By Martin Robson TecRec Instructor and an Instructor Trainer for rebreathers, cave, sidemount and open circuit expedition trimix.
Have you ever wondered what really happens on some of the expeditions you can read about in the diving press?
On a recent trip to France we decided to keep a blog going – Thanks to Janne Suhonen for the photos.
Despite the French strikes and the shortage of fuel we have all at last arrived in the South of France. The first scouting mission revealed our main target site to be higher flow and a lot poorer visibility than we had hoped. Time to move to ‘Plan B’.
So today has seen us spending most of the time preparing rebreathers, analysing stage cylinders and getting a million and one other things ready for a check out dive at a different site. Fingers crossed the conditions will be good.
The seemingly endless kit prep continued for most of the day.
So this is where we are diving today. The obvious square dark opening is the way in. A little bit of a squeeze getting through so we will have to have one of the team in the pool passing equipment down into the cave, so it will take a while before everything is in and we are ready to set off.
All those stages and scooters took nearly an hour to get in to the cave.
The two chaps top-side were worried about not passing stuff down quickly enough but what they couldn’t see was the two of us inside the cave at the bottom of the entrance chimney slowly being buried under an ever-increasing cylinder mountain.
By the time Janne and Antti had started wriggling down the entrance shaft Zoltan and I had decided to run away from the mess and scooter in to drop some of the Eanx 50. When we got back to the base of the chimney there was a competition going on to see who could load up with the most stages.
There then followed some comedy cave diving as they realised that even with scooters they were somewhat overloaded.
This did slow our progress a little but eventually we all got to about a kilometre in and had dropped most of the stages in position. Once the stages were dropped a much quicker ride home (with much better trim and buoyancy!) got us back to the base of the chimney to grab some battery packs and plug in the heated under-suits.
Six and a half hours later we were all safely back on the surface
Once we finally got the stages set up and surfaced it was of course night. Considering how far back we managed to place cylinders it really was a great team effort.
Sometimes you just know the patient might not recover! Late at night some dry suit repairs are attempted using a tried and trusted leak discovery technique that always seems to involve drinking beer BEFORE you try to find why your dry suit is leaking!
30 October It has been a little while since I have had the chance to dive here,and these are perhaps the best conditions I have ever seen in the cave. The rest of the gang had never been here before and were rightly impressed.
The cave is still looking good but the flow is increasing steadily as each day passes.
Well we all had a couple of fun-filled hours assembling the habitat underwater yesterday! It actually went surprisingly well and is now up and rigged and ready for use. The concern now is now the weather. It has been raining heavily for some time now and the flow in the cave has been steadily increasing over the last three days. The plan is still to get to the end of the cave and see if there is any un-dived cave still to be explored, but we do have a back-up plan to go back in and recover our deep stage cylinders and get the habitat out (even though it has only just gone in) before the cave makes up its own mind to kick us out!
“Percy, the devil farts in my face once again!” (I apologise for those who are NOT fans of the Blackadder TV series). So now our compressor won’t work at all. It has decided, since we got here, to deliver ever decreasing pressures when topping up cylinders. For most of the week it has been delivering about 120 bar which we then managed to boost from some of our stored gas. Now it won’t even get above ambient! We have enough gas for a couple of days of diving but the end of the line and beyond is looking increasingly distant.
And on top of all that my heated under-suit is no longer working!
Brrrrrrrr! Very chilly now.
Well we never did get as far as we wanted. I am a bit of a fan of French anarchy but it came at just the wrong time, putting me three days late getting to the dive site and we ran out of time, although the cave stayed in great condition. We will of course return, not just to this cave but we have quite a few on the list that need exploring. I hope those who read the reports of the trip enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by and taking a look. My next trip is to Finland in a couple of weeks for some rather unusual training. If I can get some pictures to show then I will of course share them.
So from France for this year – bye for now –
Martin Robson www.eau2.com