Education, Enjoyment and Exploration…

Archive for April, 2008

Frustrations – NACD Journal 2nd Quarter, 2008

I look up and see my exhaust bubbles bouncing off the ceiling in front of me, giving the black rock an ethereal appearance. There’s a little bit of flow, not too much, just enough to give the water that crisp clarity which is such a wonder to behold. It’s been one of those dives where everything clicks, and I’m slowly working my back to the scooter, not really swimming, but slowly drifting in the timeless serenity of cave diving. I pick up my jump line and start reeling back to the ride. Exiting at a reasonable pace, my mind wanders off into cave mode and I just drink in all the wonders surrounding me. Hey, out of the corner of my eye, I see a flicker. I haven’t seen anybody yet on my dive, but up ahead I see lights in the distance. Cool, I drop into stealth mode, clip off the scooter, slide up into one of the domes, kill the primary and watch. I see two divers swimming, one desperately trying to communicate something to the other and finally the one beckons the other over and pulls out the wet notes. To my horror, I watch both of them sink slowly to their knees and this is not a rocky bottom but a silty muddy floor in wide open passage!

I’m furious at this point, but what to do? Aha, I slowly swim over ‘till I’m about ten feet above them, point my 21W HID right down on them and WHAM, the lights go on! Ever seen a deer in the headlights? Whewee, were they up and into trim quick, and swimming off down the passage like there was no tomorrow…. I thought about staying with them and lecturing them on the surface, but unfortunately I’d racked up a substantial amount of deco and had some stuff to take care of topside, so I left and seethed over the memory of it. If whoever it was is reading this you should feel so ashamed! You’re ruining the sport for those of us that love it; you’re betraying the trust your cave instructor had in you and you’re screwing up the cave on purpose. This is in my mind is no better than the guys carving their names in clay banks. We all have bad days once in a while, let a fin drop, dump too much gas, put a hand down where we shouldn’t but if you’re doing this deliberately you should be, well I’ll leave that one up to the masses….

A friend of mine made a statement on one of the boards a while back about “what happens in the cave stays in the cave”, and how people will walk around with their head held high and says, “Nope, wasn’t me”. Well, we as a community need to stop this and do a little bit of soul searching, I hope what I just wrote about made you mad, ‘cause it pissed me off enough to vent about it at the gas station for the next couple of weeks and to write about it, hopefully to effect some change! A friend of mine just passed away recently, I’m reading on the boards about digging, lowered visibility in the cave and all kinds of self righteous pronouncements. Well, what about these guys? Were they just being lazy and is it okay then? Or does someone need to smack the silt out of them? I don’t know, I don’t have the answers, but I will tell you this, we’re watching and we have video cameras. You think the 21 is bad, wait ‘till you get lit up by dual 35’s.….

I wish I knew what else to say at this point, the rant is over, now where can I go with this? I suppose that I could go on about taking pride in your cave diving, try to be the best you can be blah blah blah….. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to work, cave conservation seems to have taken a back seat to promoting one’s point of view on the internet. I’m diving in the caves at least five times a week if not more, and lately I’ve seen more than my fair share of the I’m perfect, it’s all about me, how far have you been in the cave types than I care to. These would be the people who ask for advice, then don’t listen and the ones who silt the cave up and then blame others.

Cave diving is a very simple sport, it doesn’t need to be made complicated by unending arguments about which mask strap is better, which reel will enable you to run the perfect line, spools or reels and which agency is better, I mean in the end does it all really matter? I know why I cave dive, do you? I was trying very hard not to preach in this viewpoint and I apologize if it comes off that way, it’s just that I find myself very frustrated these days with my observance of cave divers in the field so to speak.

As my fellow cave instructors will attest to, we’re always under the gun ‘cause we’re professionals and meant to set an example. Why shouldn’t this apply to everyone? I know if I’m diving with someone and they do something I disapprove of, I will let them know about it, but I shouldn’t have to. I love it when students are debriefing themselves after a training dive and I don’t have to add anything to their critique. That tells me I’m doing my job to the best of my ability and while I could nitpick all day long, we’re meant to be looking at the overall picture, right? Let’s apply the same thing to our cave diving here, as mentioned earlier everyone can have a bad day, but there’s a huge difference between an errant fin stroke and a conscious, deliberate act, and the fact is if we don’t start policing ourselves, someone else will be doing it for us!

Anyways, thanks for taking the time to read my viewpoint, have fun, be safe out there and let’s do the best we can to keep our caves in a pristine state, after all we need to be the stewards of our caves, not some nameless, faceless outside entity. 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.