It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Solstice Night Dive

After our dud of a dive on Sunday, I thought it would be good to schedule some sort of dive during the week -- Rob would be teaching the next weekend and then we were dry for the next week or two due to travel and a family visit. So it was either a weekday dive or 3 weeks of grumpiness from Rob. When Clinton asked if we wanted to do a night dive on Tuesday, I thought this sounded like a good option. I guess Vanessa wanted to do a night dive, so Clinton rounded up the usual suspects, including Mike and Sami. We decided to meet a bit later than usual, since sunset was not until 8:30. Whose idea was it to do a night dive on the longest day of the year anyway!?! We got into the water around 9. The water was super flat, and the viz looked great on the swim out. The squid boats were out in full force in the distance (toward the mouth of the bay).

Rob and I were diving as a team, but we swam out with Mike and Sami on the surface. We dropped maybe 30 feet from each other, but that was the last we saw of them. The viz on the bottom was not as good as expected based on the swim out -- it was kind of milky. But I wouldn't describe it as bad viz. We dropped in about 30 feet, right near the area where it pretty abruptly slopes down from 20 to 30 feet. There was a field of kelp salad where we were, and we meandered about looking for critters. Almost immediately we saw a photogenic turbot, and Rob started to get his camera out, which of course led the fish to swim away. Clinton saw some nice slugs at Breakwater on Sunday, so I was in a sluggy mood. I was looking and not finding much but Hermissendas. I happened upon a Dendronotus iris as I was checking out some crabs in a neat position on a tube worm. I was waiting for Rob to finish shooting whatever he was shooting to show the crabs to him, when he signaled me and seemed like he must have something interesting. I swam over and saw him pointing to an Acanthodoris rhodoceras! I've only seen this slug twice, both times on dives without Rob, so I wasn't sure if he had ever seen it. I was very excited by this found (and felt even lamer that all I had found so far was a few Hermissendas and a rainbow nudibranch!).

We just worked our way around this area for the whole dive, and we ended up seeing quite a few more of the A. rhodoceras -- I counted 5 total, yay! We also saw the usual array of octopus, though an unusually high portion of them were "big". I think I only saw 3 of the TPOs but at least half a dozen of the medium to big sized ones. Eventually it got to the point where I would point out an octo to Rob and he wouldn't bother taking pics :) My one other good slug find of the night was a little orange Triopha maculata. I haven't seen one of those in a while. I just now noticed that Rob must not have gotten a good-enough-to-post picture of that, hmph. Aside from those, I think the coolest thing of the night was that we saw lots of little fish in general, and lots of fish feeding. I saw three different small fish with another small fish in each of their mouths. And let me say, those other fish weren't necessarily going to go quietly. One of the fish had a sand-dab in its mouth, which was flapping its tail around. Another one had something small and goby-shaped (though I don't know what it was) that was having a hissy fit trying to get out of the fishes mouth -- can you blame him? Both of the fish were really flailing all around, the one trying to keep his catch and the other trying to get away. In the end, dinner managed to get away, phew. There were also just a lot of cute fish including like the smallest kelpfish ever, which Rob found kind of curled up in a little ball of eelgrass weeds. And there were a few cute little fishies which I thought were juvenile cabezons, plus the usual array of cute little sculpins.

I suggested we head in with about 1200 psi left, since you never know what you are going to find on the way in, and don't want to miss an epic photo opp because you are low on gas. We made it to 15 feet and I was starting to think that was folly, because we were in the bland boring part of the sand and hadn't found anything on the way in. Then Rob found the third fish-eating-fish of the night; a juvenile lingcod had a tiny fish-tail hanging out of its mouth. Rob went right to work taking pics of it, and was engaged in a photo shoot for maybe 10 minutes. The fish wasn't scared off by our lights or Rob's strobes, though he was moving around in the water column, which led to an amusing amount of flailing, breaking trim, etc. on Rob's part in order to keep with the fish. I was actually getting pretty bored by the time he finished with the fish, but based on the pics, I think it was worth the wait! We surfaced from there and were maybe 50 feet from Clinton and Vanessa, who were swimming in. So we caught up with them and swam in together. They saw a squid on their dive (eating a shrimp!) plus an octopus eating a crab. Lucky them. But no Acanthadoris's for them. As we swam in, there was a squid boat that had moved into the bay and was not too far from the breakwater (well not too close either, but it was probably due north of the breakwater as opposed to further out where they had been). The bright lights and the fog were kind of eery.

