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Sunday, June 02, 2013


Speleology is the science of exploring and studying caves and their shape, origin, development and microclimate. It concerns other branches of underwater procedures such as archeology, geology and biology. Gathering data about underwater caves helps for determining the effects of pollution and observing the ecology of cave systems.

Read our Feature Article:
The Bottom of the World


Scientific cave divers need special training and equipment. Cave diving is certainly more difficult than other types of diving. Divers are confronted with specific problems when entering the cave. Above all, they are in a confined place which robs them of the possibility to ascend straight to the surface in a case of accident. Cavers might even lose their way in some of the cave’s branching. Their lives depend on the good working order of their equipment and the immediate help of their buddies. The air-supply should be sufficient not only for the planned stay in the cave and time for decompression but also for possible accidents. It might be necessary that two divers breathe from a single apparatus. A crucial part of the equipment is the inflating life-jacket. Its purpose is to regulate diver’s buoyancy and keep it neutral. Otherwise, bad balance might lead to muddling of water and loss of visibility.  There are cases of death in which experienced divers are the victims. In 1972, two qualified cave divers entered a cave. They were only in the beginning of the cave passage when they suddenly realized that they had left some instrument for work on the surface. They decided one of them to stay and wait until the other got back. After 5 minutes the diver returned and found his buddy dead (he was enmeshed in a nylon rope).
In the picture above, you see divers before entering the cave “Peacock”. The cave is notorious for its cases of death – 17 for the period 1970-1973. There is a Warning sign nearby. The dive was successful.

Measuring the Willingness to Pay for Cave Diving

University of West Florida
Appalachian State University
Fresh water springs are unique natural resources that are contained within public lands across the United States. Natural resource management on public lands generates many interesting policy issues as the competing goals of conservation, recreational opportunity provision, and revenue generation often clash. As demand for recreational cave diving sites increases, this article provides natural resource site managers with the first statistical estimate of divers' willingness to pay (WTP) to dive cave and cavern systems. Using a contingent valuation model (CVM) and correcting for hypothetical bias, we find that divers' median WTP for cave diving opportunities at the site of interest is between $52 and $83 per dive. Model results also provide weak evidence of diver sensitivity with respect to scope, as individuals are willing to pay more for dives that are judged to be higher in quality.
JEL Classification Code: Q26, Q51
Published Online: 2011
William L. Huth is a professor, Department of Marketing and Economics, University of West Florida, 11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, FL 32514 USA (email: ).
O. Ashton Morgan is an assistant professor, Department of Economics, 3094 Raley Hall, Appalachian State University, Boone, NC 28608 USA (email: ).


A Fish Out of Water
Born in Italy, Cristina Zenato grew up in the rain forests of 1970’s African Congo until the age of 15, and naturally developed a love of the outdoors. Her tremendous passion for the ocean surfaced at a young age, and following her love for the water she journeyed to the Bahamas for work, and learned to dive..

16 years later she is still proudly working for The Underwater Explorers Society, and from her humble beginnings as a Scuba Instructor, she climbed the ladder to become the head of diving at UNEXSO, teaching technical diving plus cave and cavern classes. When Cristina is not working, she can usually be found freediving or exploring new cave systems.

Speaking five different languages, Italian, English, German, French and Spanish, Cristina became a tour de force – a PADI, NAUI, SSI, SDI, open water instructor, NSS-CDS full cave instructor, Extended Range Instructor, TDI advanced Nitrox with decompression procedure and more, she is a talented young lady.

Cristina’s love of exploration and caving is inspiring, yet it pales when it comes to Sharks. Cristina has a natural ‘gift’, some would say, with Sharks. Practicing a little known technique of rubbing and manipulating her fingers across the ampullae of Lorenzini, the visible dots [electro-receptive sensory organs] all around a shark’s head and face, she induces a tonic immobility. To the observer, this looks like a shark falling asleep right in her lap. Last fall a Blue shark appeared to fall asleep in her hands, on the surface. As she caressed the beautiful ten foot ocean traveler, the fact that she had no chain-mail suit on this occasion never seemed to cross her mind.

Her ability to work with several types of shark in this manner has allowed her to study up close, in the wild, with no stress from the usual hooks, gaffs, and undue pain some shark researchers have used to gather data. In fact the sharks at her home in the Bahamas almost seem to know her for her gentle spirit, and warm to her touch. Guests are on occasion, encouraged to feel the shark’s skin while in this calm state. This in turn gives visiting divers on the Shark Dive at UNEXSO the chance to dissolve any misconceptions or preconceptions they may have had about shark life. She teaches divers who are interested, to feed the local Caribbean Reef sharks by hand, hoping to bring people closer to understanding the secret world of these creatures.

