrible compared to the clear water I remember when I was much younger and going to these same sites to swim.  Jeff arrived at my place around 10am, so we packed up and headed to Stacey’s place to carpool over to Cave Excursions to get fills.  After that, we went to talk to the landowner, who is extremely cave diver friendly.  He said we could dive the sink, and to be careful.

After a short drive, we were on a dirt road with no signs, but did manage to quickly find the sink hole.  There were concrete steps built and the land was cleared so that you could back right up and throw your gear in the water.  No picnic tables, but who am I to complain?  You can really tell the water level is low here, below all of the steps, so site entry here is difficult at best.  After gearing up and doing a bubble check, we were ready to head off!

We had mucked up the bottom a bit while getting our fins on and floating at the surface, but the water source was nice and cool, so we followed that into the cave, finding the primary line just before the overhead.  Once in the cave we were greeted with at least 30-40′ visibility, better than most people who have been around longer than me have seen.  Once in the cave, I was a bit perplexed that the size wasn’t quite what I had expected, as someone had told me that “Leon Sinks and Peacock had sex and this is what came of it”, but after swimming a few 100ft upstream, I was greeted by gigantic rooms, where my view was limited by the visibility, at times I could only see one wall.  Because of the visibility, it’s a great cave to have a team of 3 helping light the whole place.  Jeff was leading, Stacey was next, and I was in 3rd place, so I got to enjoy the view as those two lit up the whole place for me.  Around 1000-2000ft upstream, cave life heavily picked up, something I hadn’t expected.  Blind Crayfish were everywhere, big ones too!  There were also worms in the silt, I really have no idea what those things are.

I hate to write about the man made parts of the cave, but this one is special.  The 100ft markers are written on duct tape, which was wrapped around #18 twisted/knotted line.  Some of this belonged to Sheck Exley I believe, although I’m going to have to research things a bit more and figure out where exactly the markers and line came from.

After about 35 minutes of swimming upstream, we returned and exited.  Since we were in back mount, getting out was a nightmare.  We decided to take our tanks and harness off in the water and come back for the gear after we got out of our dry suits.