Considering the late start, we decided to pack up gear and hit the road. On the way home, we stopped for a McFlurry. I'm a fan of the new Rolo McFlurry. Mmm, chocolate and caramel are the best. We managed to get home at a not-horrendously-late 1 AM.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Not Diving Twin Peaks

On Sunday we were planning a nice long dive to Twin Peaks. We schlepped a ton of gear (6 bottles and 2 scooters) to the float, then we schlepped ourselves and Rob's camera into the water. We got all of the bottles on and headed out on the surface. About a minute into the surface scoot, my scooter started making a terribly noise. It was grumbling sort of like when the battery is about to cutoff but not quite the same. Plus the noise was continuous. At first I was wondering if my prop was scraping against the shroud. I took a look and that didn't not seem to be the case. I handed the scooter to Rob, and he took a look. At first he couldn't reproduce the sound, and then I don't know if he finally did, but then the scooter just crapped out entirely. Hmph! So we headed back to the float. Rob didn't even offer me a tow, so I had to swim back with 3 bottles and a bum scooter, hmph. When we got back to the float, Rob got out with my scooter and opened it up and doinked around with it for a few minutes, and determined that it was just dead, and the fuse on the battery was blown. Not a good sign.

We debated for a few minutes whether to do a kick dive to middle reef or what. Eventually we decided to do that, though Rob scootered out and towed me, until we got to about 30' at middle reef. Then we just kicked out along the west side. We stopped to look for the wolf eels and they were not in. Then we stopped to look for the transect 4 warbonnet, and couldn't find it. The piece of palm kelp that was long the landmark that we used to find him was gone. Rob searched around a bit without any success. So we eventually moved along. The wall north of there has a lot of ugly barnacles all over everything. It makes the wall much less attractive than I remembered it, so hopefully they will go away soon! And I wouldn't mind if some Onchidoris bilamellata came along to help with that. We eventually made our way to the end, to transect 2 as we call it. I poked around under the overhang there, looking for anything of interest. After I got past the transect (to the east of it, just past the little vertical crack), I found an insanely cute little fish, which was probably the highlight of my dive. I'm not sure what he was, but as I told Rob after the dive, he was definitely of the genus Muppet. You know what I mean when I say a fish looks muppety -- he might have been an Irish Lord, or something like that. I also found a giant vermilion rockfish lurking near that crack.

From there, we came over the top of the wall, and swam in on top of middle reef. There were some big lingcods up there, as there tend to be. After swimming in on top for a bit, we came back down the wall on the east side, and swam in that little sand channel on the east side. Eventually we popped back over to the west side, and when we got back to like 30 feet, I headed to the sand channel and we scooted in. At about 15 feet, the viz was getting pretty bad, so I suggested we ascend, and we surface scooted in from there.

Not exactly the dive we planned, but I liked the muppet fish.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Actually Rec 3 Diving

Since BAUE now officially has a GUE Rec3 diver to call our own, after looking at the schedule for tech boats this summer, I decided to add an R3/shallow T1 trip. This was basically a do-over of the trip we tried to do in March (which ended up really just being a standard tech boat, due to weather issues) -- we would shoot to do two dives in the 100' to 130' range, or if weather did not allow that, we would do one dive in that range and a second more recreational dive. This time it was R3 or bust since we had a real live R3 diver (and his team, who was also provisioned for two R3 dives). The trip was originally planned for Sunday afternoon, but then it turned out the Saturday morning slot was available, so the week before, we all agreed to move to Saturday morning. The idea was that the weather would hopefully be better. Of course the night before the forecast was not looking too good. I was diving with Clinton and he decided to bring macro, thinking we were unlikely to make it out of the bay. I told Clinton that I was diving no matter what, even if it was under the Escapade in its slip :) I guess I was feeling a bit eager to get back into our local waters!

