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Saturday, June 08, 2013

HERAULTCAVE DIVING EXPEDITION

The 'Pizza Party' and heading home...
Nathan prepares the pizza ovens
Following a fun day at the Source du Sorgues, we headed back south again to follow Nathan’s directions to the ‘Pizza Partie’. The CLPA had organised a farewell party – which was really just an excuse to hang out and show off their pizza-making and wine-drinking skills!
We weaved along tracks up on the plateau getting further and further from civilization as it began to get dark. Oz and Joe followed in their van, wondering where this mad woman was leading them now.
I wasn’t in the least bit bothered as the pizza party was being held in the same vicinity as the Calaven de la Seoubio.

Some CDG friends and I pushed this cave in 2007 and passed 7 sumps (the 8th had disappeared!!) and several kilometres of muddy caving with diving kit, to drop a climb at the limit of exploration and find tens of meters of new dry cave until a final, impassable (at the time) lake was found.
It was my first taste of virgin cave and it took four days of work and an 11 hour trip plus a set-up day, to get there.



Seoubio Team at dive base, Easter 2007

On that trip, we radio-located a chamber in the area of sump 7, as we thought it was quite close to the surface. According to the radio-location, the cave was only 30m below the plateau.

Radiolocating the Seoubio sump 7 in 2007









The CLPA that evening began digging with their bare hands, looking down every crack in the limestone pavement to find a draught. They have subsequently embarked on several digging missions, including the ‘Aven de VerriĆ©re’ and the current project, the ‘Aven du Team’. Each surface dig has reached a depth of around 20m but has yet to yield anything promising. Jean Tarrit pointed out that the Seoubio may well be destined to belong to divers only.
The CLPA get digging
The French pull tens of 'jerrycans' of spoil
out of the dig every weekend.











The Hortus Plateau is a barren limestone landscape, which must
hold the key to some serious cave somewhere...









We finally wiggled our way across the plateau and met another CLPA member, having trouble finding the correct electric fence. We found it and negotiated it and drove down some pretty Berlingo-hostile track until we found the group by lots of voices in the scrub!
Oz and Joe by this point must have really thought I was totally nuts – Oz had already declared he was never going to another pizza party again! Ahhhh, but they hadn’t been to one like this before….
The CLPA had been struggling to find a productive use for the digging spoil they had been producing from the Aven du Team. Some genius thought it would be a good idea to use the limestone pieces from the dig to build pizza ovens!

We stumbled in the near darkness through the scrubby bushes and over the cracked limestone pavement which clinked as you stepped on loose slabs and walked into a clearing where the pizza ovens were roaring with flames.
The wine was flowing, the pizza dough was being rolled, cans of allsorts of toppings were appearing and Jean was in full flow about caves which could connect with the Perdreau, other projects he had in mind for us and the other club members seemed to be queuing up to question us about the project.
It was a simply fantastic evening. The laptops came out and we showed the club the footage Joe had shot in the Gourney-Rou and the Gourney-Ras. They were suitably wowed and then the pizza started circulating – delivered by the same guy who had run down the hill with my cylinders!! I’m seriously considering joining this club!! They even made Oz his very own vegetarian pizza – but not without a certain amount of p!ss taking!!
It was a real shame to have to leave this great area and such great people. Next time I think we may need to take hammocks and stay the night on the moonlit plateau.

We packed up the tents with some sweaty effort the next day and had a dip in the pool before heading steadily back up the road to the UK. One final treat was in store – a restaurant which we came across purely by chance! It is called L'AteliĆ©re du Gout and we had some of the best French food ever encountered!
The same sadly couldn’t be said of Seafrance…….but we did get a great sunset in Calais and a long, tiring drive home.
 
16th September - Source du Sorgues

Sorgues resurgence
Mehdi Dighouth

The Sorgues is in Aveyron and is a great little cave to finish the trip with.
We invited Mehdi Dighouth to come over for the day and Rich and I set off to the cave to have a picnic before diving.

Oz and Joe set off to the Durzon - because their instructions had the GPS co-ordinates mixed up!!!!!

The Sorgues is a beautiful river emerging from the cirque rockface and feeds the fish-farm just downstream. It used to be the case that divers were asked to hose off their drysuits before entering the water but now the fish-farm seem not to care and divers are welcome here.
We settled down to lunch by the weir and Mehdi produced some home-made Fois Gras and some fruit jelly thing which was amazing.

We were still waiting for the others to show up and without a mobile signal here, wondered just how long we should wait. Rich still needed fills from the compressor so couldn't dive with me until Oz and the compressor arrived. It was decided that I should go for a dive with Mehdi and Rich could dive with the others when (if) they showed up.

