Education, Enjoyment and Exploration…

Archive for April, 2006

The Internet – NACD Journal 2nd Quarter, 2006

So here you are, a somewhat accomplished open water or even a fledgling technical diver, gazing down into the ominous opening of The Ear, looking into the maw of the Devil’s Cave System, about to enter an environment you’ve heard about from friends, maybe read about on the Internet and all of a sudden, a moment of self-doubt hits, a gut reaction that screams “No Way”. Finally, purpose calmly sets in and all the memory from your cavern course comes flooding back, “Ok, that’s where I’ll make my primary tie-off”……

The flow kicking out of the hole is tremendous, you manage to place your loop around an outcropping, give it a couple of security wraps and pull on into the system. Once you’re in and finally out of the flow you make your secondary tie-off, verifying it with your teammates, angle the line using placements to your advantage and finally you are at the “gold” line. You tie into the mainline, again verifying the transition with your teammates, get up high out of the flow and finally settle down taking some time to look around this gorgeous system.

This is kind of how I felt when I first went through the Cavern/Intro program in 1994. I had an experienced cave instructor who warned me about the perils of flow and all the fun stuff that goes along with it. Of course, needless to say his advice worked for me going in, but the exit was a completely different matter as I remember getting flipped upside down and wedged, and to this day I vividly remember the instructor laughing through his regulator!!

It seems that things have changed a lot these days, people seem to already know how to do everything and classes are perceived to be “something I have to do to get the card”. I see divers with a Full Cave certification bitching about the fact that they’re not allowed to scooter without a specialty card, or Intro to Cave divers whining about the fact that they’re not allowed to do jumps. I asked a newer diver the other day why he wished to purchase a scooter, and was told that he needed to get to the Hinkel. I then asked him why he needed to, and if it was so important why didn’t he just swim it? His reply was that all of his friends were going there and he felt left out. What I try to do in situations such as this, is explain that there are plenty of very pretty tunnels that are within swimming distance, you just have to find them or have a mentor show them to you. Unfortunately these days, everybody seems to be on the fast track and instead of slowly building up experience, just wants to get a scooter and blow by the closer parts of the cave.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a student that had his harness and regs configured in a certain manner, when I asked him why he had it configured so, I was informed that he was told to do it this way on the Internet. My next question was why did he think he should do it this way and he had no clue. Fortunately, I was able to explain to the individual concerned that this might not be the best manner for him to configure his gear, explained my thoughts on the matter and the various reasons behind my thinking and he ended up taking my advice. However, this seems to be the exception rather than the normal state of events. My wife has recently been babysitting a three year old, and whenever she asks him anything, he asks “Why?” Is there a reason that he is comfortable asking that and we are not? It seems like the older we get, the more we accept, and are less inclined to ask “Why”, which in my opinion leads us down a very dangerous path, that of accepting without rationalization.

Frankly, I think the internet is killing us as a community! Everybody posts from afar, you never know who is actually posting as people hide behind their “handles” so a lot of the technical discussions actually end up being soap boxes for people to blather on about their various agendas. I was just this afternoon, speaking to a very accomplished technical diver, who’s looking forward to being one of the first on the Oriskany when it goes down and we were ruminating on the fact that no one wants to dive any more, they’d rather talk about it on “the net”. While this is obviously not true in all cases, I definitely don’t see much good coming out of the Internet these days. It didn’t use to be like this, in the early days of TDS and CDF there was a lot of very valuable information being passed around, but then we start hearing from people who two months after they’ve been asking about a cavern class, are telling people how to cave dive! Ah well, another example of the progress of civilization at it’s finest….

The other day I remember reading a post from a gentleman who had a “discretionary apprentice” and wanted to know how to do decompression, conveniently ignoring the fact that it says on his discretionary card “No decompression diving”. Would you want to learn about deco on the internet? Maybe take Joe Blows advice, who has 1000’s of posts, but no actual decompression dives? Or how about the nameless soul who posted that “my cave instructor told me that every time I pass a line arrow that doesn’t point to my exit I should drop a conflicting line arrow next to it”….HUH? I have yet to find a cave instructor that is teaching this and I’m extremely doubtful that I will !

It’s all really about perspective and while this is obviously not directed at the more experienced cave divers among us, it is directed to the newer cave divers, who fortunately for them have not had the equipment failures and the “Come to Jesus” dives that those of us who have been cave diving for a while are familiar with.

Please do not try to learn how to dive off of the internet! While the technical forums are very good reference points, they should be treated as such and not as a place to learn to dive. Just my opinion, but there is no substitute in sitting down and talking in person with an accomplished technical and/or cave diver, when they can actually show you or talk about real life examples, rather than reading the innuendo and hearsay that seems to be a daily part of the internet boards.

Well, thanks for taking the time to read my viewpoint, please take the time to sift through the information that you find out there in cyberland, and if in doubt, talk to an instructor or an experienced diver. As always try to slow down and think a little bit before you act, keep your cave diving safe and please take good care of our underwater cathedrals.