Ted, who I was carpooling with, actually showed up at my house at about the appointed time, and we got going on time. Despite my grandmothery driving (which was frequently heckled by Ted), we somehow made really good time to K-dock, and when we got there, only Ben was there. Eventually the others arrived, including the boat, and we tried something novel... instead of standing around in the parking lot making excuses for why the weather might be too bad to go out, we just walked our gear down to the boat without comment. Plan A, Carmel; Plan B, The Bay; Plan C, Escapade slip. We ended up making it to Plan B without any problems -- Kawika's Garden it was. I was perfectly happy to dive there, as it had been a while (if my blog search is to be believed, it's been over a year!). Plus it's always fun to do macro dives with Clinton. He and I were the first into the water, with a slightly longer bottom time planned than the R3 team (we weren't actually doing an R3 dive, we were using the usual T1 gases). We decided to leave the scooters on the boat, which was a good call. The water was rather green and murky. The viz was definitely in the "not so good" category, but not in the Braille category. We pretty much plopped down near the anchor and just meandered very slowly looking for critters. I don't think we ever got more than 20 feet from the anchor line, but in that viz, who really knows? :)

We didn't make any super awesome finds (no Tochuinas like Beto and Dionna found :( ), but we had fun looking for little guys. There were the usual, mysterious array of juvenile rockfish, and other little fish. There were also a surprising number of those ugly barnacles in strange places -- on the reef, I'm used to, but they were even on the kelp salad and some of the sponges -- what the heck!?! I also found several rather large Aegires albopunctatus, and several of them were very speckled, a lot more so than usual. I saw Clinton leafing through some hydroids that had some slug eggs on them, and thought it was a good thing one of us was feeling patient enough to do it. Eventually, he found some tiny little orange-ish nudi in the hydroids, which I could only identify as "some kind of Dendronotus?" (that question mark is part of the ID). When he posted his pics and I saw that it was a Dendronotus venustus, I was momentarily excited as I thought it was a new-to-me slug, until Clinton told me this was the new name for D. frondosus... I knew the name sounded familiar! (I know, I'm a very bad slug nerd.) I also found the world's tiniest Hermissenda on a yellow sponge, which struck me as a rather odd place to find one, so naturally I made Clinton take a picture. I also goaded Clinton into taking a picture of the worst macro subject ever -- a gigantor Dialula lentiginosa. As I swam toward it, I initially thought it was a Doris odhneri, but then I noticed that distinctive sandy back on it. I signaled Clinton and pointed it out to me, and he gave me this look like "you've got to be kidding". I knew it was not exactly a macro subject, but I still thought he'd want to see it! Apparently he had swam right by it thinking it was a Doris odhneri. Once he took a second look, he realized it was worth a photo and then I got to watch his rather comical attempts to take a picture of a, I don't know, 10 inch long slug with a 105. He got a bunch of detail pics of it, but he was also trying to take a picture of the whole slug. It was highly amusing -- he was like 10 feet off of the reef trying to shoot that bad boy. I felt like this slug was a kind of interesting find, since it is the shallowest I've seen this slug (probably the next shallowest one was like 160') and I've never seen it north of Lobos before.

After not too much longer it was, sadly, time to start the ascent. I shot the bag, as is customary when diving with Clinton. I felt like it was a bit of a cluster, as it took me two tries to get enough gas into it. I shot it from like 80 feet, so that's pretty lame! The deco was relatively uneventful, except for two things. First, around 50 feet or so, a double ender suddenly jettisoned itself from Clinton's gear. I don't even know what Clinton was doing, but all of a sudden I saw the slow, yet not slow enough to stop, descent of a double ended. There's always that moment where you think maybe you can get it and then you realize you can't and just wave "bye bye" (that's literally what I do when someone drops gear like this -- give it a sad little wave :P). So if anyone finds a double ender at Kawika's, you know who to call ;) The other more exciting aspect of deco was that it was 57 degreees from like 30 feet up! That was awesome. I felt like it was a nice gentle re-introduction to cold water. Aside from that, there was the occasional dive bomber sea nettle, which for some reason always picked me to dive bomb, but not too much else to see on deco. On the surface interval, we headed back to K-dock, since we were so close, and Brian was apparently quite seasick (which I didn't notice because I have poor awareness). We hung out at K-dock for a while and decided to go to the "Drop Zone" for the second dive. This is the name for the site where Beto likes to take his T1 classes on the third or fourth day of class. It's just a decent-sized shale ledge at 100'. I haven't been there since T1, when we had very little time to appreciate the fauna before regulators went bubbly and the like, so I thought it would be cool to go there. It was, after all, the first place I ever saw a Tochuina!