Chris faffing in the resurgence pool before her dive
Mehdi and I set off through the maze of boulders and concrete tunnels which fill the entrance. I first dived here in 2007 but didn't remember much about the cave as I was pre-occupied with a top-heavy independent twinset, having moved from sidemount to backmount gear myself, without any advice or training. I was uncomfortable throughout and didn't enjoy the dive.
It was great this time to know that I could just get on with it and relax.
We dived to what I consider the end of the cave. The main, spacious passage just ends and the way on is a small, narrow rift which goes up to about 3m depth from 31m and nobody has been any further. It is reported to be tight, nasty and a dead-end boulder choke - so we stay in the big stuff!
With loads of gas to spare, we turn round and I get the opportunity to waft my HID around and have a real good look at this cave. The geology is beautiful and there are ribbons of calcite protruding like a dragons back all along the edges and the floor. The water is typically clear, with a blue tinge and no decompression is required for such a short dive.

Mehdi and Christine return from their dive
We surface to see that the others have arrived and Rich is getting his cylinders filled. Elaine and Duncan set off for a short dive and Elaine returns with plenty of gas, so I offer to take her in again behind the filming crew. Rich, Oz and Joe have a lengthy dive briefing for the camera work and Mehdi sneaks in for another dive behind them. Elaine and I stealthily follow them all and we are treated to a fantastic view of four divers, all with bright filming lights and HIDs, spread out down the passage. Elaine is thrilled with her dive and we call it a day.
Chris, Elaine, Osama, Mehdi, Joe, Duncan and Rich.
Mehdi returns and gives me an impromptu lesson on his Megdalon rebreather. I always said I would never go over to RB because there is so much I can do on open circuit to last me a lifetime - and I haven't got anywhere near my limit of open circuit yet. But maybe in ten years time I may think differently.

We end the day with much giggling and silliness as Joe asks Mehdi for an interview about the Esperelle. Both Joe and Mehdi are extremely professional - you get the feeling they have both done this sort of thing before....I am in the background asking Mehdi questions in French and the video looks amazing.
Then it's Rich's turn to be in front of the camera and Joe's techniques for shedding a little golden light on the subject has us in stitches.
All too soon it is time to go. Mehdi has to go and give a talk at the speleo congress and we have to shoot off as we've been invited onto the Hortus Plateau - aka middle of absolutely nowhere - by the CLPA for a pizza party!
Divers explore the cave system at White Sulphur Springs
White Springs dive will provide benefits for SRWMD’s MFLs program


LIVE OAK, FL, September 21, 2012 – It’s not often cave divers are presented the opportunity to explore the cave system at White Sulphur Springs, but two divers were able to enter the system recently to help collect scientific data that will support the Suwannee River Water Management District’s (District) minimum flows and levels (MFLs) program.
 
Historically a second magnitude spring, White Springs has not flowed consistently for more than 20 years. When groundwater levels are low and the river rises, tannic river water flows into the spring and aquifer. The lack of visibility and direction of water flow produces unsafe conditions for cave diving.
 
More than 25 inches of rain from Tropical Storm Debby in late June caused groundwater levels to replenish the spring’s flow. On July 22, after several weeks of the river flowing back into the spring, the flow reversed and a mixture of groundwater and river water began to flow out of the spring. The temperature dropped 10 degrees, and the spring flowed out for nearly three weeks.
 
“The spring has not flowed reliably for some time and the only time we see it flow is after a big flood,” said Megan Wetherington, District senior professional engineer. “It has been several years since conditions were safe enough to send divers into the springs for an exploratory dive.”
 
On August 7, two divers from Karst Environmental Services (KES) descended about 140 feet deep and 400 feet back into the cave system. Their mission was to assess the condition of the cave as a first step toward understanding the source aquifer(s) of the spring.
 
For Pete Butt, owner of KES, the dive was an exciting opportunity.
 
“We waited so long for conditions to be just right to do this dive,” Butt said, explaining this was his first time entering the cave system at White Springs.
 
Though visibility was limited to about 6-10 feet, there were no obstructions in the cave and the divers were able to travel side by side.
 
Butt said that though the crew could not find groundwater sources tributary to the main tunnel, they did discover that the cave runs in a southern direction that could take it under the Suwannee River, which concurs with a 1989 survey of the cave system.
 
John Good, District chief professional engineer, said the exploratory dive will help the District better understand how the system works.
 
“Knowing which aquifer the water is coming from will help the District understand why the spring isn’t flowing consistently,” Good said. “We’re also looking at how much the spring could have contributed to the river when it did flow regularly.”
 
The District has contracted with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct water quality analysis to study the spring. KES is assisting the USGS with collecting water samples. This information will help the District in its establishment of MFLs for the Upper Suwannee River, White Sulphur Springs, and Suwannee Springs.
 
“The establishment of MFLs is an important step to ensure our water supplies are sustained and our natural systems are protected,” said Jon Dinges, District director of Water Supply and Resource Management. “The District will continue to make MFLs a priority.”
 
Rick Owen, environmental specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said the dive will also provide helpful information to DEP.
 
The DEP developed the concept for the project a few years ago, but after safe diving conditions never materialized the District took over the project.
 
“We enjoyed working with DEP and Stephen Foster park staff who helped us coordinate the dive,” said Wetherington.
 
The District is in the process of setting MFLs for rivers, lakes, springs, and streams within its region. An MFLs completion schedule is available at http://www.srwmd.state.fl.us/DocumentCenter/Home/View/87.