A report from Alex Boulton, DSAT TDD Technical Consultant
Just got back from the ongoing exploration of a New South Wales Coal mine located near Mount Victoria in Australia’s Blue Mountains. The path into the mine is a track through the bush that slopes down into a gulley in front of the escarpment where the mine tunnel begins. The mine tunnel is roughly 4 meters across by 2m tall. The tunnel slopes at about 15 degrees and extends about 200m before you reach the flooded section. The mine is fairly balmy 14 degrees and as the first explorers here laid guideline down the left side of the tunnel getting to the end of the fixed line at 50m only takes about 10 minutes. On arrival at the end of the line with the mine carts directly in front of me the mine looked very different from my previous dives without helium – now I could see that I had actually passed an intersection before the line finished at a roof post next to the carts. I tied into the main line and around the post and then turned on my right side and began squeezing past the first cart. I had to hold the top lip of the cart to pull myself along and then took a turn around the next roof support on passing the first cart. I repeated this process about 4 times until I cleared the last of the carts. As I popped out from behind the last cart and took another turn around the last roof support I could see the back wall of the tunnel some 5m in front of me. I swam over and tied off my reel to a piece of pipe on the floor near the back wall. As I turned I began to remember what had made my first dive at Blair Athol challenging – the silt. As there has been diver traffic in the main tunnel the majority of the roof sediment & algae has already been dislodged but back here & alongside the carts it had never been disturbed. So I let the line slide through my fingers as I swam blindly back to the carts and then turned on my left side and squirmed my way back into the main tunnel. The deco went well. I chose to inflate myself up against the roof as opposed to maintaining a hover as visibility dwindled. By the time I got to 6m I was very cold. Nevertheless after 85 minutes I emerged into the entrance pool to be greeted by the happy face of my surface support Junya who had spent a lonely hour and a half sitting at the bottom of a coal mine in the dark. My thanks goes to Junya Kato as a great surface support and tank swinger and to Dave Apperley who first told me about the mine and helped me with directions.