It turns out that Clinton and I, despite having quite a bit of tech training and quite a bit of tech diving between us, don't actually know how to plan a 100' dive :) Or at least not a 100' dive on 18/45 as a second dive of the day. So we decided to just do an insane amount of deco -- in the end we basically did 1:1, which turns out to only be like 50% too much time according to DecoPlanner. Anyhoo, after coming to an agreement on that, we agreed to just swim along the ledge until we either hit gas or 30 minutes. On the way down the line, the viz was quite bad on the way down, but it opened up to at least 30' on the bottom. That was a pleasant surprise compared to the previous dive. As planned, we just meandered along the ledge looking under and over the ledge for whatever we could find. I found a strange little bright blue thing on some sort of hydroid (or something) thingy. I had no clue what it was, but I was pretty sure it was an animal of some sort, and it was bright blue, so I showed it to Clinton. I thought it might be a tiny snail or something since it looked like it had two little horns. Turns out it was a little amphipod... this is why I recommend always bringing a macro photographer with you. Clinton found a few Onchidoris bilamellata on top of the ledge, which I was excited by. Eventually I found an octopus (a TPO) and called Clinton over to take a pic. When I was trying to point it out to Clinton, it put on quite a show changing its color. While Clinton was taking pics of it, I continued along the ledge and found a bigger octopus just hanging out, spread out on the bottom. I stayed with him, trying not to be spazzy so he wouldn't be scared away. I waited and waited for Clinton to finish and he finally did and I signaled to him to come over, and immediately the octopus retreated to under a ledge. I showed it to Clinton but at that point there was no point in trying ot get its pictures. After not too much longer, Clinton thumbed the dive on gas, and we started the ascent. At 70', I could see the reef below quite clearly in all directions -- way better viz than the last dive.

I felt like the bag shoot on this dive had to make up for my previous performance, but I did not really manage to do that. In fact, it was quite a bit worse as I descended unintentionally quite a few feet as a shot it :( But one of the good things about diving with Clinton is that he does not get moody about poorly performing buddies :) Once again on the ascent, it was very warm. The viz was really bad as we got shallower though. It was strange since the bottom viz was so much better here than at Kawika's, but the shallow viz was way worse. There were also still some nettles on the ascent, and they were as voracious as ever, at least as it pertained to my head. Once we hit the surface, it was a very short ride back to the dock, followed by lunch at 17th Street Grille. I'm really not the biggest fan of that place, but I've decided that next I go there, I'm getting onion rings and a salad. Their burgers are scary.

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.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Peacock to Cisteen

On Saturday, we all headed to Peacock. Rob and I did a dive at Peacock 1 to Cisteen, mostly because I looked at the map and mused about how I wondered what that dive was like. When we got to Peacock, it was pretty empty at both Orange Grove (which we stopped at to give Matt and Leah a little briefing about) and Peacock 1. There was one team coming out as we walked down to the water to get in. We didn't know exactly how the lines ran to get to Cisteen, but I remembered seeing the jump off of the mainline toward Cisteen. There are two different jumps that aren't that far apart that both eventually go there, and I didn't know which one actually went the whole way to Cisteen (presumably the other one ended and then we would have to jump back into the other to head up to Cisteen). In any case, the plan was to take the first jump (the Nicholson tunnel, according to the map), and then jump back onto the other line if necessary.

I was leading the dive, and the mainline started even closer to open water than I remembered (though, in hindsight, exactly where it started before). The chute going down from the cavern to the sign was a lot bigger than I remembered too :) Rob always likes to shoot down it head down, and I usually do the same thing, but today I realized that it is much more civilized to go down sideways (which is how I usually come up the chute). That worked nicely. The viz was really good once we got into the cave. It was like a whole different cave compared to the first time we dived it, when the viz was just marginally within standards to dive it in C1. I was thinking that as we swam along in there. When we got near Pothole, we found a pair of shoes, one near the line and one off to the side, which I don't remember seeing before, but they looked like they had been there a while. Who knows. We got to the jump, and I put the jump in and we were off. After about 9 minutes, the line ended and the tunnel we were in was perpendicular to a fairly big tunnel, by Peacock standards, where that other line ran. Shortly before we got to the end of the line, the tunnel ran a bit deeper and it got much colder, and slightly murky -- the water was quite green. It probably wasn't really "much colder" in terms of degrees Fahrenheit, but it felt like quite a shock as we swam into it. But it was actually pretty refreshing.

