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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cave Diving: Enter the Underground World

January 3, 2013 

Judging by a quick look on Facebook these days, cave diving appears to have become the go-to diving activity. Considered by many to be the most challenging and high-risk diving activities, it is not an activity that every diver will participate in. For those who are interested and are strong enough divers to complete the training, they are able to see a world a relatively tiny percentage of the population will ever witness.
We’ll be covering all aspects of going through a full cave training in this ongoing series. If you have any questions about the process or equipment, please let us know in the comments.

How Are Underwater Caves Formed

Underwater cave divingThere are a variety of ways that underwater caves are formed, but for most of the popular cave diving locations around the world, their origins are fairly similar. Australia, Florida, the Mayan Riviera region of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and parts of Asia and Europe are all considered to be some of the more popular cave diving regions. There are other cave systems throughout the world, but in the cases of Australia, Florida, the Yucatan, Asia and Europe, limestone is our key ingredient for cave formation.
Limestone is a relatively soft and porous rock. Over the years and various ice ages, the water level that we know has fluctuated greatly. At times, the caves we’re now familiar with were completely dry. Due to rain seeping through the porous limestone, channels of water formed over time, similar to the way the Grand Canyon was formed. As these channels grew larger, the rush of water helped to carve out the cave systems.
In more volcanic regions like Hawaii, you are likely to find caves formed via lava tubes. In some places, you may find sea caves that were formed when the seas were significantly lower and wave action eroded a hole in a shoreline cliff, which was then submerged as sea levels rose.

How Entrances to Cave Systems are Formed

Underwater Cave Diving Entrance CenoteWithout an entrance to a cave, cave diving would be incredibly difficult! For cave diving, most popular entrances are located at sinkholes or cenotes as they’re referred to in Central America.
A sinkhole or cenote is a hole in the ground that leads to a cave. Typically, when water levels were higher, the underground flowing water pooled in various locations due to density of the limestone. In some places, large rooms formed and more limestone dissolved until the layer of earth that makes the roof became reasonably thin. When the water levels dropped, the weight of the earth roof was no longer supported by water pressure and it collapses, creating an entrance to a cave.

NASE to unveil new Cave Diving program

(DiverWire) Cave diving certifications have seen an unprecedented growth in a down economy. The recent movies that depict caves and the shows promoting exploration of the “inner world” have increased the awareness and provided a window of visibility into this exciting part of diving.
“Training is vital for safe exploration of caves and needs to be accessible for those who choose this exciting area of diving,” says Harry Averill, NASE’s Cave Diving Advisor.  “Our program is a no non-sense approach to teaching the fundamentals of safe cave diving.”
NASE Worldwide introduces a comprehensive Cave Diver Training Program with some differences:
■ Available courses range from entry-level NASE Cave Diver through Instructor Trainer, with programs for both open-circuit and CCR, backmount and sidemount.
■ A comprehensive set of entry-level NASE Cave Diver training materials that includes a totally integrated student manual, study questions and final exam.
■ An up-to-date approach to cave diver training based on how today’s best cave divers actually explore underwater caves — and not on how some experts decided they should do so in 1981.
“Here is our commitment to the cave diving community:  NASE will never issue a certification card to a half-trained cave diver. That’s right.  We have no “Basic,” “Intro” or “Apprentice” ratings.  The only way to get a NASE Cave Diver card is to demonstrate competency in all of the necessary knowledge and skills,” says Averill.
NASE Worldwide is a division of the CDA Training Group which is based out of Jacksonville, Florida. To learn more about professional opportunities please call us, (888) 903-6273 or visit

Cave Diving - The Extreme of the Extreme

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

When you hear the word cave diving, what do you think of? Is it one of divers who go into dark gloomy caves trailing a rope or string so they can find there way back? Then one of that looks awesome how can I do it. You may even ask yourself what exactly is cave diving.
Pushing to the outer limits, when you are told you can only go so far is a great draw to the daredevils of extreme sports. Part of being extreme is being told the limits and not only moving past them, but also pushing past them. For most, that usually does not occur on the first try. There are several tries and possible injuries before this is accomplished. What happens when that boundary has been claimed? You start all over again to push it even farther.
Cave diving presents situations that you would not run into during a normal open or ocean dive. It exposes you to possible life threatening issues if you are not properly prepared. As a cave diver you are not concerned about injuries, since the only real injury that could occur is death, and that is final. It is for this reason cave diving is considered one of the most extreme sports. You can not get much more extreme than the fact that you could easily die if not successful. The fact that you go into unknown, do what others will not attempt or feel can not be done. The fact that you not only survived but accomplished the task brings self confidence. This will carry over to other areas of your life. In the world of a cave diver what could be more of an adrenaline rush than staring down the possibility of death and winning?
Cave Diving - The extreme of the extreme sports

