The Cambrian Foundation has returned to the Central Florida Springs Project with an excellent start! The project started on the night of the 19th with debriefing and packing for the next morning. Our tedious packing and planning allowed all the volunteers to jump right in today and get the job done. Our day started bright and early by meeting at Wekiwa spring at 8 am. Everyone was on their own for breakfast. Most of the morning consisted of prepping dive gear, and setting up water sampling equipment. Once we were all ready, the first team of divers hit the cave and collected the necessary samples. Amy Giannotti collected water column bacteria, prepared the biomass and water chemistry assays, and ran the hydrolab, which is a small machine that can test numerous water parameters including pH, specific conductance, temperature, dissolved oxygen, salinity, etc. John Boswell tested for ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Ryan Hunter, the Frank Scalli Intern from the Boston Sea Rovers tested for the presence of iron, and Jonathan Hamilton analyzed the samples for nitrate. And, we were joined by Dean and Daniel Barber and their friend Nicholas, who helped learn about sulfide and ammonia tests. They were inquisitive and enjoyed a dip in the spring after their tests were complete. The surface support crew also aided the divers by hauling gear to and from the site, and we answered questions from curious park-goers.
Once all of the equipment was at the water’s edge, the entire team gathered for a walk through of the entire process. This walk through has proven to be the tool that can make or break a mission. One portion of the mission today was to collect water samples at the mouth of the cave entrance. Andy graciously suited up and retrieved those samples as the remainder of the team geared up. Sandy and Renee were tasked with collecting water and bacteria at sample station number one in the “cavern” area. The term cavern here is used loosely as there is indeed natural sunlight present, but the restriction at the entrance requires one to be certified as a full cave diver. Renee entered the cave first in a sidemount configuration. In this way the two cylinders are attached on her sides to enable negotiation through low areas. After a few attempts she removed one of her cylinders allowing easier access. Sandy followed soon after and then Karl. A few moments were taken to make general observations about the cave. They took time to ensure that all five of the substations were still properly labeled and noted the amount of bacterial growth on them. Team estrogen then moved ahead with the sampling tasks. Karl served as media man and gathered video and still photos for documentation. After 46 minutes at 11 feet the three person team exited the system one at a time and presented the sampling bags to the surface team for analysis. Andy and Mike, already geared up and in the water, descended shortly afterwards in a no mount configuration. In this fashion the one cylinder is pushed ahead of the diver to enable passage through very small restrictions that are even too small for a diver in sidemount. The no mount rig has redundant regulators attached by use of an H or Y valve. All lights and other accessories are strapped to the cylinder in a manner so they are easily obtainable. Once through the “cavern” they squeezed their way through the smaller Shark Fin Restriction. A larger room that seemed to crawl and a high flow greeted them. This portion of the cave is covered with stringy bacteria that will dislodge with the slightest movement which made the otherwise clear basin appear turbid. Mike and Andy got water and bacteria samples at stations three and five following the same guidelines as Renee and Sandy. Karl remained in the “cavern” and captured stills. Sandy shuttled samples to Renee who was waiting on the outside and took them to the surface support team for analysis. Once the sampling was complete and the gear stowed the team debriefed the day and set out to accomplish various tasks and to prepare for the next day.
The forecast threatened showers this afternoon but the entire team’s efficiency allowed them to leave slightly ahead of schedule. Smooth sailing on a beautiful day.