What about Wakulla II?»That was like the next generation literally. The gear had made quantum leaps. We had the rebreather working well and Bill just thought it was time to take the next step. Wakulla II represented the future of what was possible. Like Wakulla I, this project marked the beginning of a new world of possibilities. The centerpiece of the project was a fully operational saturation diving rig brought in from the oil fields. With his usual inventive flair, Bill engineered a way to make it all work in the confines of the spring. For the first time ever, divers were doing four and five hours at 300-ft. depths on rebreathers without a care in the world. It was really incredible. After a dive, the team would simply enter a lockout capsule on the bottom, and then be transported to the surface habitat. Using this concept, divers in the future will be able to perform a week’s worth of exploration and only decompress once. Another very exciting development was the 3D mapper Dr. Bill Stone and Barbara Am Ende invented and proved during the project. For the first time we had true representations of the places we explored instead of the crude stick maps I’m famous for.
What about the WKPP? What’s up with them?»Well, I doubt most of your readers know who they are, but they are the Woodville Karst Plain Project. They’re a highly disciplined group of cave divers who have made a career out of diving mostly one major cave system. In doing so they have become the best at doing a certain type of hybrid technical deep cave diving. I really don’t think that anyone’s done it better than those guys. They’re quite extraordinary. Unfortunately, their current leader, who speaks for the group, is George Irvine. I’ve dealt with his type lots when I was in junior high school, ya know, the schoolyard bully. He likes to pick on, and attempt to demoralize anyone who doesn’t follow his rules and conventions. Basically, he’s a real dick, a total asshole. The way I look at it is people like him tend to come and go from this sport. One day the cave diving community will wake up and he’ll be gone, maybe on to another sport to pick on. The rest of the core of the WKPP has some really talented guys. They’ll probably always have an elitist type of attitude that they are better than anyone else but I guess that’s okay. So, I wait with my fingers crossed that those guys who are truly leading the WKPP will one day step up and take the helm and bring their group and technology and their incredible knowledge and experience into the community as a partnership where they can be functional. But until they do that, they’re kind of a group on their own, is my attitude. Does cave diving make people antagonists? You’ve got the WKPP and then all the infighting between the National Association of Cave Divers (NACD) and the National Speleological Society- Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS). What’s up with all that?»I think a lot of it is perception. People naturally congregate in different groups. The NACD and NSS-CDS offer different things so naturally you get different personalities. But the leaders of those groups get along. I know what you’re talking about but I really don’t think it’s real. Like I said, a lot of it is perception.
What about the Mike Madden/Steve Gerrard battle that’s been waged in Mexico’s cave system? That’s definitely real.»Yeah, but that’s what happens. That’s a good example. Those were individuals who were in different groups. It’s really between those two guys rather than the organizations themselves. The hearts of those organizations are dedicated to great things: education, conservations, protection of the environment and outreach. On a more positive note, tell us about the accomplishments in Mexico at the Dos Ojos and Nahoch Nachich cave systems.»First of all it’s just a fascinating wonderland down there. I mean we’re able to do some big-time swims, some 18,000-ft. penetrations, where we’re blending film making with exploration. Plus, I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that ultimately connected Nahoch to the ocean. And then a couple of years later it was time to do the IMAX film. We were scouting locations and had the challenge of unbelievable logistics of pulling off an IMAX film in an underwater cave in a jungle. So we had a very tough decision. I was like, “We have to do it in Nahoch to work with Mike Madden and everything.” But the logistics just forbade it. There was no way we could helicopter everything in. There was no road in there at the time I had to face reality that this Dos Ojos cave was better. And as I did that, I recognized that it was a great cave. I really started falling in love with Dos Ojos.