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A Cave Diving Odyssey – Team ProTec Crushes the Florida Cave Diving Scene

Four of ProTec Dive Centers’ team members embarked on a 10 day cave diving odyssey to Florida. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, actually.

Our team consisted of two Aussies (Tamara & Skanda), a Californian (John) and the Spaniard (Jaime). We checked in at 7.30am at Cancun Airport with a combined weight of approximately 120kgs for our flight to Orlando, Florida.

 

Florida traffic is a buzz kill, but we over came.

Upon arrival in Orlando, we load up our super swankyrental Dodge van and drove toward Odessa, Tampa to meet our good friends and returning ProTec Dive Centers’ clients, Mark Dobson and his wife Pat.

In Odessa, we were greeted with the warmest of welcomes, a bed, food, a pile of fluffy waging tails, and a garage full of cylinders and tools waiting for us to set up our gear our dive the next morning.

 

Day 1 (8AM): More good friends and fellow ProTec clients, Roy Reynaud, wife Marie, and Ken Plunkett arrive to join us for our first day of diving. We finished setting up our equipment, loaded the trucks, topped up gases, and got some tasty treats and post dive beer.

 

Dive 1: Eagles Nest Sink – Max Depth: 200ft/61m / Duration: 92mins

We felt slightly spoilt to dive in world renowned state park with locals. We were feeling very grateful for beautiful steps down into the water, a map, a visitors log, a marque, bench tables, and not to mention trimix.

Mark and Roy gave us a nice introduction to the Floridian caves as they briefed us with their map. Unfortunately, Roy wasn’t able to join us on the dive but was the best surface support a diver could ask for!

We donned our gear and Ken led the way, single file down the ‘chute’ until it opens out into a large chamber at 20m, our light beams struggle to hit the walls.

We descended to a T and swan downstream through a ‘restriction’. After the restriction we encountered a sloping tunnel, the floor covered with dark brown sediment.


Like many of the caves we dived on the trip, the walls are beautifully sculpted, and light in colour.

Left-to-Right: Roy, Tamara, John, Mark, Skanda, Jaime, & Ken

We enjoyed an epic first dive, post dive beers, and great company.

DAY 2: Another early morning and a 3-hour drive to Live Oak to check into Cave Excursions.

Cave Excursions is like looking back down the timeline of side mount cave diving. Most mornings we had the pleasure of sitting with the original owner Bill Rennaker to chat about the caves in the area, development of cave diving, and his shop.

We especially enjoyed discussing his experiences in Florida and Tulum many years ago and of course his gallery of side mount units hanging out the back.

Straight away we topped up our cylinders and headed off to Peacock Springs State Park to dive Orange Grove, one of its many sink holes.

Dive 2: Orange Grove – Max Depth: 117ft/35m Duration: 146mins

 

Duck weed covered the surface but beneath was crystal clear. Here we dived up to ‘Challenge Sink’, the ‘Distance Tunnel’, and the deep section.

Dive 3: Telford Springs – Max Depth: 67ft/22m Duration: 123mins

All the way to the T

DAY 3: We headed off to Ginnie Springs and met up with ProTec client and local instructor Marissa Waltman. Ginnie Springs has a beautiful open water area, parking, shaded table, and chairs. The high light at Ginnie was the beer drinking local with a giant unicorn floaty.

Dive 4: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 100ft/30m Duration: 134mins
‘Bone line’, ‘Roller Coaster’, and the ‘Bats!’

Dive 5: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 99ft/29m Duration: 90mins
‘Hill 400 Line’ and ‘Double Lines’

An insanely beautiful and typical Ginnie dive experienced fossilized shells and sand dollars covering the floor and then an amazing flight back on the flow to our deco stop. As we returned after sunset, the flood lights were on to light up the open water.

We had the pleasure on deco to watch some awesome lighting effects, some deco dancing by Jaime and Skanda, and nocturnal animals on the return swim.

DAY 4: As we have all discovered our love for flow, Marissa showed us some cool dives at Little River, and Cow Springs.

Dive 6: Little River – Max Depth: 103ft/31m Duration: 123mins

T left, T left, almost made it to the well! Here we encountered what must be the largest T ever.

Dive 7: Cow Springs – Max Depth: 103ft/31m Duration: 131mins

We got our fair share of flow on this dive! We used the anchoring rope to pull and glide our way to the end of line which took us 75 minutes. Our exit was an exciting 30minute ride on the flow.

Starting with a tricky restriction entrance progressing into a darker cave with beautifully layered clay banks in sections.

DAY 5 – Ginnie Springs: Back to Ginnie for a double dive day. We were fortunate to be joined by another ProTec client, Joe Seda. Joe came to light it up for a dive with a handful of Big Blue lights !!

In between dives we popped over to Cave Country to top up our cylinders.

Dive 8: Ginnie Springs – Max Depth: 90ft/27m Duration: 82mins

‘Bone Line’, ‘White Room’ and ‘Wonder Tunnel’. An insane dive with 60,000+ lumens!

