"Puddles up to me knees..."
Updated: Feb 16
Rich explains why he's all wet...Video grab, Mark Burkey.
Licanke project 2018 - Day 3
The plan for the first day was for Rich and Christine to go straight to the end of their line from 2017 and push it out as far as possible.
The cave depth from the bottom of the shaft was averaging about 45m and the maximum depth was 50m. So, the exploration dive plan was to put in enough bailout bottles of trimix, suitable for 75m depth, along the line at the correct distances based on swimming speed - to allow a push dive of up to 250m distance.
It's hard planning an exploration dive as there is literally no way of knowing what the cave is going to do. Christine and Rich had over a decade of experience each in cave systems and Chris has a geological background so it's possible to get a 'feel' for what a cave might do - but you'll never know for certain.
The team were pretty sure that they were in the 'Master Cave' or 'confluence' for the whole region - essentially this is the collection of all the water in the surrounding mountains and catchment - all coming out of the resurgence we were diving into.
The size of the cave passage and the flood marks on the walls told us that this cave takes a phenomenal amount of water in flood conditions and taking into account the other cave systems in the region, had every possibility of going deeper.
The deeper the cave, the more decompression the divers would accrue and this is far from fun in 7 degree water.
Despite using dry gloves and thick undersuits beneath their drysuits, the cold was always an issue in this cave.
Rick, Robbie and Ash make the most of their spare time while Rich and Chris are underwater...Image: Mark Burkey.
Rich got into the sump pool which was beautifully lit up by Mark's various video lights. Chris prepared her rebreather and was ready to go when Rich muttered something about a leak in his drysuit. After a bit of conversation, he opted to dive as it didn't seem to be getting in any worse.
Chris and Rich dived down the shaft and the gravel slope, fixing some line as they went and Chris had an enjoyable dive behind Rich, using her bright video lights and Paralenz camera to light the way and film proceedings.
The visibility wasn't great but it was Ok to progress. neither diver could see the roof or the opposite wall.
Once they approached Christine's 2017 last tie-off (she was very pleased this was still secure!) she pulled her wetnotes and compass out of her pocket ready to begin surveying - and Rich did the unthinkable.
He gave a very positive and non-negotiable thumbs up.
This should never be questioned in the water - but really?!!
He did it again and Christine, furious, turned around and refused to speak to him all the way back to dive base.
It transpired, when a shivering Rich got out of the water, that his suit had flooded almost completely.
He had puddles up to his knees!
The suit inflation bottle, usually full of air, seemed to be full of water.
Someone had obviously handed a flooded suit bottle back into the dive centre after a sea dive and not told them.
The gauge of course still read 200 bar, so we were none the wiser until Rich began injecting water into his drysuit rather than air!
There was no way Rich could dry out a salty undersuit in time so a plan was hatched for Chris and Ash to attempt a push dive the next day.
The rebreathers stayed in the cave and only the small oxygen and diluent bottles came out for a refill - as well as the dodgy suit bottle!
Back at the house, gear was dried out, 'stuff' got unpacked and re-packed, pongy wetsuits hung desperately on the line and everyone headed off to a nearby pizza place which produced the most amazing food and beer in gargantuan volumes.
Chris uses her Paralenz for a 'selfie'