First learning to feed sharks with her mentor [the legendary Ben Rose] Cristina has researched shark behavior, and comparison and change in sharks. From the Bimini Shark Lab, South Africa, North Carolina, Florida and Mexico, Cristina writes a few short stories and reports for newsletters about sharks, [and also cave diving and training] having observed the behaviors of Tigers, Great Whites, Lemons, Reefs, and Bulls. She has further developed her practice of tonic immobility, to remove hooks from shark’s mouths, to remove parasites, and for her Awareness Campaign against shark finning and capture, for shark protection, and human education.

Naturally, all this talent sparked up the attention of filmmakers, documentary and TV producers worldwide, and as you might imagine, the list of film and TV work Cristina has achieved is immense. Just a few on the TV list are BBC, Discovery, Nat Geo, ABC, Science and Nature programs all over Europe and the USA. Films include Der See Wulf, Shark Water, Shark Man, Oceans, including non-profits like Gimme-A-Hug / Protect the Sharks Foundation.

Involved in magazines like, Skin Diver, Sport Diver, Advance Diver Magazine and also working on calendars to fund shark awareness, the list goes on. Needless to say, on her home island of Grand Bahama, Cristina works closely with the National Trust, and has been awarded the rights/permit to dive the guarded Ben’s Cave, further forging a conservation alliance with them to re-draw the map of Ben’s, aiding to protect the delicate cave system.
Cristina is recipient of Platinum Pro Award 5000 from Scuba Schools International and a member of Women Divers Hall of Fame.

Look for her in the next shark program you watch, she might well be lurking next to the lens negotiating with the shark to not worry about these odd people staring at them.. A sense of who Cristina Zenato is can only truly be felt underwater. There, she is more at home than she is on land, and an apt quote by Jacques Cousteau says it all:

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”

Written by Eddy Raphael © 2010

phone 1-242-727-0896 email

mail    Po Box F-42433 Freeport, Grand Bahama Island,
The Bahamas


Living In Darkness by Stephanie Jutta Schwabe

Appeared in DIVER November 2009

Tough cookie


Front Cover

Cave Diving in Tasmania

Peter Buzzacott shares his adventures, thrills and experienced tips on cave diving in the wilderness of Tasmania.

Cave diving is not for everyone but, for me, it is both exhilarating and challenging. I’ve been at it for years now and I’ve wanted to visit a couple of famous caves in Tasmania for ages, so I jumped at the chance when everything fell into place. Two caves in particular drew my attention: The Junee Resurgence because of its beautifully decorated chamber inside the mountain and Dwarrowdelf because of the high degree of difficulty. These trips always require a lot of resources and you need the right gear so I was especially pleased when Patagonia sponsored my trip, supplying the thermal protection I’d need hiking through forests, deep in the cave or on a summit in the central highlands.

