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Me diving

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sweet Surprise

We made a small error in our trip planning, which was to plan the trip over the time change weekend.  I guess in and of itself that wouldn't have been a problem, except we were leaving on the Sunday of the time change.  So in addition to having to get up early (to squeeze in a dive), it felt extra early due to the time change.  We got up at 7 and after a couple minutes of groggily starting to get ready, we agreed to go back to sleep until 7:30.  Then at 7:30, we negotiated a push to 8, agreeing that if we just went up to Sweet Surprise (which was the plan) with a single stage and then came straight out with no recalculations, we should have plenty of time.  So when we finally rolled up to Ginnie, it was about 8:45 and it was dead.  I guess everyone else was sleeping in too.  We were pretty efficient about loading gear into the water and getting geared up, so we were in the water by 9:30.  The goal is generally to be driving out of Ginnie by noon, but we were on a slightly relaxed schedule today, since our flight left later than usual (probably a time change anomaly).

So, as planned, we headed straight up the main line to the Sweet Surprise jump.  We have never been to Sweet Surprise before.  I don't know why.  It doesn't seem to be as talked about as, say, Main Land.  The one time we asked someone about it, they weren't sure which jump was the right one, which is probably what deterred us from every going there.  There are a couple of different tunnels leading into that general area, and I've heard that if you take the wrong one, it is very small or maybe a sidemount tunnel.  So the day before we had done a little recon on our way out, and found what we were pretty sure was the right tunnel to take.  We dropped our scooters on the mainline and put the jump in.  Rob was leading -- I figured at this point, why break the streak? :)  When you first enter the jump, there is a clay bottom with the occasional rock outcropping across the bottom.  After seeing a couple of these rocky spots, I decided that I should take advantage of a good stage drop while I could, so I dropped my stage not too far in from the mainline. I think that was a pretty good decision, because while it isn't small for quite a while, there are extended areas that look pretty pristine, where I wouldn't really want to drop a stage.

I don't know why we've never been up here before.  It's an awesome dive.  The tunnel pretty quickly gets very black.  And unlike other tunnels in Ginnie that have mineral deposits on the walls, it is relatively pristine.  There are prolonged periods where the walls are nearly completely black, with just a few white spots peeking through where the rock juts out, I assume from divers using those spots to pull.  There was a decent amount of flow in there.  The tunnel is not small but not huge either.  It's a nice comfortable size for a tunnel, and there isn't much navigation (once you are through the early part where those other tunnels jump into the Sweet Surprise line), so it's a pretty easy tunnel.  At some point you come to a narrow vertical crack, and drop down the crack and then end up in a tunnel that is kind of low, that does open up a bit further, but never (it seemed to me) quite as tall as the tunnel before the crack.  Eventually we got to a low silty area, where things got interesting.  We came to a T (which was either marked 3100' or just after an arrow marked 3100').  Since it was low and silty, this wasn't the best place ever to ponder the decision of which way to go as a team.  Rob peered to the left, and then said he was going right.  So I let him go ahead, but decided to hang back at the T, just in case he quickly decided that was the wrong way.  He was inching forward pretty slowly, and generating a lot of silt.  After maybe 3 body lengths, I saw that he was in fact turning around.  He got back to the T, and I told him that I had 100 psi left before turn.  He asked if he could just take a peek on the other side of the T, to see what was there.  So he again swam a few body lengths up that way, while I waited at the T, and then came back and we exited (on the line very briefly).  Rob reported that even though the left side looked smaller from what you could see at the T, if you swam a few body lengths, you could see that it would open up and that was the way to go.  Someone Rob has talked to since (Dan?) told him that that's the correct way to go to get to Main Land.  I can't quite figure out how this corresponds to what is on any of the maps that I have.

Packing up at the end of the trip :(
So we headed out, riding the flow mostly.  When we got back to the main line, I signaled to head out, and Rob asked if we were going straight out.  I said yes, because well, that was the plan (that we concocted while negotiating how much we could sleep in).  He gave me this condescending look like "oh, you must not understand what I'm asking" when I knew exactly what he wanted to do... we had previously talked about playing around in the mud tunnels on the way out.  I assured him that I understood, and we were heading out.  So we headed out, and when we were approaching the mud tunnel, Rob once again asked if I wanted to go there, and I pointed to my timer and said no.  So we headed straight out from there without further discussion.  When we came out of the lips, somehow Rob managed to end up right next to me (instead of behind me) and was trying to overtake me in the gallery.  So annoying.  So I innocently pointed my scooter a bit to the left (where he was) and ran him off the road, hehehe.  I would have actually bumped his scooter but I was using a borrowed scooter, so figured I should behave.

When I came up the chute at the eye, I found a slack line running up into the 30' room.  I grabbed the line, thinking it must have pulled a tie in that room, and I'd fix it.  But as I approached the wall (where I intended to put a tie to take up the slack), I came to the end of the line.  Doh!  It had been cut.  By now Rob had appeared and he took the line and tied it off while I attended to something else.  When we headed up to the ledge, I saw the other side of the line -- there was a bunch of excess line tied around and around a little rock knob right by the ledge.  We didn't have a ton of deco, since we'd done a pretty short dive.  I think the dive ended up being about 130 minutes total.  So we were out of the water but not out of Ginnie by noon.

To conclude, I would like to reiterate what a great dive this was.  I can't believe we didn't go to Sweet Surprise sooner!  I'm not sure if my description has done it justice (which is more related to the fact that this is my last post of the trip than anything), but it's a really cool passage, unlike any other that I can think of at Ginnie.  It also strikes me as a good "beginner" scooter dive, since it requires only a single stage, and you likely won't be going too much further up the mainline than you've already been by kick.  And once you are in the Sweet Surprise tunnel, the early parts of it are not very technically challenging.

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