A direct descent is not used in cave diving. It uses what is called a penetration dive. What this means is that you don’t use a vertical ascent to reach the air if trouble starts. The majority of cave divers are well versed in technical diving, but this does not reduce the dangerousness of this extreme sport. Another big draw to cave diving and its risks is the sight of stalactites and stalagmite formations. Then there is the chance of finding archeological items.
Extreme cave diving is done in a passage way that has no pockets of air due to the fact that it is flooded. If a malfunction should occur you have no choice but to continue and return to the surface, all this while still underwater. Your body then has a way to make things appear different then they really are when it feels a threat. It if for this reason you need to have some great control to convince your body what it thinks is happening is not really reality. You must have total control over your senses.
The dive is not the only peril but the return also. This is what brings this sport into the extreme category. The return can be complicated and very long. You must keep control over your senses as there can be an illusion of other things happening. One of the complicated things is that your body must readjust from breathing a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen to that of fresh air. The sensation of gravity as they return to solid ground is one of the elements that the thrill seekers are looking for. The fact that one wrong step at any part of the adventure can have disastrous results this is why cave diving is an extreme of the extreme sports.
Andy Jenkins is a staff writer at and is an occasional contributor to several other websites, including
Author: By Andy Jenkins
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Going underground: Cave-diving in the Yucatan Peninsula

KAREN SLOAN, Columbia News Service
Sunday, April 24, 2005

Sixty feet beneath the jungle floor in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, inside a limestone cave filled with water, Tom Stotmeyer was at an impasse. How was he going to get his stout frame through a foot-and-a-half wide opening framed by stalactites hanging from the cave ceiling and stalagmites poking up from the cave floor?
"No problem," said Noe Raul, the Mexican guide, nimbly swimming between the rocky protrusions to the other side.
Stotmeyer, 58, of Grand Rapids, Mich., slipped off his life vest, took a deep breath and followed, albeit less gracefully.
His faith and effort were rewarded with a breathtaking view of a high-ceilinged cavern illuminated by underwater lights. Massive rock formations jutted out from the walls, while catfish swam lazily in the crystal-clear water. For several moments, Stotmeyer was speechless.
The stretch of Mexican coastline south of Cancun called the Mayan Riviera is best known for its white sandy beaches and turquoise sea. But a growing number of visitors are venturing away from the surf to discover the area's other natural wonder, geologic sinkholes known as cenotes. More than 3,000 cenotes, (pronounced say-NO-tays) dot the landscape of the Yucatan Peninsula, providing tourists a rare opportunity to scuba dive and snorkel in freshwater underground caves.
Enjoying a dip in a cenote is as easy as pulling off the main highway south of Cancun at the signs that advertise them and paying a few dollars to the property owners. But for visitors like Stotmeyer, who want a more intense experience, a number of tour operators offer guided diving and snorkeling trips. Open-water certified divers can scuba at many of the cenotes, though tour operators require cave-diving certification at certain locations.
Experts warn that divers should attempt the dives only with experienced guides and proper training. According to International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery, which monitors cave-diving safety around the world, of the five reported cave-diving deaths last year, two occurred in Mexico.
At Hidden Worlds, the private cenote park about 87 miles south of Cancun that Stotmeyer visited, the trip to two cenotes includes a wild 15-minute ride through the forest in the back of a "jungle mobile," which can best be described as a makeshift cross between a tractor and a dune buggy. Wetsuits and snorkel or dive equipment are provided. Divers can explore below the surface in two different caverns with Hidden World guides or opt to dive in the Dreamgate cenote, which is one of the most spectacular with its delicate rock formations and natural lighting.
Go Cenotes, based in the beach town of Playa del Carmen, where the ferry to Cozumel docks, also offers a number of cenote snorkel and diving trips throughout the area.
The Yucatan Peninsula's vast network of cenotes and underground rivers, which extend an estimated 350 miles, was formed approximately 18,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, when sea levels rose and flooded underground caves that had been carved out of the limestone bedrock millions of years earlier.
For the Mayans, who lived in the area between 300 and 900 A.D., the cenotes were more than just a natural wonder; they were the only source of fresh water. It was thought that drinking clear water from a cenote would make you five years younger, said Raul, the guide.
The underground caves also had religious significance. The Mayans believed that the cenotes were the key to the afterlife, and they performed rituals at the sites to underworld gods. Even today, Mayan artifacts can be found in the caves.
In addition to spectacular stalactites and stalagmites, cenote snorkelers and divers are likely to encounter fossils in the rocks and hanging tree roots from the jungle above, which only add to the surreal effect of the enclosed caverns.
You don't necessarily have to get wet to explore the cenotes, however. At Aktun-Chen, near the Mayan ruins of Tulum, visitors can walk through dry caves.
Like most tourists, Stotmeyer came to the small village of Akumal for the warm weather and the beaches. But it was the cenotes that captured his imagination.
After two hours of negotiating the alternatively wide and narrow waterways of a large and spectacular cenote called Tak Be Ha, or the Place of Hidden Waters, Stotmeyer was still awed by the series of underground caverns.
"It's one of those things that's really hard to put into words," Stotmeyer said as he emerged from a steep ladder through the sunlit opening onto the jungle floor. "You just have to see it for yourself."
Deepest Thai cave exploredCave divers have descended 240m to reach the bottom of Thailand's Sra Keow, the country's deepest flooded cave.

