Thursday, February 21, 2019

Cave diving safely after a flood

The weather has been an issue for us cave divers in North Florida this winter. Most of the cave systems in the Suwanee river basin like Peackock springs, Little River and Madison springs are flooded because of rain showers coming from Georgia. Plus we've had a good amount of rain here locally. What happens during a flood? How to get back on track carefully, and how to access the cave systems as we have not cave dived for a while?

Some "rest" for the environment

"Many cave systems have become highly dived tourist destinations. Unfortunately, this has led to environmental concerns. Several kinds of surface fish (mollies and tetras) now follow divers into Mexican Cenotes and eat the troglobitic crustaceans encountered along the way! This obviously has a very negative effect on the populations of cave fauna"
Jill Yager, Cave diving Articles and Opinions, NSS/CDS

Since the flood we had in December, Peacock state park is empty. I went and treck the trails and I was surprised to see how nature seems to be relieved. From the quietness of the park, the birds and squirrels seem really to enjoy when human beings are not around.
What about the aquatic life, I am not really sure what effect a flood has when tannic water rushes into the spring waters. Does it bring nutrients for the aquatic cave animals such as cave shrimp, amphipods, isopods... it probably benefits for them since floods have probably always been part of nature.

Cave divers must access the environment for a first dive after a flood

When I was part of the Line Committee we used to jump after a flood to evaluate conditions, our evaluation always started at the surface.
- How is the visibility in the basin and sinkholes?
- Is there any current on springs and siphons?
- How is the visibility in the caverns and in the caves?
- Debris such as trees, and leaves on the floor.
- Evaluated the structure of the system, walls, ceiling floor; are there any rocks on the ground that were not here before.
- Line conditions: slack on lines, buried lines, lines under trees or branches.
- How visibility could be affected when several teams are going through.

Always take your time to assess the caves system conditions; we think we know it well but it looks totally different after a flood.
Use caution and common sense!
Safe Cave diving!