Jackson Blue And Surveying A Cave Underwater

By Ron Bear

Hi All,
Bozell Cave has no Go-in-and-Die sign and the main line in the cave is 25 years old. We therefore think that this cave may not have been surveyed and we have decided to make a map. We first practiced surveying above ground because I am the only one in our group that had ever done it. We then practiced in Jackson Blue on Saturday prior to beginning data collection at Bozell on Sunday. Kim says that surveying is really boring, so I am going to cover this fast before I get on to the exciting part of the dive we did Saturday at Jackson Blue.

Task Loading
After the practice run at J Blue on Saturday, John complained that he was kind of over whelmed with all of the stuff he had been doing. So Sunday I took all measuring and recording onto myself and just had John help me move the tape measure. John was complaining about nothing. Surveying underwater is simple. You hold the slate in your left hand and the pencil in your right. With your other left hand you hold the survey tape and roll it up with your other right hand. During this time you hold your light in your other hand and your compass in the other hand and that leaves one hand to change the air level in your BC. Because surveying occupies so little of your mind you end up doing a lot of concentrating on your buoyancy and trim and therefore you manage to preserve crystal clear vis because you never touch the silt. Does the sarcasm bleed through? There was one point on Saturday that the vis got screwed up enough that I couldn't see any light coming from John and Kim. At that time I became hyper-aware that I was not on a line and didn't really know exactly where it was. Two seconds later I felt kind of stupid when it occurred to me that Kim and John were holding the other end of the survey tape that I was holding so even though I hadn't been thinking of it that way, I did have a line. Another problem I had was that I was continually clipping off whatever I wasn't using to my BC. This doesn't sound like much of a problem, but in an extremely tight cave like Bozell, this made it so that I got stuck once just because of the survey stuff.

Recap: Jackson Blue.
For those of you who missed last week's installment We had gone back some 400 feet (by my estimate) into Jackson Blue, the most beautiful cave in the Marianna area, and I had noticed a crack to the left of a boulder in the main passage. I decided that the crack probably led around the boulder and back into the main passage. There were two unconnected lines behind this boulder. One terminated after only going twenty feet, and the other ran under a ledge and back into the cave. I terminated the dive because I didn't feel good about our line to the surface.

Our plan at the surface had three parts. First we would go though the crack and prove or disprove that it went back to the main passage. Second we would follow the line under the ledge because I thought I knew where it came out. Third we would return to the shallower part of the cave at the entrance and practice surveying. Once in the cave, the first new thing I found was that the crack beside the boulder is actually at about 530 feet of penetration. This helps explain how we ended up in deco last week. (This week we planned to go into deco.) I was leading and I attached my safety reel to the main line and headed towards the crack. My safety reel jammed. As I was reaching for my gap spool, John tied his safety reel off to the main line and headed into the crack. Once again we were knocking silt off of the walls with both hips simultaneously. When John reached the end of the crack line, he tied his gap spool in between that and the under-the-ledge-line. He then continued through the crack on the under-the-ledge-line and out the crack into the opened up area that Kim had seen. As Kim was leaving the crack, John was coming back in. Once I got to the edge of the crack, vis was reduced to between four and eight feet. Kim was in what appeared to be a small room and she was looking to her left. I couldn't see anything beyond Kim, but I assumed that John had left this small dead-end room because there was not enough space for all of us. I figured that the vis between Kim and whatever she was looking at must be pretty good, because she was completely unaware of the poor vis to her right and continuing to look left. I was also aware that she was in bad vis six or seven feet off of the line and that vis was getting worse so she better head out of the dead-end room while she could still see a little bit seeing as how she did not have a line. I couldn't turn around in this crack, so I started backing up to give her a place to go. John actually signaled that I should enter the room but I could see that this would be a bad move. As I was backing up, I settled toward the floor to look down the under-the-ledge line. I could see it go about thirty feet before it went over a small silt hill. Come on out of that dead-end Kim, I want to go down this line! I returned to the main passage to wait for them to come out before we headed down the under-the-ledge line together as a team. They didn't come out.

