Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My experience with Twin Dees Cave

My experience with Twin Dees Cave

Browse around the internet for a while and read cave diving articles, eventually you will hit some articles and pictures concerning the incredible dives done at Weeki over that last few years.
What many people do not know is that on the back side of the same property is another cave, Twin Dees, a possible back door into Weeki. This cave is legendary in its own right and has been regarded by some to be the “Best Cave Dive in Florida.” Unfortunately years of drought and over pumping of the aquifer has rendered the once powerful spring into a mud puddle for most of the year.
Since I have been diving with Brett and the other KUR guys, I been hearing about this cave, and the biggest super room in Florida. I got a message a few weeks ago, “Are you sitting down?” asked Brett, “Twin Dees is flowing!”
I don’t show my excitement well, but I was overjoyed with the possibility of diving the cave. The cave was barely flowing. That day Curt and a team entered the cave in an attempt to shoot some video. Conditions were poor and the percolation was too bad. That next day I got my excuse to enter the cave. The first 200’ of cave can be problematic; it is restrictive and has a z-bend. This is no big deal with simple side mount equipment, but add a few stages, doubles/ rebreather, and scooters and it could be a death trap. Brett and I entered the cave with several hundred feet of #40 line and a handful of silt screws. We relined the entrance to make it easier and safer to follow and also protect the cave a little better.

The next dive in the system was with Jeff Petersen, we swam out to the beach to check line conditions and to see if the cave could support exploration at this time.  I was actually able to see the cave this time. The first 900’ of cave is relatively restrictive; from the narrow solution tube entrance, to wide bedding planes and the intersection of vertical fissures. Eventually you hit a small breakdown room and the cave turns hard to the left.  Here the walls turn from a tan to black and widen out. The blackness draws you in. There is a minor restriction, with an incredible goethite stump on the floor, “The Dragons Tongue” as Jeff calls it.
Past this the cave gets wider, the floor falls and the ceiling rises; Welcome to the Beach. Crayfish are everywhere and our bubbles disturb amphipods from their ceiling roost.  The visibility improved slightly and we turned the dive.

Exiting the system is essentially a lights out drill. Years of organic material has built up on the floor, ceiling, and walls. If you look at the silt funny visibility goes to zero.  Bubbles and the pressure wave from our movement killed the vis.  It was a fun dive!
The next dive we pushed further into the cave. Jeff and I returned again, this time with a stage. After all of the talk of Middle Earth, I was finally going to see it for myself.  We passed the Beach, it was just as cool this time as it was last time. We followed the line to the right and dropped straight down the pit. The walls here are dark and the passage is huge. We hit “Grand Central” and went left. We did a slight adjustment to the line and continued on. Soon we were at the Balcony. The ceiling was ~200’ and the floor was a hundred feet away. I peered off the balcony shining a 21w HID into the blackness. It was nothing but Black and Blue for as far as I could see. We dropped down and peered into the cavern zone of the River Alph Tunnel. Visibility improved, it was inviting. Maybe it was a narcosis buzz, or maybe it was the sheer size of the cave, but I did not want to go. Deco cranks up and air goes fast at those depths, so we could not stay long. The trip out was fine, and deco in the solution tube was… cozy.

I would love to get back and cruise around Middle Earth on a scooter. It is a 1000’ circuit to loop the room.
Now that I was familiar with the system I was invited to participate in the Exploration. I do not have a rebreather, or the experience of the other guys, but I assisted the best I could. I did a series of dives to place deco bottles at the beach, the sand chute, the end of the 50’ area, and the Staging room.

Brett Hemphill and Andy Pitkin did the push dive. They entered the water with their rebreathers, bailout bottles, scooters, the radio locator, and a load of knotted line. Their goal was to push the Alph tunnel at a depth of 300’+ and *maybe* connect it to Weeki.  Their dive went smooth; they placed a radio locator transmitter at the old EOL in Twin Dees.  They then added over 700’ of new line and surveyed it.  Mike Poucher was standing ready on the surface, as soon as the radio locator was turned on he began to hone in on it. He had to tromp through some thick underbrush and ankle deep water, but he quickly found the spot.
For the next 10 hours or so, Mike and I hung out on the surface waiting for Brett and Andy to return. After 5 hours be finally saw bubbles, they had made it back to their 40’ stop. It would be another 5 hours to get them from 40’ to the surface. Mike and I lugged extra tanks and scooters out of the cave, and made sure the guys were safe. It turned out to be a 12 hour dive and was safe and productive.

After Andy crunched all of the survey data it appears that The Dead Marshes Tunnel in Weeki was heading straight toward Middle Earth. Jeff and Andy did a dive and found a tunnel leaving Middle Earth and heading straight at Weeki. A connection was imminent.
Jeff and I had the privilege to push this tunnel. Unfortunately gear issues slowed us down and by the time we reached the end of their line we were close to turning. We spooled out another 70’ of line, and saw breakdown and turned. We tied in the two lines, Far Earth to Moria, and I got to see virgin Twin Dee’s! It was a great dive.
They are planning yet another big dive in the next few weeks; it will be interesting to see what they find! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Advanced Diver Magazine

I have been doing a fair amount of diving this year, and I have had the privilege to assist with the discovery and exploration of several caves in Florida.
I am honored and excited to become a part of the Advanced Diver Magazine Exploration Team!

Check out this excellent video of Buzz Spring:

And my Bio: