It was another great surveying day for the participants of the Central Florida Spring Project. Today we drove to the DeLeon spring and continued our on going water and bacteria sampling. The spring was pretty crowded for a hot Saturday and there were lots of curious bystanders. The sampling was very much the same as yesterday but with fewer biotic samples but more water sampling stations. The surface team was aided by a few extra hands so each person only had one task which made the day flow nicely. Kelli Gladding, Marissa Rodriguez and Allie Giannotti provided the extra help with the surface team that made the task at hand that much easier. The scenery was lovely. The surface team was able to sit down and work on picnic tables under the moss covered trees. It could only be described as pre-historic. After all the tests were run on the six total stations, we all enjoyed some cook your own pancakes at the restaurant overlooking the spring.
The divers began by configuring our gear for sidemount diving. This was my (Sandy’s) first time into DeLeon Spring and I was very interested to hear about the profile of the cave. We held a team walk-through, during which our goals were discussed and the cave was described as being a bacteriologists’ dream. Mike made the first water sample collection at the mouth of the cave. Andy and Karl entered first, prepared to video and photograph Mike and Sandra entering and making the first and second collections. We fell through a high-flow restriction into a gorgeous small cave with a variety of white snail shells and a few old pieces of wood littering the floor. Mike proceeded to station one, emptied and filled the water sample bottles. For the bacterial count he scooped up a good portion of the floor. I made the collection at the second station. The second station is very interesting due to the halocline. Mike took the samples out of the cave and up to the surface crew. Renee entered with collection equipment for stations three and four and she, Andy and Karl proceeded to those stations. I waited in the cavern area waiting for Mike to return with station five, watching open water divers peek in and get blown back.
When Mike returned, we went up the line to catch up with the others and got to watch Andy video Renee and Karl at their last station. Renee and Andy proceeded out with their samples, Mike and I continued to the grate with Andy in tow. While Andy took video, Mike collected the samples at the grate, station five. Andy then left the cave. Mike proceeded past the grate to make the last collection further back in the cave and possibly peek into the end of the cave for potential leads. He collected the final samples and we exited. The descriptions of this cave as disgusting are accurate, unless you are a biologist! The walls, ceiling and floor are covered in fuzzy orange “mung” (bacterial growth). There are also black fuzzy mung and white fuzzy mung. While we didn’t see any critters on this dive, new species have been discovered here in the past.
Many thanks to Aaron Mills who made a significant portion of this project possible, and to Rima Franklin who will be analyzing much of the data collected. Seminole Scuba for the air fills and to DeLeon Park for allowing us the opportunity to study the cave environment.