Anyhoo, it took me a moment to locate the other line when we got to the end of this line, even though it was in a pretty obvious location, but a bit above us where we came out of our tunnel. We jumped over to the other line and headed right. We passed the two jumps to our left which show on the map as "the wishbone" and then the line got quite busy with cookies, arrows, and little tags that were related to some sort of survey project. Just after that, there is a T and the right goes up abruptly, I assumed to Cisteen. So we went right and what do you know, it quickly ascended into a cavern zone. We popped up at a sort of icky little body of water -- it was pretty green. We chatted briefly, and since we were not too far from thirds, we decided to just head back (though in hindsight, we really should have headed just a bit further up the line... why not?).

On the way out, I thought of doing the wishbone loop a bit too late, and since Rob was leading, I thought it would be a bit annoying to stop him and turn him around. So we just headed straight back to the mainline. When we got back there, I was cleaning up the jump spool and put a finger down on the cinder block thingy (not really a cinder block at all... but a concrete cylinder thingy with an eye bolt or something coming out the top) and it moved. Rob was super annoyed by this. After a bit of discussion about heading further up the mainline, I thumbed it, in part because Rob was annoying me and in part because my knee was bothering me (which may have had a small part in Rob seeming more annoying than usual). This swimming thing is a real bummer; I prefer pulling myself into the cave and then being spit back out. The swim out was uneventful. It turned out to be a pretty short dive.

When we got out, we packed up the car and headed over to Orange Grove to look for Matt and Leah. They were rinsing the duckweed off of their drysuits when we showed up, so it was perfect timing. We stopped at the Luraville country store for lunch and then headed back to High Springs.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ginnie Springs: The Ice Room

Matt and Leah were arriving in Florida on Friday to do a little cavern diving. Since they were arriving around noon, we worked in the morning and once they got in, we headed over to EE so they could pick up gear, and then to Ginnie for an afternoon dive. They were going to dive the cavern while we went for a dive, and then once we came up, they were going to take a peek at the ear and the eye, and then we were all going to check out the river... the river was unusually clear, so we figured it would be fun to drift down to the cavern entrance. For our dive, Rob wanted to go to the Ice Room. I wanted to approach the double lines from the opposite side, to see the whole path back to the Hill 400 line, so that sounded like a good plan to me. We asked Doug for directions, and he had some explanation of how to know when to jump off of the double lines line based on the shape of some rock on the bottom, which I was not very confident would lead to success. But I figured we would go up there and see what we could find. We at least recognized the description of where to jump off of Hill 400.

For some reason, Rob led this dive again, maybe because he was the mastermind of this dive? David definitely would not approve. The first 30 minutes of the dive seemed very familiar. Oh right, we dove here yesterday :) We continued up the Hill 400 line to the jump around 1200' and headed in there. It sort of goes up and then comes back down. The line on that end is pretty similar to the section that we just made it to yesterday, before turning. Every time I saw a passage off to the right that could have possibly gone somewhere, I was wondering if that was it. Eventually, somewhere between 1400 and 1500' I think (a bit further than where we made it the day before), we eventually found the jump, and it turned out to be marked, though we were told it wasn't marked. Rob installed the jump spool and went to check it out and then signaled me to follow a moment later. I followed his line and was a bit confused when I got to the end of the spool, because he had hit the line just before the first T (we were told there would be two Ts after we made the jump), like just inches before the T. It took a minute for me to realize which way we were to go, just because it didn't look quite as expected. But then I figured that the line we were supposed to jump to must have started over there (behind us and to the right), so the way we wanted to go was over there (ahead of us and slightly to the right). We got going and it was pretty silty and brown and got twisty and a bit low in some areas. It also got shallower. The depth difference from the double lines line to the Ice Room is maybe 25 feet. Finally we came to the room and it opened up and was quite tall. It was pretty obvious that this was our destination. It was a neat little room, not too huge around but tall and very dark. And the entry into it was fun, it reminded me of a spiral staircase :)

