I’ve had the good fortune to be in the company of some of the most respected overhead divers/instructors/instructor trainers spanning the globe.
Cave divers use a distinct set of markers to determine direction and distance traveled in a cave.
I constantly have to remind myself that gushing about my new dive toys to my friends at lunch will only be met with confused facial expressions, while discussing teenage gossip with a group of seasoned divers will have the same result.
With a DPV, as with overhead environments and rebreathers, a diver must master the basics first and foremost
Don’t get lost cave divng. Read one man’s story about how he almost ran out of air cave diving.
The only plan we had when TDI Instructor Trainer Ben Reymenants asked us to join a trip to Chiao Lan lake’s floating rafthouses was to do nothing at all; read a book and relax for a couple of days on the water. The group we went with was packed with cave divers and students ready to explore the secrets that hide inside the local caves. Our initial plan was to tag along and make one or two dives to peek into the dark abyss in front of the cave. Well, it didn’t turn out as planned. Curiosity got the better of us and we decided to enroll in the cave diving course. I’m fairly certain Ben knew that all along because he had equipment ready for us to use.
Dark as a night; one only sees the wide light beam emitted by the torch held by your small shaky hand. There is a good chance that you may not see your own light if the diver in front of you decides to stir up some sediment. That’s why you have to obey the one golden rule – no matter what happens or what you are doing, never ever lose your guide line. It just so happened that somebody (not pointing fingers) gently removed our masks and as you might know, seeing underwater without a mask is a bit complicated. Here we go, now it’s time to start exiting!
You must be certain the direction you’re going is the right way out. If you lose the line, you’re in trouble. By holding the line and feeling the previously placed directional markers on it, we started slowly moving towards the exit. Usually when something goes wrong other things that were good until this point start to go wrong as well. It becomes a downward spiral. For example, you may run out of air in addition to zero visibility. That’s another reason to have a good teammate in there which is why I think cave diving is more teamwork than a marriage.
It’s not an ego thing that demands a cave diver to be in good shape. You need to be able to swim long distances without getting tired. Inside a cave, you no longer have the option to go up when you would like to end the dive. As far as you swim in, you must be able to swim out.
There are thousands of years of history recorded in the caves. The caves in Chiao Lan are formed by acids found in the ground and rainwater that dissolved limestone and made cracks in it. It takes thousands of years more until cave systems are formed until, for some natural or artificial reason, the caves are flooded and become home to a very unique ecosystem.
There are stalactites hanging down from the ceilings revealing time stamps and stalagmites grow from the floor like trees. There is almost no vegetation and fauna is quite scarce. You can find some near blind cavefish that may bounce off you during the dive because of they don’t see you (obviously), along with white crabs and lobsters, mustached catfish and snakehead fish dating back to ancient times.
During the last couple of years, it seems I constantly have to test my limits. Like now – I didn’t know anything about cave diving but Ben Reymenants and Paul Kirby taught us the skills necessary to navigate in the caves, deal with entanglements, find the exit in zero visibility, and much more. Over the time I’ve developed some sort of peace and mindset that I’ll do the things as well as I can. A cave diver has to know how to lay a line and tie knots because the line that leads you into the cave is like an umbilical cord; it’s your lifeline that supports you. I practiced my lifeline skills a lot during that week, invented some totally new knots and mastered the known ones.
Tuuli Piirsalu is working as organization development manager for Daimler Financial Services in Singapore. Before urban life she worked as a diving instructor in Egypt, Maldives and Thailand.
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Perhaps one of the most common questions Technical Diving International’s (TDI) Training Department gets is “why do I need training for overhead environments?” While this question seems pretty obvious to TDI, we understand why it is not so obvious to the average diver. After all, you are breathing underwater, controlling your buoyancy and managing air just like you would on any other dive, right? Wrong. In this article we are going to focus on one specific type of overhead diving: caves.
Caves are one of the most fascinating environments a person can explore. Just think about it: these massive natural tunnels (some only a metre or 3 feet down) are below us, some dry some wet, while life on the surface moves along at its normal pace completely unaware that they even exist. These natural tunnels are responsible for a large portion of our drinking water and for moving water to the oceans or lakes to avoid flooding during rainy seasons and snow melt. Nearly every continent and country contains caves, most undocumented and unexplored. Some of these caves are just barely big enough for an adult to fit though while others are big enough to fit a descent sized town in.
While caves are undoubtedly fascinating, and there is clearly a need for them to be explored, they deserve a lot of respect and require specialized training before they are entered. Not all caves are made alike; some caves are low visibility with high water flow while others have clear warm water. Some caves are solid with no chance of the “roof” collapsing while others have what are called “breakdown rooms.” These rooms are where the earth above has been eroded to a point where it falls to the floor of the cave forming a large cone in the center; when this roof will fall is anyone’s guess. In some areas, even the caves that appear to be very stable are subject to seismic activity and could collapse.
The point here is that before entering any cave system proper training is required. Your TDI instructor, among other knowledge and skills, will teach you how the cave was formed and its stability. You will also learn things to look out for when planning a cave dive like “where do I look to find recent seismic activity so I know when it is safe to dive?”
Cave training is also a progression in training starting with caverns where you learn the basic techniques for deploying guidelines, buddy communication with lights and air management, all while staying in the ambient light zone. The next course is cave which takes you beyond the ambient light zone further into the cave requiring more air management skills and guideline techniques. The pinnacle of cave training is full cave; here you will learn complex circuits with jumps off the mainline and even more air management to allow for decompression dives. Please note: Decompression procedures is a pre-requisite for this course, decompression diving is not taught as part of the full cave course.
At any stage of your cave training you can add in other training such as: cave- diver propulsion vehicle (DPV), cave survey, sidemount or sump diving. There is a lot to do, see and learn just below the surface of the rock we walk on every day, but it requires some training from a TDI Professional. After this training you will be amazed at the exploration you will be capable of, and your friends will love the stories of your adventures.
So if cave diving is something you would like to learn more about, ask your local TDI facility or Instructor for more information. Our website is always a great place to start for additional information https://www.tdisdi.com, or simply give us a call at 888.778.9073 or 207.729.4201.