I went back into the crack and John is still perched right at the end of the crack where it was wide enough for two. There is NO sign of my wife. Vis is down to two feet and there is not even a hint of a glow coming from Kim's direction. Why hasn't John gone in after her? Suddenly it occurs to me that John has deployed both of his lines and he CAN'T go in after her or he too will be silted out and off of the line. Ok, think. I have a safety reel (jammed) and a gap spool. Kim has both as well, but she didn't tie off so they are kind of out of play. Is she in there doing a systematic search? Alright, it is up to me. I will tie off my gap spool and head in to this fog. I will go clear to the wall of the dead end room and then sweep along it until I find her or snag my string on her. I am right beside John and he has his hand on the line. I reach for my gap spool and Kim's light magically appears out of the fog right in front of me. Well, I start backing down the crack again and I drop down again and take a longing look at the under-the-ledge line. Understand that at that time I was not feeling stressed. After all, I had left the silty area and been in clear water and to me this silt was a very localized phenomenon that would not interfere with our ability to travel the under-the-ledge line. I am afraid though that Kim may be very stressed and want to exit the cave immediately. I found out later that on the way out, the vis had been so poor that when John went to retrieve his spool he actually touched it with his mask and still couldn't see to untie it. He therefore cut the spool loose with his knife. John was still messing with his (cut) spool as he exited the crack so he asked me to untie and retrieve his safety reel. I complied, but I misinterpreted his request as a general lack of desire to deal with anymore cave diving details. Therefore I was not surprised when Kim and John started to exit the cave without even discussing it. On the way out, I thought "Man, they won't want to survey either". So I was pleasantly surprised on the way out as everyone started executing the prearranged plan. Total stats for the dive were 92 feet for 85 minutes with the last 14 minutes being a combination deco/ survey of the upper cavern.

When we got out we wanted to go look for another cave so I left my wet suit on. I started to notice a dull numb/tingly throbbing ache on my left shin and my left knee. I have recently had problems with this knee due to too much running and we all know that DCS frequently occurs at injury sites because of reduced circulation. I decided that I might have some kind of contusion on my shin and that I would hold off calling DAN until I got my wetsuit off and got to visually inspect the throbbing region. In the meantime we were talking about our dive and I found out that the story I told you is BS. I didn't lie, I told it like I saw it. I just saw it wrong. It turns out that the crack is a space between a boulder and the wall and it leads right back into the main passage, just like I originally suspected. Kim was actually in totally clear water just beyond the fuzzed out area and John knew it. I could only see a few feet and in my mind's eye there was a wall right at the edge of my vision. Back to my knee. Apparently, when I put on my wetsuit, the stirrup of my dive skin slipped off of my foot and the dive skin rolled up my shin in a very tight cloth wad. My wet suit was pressing this wad into my shin and cutting off the circulation. DCS-like symptoms went away as soon as I removed the wetsuit. Sorry for the anticlimax.

On our second dive Sunday, we again attempted what we had failed to do on Saturday. We wanted to see if we could connect two passages that started at about three hundred feet of penetration.

The Plan
The dive on Saturday had also been the second dive of the day. Kim had started with 1500 and called it before we walled out. This time, Kim only had 1400, so I traded tanks with Kim. This gave her 1800 and me 1400. My turn pressure would be 1000 PSI, so I only had 400 PSI for penetration. Kim didn't want to do any surveying, so the compromise was that I would use my tape measure as a gap reel.

The Dive
At the extreme far end of the big entrance room, the floor stops being entirely clean rock and there are instead several large mounds of silt. The room then narrows to a crack. It is impossible to go any farther north, but there is a line that goes down. At the bottom of the crack there is a short narrow arch with sand spilling through it. You have to touch the bottom to go through, but there is some flow, and not very much silt in the sand anyway. As you follow the sand down, you turn to the northeast, slide past a low hanging rock, and head up another mound of silt. The line is tied to a rock on the ceiling at the top of the mound of silt, and at that point it turns east. 300 of my 400 PSI is gone. You then go down the silt mound and follow a silt channel at the lowest point until the line turns southeast. I am at 1050 PSI and I see a white wall running south and the line dead ends. There is a line arrow telling me I need to turn around. Suddenly neurons in my brain start misfiring. I had been telling myself that I only had 50 PSI to find the way out and I have failed! But wait! What is this? The line continues, but it is right on a crack in the wall that makes it practically invisible. John told me later that he had not found it, he and Kim had just followed my light. Fifty feet further along I have 1000 PSI (zero for exploration/penetration) and I am at a red arrow that is pointing towards me. Time to give it up and try again some other day. What is that? It is a line. It is a gold line. It is the main line and I know right where I am. I glance back at the red arrow. It was facing the right way all along. Three circuits in one day! Back in the cavern, we observed a millpond lobster fight. (Crayfish are so tough). A great end to a great weekend.


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