• Christine Grosart

Into the Blue

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

New cave passage in the Event de Perdreau Fourmi, discovered 2012

Today was an excellent day - but not without a few teething troubles to get around first.

I picked up a missed call from one of my work colleagues, who was asking where I was. France, was the reply. It seems the great shift screw up had raised its ugly head again, but I doubt I have much to worry about as I am certain I booked this leave. In fact, I booked it in January. So, I tried to forget about it and concentrate on the cave diving.

We headed up to the cave and Jean had brought more friends along to help us. They were practising their SRT in the cave which seemed as good a reason as any to come along.

Pitch in Perdreau

Rich and I dropped the pitch and started to get our gear together. Next problem, Rich finds the team spare mask has shattered into hundreds of tiny pieces. It had been in a pocket on one of the harnesses and not protected by a French Pot and had somehow got broken. Never mind. We can live without it and we have another anyway.

The sump is blue and inviting. I get the camera ready and Jean and friends watch us set off into sump 1, before heading out to the sunshine to await our arrival. We tell them we will be 2 hours at most.

Surfacing in the airbell shortly after passing sump 1, Rich and I can't really get our act together and we soon notice a little panting going on. Carbon dioxide. Great.

We take things slowly and rig the ladder, before hauling the 12 litre bottles up and getting everything into sump 2.

Kitting up in sump 2 was fairly easy this time around and I get ready with the camera. We have a plan to shoot some video of the sump, especially our discoveries from 2011 and 2012. We don't hope for much as it is a small, fiddly sump covered in powder-like silt. But we gave it a go.

We get shooting and with plenty of time and gas, get to photograph and film everything we want to.

Then, we had one last job to do.

There was one bit of a chamber left to explore. I had always had a feeling there was more to it than just a boulder pile. So, I dispatch Rich off to take a quick look and a minute later he returned to say it was "Going".

Woo hoo!

Line reel tied in and I sieze the (rare!) opportunity to film exploration in progress.

Rich swam along with his reel and made some nice tie offs and the cave started to head downslope in a fractured, friable passage. It was sculptured and pretty and the water ahead was azure blue.

Chris kitting up in sump 1

Behind Rich it was patchy, rust red and bits and pieces rained down from the roof as the first bubbles ever disturbed the rock.

As the visibility went to zero, I paused at 24m and heard Rich scratching around. I figured he wouldn't be long and steadily, hand over hand on the line, fumbled my way back to the tie off with Rich just behind me.

Happy, we thumbed the dive and had a pleasant swim home in patchy visibility. I stopped to photograph a worm, the type I had not seen before in a sump.

Surfacing back at the airbell, we de-kitted, pleased with the days work.

Not surprisingly, after a recent chest infection and a cold, I had some trouble descending back into sump 2 to get home. Fortunately my bottle of trusty Otravine got me to depth but wasn't keen on getting my sinuses back up again.

Chris and Rich talk cameras

It's a divers worst nightmare (well, one of them anyway) and despite hanging around on the way up trying to get my sinuses to let go, it was obvious I was going to get a reverse block.

I did and it hurt a lot, making my eyes water and temporarily blind. Rich took my bottles off and I eventually heard the relieving squeak, followed by some blood and the pain subsided. Not pleasant.

Jean was at the top of the pitch waiting for us as we surfaced. He was worried as we were half an hour overdue. This was probably due to our taking our time in the CO2 ridden airbell. We apologised for worrying him but he didn't mind and we showed him our photos to cheer him up.

A gang of cavers had showed up to help carry all the gear back in one run, including a very small child who was lugging 2 tackle bags and going better up the hill than I was!

A cold beer in St Jean de Bueges followed by pizza in Laroque seemed a fitting end to a very pleasant day, all things considered. Finally things are going our way.

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