Dive 9: Ginnie – Max Depth: 96ft/29m Duration: 130mins
‘Hill 400’, ‘Double Lines’, ‘Ice Room’!

DAY 6: Mark Dobson and Ken Plunkett drove up from Odessa to show us a couple good dives at Madison Blue. We were lucky enough to have Mark shoot some photos of the team on an epic dive. We topped the night off with a BBQ and beers around an open fire back at the cabin!


Dive 10: Madison Blue – Max Depth: 94ft/28m Duration: 76mins
‘Godzilla Circuit’

Dive 11: Madison Blue – Max Depth: 92ft/27m Duration: 119mins
‘Rocky Horror’, through the well and turned just before ‘Pressure Gauge’

At Madison Blue, there is a passage so ‘small’ only one team at a time is allowed in. Teams are required move a slate from in to out so that other teams know the status.

DAY 7: Good friend and returning ProTec Dive Centers’ client Sandy Robinson met us at Cave Excursions and did a morning dive with the entire crew. Finally, we got to dive the famous ‘Peacock Springs’ and what better way to do it than with a great group of friends from the area.

We arrived to see what had been crystal clear water was now as milky as a nice cup of tea. Fortunately, just inside the entrance to the cave, the water was crystal clear.

Dive 12: Peacock I – Max Depth: 53ft/16m Duration: 170mins

‘Peanut Tunnel’ up to ‘Challenge Sink’ and jumped to ‘Woody’s Room’

Dive 13: Peacock I – Max Depth: 77ft/23m Duration: 137mins
‘Holson Line’ all the way to the ‘Crypt’ and checked the ‘Well’ on the way out.

Finally, we packed the van and set off to Mark’s and Pat’s house in Odessa. Upon arrival, the drying and packing began in preparation for our flight the following morning.

We would like to thank Mark and Pat Dobson for your incredible hospitality, help with equipment, navigating the supermarket (Pat), you really made this trip an unforgettable one!

Marissa, Roy, and Ken for sharing your time with us, your help, and great dives , let it not be our last!

Thank you Sandy for your wealth of information. Thank you Tom from Cave Excursions for looking after us as well as a few great nights by the bon fire.

Finally, a big thank you to all that were able to join us on the trip, either diving or just catching up. We appreciate it and hope to see you back at ProTec Dive Centers or… back in Florida next year!

Join Us On Your Next Adventure!

ProTec Dive Centers in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and Tulum, Mexico offers Cavern, Cave, Sidemount, CCR, Trimix, Technical, and Instructor Training.  We also offer Guided Diving, Equipment Storage/Servicing/Rentals, Nitrox/O2/Helium Fills, and Retail.

Book your next trip with us: info@protecdivecenters.com.

 

June 3, 2017   No Comments

Behind The Lights

As people live and work in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, it may be unknown to some that we are standing on top of thousands of years history. Atop of what was once a vast coral platform, now a flooded underwater maze of rivers and passageways, so beautiful people come from all over the world to see, dive and document these spectacular Cenotes.

Without documentation of these cenotes, I don’t believe that many people including my family could fully understand what it is that I am living and diving amongst.

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As an avid photographer myself I took to the caverns and caves with my camera. This environment proved much more difficult to capture the details and colours that I would be more likely to capture in the ocean on a casual dive.

Photography and videography in cave diving has more considerations than you would imagine. Now in a dark environment; in fact pitch black until illuminated by our video lights and strobes, I decided to leave the shutter button under the finger of my friends John Cafaro and Katy Fraser who are professionals.

In taking a pleasurable back seat to the photographer I soon found myself as model or lighting assistant.

As model this requires awareness of the line, gas, situational, environmental and light awareness in relation to the photographer and the angle at which he is shooting me from.

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As lighting assistant this requires the same awareness but with a subject in the frame. It is my job to avoid being in shot, whilst illuminating either the diver and/or decorations in the foreground or background.

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In cave diving photography – lighting, anticipation of the moving diver and co-ordination of the team make for a promising result.It is important to understand the vision of the photographer, hence the need for detailed briefings and debriefings for each dive.

Some considerations for shooting; Formations – Ceiling, floor or both. Spacious or narrow. Deep or shallow. Dark or white walls and what follows; how much light do we need and what is the burn time on those lights? As lighting on a cave dive is the limit to what you will see.

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We now need to remember that this is technical diving, where in the cave do we want to shoot? what is our planned route and depth of penetration? how many team members are there? how much gas do we have and can we use?

Being a helping hand to the photographer/videographer allows for gas conservation of the photographer (As they can focus on getting the shot and not swimming around placing and picking up lights), more potential shots and more depth of field.

As interest in technical and cave diving grows, so does the peoples want for more travel and to discover something new. For our generation, snippets of our adventures are displayed through social media platforms and digital memories.

Our team have been a part of many productions; Phillip Gray ‘Extreme Artist’, Global Dive Guide, dive brand advertising among others.

At ProTec Diving Centre we offer this service of a Professional photographer or videographer to capture you in your cave diving glory at the highest professional standard.

Cave Guide and Technical Instructor at ProTec Tulum, Tamara May.

 

October 27, 2016   No Comments