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Me diving

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year's 2013: Orange Grove to Challenge, etc.

Rob is not really a fan of Peacock, so I often cannot even talk him into one day there on a trip; but amazingly, we managed two days on this trip!  We were diving with Rachel today, because this was her one day by herself between dive buddies coming and going.  So Kevin, Rachel and I conspired to go to Peacock, without involving Rob, and then we told him that he was outvoted.  Woohoo.  There are a couple of tunnels on the map from the Orange Grove side which I have been wondering about -- the tunnel just before Challenge that goes to Woody's Room, and the Distance Tunnel.  I've asked a couple of people about them, and no one really had anything to say about them.  So I wanted to check them out, and everyone else agreed to it.

Since I masterminded the dive, I also got to lead it.  We were diving as a team of four, but I guess Kevin was my primary buddy, since he was #2.  The plan was to go up to Challenge for a quick peek, and then to go back to the jump up to Woody's Room.  Then on the way out, we would head up the Distance Tunnel.  I haven't been to Orange Grove in quite a while.  The viz was really good in the basin.  I recall in the past having to search around quite a bit to find the main line, but I was pretty sure I knew where it was today.  But then as we descended, Rob swam over to the really shallow ledge above where I thought the entrance was, and he was very insistent that I go up there.  So insistent that I thought he must have seen the line, even though I was sure that the last time I was there, I had to go to over 40 feet to get to the mainline (because the last time I was here, we did the grand traverse, and I had a lot of trouble with my ears on the 2 minute cleanup dive, and ended up stuck at 40 feet).  But before much argument could happen, Kevin was like "NO".  Thanks, Kevin.  So then we headed in the right way :)  I forgot to drop my (silly) O2 bottle until I was around the 100' marker, oops.  I think Kevin actually had to remind me, doh.  So, we brought a stage, which was pretty convenient, because we dropped it just before the Distance Tunnel, making it really easy to recalculate on the way out.

The viz was excellent.  I think it was the best viz I've ever had on this dive.  I always think of Peacock as being brown and green -- brown cave, green water -- probably because the first few times I dove there, the viz was quite crappy.  But I was pleasantly surprised with how much of this dive struck me as being more of a white and blue dive instead :)  On the way in, I managed to find both of the jumps that we wanted to take on the way out.  The Distance jump is within 100 feet of the change of arrows, right as the line drops down a little chimney and turns to the left.  The tunnel is pretty obvious.  The jump to Woody's room is also quite obvious, but there are actually two jumps you can take (starting from essentially the same spot on the mainline), which T back into each other, so you can take either.  I found the one to the left, and Kevin found the one to the right.  I was pretty sure that I remembered from the map that they both led the same place, but the left was more direct, so that's what we took.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Pretty much the entire swim in, I was looking forward to the swim out, when I would be in the back, and everyone else would be lighting the tunnel for me.  I knew that would look nice in this viz.

We got to Challenge and surfaced briefly, since Rachel said she didn't think she'd been to Challenge before.  We headed back down after a minute or two, and I had a bit of trouble with the ears on the descent, so I was hoping we wouldn't find any big ups or downs in either of the other tunnels.  We were back to the Woody's room jump in about a minute, and Rob (who was now in the lead) led us into there.  This was a fairly wide tunnel for Peacock, with some smaller bits of tunnel connecting especially wide "rooms".  The bottom seemed comparatively untouched too, so I guess that's why no one could tell me much about this jump :)  We passed a T to the right not very far in, which I presume was that other jump from the mainline.  Eventually we got to a second T, and past that it was getting low.  Rob told us to wait a minute while he looked ahead.  He continued ahead for a moment and then returned and said it got smaller up there so we should turn around.  I asked him afterward if it was too small to go, or just too small for four, and he said too small for four.  I've been told that it eventually becomes a side-mount tunnel back there, but I have not verified that as fact, obviously.