I landed in Hobart and stayed with a couple of caving friends in their house overlooking the city. The view at night was spectacular. Soon we were hurtling through Tasmania towards the resurgence, to test out my equipment in the cold Tasmanian waters before attempting an Australian record cave dive in Dwarrowdelf. The water at the bottom of Dwarrowdelf disappears into the earth and many hours later it reappears kilometres away at the Junee Resurgence, a hole at the base of a cliff with a stream pouring out of it. We hiked through national park to reach the cave, got changed into dive gear, climbed over the wooden rails and entered the dark-zone, wading up-stream, sometimes chest deep and battling the rushing water. Finally we reached the end, put on our masks and down we went, into the flooded tunnel. Visibility was the length of my arm at most — basically we were diving alone, a few minutes apart. We had tanks underneath each arm instead of on our backs because the cave was really low in places. After 25-minutes we surfaced in a spectacular chamber, called For Your Eyes Only, probably because the only people who’ve ever seen this is place are cave divers. Thousands of delicate white “straws” hang from the ceiling (thin white tubes of calcium-minerals), pillars and stalagtites too. This is one of Australia’s best caves — amazing. Plus… my dive gear was perfect in these conditions. I was ready
A couple of days later we hiked through the dense rain forest to a hole in the ground called Dwarrowdelf. A rope was tied to a tree and disappeared down into the cave. We got dressed in “Trog Suits” which are lightweight and waterproof, put all the abseiling gear on and in I went. Inside the cave was about 4-degrees and we were planning a long day, alternating between resting while waiting for the ropes to clear or working really hard, so I’d chosen to wear two Capilene undergarments inside my trog suit, a short-sleeved top over a long-sleeved top. That way I could take one off when hot. I was wearing rubber gum-boots through the forest because the cave would be wet and my thick Patagonia merino hiking socks made them feel like sneakers.
Down I went, into the dark, abseiling on a 9mm rope, pitch after pitch. One in particular stood out — we had to squeeze through a short narrow passage and reach out over a huge drop to pull the rope over to clip onto it. Then, we would swing out over the biggest drop I have ever seen — 70m straight down, water falling all around and the void was big enough to fit an apartment block into. All-up we abseiled 200m down, then crawled on our stomachs through a low gallery high above a fast flowing stream, squeezed between rock walls in another section until finally we reached the end of the cave. Just one last hole to get through and the diving pool was on the other side. We were –250m underground by now, in a place fewer than ten people had ever been. If I could dive through the tunnel the water disappears into then 100m away we hoped I would surface in the next cave over. Joining the two caves would break the Australian record for the deepest cave system. I turned my helmet to the side and started squeezing through the hole but it was no good: my chest was too big to fit through. This was a bitter disappointment but, in the scheme of things, all outdoor adventurers face these sorts of set-backs now and then. A summit that can’t be reached, a river that can’t be crossed, a hole that’s too small for a 48” chest. Ho-hum, we emptied the dive tanks to prevent them exploding if they hit the wall on the way back up, and then up we went, hauling ourselves up the rope a foot at a time, my dive gear divided between the team, hanging underneath us as we climbed. It was gut-bustingly hard. The first 70m pitch took me 35 agonising minutes and I had stomach cramps by the time I swung back into the little passage. I don’t think I’ve ever been so shagged as when I crawled out of Dwarrowdelf many hours later.
It took me a few days to recover — my legs in particular had taken more punishment than normal, but within a week I was back to normal and keen to make my first Australian high altitude dive. First though, a hike to the top of the famous Ben Lomond. I parked the van in the northern car-park and followed the trail up and away into the mist. To start the going was easy; a nice trail, not too steep, but then the trail faded and a series of alpine makers led the way, posts held upright by a pile of rocks at the base. I was among the clouds by now and the wind was around ten knots, with an annoying drizzle complementing the low air temperature. I was glad I’d worn my Patagonia insulation R2 over a Capilene undershirt, with a sleeveless down vest over the top for extra warmth. You know, if you’re going to do this sort of stuff you might as well wear the right gear. Two and a half hours later we reached the top — visibility hadn’t exceeded 50m the whole time and we’d met other couples returning defeated on the way up. Conditions really were miserable and we were the only couple to summit that day (I was toasty warm though).
Next, up to Arthur Lake, altitude 1000m. High altitude diving is a bit of a specialty I’ve enjoyed in South Africa, Colorado and Bolivia, where I’m fairly sure I set the Australian record for the highest altitude scuba dive with the Bolivian Navy in 2010. But, where I live (in Western Australia) there are no high altitude lakes so it’s taken me all these years to make my first high altitude dive on Australian soil. The scenery couldn’t have been more beautiful as I geared up and swam away from the shore. Wearing only two little six-litre tanks I wasn’t planning a long dive which was just as well because the visibility underwater was a bit murky and there was fishing line everywhere which was a real entanglement hazard. Still, I found some freshwater crayfish, plenty of interesting weeds and generally had a good dive before climbing out for a hot chocolate.
So, the trip to Tassie was a great success and, thanks to Patagonia, I was toasty warm in the most challenging conditions; freezing water, long hours in a cold cave either resting or busting a gut climbing ropes, hiking with packs through forest and treking in the rain. Next, the Nullarbor: cave diving in the desert, searching for animals previously unknown to science. Life’s one big adventure.
Author’s note: There is no room in caves for untrained divers. The same goes for vertical caving. If you’re interested then join a club and learn what you need to learn. All required permits were obtained before accessing wilderness areas.



Laclede County, MO

February 2002

Ethan Brodsky

(Underwater Photos by Tami Thomsen)

Ethan Brodsky collects data at survey station 12 in Morgan Big Spring.


Several years ago, while running canoe trips down the Osage Fork of the Gasconade River, Micki Feakes brought along her SCUBA gear to look at a small spring she had noticed. To her surprise, the small spring, known locally as Wabiwakema, gave way to a hidden cave system. It was apparent that a diver had been there before, but after asking around, nobody knew who had conducted the initial exploration and no map was available. On her initial trip to the spring, she noticed some interesting isopods (small white critters) living on the ceiling. She discussed her find with a cave biologist from the Natural History Division of the Missouri Department of Conservation, and he requested that she collect some samples of the lifeforms for further investigation. Her finds are believed to be a unique specimen of Caecidotea and were recorded in the Missouri Biospeleogical Database. With several new members to our group, we had been looking for a small cave in which to practice survey techniques and develop an effective methodology to apply to our larger ongoing projects. As Micki believed Morgan Big Spring to be about 200-300 feet in length, we thought it would be a good choice, especially considering its shallow depth and biological significance.


