It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Peacock Tour

 After diving Eagle's Nest on Wednesday, I wanted to do a nice, easy dive at Peacock.  We got a late start because we had some business to attend to at EE.  I busted a wrist seal as I was getting out of my suit on Wednesday afternoon.  It was the same one with the patched hole from earlier in the trip... the split wasn't near the hole, but I suspect that the patch put extra strain in the rest of the seal.  Anyhoo, when we got back to EE late on Wednesday, Doug was kind enough to work on my seal (because he's awesome).  So in the morning, we had to give it an extra coat of Aquaseal on the inside and let that dry.  Then it was good to go.  We also left Dan with some instructions for gas fills for tomorrow's adventure.  By the time we got to Peacock, it was about 11, and the parking lot was jam packed.  Definitely the most crowded I've seen it on a weekday.  I guess that was because so many other caves were closed or undiveable.

Anyhoo, I had suggested that we could do a leisurely dive there, and Rob could bring his camera.  And we would just hit the various spots that we think would be photogenic.  The spots that I thought would be cool to photograph were the tall area just past Olson, and Waterhole, which I think is the prettiest part of Peacock that I have seen.  Rob went along with this plan, even though he claims he hates Peacock, whatever that means.  So the plan that we ended up agreeing to was to go up the Peanut line (stopping for some pics in the Peanut tunnel), then we'd take the Crossover Tunnel and go beyond Olson a couple hundred feet, then on the way back, we'd go up toward Waterhole.  But we definitely wouldn't surface as Waterhole... I learned my lesson about that before.  Even though I was the mastermind of the plan, Rob wanted to lead, since he would be taking pictures, and I guess that would make it easier for him to scope out shots.  We brought a stage and an O2 bottle.  More on that later.  We loaded our bottles into the water, which was about the lowest I've seen it, despite the recent rain.  It was one of the warmer days of the trip, or maybe it was just that it was humid, so I decided to eschew my vest.  Actually I went one step further and ditched my base layer (or should I say Ted's base layer).  I just didn't feel like feeling icky on the surface, and I figured I'd stay warm from all the kicking.  Then we got into our gear, did our gear checks, and waddled down the path to the water.  We collected our bottles and headed down.

As I vented gas from my wing and started to sink, I was feeling pretty chilly :)  I momentarily thought my suit was leaking through the exhaust valve, but then I remembered that my Bare undergarment has those silly metal grommets on the arm, where the exhaust valve sits, and without any layer between me and the undergarment, it always feels cold there!  When we dropped into the cavern, it was murky.  Not murky really, more like chalky.  Just stirred up, I guess from all of the traffic.  We dropped our bottles on the line and headed in.  Rob wanted to get some pictures in the Peanut tunnel, though it was unfortunately quite chalky in there.  At some point a little ways into the tunnel, Rob told me to hold and he swam ahead and turned back so he could get some pictures.  I posed for a zillion pictures, until he tired of it, and then we continued along.  Once we got to the breakdown room, he took a few more shots, pointing back toward the exit.  Then we headed straight up the line, until we got to the crossover jump.  I sort of amusedly watched as Rob pulled a spool and started to install the jump, with camera in hand.  Then he realized this was not going to work too well, and asked me to install the spool, and so I did.  Shortly after installing tying the spool in, I switched off of my stage.  I think Rob switched off then too.  But since there is basically no good place to drop a bottle in the crossover tunnel, we ended up carrying them all the way to the other end of the tunnel before dropping them (not that "all the way" is really that far).  Then we jumped back over to the pothole line (if that's still what it's called at that point) and before you know it, we were at Olson.  We swam right through the open water and then back down the hole to the other side.  I've never entered that tunnel from this direction before.  The only time I've been in this section is when we did the grand traverse, so we were coming from the other side.  There was a patch just 100 or 200 feet past Olson that I liked, where the passage is tall and relatively narrow.  We got to that area, got some shots, and then kept going for a couple more hundred feet, stopping here and there for pics.  Eventually we decided to turn it, just 'coz.