So we headed back out to the mainline.  When we got there, I made us re-order the team so that I was in the back again.  I wasn't going to be cheated out of my exit in the back!  When we surfaced at Challenge, Kevin mentioned that we had passed a tannic dome on the way in, and he had dropped a cookie on the line so we would remember to check it out on the way out.  So when we got to his cookie, we went and played in the dome.  There was a layer of tannic water sitting on top.  I just looked at it from below, because I didn't want to disturb the layer.  But Kevin actually went into the layer.  Once he was in it, I couldn't even see him; it was amazing.  Looks like a good spot for a lost buddy drill :)  Kevin got some neat video of this.  After playing in there, we continued on to the Distance Tunnel.  I was still in the back when we headed in there, and it was a nice view, though it is a reasonably silty tunnel.  It is a small tunnel, in the sense that you would travel single file, though you could travel side by side if your cat's life depended on it.  I liked the tunnel a lot, because it is small and so it was really lit up with all of our lights.  And the walls are pretty white.  And it is a pretty evenly-sized round tunnel, which I find aesthetically pleasing.  I was trying very hard not to be a silty kitty.  Rob noted with surprise after the dive that I managed to get through the siltiest passage we'd be through on this trip without stirring up silt; he couldn't understand it.  When I explained that I was being careful not to drop my fins and cause siltiness, because it was a silty passage, he was very disappointed to learn that I am actually capable of not dropping my fins, but just usually too lazy not to :)  Anyhoo, eventually we came to a spot where there is like a gravel pile sloping across the tunnel, and it was a bit low getting over the pile.  I was wondering if it was going to continue getting lower, but then once we were through there, it went back to the same height as before.

Eventually we got to a point where there was a little room before it got tunnel-y again, and Rachel signaled turn.  Kevin was looking around, so even though he was between us, I saw the signal first, and signaled it to Kevin.  So we turned and headed out.  I didn't know why we turned.  It didn't seem like it could possibly be on gas (we had agreed to 500 psi up this line, and I had used like 200).  So I assumed it got really small and that was why we turned.  But since I didn't know the reason, I just headed straight out, without any suggestions of checking out other tunnels (I saw a jump to the left, on the way out, which I assume was the Martz offshoot.  We got back to the mainline, and I had been planning on making us reorder again, so I would get my rightful exit in the back.  Unfortunately there was a team of three divers on the mainline, heading in.  When they saw me, they got that usual deer-in-the-headlights must-give-way-to-exiting-team look, and I tried to tell them to go ahead (since a pile of four divers was about to appear, and I was hoping to loiter in the chimney so I could reorder the team).  But they didn't go ahead, then just hung out in the chimney.  I don't know if they were waiting to take that jump or what.  But I scooted on ahead, and waited in the tunnel before the chimney (where one of the team of three was also waiting... it was a very busy intersection!).  I retrieved my stage and continued ahead as I clipped it on and prepared to go onto it (since the team was now in reverse order, this was slightly inconvenient for picking up stages).  I turned back to Kevin to have him verify my gas, and I verified his.  Then I looked back ahead of me, and saw a bottle with Kevin's initials on it, and Kevin's color scheme.  I was super confused.  I looked back at Kevin, and he was in fact on his bottle.  Is there someone else out there with the same ugly yellow tubular webbing and similar initials on their bottle?  Turns out that in the big bottle shuffle in the truck, Rob decided to just bring one of Kevin's bottles, since it required moving fewer bottles.  But I hadn't noticed on the way in, because he was behind me.

After that the exit was pretty uneventful, except that I was leading, hmph.  When we got back to our O2 bottles, I (as is typical for dives at Peacock) wondered why I brought that :)  We did a min-deco ascent in the basin.  When we surfaced, I asked why we turned, and it turned out that no one would confess to turning the dive.  It was one of those, I thought you called turn, so I returned the signal, so you thought I turned it, and passed the signal on.  Which was kind of unfortunate, since we were all having a nice time before we accidentally turned it.

This would end up being my last dive for the trip, though I didn't know it at the time.  I'd been slowly acquiring a cold for the last day or two -- a gift from Rob.  So the next morning, I decided to not bother schlepping to Ginnie only to find out I couldn't clear my ears.  But don't worry, Rob and Kevin went on an awesome dive without me.  Their dives are always significantly awesomer in the retelling when I wasn't on the dive.

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