We were only there for maybe a minute and then Rob turned the dive, on gas I guess (shocking, since Rob doesn't usually breathe). And so we headed back out. When we got back to the spool, I told Rob to hold for a sec, because I wanted to look at where the line we jumped to started. It ended maybe 15 feet from where we jumped to it, but if we had jumped just a bit earlier and up and to the right instead of down and to the left, we would have intercepted the line at its start. Rob cleaned up the spool and we headed out. When we got back to our stage bottles (at the start of the Hill 400 line), we once again agreed to pick them up, carry them to the park bench, and then head off there. When we got there, he signaled for me to go ahead and keep leading. Hmph. Since we took the first jump to the left yesterday, I took the second. I'd never gone there, so had no clue how that would go. Like 30 seconds later (okay, that may be a slight exaggeration), the line ended. It was evidently just a short connector between two lines. So I jumped to the other line and arbitrarily headed right. And like 30 seconds later, that line ended. Double hmph. That line ended at the "big room" I think. At this point I was sick of pulling a spool out every 30 seconds, so I signaled to turn, and we headed back and past our spool. This was the same passage we ended up in yesterday, so after a minute or two, I turned it I guess on boredom, and we headed out.

When we got back to 20', the deco negotiations began. Well, it's more like I told Rob what the deco was (using my magic new formula) and he said okay. He didn't quite seem to grok my magic formula, but he knew I'd spent a bunch of time in front of Deco Planner the day before, coming up with the formula, so I guess he was okay with that :P For basically the same dive as yesterday (depth and time-wise, anyway) we did 15 minutes less deco, and lived to get bent another day. As I was approaching the surface, I noticed a guy in a red drysuit by the stairs, and when I hit the surface, I realized that Matt and Leah were getting in the water. Great timing! After chatting a bit about their first dive, and what to do next, we headed into the 30' room at the eye and played around in there for a few minutes. Then we swam over to the ear and Rob and Matt dropped down the chute to look around, while Leah and I hung out at the ledge at like 5'. When they returned, we drifted down the river.

Drifting down the river was pretty fun, though we had to keep popping up to look around and make sure we didn't miss the exit point. Aside from a bazillion beer cans and some cute little fish, the best find was a BIG turtle that Rob found. I had been talking up the turtles at Ginnie to Matt and Leah, who hadn't seen any on their dive (and we hadn't seen any on either day), so I was glad that we found at least one, and it was a big one at that! Eventually we made it to the exit point, and managed not to overshoot it, and basically walked down the run in 3 feet of water, since it was a bit of a pain to swim up the run, against the current. It was a pain to walk up it too, with two bottles :P Once we got out, the boys went to retrieve the cars, and after cleaning everything up, we headed to the Great Outdoors for dinner.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ginnie Springs: To the Double Arrows and Beyond

For some convoluted reason, we decided fairly late in the game that since we were flying through Miami on the way back from Mexico, we might as well take a side trip to Florida cave country. So we abandoned the leg of our flight from Miami back home, got a rental car, and drove to High Springs (then flew home from Jacksonville). I didn't think the drive from Miami was too bad; I thought it was rather scenic and way more fun than a drive through California of equivalent length. I wasn't the one who had to do the driving though. And the radio stations in that area were a bit challenging. We planned to work remotely for at least part of the trip, so on Thursday, we decided to dive in the morning and then work mostly west coast hours in the afternoon. I considered this a "soft landing" back to work; I could work through that annoying email backlog without people actually stopping by my desk to annoy me in person :P

We headed to EE to provision and found our stuff without too much trouble. We had a little bit of trouble finding our stage bottles, in part because they weren't where I expected and in part because I swear they were white when we left them but now they were grey. Okay, I guess they were always grey, but we just have too much gear to keep it all straight in my head. So once everything was found, we headed to Ginnie. Last time we dove Ginnie, on the way out, we headed up Hill 400 to the jump at 1000' that eventually has a set of double arrows at like 1600'. I thought this area was super cool, so I proposed that we go back there, but on the way in, so we could make it further up the line. I really liked the area that was wide but low in the 1300'-ish area. I also liked the area right after that where it is like a bunch of rooms separated by fun little doorways to contort yourself through. So that was the plan. Rob led the dive, because it was his turn -- I led the dive on the last day in Mexico. Plus I always hoover through my gas when I run the reel into Ginnie, so it just makes more sense :) It's nice to be the mastermind of the dive without having to do the dirty work :P

I knew Rob had some time constraints for being available to work, so I was watching the clock as we got geared up. I was a bit worried that after a week in Mexico, I wouldn't be able to deal with the 104s or the flow. Walking into the water in 104s was a bit of a pain, but in the water I think I actually feel more stable in 104s. And the flow was not too bad. I think I made a breakthrough with respect to being at the very top of the gallery. I always feel like I'm at the top when I really am not (I'm like at the "next to top" spot, which makes a huge difference). Today, I got all the way to the top and in fact, I did a better job of it than Rob did, and I was practically overtaking him as he fought his way up. Rob always claims there is some sort of eddy if you get in the right spot near the top that will actually pull you in. I'm not sure if that's entirely true, but I was definitely moving rather effortlessly. I think the key was to stay high and to the left, but not completely to the left (since you can't get as high there). Anyhoo, eventually Rob got in line and we made it through the gallery pretty quickly.

