We had two primary goals for today’s dive at Rock Springs. The first was to obtain still images and HD video, and the second was to explore, looking for new passage off the left side about 650 feet back.
Upon arrival, the park manager Joe Brandon greeted us, assigning another park staffer, Roxanne, to stay with us and assist with everything from crowd control to moving equipment with the park’s off road vehicles. (The Kelly Park staff was awesome – hospitable and welcoming, with several staffers jumping in at various points to make the dive a success. Much thanks to them!) Joe explained that the park is increasing its educational outreach, and that they welcomed the Cambrian Foundation’s research there. Renee volunteered that the Foundation could also assist with educational programs, explaining that we’ve done this at other parks with good success.
After setting up springside, Mike and Andy entered first to set up for video of the other divers coming in. Rock Springs has a strong flow, and it was a fight moving upstream, even now with the flow somewhat weaker than usual. The other divers came in on cue, giving Andy beautiful video. The other divers passed Mike and Andy, Renee and I (Karl) in the lead so we could take photos in relatively clear water (It becomes murkier as we pass by because this cave is so small, it is inevitable we stir up some silt). As Renee and I took some pictures, the rest of the crew shot more video, everyone progressing into the spring.
About 400 feet back, the photo card was full. The team tied off all the photo/video gear and switched into exploration mode. Reaching the T in the permanent line that marks the beginning of the really tight stuff (about 650 feet back), Renee and Andy took off down the left lead while Mike and I examined a possible lead to the right. Sandy focused on biology near Mike and me, looking for amphipods (none of which were found) and other cave species. The possible lead to the right proved way too small, though Mike noted water flowing from it, with a slightly different color that suggests it’s fed by a different water source from the rest of the spring. Mike, Sandy and I exited the cave, retrieving the staged camera gear as we went. A short while later, Andy and Renee emerged, jubilant at having added 25 feet to the cave (that’s a lot in this cave). They reported that the cave is very tight (low), with progress in that area likely to be slow.
The surface team had a very lax day, with regard to supporting the divers, but a busy day with park guests. The majority of the day was spent answering questions from the park-goers. Most asked about the cave itself and its dimensions. One particularly curious man asked about the ins and outs of scuba. We tried to convey the fact that scuba itself is a has potential hazards and that the potential for problems increases when the ability to surface is eliminated, as it is with a submersed cave. The public was very supportive and the questions seemed to dispel myths about the cave. One reoccurring myth we heard is that there is an open air cavern that a swimmer could reach. This not true. The cave is completely submerged and the very small pockets of gas on the ceiling of the cave are too small to breathe, temporary and normally don’t contain oxygen. Being that the cave is devoid of light, there is no place for photosynthetic plants to make oxygen. Therefore what little gas there is in a cave results from anaerobic decomposition and is potentially harmful.
Following the dive, we answered quite a few questions for Roxanne and Kelly Park guests, many of whom were quite interested in what we were doing. Thanks very much to the Kelly Park staff for their aid, warmth and professionalism and making the entire team feel right at home. We thank them for their support and look forward to working with them in the future. Again thanks to Seminole Scuba for air fills and general support.