It was decided that the survey would be conducted over five phases. First was to install a knotted survey line in the cave and set up stations. Second was to take Depth/Azimuth/Distance readings at each station. Third, we made a computer-generated preliminary map to guide our further data collection. Fourth, we measured passage geometry at each station, drawing cross-sections at certain selected points. The fifth (not yet completed) phase, is to create a detailed map for publication.
On the way out of Madison, we made several stops to pick up supplies. Midland Plastics supplied the bulk plastic sheet for our survey slates, and Recreational Equipment Incorporated provided Brunton survey compasses. Just before getting out of town, we realized we had forgotten the jig-saw to cut the slates, so we had to run back to the shop and pick it up. After a ten hour drive to Falcon, Missouri, we immediately set to work making our slates. Here Tami lays out a grid for data collection, while Ethan works on the laptop outlining procedures for the survey (actually I'm looking at pictures from a recent trip to Florida).


Morgan Big Spring abuts private property about half a mile upstream of where Atlanta Road crosses the Osage Fork and is easily reachable by watercraft. After loading our gear from the bridge, we launched our canoe, heavily laden with three sidemount divers and their equipment, and paddled up to the spring. At one point, we had to get out and belay the canoe through a section of rapids.
We used a sandbar near the spring as our staging area to suit up and prepare for the dive. After a final briefing, we swam across the river to start our dive. We did a quick photo shoot in the cavern before we began laying our survey line.


Micki Feakes enters Morgan Big Spring, followed by Ethan Brodsky.
Missouri spring water has a year-round temperature of 58 degrees, necessitating drysuits, thick gloves and hoods for the hour plus bottom times anticipated in our project. All divers used sidemount configuration, as it was most suited to the cave. Visibility in this particular cave ranged from 5 feet to 20 feet. We began with Tami installing the survey line. We quickly realized that we were in for more than we planned, as Tami counted more than 30 knots (spaced precisely at ten foot intervals) just in the main passage. Additionally, a side passage believed to be a short stub, turned out to run 280 feet from the T intersection. With nearly 600 feet of sidemount passage to document and penetration exceeding 500 feet, this was not as small a cave as we originally believed. Micki and Ethan followed Tami and set up survey stations along the line, immediately taking Depth/Azimuth/Distance readings at each station. Most of the cave consisted of passages 3-5 feet high and 3-20 feet wide. There was a major restriction about 240 feet in on the main tunnel, where the passage narrows to allow only one diver to work at a time. About 40 feet further on, the main passage ends at the "Cul du Sac." We pushed a very small slit in the corner and extended the line another forty feet, culminating in the "Leave It For Mike" Room, which has three small spring vents and one siphon, all of which are less than one foot high and may only be persued by no-mount exploration. The side tunnel, which Micki had not fully explored prior to our survey, rose over a breakdown plateau, roller-coastered and dropped through a major restriction into an area of fine sand we called "Micki's Endless Beach." Even a skilled diver cannot avoid completely wiping out the visibility in this room. Bubbles percolate into the ceiling, causing silt to rain down, and suprised fish spastically circle around, banging into diver, floor, and walls alike. Surveying in here was very challenging, requiring a great deal of patience and perserverence. After this section, the cave ends in a room which is a less bit less silty and more spacious and allows the diver to regroup. There are two smaller leads that we left for later no-mount exploration. Later dives retraced the line to take left/right/up/down data at each station and sketch selected cross-section and plan views. Extra care was taken detailing the cavern section, as it is one of the more picturesque sections of the cave. On a final dive, we removed our survey line from the cave, so there would not be multiple lines.


We crunched the data each night on Tami's laptop. This achieved several objectives: it guaranteed that the data would be archived in case a slate was lost on later dives (it could happen to anyone, and I found it anyway, it only took twenty minutes!); it gave us a reality check, making apparent any major errors; and it gave us a preliminary map so that divers had a better working understanding of the cave. We used data from multiple divers on the same section of cave to verify the accuracy of our survey.
Below is one of our preliminary maps, showing what we can produce shortly after getting out of the water. We are in the process of applying all of the cross sectional data and detailed drawings to generate a final map for publication and archival. While it is fairly easy to generate a quick line drawing from raw data, making an asthetically pleasing map that gives an accurate understanding of the cave is both an art and a science. It takes a great of skill and practice to create the maps you see published in cave diving journals.

Data and Basic Plan-View Stick Map