When we got to the Hill 400 jump, someone had already installed the jump, and they had taken my favorite tie off below the mainline. Bastards. Oh well, Rob's problem. He installed the jump and we dropped our stage bottles on the Hill 400 line, and then headed up it. Well, this tunnel was pretty much as it usually is, except that I noticed something that I have never noticed before, but which I assume has always been there -- I think around 900 feet, just after the "hill", up to the right, there is this pink koosh-monster thingy that is sitting on a ledge above the line. Strange. I was thinking that I've probably never noticed it before because it is a few feet above the line and I am usually not that high, but that Rob must have seen it before since he always likes to hang out close to the ceiling :) After the dive, I asked about it and he said he'd never seen it before. But it was pretty silty looking so I figure it must have been there for a while.

We took the jump to the left at 1000' and went straight to the double lines, skipping the little connector line that runs from the Hill 400 to that line. The low area didn't seem quite as low as I remembered it. The area after that, with its series of little rooms, did not continue too much further than where we had gone before (just to where the opposing arrows are), and then it became more tunnely. It got a bit more narrow and then eventually got open and sort of less tunnel-shaped. We turned on gas somewhere between the 1400 and 1500 markers. When we got back to the start of the double line, we moved the spool over to that little connector line and headed right. After a minute or two, we passed another jump to our right, which I didn't know anything about, but now see that that line goes for a while on the map. Then the line ended, or so Rob reported (he was in front, so he saw the end of the line and turned us, but I did not see it). But he said that the tunnel appeared to continue at least for a bit. We turned and returned to the Hill 400 line, and when we got there, we briefly discussed heading further up the line. We decided not to. I was secretly scheming to take the jump by the park bench on the way out, so figured we could save the gas for that.

We headed out and passed another team on our way out. When we got back to our spool, there were 3 spools and an extra stage bottle. It was like the spools and stage bottles had mated while we were in the cave, though the new spool and bottle had a distinct lack of baby face. I suggested to Rob that we pick up our bottles and carry them to the park bench and drop them again, so we did not go back onto them. Once we got to the park bench, I told Rob to look at the time, since I knew he had some time constraints. He said it was fine and took the lead again (actually he sort of drifted by me on the way there, and I gave him an annoyed "I'm #1" signal, so we were practically side by side by the time we got to the park bench) and put the spool in while I dropped my bottle. We headed up that line without much of a plan, and at the first jump left, Rob signaled to go that way. We did the Expressway tunnel circuit in C2, but I hadn't been on this line past the next jump. Today we stayed on this line and just kept going until it ended. It ended at a fairly big dark tunnel, which I think is the line that runs from the park bench to the maple leaf. We rather arbitrarily decided to go left, and headed toward the maple leaf. This tunnel is pretty big and dark, it is hard to see across the tunnel in spots. After a couple of minutes heading up that line, we turned (on gas I think), and headed out. The exit was uneventful.

When we got back to 20' and after we went onto our bottles, the deco negotiations began. Amazingly, Rob was actually negotiating down. Deco was pretty boring, so I got my wetnotes out to take some notes on the dive. That passed a bit of time. When it was finally over, we came out and Rob was a bit miffed about the time. Apparently when we agreed to do the jump at the park bench, he wasn't including deco into his calculation of how long the dive would be -- doh! He blamed me for being what he called an "extreme recalculater". Since he was in a bit of a hurry, we called the Station Bakery to order some lunch, and picked it up on the way back to the Country Inn, where we worked for the rest of the day. Rob and I were discussing the fact that our deco rule seemed to be overkill (especially on the shallower profiles in Mexico), so I did a bunch of monkeying with DecoPlanner that afternoon to come up with my own rules for deco on 60, 80, and 90 foot dives on 32% with O2 for deco, and decided we were try those out for the rest of the trip :)