On the way back, I surfaced in Olson, because I wanted to ask Rob something about what he wanted to do on the way out.  Olson was a much nicer little water hole that I remembered, probably because in comparison to Waterhole, it is, well, really nice :)  While we were conferencing, another team swam past our legs, continuing right on through.  We descended again and headed in, and in the first 50 feet, we had to have an extended pause, because Rob was having trouble clearing his ears.  But eventually he resolved that, and we were off.  We stopped for a few pictures in the crossover tunnel.  Then back to the mainline, and back to the jump to Waterhole.  We dropped our stages on the jump line, and continued in, I think with me in the lead at this point.  Rob would pretty much just signal me and tell me to turn around when he wanted to get a shot.  So there was a lot of swiveling around and repositioning, which seemed fairly taxing in this tunnel, since it is low in some spots and definitely delicate in a lot of spots.  We stopped for tons of pictures, though I really didn't mind, since I really like this tunnel, so it was nice to take our time.  I think we ended up swimming in for 40 minutes and out for 15.  So that gives you an idea of the pace!

We eventually turned the dive on being tired or ready to go, or whatever.  Rob had already given up on taking pictures a few minutes before.  He was tired I think.  On the way out, I was leading (not sure how that happened... there was lots of repositioning because of the photos I guess!).  On the way out, I became very familiar with a slightly annoying feature of my new Halcyon light that Rob had told me about.  The switch is just too easy to flip.  Every time I would lose Rob's light and turn back to look for it, when I turned back forward, my light would go off.  I guess the bottom of my Scout light was flicking it.  This happened several times, because with all the twists and turns, I was turning back to wait for Rob's light to reappear fairly frequently.  Anyhoo, we got back to the mainline, and went back onto our stages.  When we got to the breakdown room, I asked Rob if he wanted to get more pictures in the Peanut tunnel, since he had originally said he wanted to do pictures on the way in and out.  He said no.  He'd had enough :)  I would be done too, after pushing that camera around for 3 hours :P  We got back to our O2 bottles, and I think we were both scratching our heads, wondering why we had brought O2.  My gauge read 37 feet for the average depth.  I'm pretty sure that EADs to surface :)  So we didn't even bother going on the O2, and started a slow ascent, back to the crowded little basin.

The water level was so low, I think if it were any lower, I would not have been able to get started up the steps to get out of the water!  As it was, I found the need to ditch my fins on a rock by the steps so I had my hands free for the climb out.  After we got out of our gear and retrieved our bottles and my fins, we packed up and headed out of there.  Just after leaving Peacock, we saw Mark's van parked on the side of the road next to a little gate (his class was at Peacock today, we'd seen his van there earlier).  Rob pulled over to see what was back there, because he could see the guys about to emerge from the woods.  They reported that there was a gaggle of baby alligators at Bonnet, just sitting out sunning on a rock.  This I had to see.  We walked down the path to the water (I've never been to Bonnet before, by the way, didn't even know it was there), and started scanning for the alligators.  I eventually found them.  They were tiny, much smaller than I expected.  It looked like a bunch of iguanas sitting out on a rock.  Very cute!  Too bad we didn't have any photographic technology to capture that.

We headed to the country store to get some sammiches, and when we left, they were turning traffic around just past the store.  Apparently there was some really bad accident up ahead, involving a truck I guess, so it was not passable.  So we turned around, with some vague directions from the sheriff's deputy on how to get back to civilization if we went that way.  The alternate path turned out not to take much longer than the usual path.

We got back to EE in plenty of time to collect our gas for Friday, though that took a good bit of time.  I was sitting on the ground analyzing bottles and placing stage regs on them for an eternity, it seemed.  But eventually we got out of there, and I think I even had time for a nap before we met up with Ted for dinner!

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