Run by the Asian Cave Diving Club, the project involved complicated logistics and several set-up dives to place equipment, including decompression stations.

The deep divers were well-known French technical diver Cedric Verdier and the Belgian Ben Reymenants.

The 10-hour dive, which took place on 18 February, also involved four support divers, dive supervisor, hyperbaric physician and other assistants.

The operation went smoothly, with the bottom divers able to 'safely explore and survey the deepest part of the cave'.

The team employed a mix of diving technology. Verdier used a Megalodon rebreather (Verdier) and Reymenants open-circuit scuba, and the two divers undertaking the deepest support duties were similarly split between open and closed-circuit.

Cave Exploraton in Northern Thailand

Posted in Expeditions/Dive Reports by CraigW on August 4, 2012 No Comments yet

While scouring over known GPS coordinates and old survey data from Northern Thailand I came across the location known as “Spring
Spring of the Laos Army
Thailand Cave Exploration - Spring of the Laos Army
of the Laos Army”.  Being that we were on our way to Loei we decided to break up our drive up north and spend the night in Chayaphum.  We found an excellent 4 star hotel in the area with 800baht rooms, swimming pool and fitness center.  After a 12 hour drive from Chumphon we were anticipating a basic and mildly comfortable hotel, this place was a sight for sore eyes!
Early the next morning after breakfast we headed out to the spring to check out the
Spring of the Laos Army
Thailand Cave Exploration - Site Evaluation
location.  As I was informed this place was quite a popular Thai swimming area where locals from every direction flock to cool off downstream of the chilled
resurgence pond.  Barbed wire separated the spring from the swimming area used by the locals.  When we arrived we were quickly stopped by the National Park Ranger as they were not accustomed to having divers, let alone foreigners in this area.  Everyone was quite curious of our intentions and safety was of the highest priority for everyone involved.  After our guide / fellow diving instructor Kru Pong explained our intentions and qualifications the Ranger quickly agreed to allow us to dive the location.  The locals were quite curious of our mission and were excited to gather any sort of information for their records at the National Park Headquarters.
After preparing equipment and entering the brisk 25 degree C water we spent the better part of the dive clearing debris from the main entrance.  The spring had a strong outward flowing current which quickly stirred the visibility as we removed logs, branches, barbed
Spring of the Laos Army
Thailand Cave Exploration - Equipment Preparation
wire and other debris from our suspected dive site.  I had a weird feeling about this place, almost like someone purposely blocked the entrance.  Curiosity fueled our desire to see what this cave had in store and after an hour we finished the preparation and were in a position to start our dive.
The entrance of this cave worked its way downwards at a steep angle.  After around 10m of tight single file passage and zero visibility we encountered a previous exploration line and tied in.  This line was supposed to have been laid by Matt London and the TCDP (Thailand Cave Diving Project) over 10 years ago.  Our team continued down this line until it came to an end at about 18m.  The cave seemed to open up slightly and the passage continued however due to the zero visibility and strong flow we called the dive due to safety concern.
After our experience with what seemed to be one of the lost locations that would be
Spring of the Laos Army
Thailand Cave Exploration - John Cafaro and Jack Wylie approach the entrance
better left unfound we understood the effort that went into concealing the entrance to this cave.  This is definitely not a place for inexperienced cave divers or those without proper cave training.  High flow, bad vis and a steep angle didn’t make it a location that we will come back to.  The masses of local children that use this spring as a summer time swimming site probably have the right idea!
Many thanks to the National Park Rangers and Staff for their support and permission to dive this site.  Although this particular location was not what we were looking for we suspect there are other springs in the area and we will continue further exploration in the future.
Date: April 2012