The joy of Timor is the big tunnels. And the white walls, and the clear water. The karst landscapes creates a lot of dolines and only a few go to water – the countryside makes you work for underwater success. So when one of the beautiful blue surface pools finally does drop into massive going tunnel the elation is incredible.
In this series of photos Dave and Sandy had carefully manoeuvred their way into an entrance pool they discovered last year. This time the water was still clear when they got in. Sandy was able to find her way through the small hole at the bottom of the pool and into the big blue passage beyond. This particular entrance pool is on the other side of a large dry rockpile, with another large blue underwater tunnel at the other end. Sandy left the half empty reel after reaching her air limits, and we returned the following day with extreme optimism.
I joined (hijacked) Dave and Sandy’s follow-up exploration dive to take some photos. Being able to take photos of underwater exploration in progress is incredibly rare. With new caves in Australia mostly ridiculously hard to access, taking the camera into the unknown is usually a step too far. Even if the camera does make it to the end of the line, finding enough time and clear water to take photos of the action is tricky. Cave divers tend to get excited as new cave unrolls in front of them and become reluctant to hang around for modelling.
The first photo here is of Dave picking up the reel from where it was left the day before. You can see the blue water behind him with the silt rolling in as our bubbles hit the roof. In the second photo Dave moved to the left of a large underwater rockpile and I swam over the top to get this shot of him reeling out. The closeup of the roof here shows the incredible porosity of the limestone. I needed clear water for a one time chance at a photo, but Dave needed clear water for a one time chance at finding the way on. After the last photo here it became apparent that we would be working our way around the underwater rockpile for a while. Squeezing ahead with the camera was silly – it both significantly reduced the chance of us breaking through, and left me off the line in poor conditions.
In addition to the silt created by tying the line off on the rock to the left and the silt exploding from the ceiling overhead, you can see the fuzzy water of a disturbed halocline. Challenging conditions for both exploration and photography. The need to find new cave took precedence. Dave headed past me and I grabbed the line, wrapped up the camera and moved into his silt cloud, photography complete.