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Hart – 09/10/09

Jerry at HartI pull into Cave Excursions East and meet up with Jerry, who’s getting some fills for our dives today. Jerry’s the head guide at Hart Springs, a beautiful cave system located in Gilchrist County and he’s asked me to come along and help him see if the visibility has improved enough to up the guide ratio from 1:1 and also install some line arrows marking the distance from the entrance on the gold line that starts at Little Hart.

There are now two entrances to the Hart Springs cave system, Black Lagoon (the traditional entrance) and Little Hart, which was unusable until a couple of years ago when some serious flooding moved the sand that had been blocking the entrance. Due to the pristine nature of the system, this is a guided dive with guests required to have at least one hundred dives after Full Cave certification. It’s also one of the prettiest cave dives around and if you have the chance to come here and meet the prerequisites, I’d highly recommend it!

After jawing with Jim, the tank monkey of the day at Cave East, Jerry grabs his tanks and we drive on down to Hart Springs. Our first dive is going to be in Black Lagoon, so we get dressed and make the long walk down the dirt track. This is where the LP85’s are really nice! The mosquitoes aren’t nearly as bad as usual, so we take our time in the water before we drop, after making sure there are no gators nearby!

Installing Line ArrowNormally the drop down to the cave system is through black water, but today we can actually see something and I marvel at the way this pristine crack into the earth looks, after all these years of negotiating it by feel. We drop onto the gold and immediately jump left into a pristine, but silty tunnel. The visibility is fantastic and the mounds of wobbling silt almost dare you to mess up a kick. Jerry’s modifying like a maniac in front of me and I appreciate the nice technique as I have an opportunity to look around and really study the cave. We hit a T and veer right, head through a beautiful duckunder and right again at another T. Pretty soon, we’re back on the gold line and heading deeper into the cave. There’s particulate in the water from the flow and it’s not as clear as the side passage, but it’s still better than a month or so ago. We head on for a while and then knowing we have a second dive to do, we turn and head back, riding the gold braid back to the entrance and start our ascent.

We sit on the surface a while and talk about the dive, we’re both just loving the remoteness of the dive, the quiet atmosphere, the anticipation of a second dive this afternoon and almost regretfully we start the walk back to the vehicles.

We’ve decided to sidemount for the second dive, since we’ll be working with tape, lines and arrows and the possibility of separation, so after switching out gear and tanks we head over to Little Hart. No one’s been in here for a while, so the first part of the dive is spent pulling the line up out of the sand, removing tree limbs, checking tieoffs and making sure the gold braid is still intact. We kick up a storm while doing this but luckily the flow is high and it all sails out behind us. Finally things are where they need to be, and we start our task of installing line arrows.

So, guess who gets to be the dummy? That’s right; it’s me, kind of appropriate huh! For those who’ve never done any surveying, the “dummy” is the person who gets to hold the end of the tape and if they get bored, hold onto the end of the tape tighter… Meanwhile the dive buddy takes measurements, azimuth headings etc. In this case, Jerry’s going to run out with the tape and measure 100ft lengths off the gold line and install the arrows, while I get to be the dummy, hence the use of the sidemount tanks. In hardly any time, we’ve got a bunch of new arrows installed (and they’re even facing the right way!) and move onto our next project.

Jerry’s heard about a line that’s off to our right somewhere that he feels might be suitable for guests, so off we head with a reel in search of it. We tie into a line and start following it, the silt is coming off the ceiling and the floor and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. We hit a T, Jerry marks it and we continue off to the right, Jerry has stellar technique but due to the nature of the tunnel I’m zeroed within a couple of kicks, but no biggie, I have the line and all is good. I enter a horizontal fracture and I can’t seem to fit up high so I’m feeling my way around since I can’t see and it seems a little bigger down low so I start to wiggle through. Of course, just at that moment I see the glow of Jerry’s light heading towards me and I’m thinking to myself, oh sure, make me turn around here why don’t you. I verify with Jerry that we are turning around, an interesting thing to do when neither of us can see more than an inch or two, but we get it worked out and somehow I managed to get flipped around and we head on out, albeit slowly. We return to the T and the vis has improved to at least six inches now, so I relax a little bit and start moving a bit faster. Soon enough, we’re back at the reel, I grab the tape I clipped off (a good idea in hindsight) and we exit the system with just a minimal decompression obligation. It’s good to see the daylight again, but we both break the surface with those big grins going and start babbling on about how cool the dive was, as cave divers are inclined to do in moments like this.

Wearily we exit, remove our gear, hop into the vehicles and head up to that wonderful BBQ place in Bell (that shall remain nameless for it’s own protection) to trade stories, lies, innuendos and all that other stuff that goes on after some kick ass cave diving.…

  1. Teppo Said,

    The Place in Bell is goooood! It was nice to read about your dives, only have done one dive there from Hart side, Hope to dive there again feb/march 2010

    Teppo

  2. Rich Said,

    Hey, it was good seeing you again, bud. Come back again soon…. 🙂

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