Thursday, December 18, 2014

I haven't forgot

Wow, over a year since my last post. It has been a pretty incredible year for my family and exploration. We had our second daughter in Sept and I have done some great diving and participated in some incredible exploration. Stay tuned, Ill have some more update in the next few weeks. Here is a photo summary.


Deep Wreck Diving- Key West

USS Kendrick

CCR Love

Dipolder III

Exploring on the Suwannee

Lots of time in the Twin Dees Shaft

Even more time in the Deco Habitat

Great Dives and Good Friends

Twin Dees

The Family Unit

Trio became a quartet

The finer things


Mexican Pride Wreck


Manatee Springs



New Cavers

New Divers

Finding Beauty in West Texas

Phantom Springs

Texas Diving

The New Addition- Conely

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Exploring Twin Dees

Twin Dees is an incredible place; it begins at the entrance. There is a small pool of blue water in the middle of the woods. White sand slopes to the middle where a small solution tube appears. The tube is around 2’ in diameter, and can be a miserable place. The mission of this dive was to explore the southern lead out of the Beleriand/ Deep Earth Tunnel that was explored and surveyed the week prior to my dive by Brett Hemphill and Andy Pitkin.

The lead is 2800’ back and 315’ deep and requires navigating hundreds of feet of restrictive cave and major restrictions. A dive like this requires many tanks for OC bailout and decompression.  The task of shuttling 9 tanks, 2 scooters, a goody bag of food, spare lights and battery packs along with myself with the rebreather on was quite the task.

Fortunately KUR is composed of great guys and awesome divers.
Eric Deister and Jerry Murphy set me up. They placed an AL40 of O2 in the fitting room, AL80 50% at the fissure, 30/20, 21/35, and 10/65 at the beach.

Derek Ferguson was my entry diver. He placed 2 scooters, my Submerge UV40 and Brett’s Magnus along with my deep bailouts, 2 LP121s with 7/78 in the fitting room.

I entered the cave just before 10:00am on the breather with an al80 entry bottle plumbed in. I had on board O2 and Air for drysuit inflation. All dil was offboard added via an Omni QD.
Entry went smooth, I departed from the fitting room in ~5minutes.

I drove the Submerge Scooters UV40 with viper electronics and towed the Magnus. While the Magnus is slightly faster I do love the way the 40 rides, and the smaller size of the Magnus was more suitable for towing. The slow speeds of the viper were great for the smaller areas of the cave.

At the beach I picked up the bottles the setup divers put in. I put the 120' bottle of 30/20 on the float ball, butt clipped the 21/35 and properly carried the 10/65.

I did a good diluent flush with 7/78 to eliminate any excess nitrogen in the loop and continued onward. I dropped the 190' bottle at the balcony to Middle Earth and descended into the Alph tunnel at ~33minutes.

I made good time in the Alph tunnel only stopping once because the old line can be hard to see on the ceiling. I quickly arrived at the “T” to the Deep Earth Tunnel that is marked with a labeled cookie. I dropped in.

The tunnel was impressive it was relatively wide but fairly tall. The walls were a beautiful white and very soft. Brett and Andy did a great job exploring here. The line made a hard left and was hooked around a large piece of breakdown on the floor, there was a silt stake tied to the line but not placed. This was the spot Brett told me about. I looked left at their line and then right into blackness. I scootered over the breakdown to get a feel for the tunnel, it goes. I looped back to the line placed on the breakdown and dropped my deep stage and backup scooter. I deployed my reel and tied off. The exit was marked with a red line arrow.

I took off with the light and reel in my left hand and the scooter in my right. This has been on my bucket list for years. I was laying line in Twin Dees Cave off of a scooter in huge passage 50' high, 100+' wide. The water was clear with a bit of turbidity. I scanned back and forth looking for the correct route. Ahead a see a large rock spire sticking straight up from the breakdown mass. I did a large scooter loop around it as a line placement. Here the cave got wider. I had a choice, go left or right. I chose left, almost instantly I came off of the breakdown floor and was on a smooth, flat silt floor with no rock.

The ceiling was flat, the walls were chalky and white. I pressed forward a few hundred more feet. The passage made a hard right and dead ended in a large room with a white column in the middle. I circled the column and tied off.  As a reached for my knife I noticed exactly how much my hands were shaking. It was not fear, it was excitement, as Brett says, it is a slow squeeze. Adrenaline was seeping into my system. I was 324' deep, 3300' back, alone in a place where no man has EVER been.  Incredible

I tied off and placed a white arrow at the knot to avoid any confusion about circumnavigating the column.
I deployed my survey book and began the survey out. It went quick with 150 and 190' shots. The 2 page slate was great and avoided page flipping confusion. Black colored knots on the white line were also nice.

My exploration and survey was only 20 minutes, but what a memorable 20 minutes.

