It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Rumor was that the flow was down at Madison and the viz was up, so we decided to head there for our last day of diving. We have only dived there once before, basically straight up the mainline just past the jump to Rocky Horror, so we didn't really know what to do. I assigned that task to Rob, since it was his turn to lead, so he did some web research and came up with a plan. The plan was to go to Rocky Horror and then on the way out, do the Godzilla circuit. He gave me a briefing on Rocky Horror. It went something like this. You come to this little "sign in" station which is basically a mutex so that only one team goes in at a time. Then you go through a clay passage (called Potter's Delight, I suppose) and then it narrows but becomes rock all around, and that goes on for some time. As far as the Godzilla circuit goes, well all I really knew about that was that I had seen a godzilla toy tied to the line at the jump for it the last time we were there.

On the way to Madison, a little over halfway there, we (well, Rob) stopped at McDonald's for some food and Rob realized he didn't have his wallet, which among other things meant that he had no cave card. Hmmm. After much hemming and hawing about it, we decided to go anyway and take our chances. Rob managed to sweet talk the ranger into allowing him to dive without a card, when he told her his sob story about leaving his card at the hotel, and showing her my card (I didn't actually get to see the sweet talking happen, since I was in the bathroom). Phew. It was surprisingly not too crowded when we got there, and we loaded bottles in with just a few groups of swimmers enjoying the water. Rob was bringing his camera on the dive, a first for Florida cave diving. We got into our gear, did all of our gear checks and stood up to head to the water. Rob picked up his camera and noticed that the battery was dead. I guess he left it on after he had set it up and test fired it the night before :( So, he stowed it in the car and we headed to the water, a bit disappointed. We ran a reel to the mainline, which was as silly as it was last time, but we kind of forgot about the mainline placement -- if we had remembered, we would have just run a tiny spool I think. Rob had actually suggested going through the rabbit hole and I poopoo'd that, I guess because I knew nothing about it. More on that later. We dropped our O2 bottles just at the turn at the end of the little corridor in the cavern zone. Everything was pretty much as I remembered it, including the two sensors at around 500' and 700' (though I think the placement of the 700' one may have changed a little). But I did notice on the way in that the godzilla toy was no longer on the line.

We dropped our stages just before the Half Hitch, which was not as tricky to negotiate as I remembered. I don't even think there was any banging associated with going through there. The flow was way down, which was nice, though it did pick up a bit in the same passage where I remembered it picking up before (though it was still relatively low). We took the jump to Rocky Horror and I was wondering when it was going to get small and clayful -- Rob's briefing didn't really make that clear so I had no idea. We finally got to the little sign-in board, and Rob moved the thingy to signify that a team was in there. I was a bit jealous that Rob got to do the fun part. Then we headed in. I thought the Potter's Delight section was totally awesome. I love clay. I don't know why. For some reason when I am swimming through a clay passage, I feel this strange compulsion to touch the clay, even though I know not to. It just looks so tempting to dunk my hand into the clay :) Perhaps I should take up pottery making. And the clay in Potter's Delight in particular is this lovely creamy color, even nicer looking than the clay passages in Devil's, and even more tempting to touch!

Eventually we came to a point where the tunnel appeared to end ahead, but really there was a 90 degree turn to the right. Rob stopped there and gave me an okay, so I assumed there was a restriction ahead, possibly the start of the rocky portion. I returned the okay, because, well, I was okay. Then he disappeared into the tunnel. I kicked up to the turn and looked down this tiny little coffin-sized passage (very small coffin, that is), and thought "no freakin' way am I going in there"... as Rob disappeared around another turn to the left, like 10 feet from the start of the rocky passage. I realized there was no way to signal him and tell him that I didn't want to go in there, because he couldn't turn around. So I figured the best course of action was to just wait there, covering my light, until he noticed the lack of buddy behind him, and found a good spot to turn around in. After a few moments of being sort of terrified at being by myself in the dark (covering your light tends to make it dark in a cave), I had the good sense to look at my gauge to see the time. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. With all sorts of crazy thoughts going through my head, like how long should I wait before I go in after him? What if he has a problem and I am not there? Should I ever go in after him? It's Rob, he can deal with any problems he runs into, and going into a place I am terrified of will probably be globally less optimal than just waiting it out. Maybe I should check how much gas I have to decide how long to wait. No, I just checked it two minutes ago, I'm just being neurotic, I know my gas situation. You get the idea.

