In cave diving there are two different styles; technical divers who dive in flooded caves but rarely leave the water and cavers who dive but treat the flooded section as a barrier to finding further dry cave. Rick Stanton is a rarity in that he is at the top of both disciplines. Time and again he has exhibited a knack for pushing beyond the limits at which others believed the cave to have ended.
Stanton, a fireman from Coventry learned to dive in 1979 whilst at university with the primary intention of exploring caves and sumps throughout the British Isles. This has been an ongoing process right up to the present day.
In the last 8 years, Rick has been involved in more technical cave diving using rebreathers, (often two at a time) for long penetration and depth. He has concentrated on the long deep siphons of N Europe, mainly in the Lot region of SW France, but also in the other French, Spanish and Italian caves where he specialises in combining caving techniques with long and often deep multiple sump systems, transporting large amounts of diving equipment through the dry sections of the cave in the pursuit of exploration.
Typical have been his dives at the popular site of Emergence de Ressel in southern France. This river bed cave was thoroughly explored in 1990 by the extraordinary Swiss solo cave diver Olivier Isler, who reached a dry cave section. Unable to remove his triple-circuit rebreather system unaided, Olivier swam back, declaring that he thought it unlikely the 2km long, 80m deep sump would ever be passed. using open-circuit equipment. Nine years later, Stanton and diving partner Jason Mallinson made an epic five-hour inward dive followed by a six-hour outward dive, all using open-circuit equipment. In the process, he explored hundreds of metres of dry cave passages to a further sump. This led to a three year project involving dives totalling over 4000m in five sumps & spending two days in the system.
In 2004 when six British soldiers were trapped in a Mexican cave by flood water, Rick Stanton was one of two divers flown out by the British Government to accomplish the rescue. His quiet and confident nature made him the ideal diver for such a task; persuading one of the cavers who was scared of water to make a 180m dive out of the cave!
Constantly making and adapting equipment specially for the cave environment, Rick believed that small, lightweight rebreathers offered a way of furthering exploration at many sites. He has developed and manufactured two CCR units, most recently a unique side mount, fully closed circuit rebreather which has been instrumental in his achieving the British cave diving depth record of 90m in challenging circumstances at Wookey Hole, Somerset, the birth place of UK cave diving. Here he pushed on through gravel squeezes previously considered to be impassable at depths in excess of 70m. When Rick says something is impassable you can bet it probably is!
A short resume of Rick’s diving highlights:
1979: Started dive training at Aston Uni BSAC age 18, also joined the caving club
1982 First true original exploration dive in PolnaGun, S Ireland
1985 First major UK cave find by diving a sump in a Yorkshire pothole called Notts Pot – this was significant enough to get reported in the Guardian newspaper.
1988 Exploration dive at the bottom of a 900m deep cave called Cabexa Muxa in N Spain & major exploration project at Darren Cilau, S Wales involving camping underground for 6 days.
Early 1990’s Big discoveries by diving in the caves Gingling Hole in the Yorkshire Dales & Daren Cilau in South Wales; leading to further explorations during lengthy projects lasting three years.
1996 Joined a German expedition to survey the Ressel cave system in France. Learnt about & then further developed deep diving logistics.
First major exploration of a French cave Gouffre de l’Oule with Jason Mallinson
1998 Passing of the 1800m long 80m deep Ressel sump on open circuit. A landmark dive that paved the way for further dives here over the next three years, end is now 4050m of diving in five sumps .
1998/9 Lead divers on Bill Stone’s Wakula II project using Cis Lunar rebreathers & an electronic mapping device – lengthy bottom times beween 70-90m then 16 hours of decompression.
2003 Exploration of sumps at bottom of one of worlds deepest caves in Mexico. A Bill Stone led expedition which then made the Cheve system the 9th deepest in world at 1484m .
2003 Made connection of St George resurgence cave to the Padirac show cave many kilometres distant.
2004 helped led 6 military cavers to safety through 200m long sump in Cuatzalen Mexico after they had been flooded in for 10 days.
2005 UK cave diving depth record of 90m attained in Wookey Hole, Somerset under arduous conditions as part of a two year project. Passed the 1100m long S2 in the Cogol de Veci, N Italy a sump discovered on an expedition the previous year. Involved camping in the cave for two nights between sumps.
2006 Significant extensions to Black Keld in Yorkshire, passing 4 new sumps. Extension to Oiel de la Doue.
2007 Exploration of the Pearse resurgence in New Zealand taken from 120m to 177m on a home made rebreather, the deepest cave dive in Australasia.
Passed S12 then the newly found S13 in Fontaine del Truffe, pushed the St Sauveur cave to 186m depth. Passed the 2nd terminal restriction at the Landenouse, all in the Lot region of France.
2008 Pushed the Tannerie resurgence in the Ardeche to 222m deep.
2009 visited the terminal Hasemayer of the Rinquelle resurgence in Switzerland & visited the end of Cocklebiddy Cave in the Nullabour desert Western Australia