At 0900 we (Andrew, Terrence and Renee) gathered our dive gear ready to go to Rock Springs, in Kelly Park. On arrival we spoke to the rangers to inform them of our plan for the day. They waved and smiled as we drove down to the spring.
The 248-acre Kelly Park is in Orange County. It is built around one of the beautiful clear springs near Apopka, Florida. Rock Springs is a second magnitude spring and it is aptly named due to the fast-flowing water bubbling out from under a rock outcropping which then becomes a swift running spring littered with rocks. Favorite activities here are snorkeling and floating down the spring run on an inner tube. Diving is not normally allowed at Rock Springs, but the Cambrian Foundation is fortunate to have a permit to dive here and this allows us to do our research.
After driving a short distance down an unpaved road we began unloading our gear and then carried it down to the headspring. We all were diving sidemount, which means wearing scuba cylinders on our sides, unlike most scuba divers who wear their tanks on their backs. This made getting in and out of the water very easy. With sidemounting you put your cylinders on in the water rather than walk to the water with them on your back. After gearing up in an area out of the flow we submerged to begin our survey dive.
With such high flow proceedings were slow. Renee went first followed by Andrew and Terrence. The part of the cave that has been explored thus far is not too big. The line runs mainly due north. The walls and ceiling of the cave are made of very crumbly limestone. Fossils are everywhere. The flow increased and decreased according to the size of the cave. Where the cave was narrow the current was very strong as it had to pass through a small area. Near the end of the line, the flow picked up and it became increasingly difficult to maintain position. We then turned around and surveyed the cave whilst we were coming out. This was easier than doing it on the way in, as on the way out we were swimming with the current rather than against it. Despite this, it proved to be quite a challenge as we needed to stop at the various survey stations to collect data. Specifically we measure the depth, the azimuth (bearing) and length of each section of guideline and write down information about the shape of the surrounding cave at each survey station. Doing this accurately when the current is trying to spit you out of the cave is not easy. Rock Springs does not like to give up her secrets! In the end though, through perseverance, we succeeded.
After compilation of the data, we found we had surveyed 701 feet of passage. The line we surveyed was placed in the cave in the fall of 2003. The map we produce from this survey will be the first one ever made of the underwater cave at Rock Springs. Exploration will continue in the upcoming months.
We stopped by The Dive Station in Orlando to get fills for tomorrow. The owner, Keith Mattson, is always eager to help the Foundation during various projects.