The Master Cave
Updated: Feb 16
Izvor Licanke is a fantastic opportunity for so many things and so many of the team.
I often look back at excursions like this and smile at how everyone got something out of the trip. Not just the push divers at the sharp end, but everyone.
Only a few years ago Rick Van Dijk was taking his first steps with WetWellies underground as a totally new caver.
Now, he is caving all over France and Belgium and has become a part of the furniture on the Licanke project.
Ash Hiscock is making a name for himself in the deeper, longer caves in France and Spain and I'm quite proud to have brought on a trainee who is not only still cave diving but exploring at a high level.
Robbie Varesko is a talented GUE tech diver and is phenomenally strong. As a triathlete, he makes light work of dive kit underground. He was there originally as a minder, to look after the permits and help us with logistics but as the years went on, he was desperate to get in the water and join the project.
Now he is a solid member of the team.
Mark Burkey's first real cave dive was in Licanke. From being virtually a non-diver he got a crash course over three months with me to make him safe at least in sump 1.
Now he has bought all the kit, has become a trainee in the CDG and has been enjoying diving all sorts of sumps around the UK. I look back now and cannot quite believe how far he has come - especially as it was never intended!
Rich Walker has probably gained the least from the project. He is a wreck diver so caves are lower on his interest list. He has explored enough virgin cave in Bosnia and France to keep him happy and he's done huge dives in Eagles Nest and stunning dives in Mexico. I often wonder if there s much more that this project can give him.
He does though add a lot to the project. His maths is excellent and the bailout strategy and deco plan always gets run through him before being finalised.
I think the only reason he comes back is because there is no crawling involved...
For me, this is everything I ever dreamed of and more. I don't know of any other women right now who are laying virgin line at 50m in 7 degree water on rebreathers and scooters.
This, of course, being our net move.
The project has stripped me of every penny I have earned in the last 4 years. I have literally ploughed every coin I have into it.
I've had to buy a rebreather and now scooters...cave exploration doesn't come cheap at all.
I'm fortunate to be an ambassador for Ursuit, so drysuits are one expense I don't have to worry about and a good, workhorse drysuit is important in such a cold cave where dry caving is necessary.
Fourth Element and Otter have also supported members of our team and Halcyon have also been brilliant in helping out with lighting, most notably the interchangeable batteries which are a godsend on the cordless lights.
Discovering part of this planet and being the first person ever to go there is hard to beat.
It was so good I made a film about it.
The terms 'Adventure' and 'Exploration' are very confusing these days and have very different meanings to how I understand them.
Being out on a limb and beyond any sort of rescue is where the real adventure starts.
If somebody was there before me, I don't call it exploration. Christine