The trip out went smooth I picked up my deep stage and backup scooter and hit the door. My first deco stop was 220' in Middle Earth. I completed my 220-190' stop in ME. I picked up my 190' bottle and began the slow swim out decompressing as I went.

Deco out was smooth. I took all of my bottles and scooters to the fissure. At 60' I copied my survey to my wet notes and made a rough sketch. At 50' I took off my scooters before the final restriction.
I spent the next 2.5 hours at 40' in the comfortable confines of the fitting room for decompression.
The suit heater was incredible. I was comfortable the whole time. The support team brought me a sandwich to eat in the air bell and Allen brought an underwater speak to play music. AC/DC Rocks in the air bell at 40'.

I slowly made my way up to 10' through the solution tube, stopping at 30' and 20'. The 80 minutes at 10' was brutally boring with the ipod stuck on repeat…

At the end of the dive I felt great. I accomplished a long term goal. I did an 8.5hr dive to depths over 300' and laid and surveyed ~500' of line in ridiculous cave.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

TAG 2012

TAG 2012

The 2013 TAG Fall Cave in is only a month away, I thought I would share some of my pictures from last year.
I believe 2012 is the 12th Cave-In that I have attended. I have only missed one since I began caving, I hope that is the only one I will miss. This year was a fun year;  it was my Dad’s 50th birthday so He, my brother and I went together as a celebration. We had a great time at camp socializing, did some classic caves, some easy caves and a few new ones to me.

We arrived at the TAG Campground on Friday morning and setup our camp. We wandered around the site saying Hi to familiar faces and waiting for the rest of our group to show up. We rarely have a plan when we get there so the first few hours is; “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know, where do you want to go?”
We decided to make a return trip to Cedar Ridge Crystal Cave. This is not an overly large or extensive cave, but it is very heavily decorated and makes for some incredible photo opportunities.

We spent  a few hours in the cave with a cool group of people from Florida taking pictures and making jokes.

After leaving and locking the cave behind us we headed to Logging Camp Cave. This cave is not far from Cedar Ridge and requires fording a river, climbing a steep river bank and following an old logging road to a sink hole.

Here we rigged a hand line to assist in getting in and out of the cave. It can be a rather slippery breakdown climb. Instantly one arrives in a tall dome room with grey scalloped walls and a walking canyon passage leading out. The walking passage dead ends shortly but there is a short squeezy climb that leads to much bigger cave. It was tighter for some than others…

The climb dumps you atop of a large breakdown slope, traverse down the breakdown and you are in huge beautiful serpentine borehole. This leads to another breakdown climb, at the top is a perfect little sanctuary of formations that made for a nice photo op. From here the cave gets tight and muddy. We poked around for a while and then headed back to camp.

The next morning we joined with Brian Williams, Bill Walker and his daughter to head up to a TAG classic, Rusty’s Cave. Rusty’s is on Fox Mountain and managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy.

It is a nice hike up the mountain in early October, it is not too terribly hot and the leaves are just beginning to change. Last year a number of tornadoes devastated the area and we hardly recognized the entrance with a all of the tree fall.

We rigged the rope and made the short rappel into the cave. We headed downstream taking plenty of time to enjoy the formations and take pictures. There are a few “memorable”  formations that you have to take a picture with…

We continued downstream until we reached the wet crawl and we headed back.

From here Brian, Woody, Andy and myself decided to make the trip over the mountain to Byers Cave. Last year Sara and I made the hike but could not find the cave entrance.

This year we found it. It starts off small with crawling. Once inside there is a fair amount of technical climbing, chimneying and spanning over deep fractures. It is actually a relatively terrifying cave.

Finally after a miserable crawl you pop into a huge borehole passage. We went left. It was neat cave; there were big shale breakdown piles, incredible formation gates, large domes, huge haystacks, massive columns, big rooms and a beautiful river.

Brian and I did not get out of the cave until well after dark and it was a long hike back over Fox Mountain. It was a neat cave, but not for the faint of heart and bring a hand line.
Next we visited Tally Cave. This cave was once used as a bomb shelter and later a grow operation. To get in you must rappel 20’ down  a steel culvert and crawl through and old doorway.

The first room has been trashed with graffiti. There were many Cave Salamanders in this first room munching on the remains of a unfortunate buzzard.

We continued onward, climbing down a ladder made of a bed frame that we affectionately call the Jesus Ladder.

We ended up pushing to the bitter end of this cave, it was tight muddy and pristine.
We hung out at the fire that night relaxing with old friends and new.

The next morning we packed up camp and headed out. We had breakfast at this little mom and pop place. No matter what you order they gave you they want, “Turkey Sandwich?... I told them ham was ok.”
Then we went to Pettyjohn’s Cave to relax and play. It is actually a relatively technical cave. This cave has an insane amount of traffic. The main rout has been polished by thousands of spelunker butts. It was a fun cave for the last day and we all had a good time exploring the serpentine river passage, sketchy climbs, and spray pain navigation.

TAG 2012 was a lot of fun.