It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Quick Cave Jaunt: Little River

Rob was on the east coast for work and decided to hop down to Florida on his way back, for a couple of days of diving. I was jealous, so I decided to meet him there, and we ended up doing 3 days of diving -- since it's really not worth flying to Florida for 2 days of diving. Antonio drove up to meet us for the first two days. We got in super late on Friday, so we met for breakfast at Alice's on Saturday and then headed to EE to get our gear together. After a bit of running around looking for our gear bin, we managed to find everything that we needed, and we headed to Little River. We got there around 11:30 and I was surprised there weren't more people there. It was hot -- forecast to get over 90 degrees, so I was expecting lots of families. There were a bunch of people swimming, but it wasn't too crazy. There were also a decent number of divers there, though most were getting out by the time we got in. They knew better :)

We put our stages and deco bottles in the water and walked our doubles down and sat them on the ledge. The water was totally crystal clear and blue, and the water level was a little higher than I remembered it. The stairs have been repaired significantly since we were last there, so only a couple have cracks now. That was nice. Then we went back to the car, got into our suits, and went back down for a swim. While we were getting our gear together at the car, there was a very pretty blue butterfly that was flying around. It wasn't very cooperative at sitting for a picture though :( After bobbing in the water in our drysuits for a while, we got out and geared up, and met back in the water for some final gear checks. The plan was to take the bypass of the mainline (before the giant arrow T), and then go right at the T, and straight down the mainline when the two lines joined (so I guess that's technically right at the second T). Then we would just follow the mainline. There are a couple of passages off to the right that are prominent on the map (one of the maps shows it as a three-way split). Antonio said he would point these out to us, since we'd probably want to dive them at some point in the future.

We headed in, with Antonio in the lead. The flow was way down, barely existent. And the viz was excellent. We took the first just to the left to do the bypass. There was no particular reason to do this, except that we'd never done it before. I think even Antonio said he'd never done it before! I believe the passage was a bit narrower than the alternative mainline tunnel, though it's been a little while since I've dived that, so I could be mis-remembering. It's not small or anything, but just a bit more of a defined tunnel. After a few minutes, we came to the end and jumped back into the mainline. Shortly after that, we dropped our stages, right after the mainline takes a sharp turn to the left. There is a nice rock bottom laying across the passage there. We went right at the T, though in hindsight with so little flow, and having already dropped our stages, we should have gone left -- I think that passage is fun! We passed some divers coming out in that tunnel. When we got to the next T, we followed the mainline into the "Florida room" which is a big wide open tunnel. Eventually that gives way to a much flatter tunnel, that is kind of wide, but not that wide. It also gets deeper. We were eventually at a solid 100' for a little while, and I was thinking 30/30 might be a better gas for this cave (at least when the flow is up). Around 8 minutes past the second T, Antonio pointed out those jumps to the right to us. By this point in the cave, I was thinking that the cave sort of reminded me of Peacock. And just after I thought that, I saw a cave crayfish, which we always see tons of at Peacock :)

A few more minutes down the line, we came to this small room where the line turns sharply up and you go from 90-ish feet to at most 70 feet. And then it immediately turns sharply down again, though I think the passage beyond that is not quite as deep as it was before the room. We went a few more minutes beyond that, before turning it, at 50 minutes. By the time we turned, we started to see some evidence of another opening, debris from the outside world, and I think we even saw a fish. I think this is from what is marked as "source of primary flow" on the map. After turning it, we found that while it seemed like there was barely any flow on the way in, there really was some flow. Enough to move us at a nice clip on the way out. When we got back to the first T, we recalculated gas and decided to go back around the left side of the T -- yay! When we came to the second T, instead of turning around, we just kept going back around through the other tunnel and back to the first T. Then we headed out. When I picked up my stage bottle and charged it, it started spewing bubbles. I unconsciously cranked down on the DIN fitting and charged it again, only to realize that now the SPG was turned sideways. So I took a moment to drain it, reseat it so I could actually see the SPG, and then go onto it. Rob was looking at me like "what the heck is taking you so long?" :) Then we continued out. When we got to our O2 bottles, we negotiated the deco, and then we each tried to find a comfortable spot to hang out in. I chose the little nook off to the right (facing out of the cave), where I have seen Kevin and Rob hang out before. It really isn't that great, so eventually I came out and just waited by the ledge in the center. I guess the nook would be more advantageous in higher flow. I eventually got bored and tried to shoot a little video of the cavern.

From there, we slowly worked our way out of the cave and up. Once in open water, I could see that there were A LOT more people out swimming. As I ascended from about 5 feet, I had to look up to dodge all of the swimmers. When we finally hit the surface, it was like there were 50 kids all screaming in my ear at once :) This was more like what I was expecting on a hot day! After resting on the surface for a little while and chatting with some of the kids who were curious about the cave and diving (and being told by one that a lot of people don't come out of the cave :P), we got out. I took a little break on the retaining wall before walking up the steps. We packed up pretty quickly and headed to Subway for lunch, then back to EE for fills for tomorrow.

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