And then finally after the longest one minute and forty seconds of my *entire life*, I saw an itty bitty beam of light coming from the other end of the coffin. And it got bigger and bigger and before you know it, there was Rob. He looked at me, and I gave him the "I'm a wimp" signal (that's the G-rated translation) and he pointed at me and gave it back to me, and we headed out. When we got back to the sign-in board, I totally wanted to flip the thing, but figured it was more proper to let the last man out do it. Bob gets to do all the fun stuff! Once we got back to the mainline, we agreed to recalculate and head further up the mainline. We made it to the Roto Rooter tunnel; it gets a bit deeper right at the start of that tunnel (and there is a jump to the right that goes practically straight down deeper). On the map, this section is quite aptly called "the dropoff". Those cave diver people are so good at naming stuff. We went just a bit into the Roto Rooter tunnel, maybe 100 ft in. This may sound odd, but that part of the tunnel reminds me of Mexico. It is sort of low and wide, with bits of cave jutting up and down from the bottom and top, like decorations in Mexico. So it isn't narrow at all, but you definitely feel like you have to stay on the path. Kind of like the Diaz line at Pet Cemetery. I eventually turned the dive not quite on gas, but because I wanted to save extra gas for our little foray up the Godzilla line on the way out.

We headed out to the Godzilla line, and I kept asking Rob each time we passed a jump, no matter how wrong it looked, if this was the one (I was leading now because it was the exit), because I was rather worried I would miss it, what with the lack of Godzilla doll (can you really call a Godzilla a "doll"? that doesn't really seem right). We finally got to the right one, which of course I recognized instantly once I was there. On the way in, we came to a jump which Rob thought was the jump we'd come back to to complete the circuit, so he installed a spool there. In hindsight that was folly. We eventually made it to the Godzilla room. I assumed this was it because it was such a distinctive room, but the presence of two Godzilla dolls on the line sealed the deal. We continued on until the line ended. We could see back to the line, which I was sure was the line we had come from, but which we could not technically be assured of (since we didn't mark anything -- that spool we put in was the wrong jump), so we turned around and went out the way we came. And just for my future reference, the jump that completes the circuit is right by the 600' arrow on the Godzilla line. On the way out from there, we took the Banana Room jump, which I knew nothing about, but eventually after going through some wide but not very tall room it ended right by the 500' on the main line. Once we hit that, we turned around and came back out the way we came, stopping to cleanup our wayward spool. We should have realized that was not the right jump, because that jump line was very silty looking like it wasn't frequently used. And I get the impression that the Godzilla circuit is a very common dive. Oh well, now we know.

On the way out, Rob pointed out the rabbit hole to me (though at the time I didn't realize this was the so-called rabbit hole), and then when we got back to open water, he showed me the other side. I poked my head in to look and saw that this was the other side of what he had pointed out. Ahh. For some reason I thought the rabbit hole entrance was tight, but it is not (though tighter, I suppose, than the main entrance). We used my new and improved deco heuristics and only were subject to 15 minutes or so on our oxygen bottles. I passed the time taking notes on the dive in my wetnotes (which I didn't actually use to write this post... that would be cheating), and Rob used the time running out lots of line from the reel in the basin. I wasn't sure if he was trying to get some boogers out of the line, or if he was just amusing himself. I'm still not sure. When we ascended, there were quite a few more families enjoying the water. The ranger told us that this was nothing compared to peak summer traffic.

After the dive, Rob reported that just past the coffin tunnel, where the tunnel turns back to the left, it opens up a bit. I have since seen a video of the exit from Rocky Horror, and I think I'm willing to try it again, with some conditions. I just want to say that despite the little bit of drama on this dive, I thought it was a totally awesome dive. I love this kind of dive where you recalculate to check out a little bit of lots of different passages in a cave. And I loved Potter's Delight! I want to take a bath in that mud. It probably would not have been quite as fun of a dive if there was photography involved (though it would be nice to have pictures).

Anyhoo, on the way back to High Springs, we ended up in some epic-bad traffic due to some fatal accident on the highway, but not before stopping in Lake City for lunch (or breakfast, depending on how you look at it -- I like biscuits any time of the day). When we finally made it back to High Springs, Leah and I went to Winn Dixie and got some snacks and beer (and some girly variant for the girls) and we stayed in for the evening.

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