after my debacle at Blue Spring (see Fist Time Around the Blog,
08/02/05), you'd think i'd get a clue and take some cavern training.
obviously, you don't know the idiocy that lurks in the human heart.
no. instead, i decided to take a trip with a local dive shop down to
Crystal River, Florida, and to dive a small cave there on my own,
with no backup air-source, no line, and only a small light. (it was
only after taking my cavern class that i realized what a complete
idiot i had been, and how lucky i was to be alive. never again).
the cave in question is the source for the sping known as King's
Spring. this is actually a rather pretty safe cave, if proper precautions
are taken. i didn't do that. i just went in, on my own, knowing
nothing about overhead diving.
the cave feels small. you can see daylight pretty much from any
part of the main room (there's a large entrace to the right and a smaller
one to the left (looking out)), down to a depth of about 50 feet.
i tooddled around, looking at this, that, having a blast. then, i saw this
opening that sort of wound around the left (smaller) exit. i figured i'd
see where it went.
up i go into the tight passage, kicking up silt with my fins. after a
few seconds, i could barely see anything around me. well... why stop
now? i figured... might as well know where it goes.
where it went was up, away from the silty bottom (good thing, right?),
getting smaller and smaller, tighter and tigther all the time. up ahead, i
could see a narrow glimmer of light. there was a passage
to the surface up ahead. as i got closer, i could see that it was like a
very narrow window, looking out to the beauty of Crystal River's
clear waters, rocks, and plants.
however, the "window" was too small to get through. perhaps
a very small child might manage it, but it would be tight. it would
be impossible for an adult to squeeze through, even without equipment.
after a few seconds of gazing at the image, i decided it was time to
turn around. frankly, the passage was so tight at this point that i was
getting claustrophobic. for some reason, it finally dawned on me: you
are in a small, silty cave, you have no training, and you don't know what
you're doing. it's time to go home.
ok... so back i turned.
well... i tried to turn.
i couldn't turn. i was stuck.
i tried turning to my left. no good. something was tugging at
me and wouldn't let me turn.
i tried turning to my right. no good, the wall was too close and i
couldn't turn. i had to push myself off to the left and then turn to the right.
so... i tried pushing myself off to the left and then turn to the right.
no good. something was pinning me in place.
and then, of course, the brown stuff hit the fan.
not necessarily in this order, the following thoughts
entered my mind:
1. i am going to die
2. i deserve to die
3. how will i explain this to my wife?
4. slight relief that i wouldn't have to explain
being dead to my wife, since i'd be dead
5. i am an idiot
6. i still have air left
that "pause, breathe, think" thing works. that's just what i did. after
a few breaths, i started to work out just where i was stuck. it appeard
to be somewhere over my shoulder, behind me. when i tugged, it tugged back.
a look down at my octopus holder (the old-fashioned kind, the ball
thing you stick the mouthpiece into), revealed to me that it was empty.
and if my octopus holder was empty... that meant... my octopus was ...
dangling free behind me.
octopus holder. mine was yellow
well, not exactly dangling free behind me. it was stuck on
something, and i couldn't budge it. it was pinning me in place.
i found the octopus hose and traced it back with my right hand.
the hose went into a crack in the rock too small for my hand to follow.
immediately, i thought about cutting the hose (good thing i had
a knife!) but then... reality hit... i can't cut through a steel-reinforced
hose with a dive-knife... and even if i did.. would i be able to make it
back before all the air ran out of the tank? anyway, it was a moot point.
i couldn't cut the hose.
i moved back a little, and felt the hose move. i tried lifting it
(keep in mind the hose was behind my back; i couldn't see what
i was doing, and i couldn't turn around to look). but i had felt the
hose give a little. back i pushed myself, and up i pulled on the hose.
again. and then, the hose came out of the crack and the regulator
was freed. i could move again.
i wish i could say i had some amazing revelation, that the meaning
of life was laid bare before me, that i repented of all my transgressions
against humanity and the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, but
that didn't happen.
i skiddadled out of there, made it through the silt i had stirred
earlier, and came up to the surface very, very, very, very
happy to be alive.
and right there, i made a solemn vow that i would never enter
an overhead situtation again without proper training. i did get
that training (so far cavern and cave 1 classes), and only then did
i understand how stupid i had been and how lucky i was to
live to talk about my stupidity.
my lesson from this incident: you don't know what you don't
know about caves until you get training, and what you don't know
about caves can kill you.