Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Cave diving and cave damage

Cave divers used to be aware of the cave environment. Nowadays, because of the number of cave divers growing worldwide the increasing "traffic" damages the fragile cave systems. We, cave divers, and especially cave Instructors, must become ambassadors, showing a good example. Our technique, respectful cave awareness can be passed on to the next generations.

In the article we will talk about different things that can help reduce cave damage.
- Clean water
- Training and practice
- Know our motivations
- Visualize
- Proper equipment configuration

Clean water
Water is vital for humans and for animals, and plants. When we visit cave country and for the people living n the area, it is so important to minimize our impact with water. We have a tendency to use too much of this precious element, on our daily routines. The use of detergents and chemicals, herbicides and fertilizers, drains back into our aquifer. We have the choice to change our behavior for better water.

Green algae production 

Training and practice

Georges Gawinowski during CCR cave training 
We all remember that we must be trained in order to cave dive ; correct training means that we are aware of our techniques, behavior and practice the skills regularly.
The NSS/CDS issued awareness information brochures a while back to remind the essential tools that a cave diver must be aware of.
Buoyancy control and trim seem obvious but so many times we all see divers on their knees doing a primary tie or working on their equipment. This should not happen when one develops the proper way of doing. Repetition will help develop that patten. A cave diver should always be in trim and have a very low impact on the floor, walls and ceilings.
Practice reel techniques, buoyancy control and emergency skills will help the diver to reach that goal.
Proper Kick techniques.
There are different kick techniques. Even though the modified frog kick is one of the main kicks, remember what Tom Mount wrote in the NACD chapter of Safe cave diving about the 37 cave techniques, described by Sheck Exley, to be used in the cave environment. We should evaluate the environment, think and act accordingly. A good example is the pull and glide. It should be used only when it is needed or to practice this technique in places where it has been used before.

Know our motivations
This is such and important criteria to take into consideration. What do we really want or expect in a cave dive? Goal oriented dives may direct our thoughts and behaviors in a way that is not always favorable for the environment. We may push our limits physically and mentally to the point where our technique could start to fall apart. We may stage a cave and put tanks not at the right place only to favor our exploration and goals.
Good judgement is extremely important as it will dictate the way we cave dive.

Visualizing a dive is an important tool that cave divers should practice. Athletes in different sports are using it frequently, it seems to me that cave divers still have trouble to get used to the idea.
Visualization centers the thoughts on the present moment, on our real motivations and not on the things we think we want to accomplish.
It helps also to increase mastering a skill and to know the cave system a little better, by creating a picture in our head about the where and how to go, visualization helps to take our activity seriously. Keep the old NACD slogan "The Art Of Cave Diving" in mind!

Proper equipment configuration
WDT dive training cave diver at Peacock spring
It is a commun practice for  cave divers to use always the same gear configuration and I agree with it. It is helpful for muscular memory and to react positively during an emergency situation.
Sometimes we may have to adjust or change our equipment if the cave configuration changes. Let's adapt to circumstances and let's try not to close our mind.
It is especially true when we dive caves with:
- restrictions
- lower ceilings and wide tunnels
- restricted tunnels and high ceilings
- chimney
- silt
- Flow or no flow caves.

Sometimes back mounted is the way to do it, or Sidemount may be a better way, or a rebreather may be even better.

Let us be Ambassadors of our cave systems. Let us help to protect the fragile environment so the next generations will be able to enjoy them as we do. Let's not take the caves for granted, and bring consideration to protecting our waters and caves.
Georges Gawinowski