At 0730 today there was a very long line of eager divers, swimmers, sun-worshippers and pancake-eaters at the gate of Deleon Springs State Park here in Central Florida. Once the gate was open the fun frenzy began!!
Very quickly the Cambrian Foundation surface support team helped shuttle dive gear to the water’s edge in preparation for entry into the spring as the dive team sorted harnesses, lights and other items necessary for the sampling dive. Meanwhile, the topside sampling crew transported supplies for the actual testing of the materials collected. Per protocol the entire team participated in a walkthrough of the dive as if it was an actual dive working out potential problems, answering questions and creating muscle memory for the collecting.
Jef, Karl and Renee entered the cave one at a time due to the high flow and small opening. Our job as divers in this role is to collect bacterial and water samples at 6 pre-determined stations at the entrance of and inside the cavern and cave. Start time, end time and depth were required to be recorded at each station as well. We also transported a sonde throughout the dive that detected temperature, depth, pH and dissolved oxygen. Special attention is used to ensure useful data is collected at each station using a proven systematic approach. Keep in mind that while we are collecting these samples we are also cave divers. We have to maintain awareness of our time, gas pressure, depth, buoyancy and location at all times. Doing all of this it is easy to become task overloaded and collect data that is not useful or worse awareness is lost possibly creating problematic results for that diver or team. The three divers moved from station to station working together well. Visibility at times (most of the time) was compromised because of the copious amounts of bacteria throughout the water column. A cave diver must have the ability to not let that be a problem and continue the collection process. At around station 5 we started getting chilly and were happy to begin the journey to the warm and sunny basin. At about one hour 52 minutes we began our exit. Some new discoveries were made in the cavern area during a deeper decompression stop. A careful exit from the cave was conducted and a required 10 minute decompression stop ensued. Once topside the surface team was ready to receive cylinders from the divers during the 10 minute surface safety stop prior to water egress. The post dive debrief revealed that because of the preparedness of the entire research team the day was a success!
A HUGE thank you to Bill and Laura Blackburn at Seminole Scuba for providing air fills for the project. The Cambrian Foundation is grateful to Deleon Springs State Park for allowing us continued access.
Questions/comments to the Trilobite??
Rachel Crane, 2011 Frank Scalli Intern/Boston Sea Rovers
Steve Dunn, CF Intern/Rollins College
Rima Franklin, Ph.D., VCU
Shawn Hill, VCU
Aaron Mills, Ph. D., University of Virginia
Amber Taylor, VCU
Andrew Vossler, CF Intern/Rollins College