Aug 172016
 

Underwater in sump 3

Our Elk River supply trips are now down to a fine art. Each push trip requires two or three resupply trips – removing the empty tanks from the previous exploration, taking in full tanks, plus caching other gear as required. We are now using a lot of carbon fibres tanks for the longest swim through sump 7. The carbon fibres are much, much lighter than equivalent steel or aluminium tanks and can hold higher pressures.

Sinking the caving pack

The drawback of the carbon fibre tanks is their buoyancy characteristics in the water.We have placed kilos of lead weights at the diving gear up spot. Each 9L tank takes 6kgs of lead to sink it. We are definitely not carrying this lead backwards and forwards. But there are four small sumps on the way home that the carbon fibre tanks need to pass through.

My preferred technique for passing sumps with a very buoyant caving pack is to descend and get myself under the lip of the rock ceiling. From there, flipping upsidedown and bracing against the ceiling allows for a good tug on the caving pack. With the pack safely wedged under the lip it’s a matter of doing the upsidedown spider crawl across the roof.

On the far side of the sump the pack will rocket to the surface as soon as it is free of the roof. The accompanying diver can then surface, remove mask, clip the pack tether and keep on trucking down the cave.

These photos were taken on our way in last Saturday. The water clarity was remarkably good and I was able to get some underwater shots on the small camera. The manual settings on the Lumix allow for a fixed shutter speed of 1/25 and with an ISO of 800 this is enough for the Scurions to light up the picture. It may not have the quality of the dSLR, but the Lumix is a lot easier to transport through the cave!

Caving pack surfacing

Aug 022016
 
Humpback whales

I’ve just got back from a magical weekend on the water. Packing light and leaving the dive gear behind we headed for sunny Queensland with snorkels at the ready. Light winds and flat seas made a nice difference to some of the ocean conditions out of Melbourne recently. We launched out of the Gold Coast and tried our luck both up and down the coast. We hadn’t been on the water for long before we spotted some fellow travellers. The humpback whales migrate north up the Australian coast at this time of year. They are moving from their cold water feeding grounds with full bellies, heading into warmer waters to give birth. With a big migration underway, there are whales everywhere. [read more…]

Jul 272016
 
Overnight exploration in Elk River

We had an interesting weekend in Elk River with the longest trip underground to date. After multiple set up trips to replace empty tanks with full ones we headed in to use them. The trip was complicated by large floods that swept through Buchan two weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what effect the raised water level might have had on the cave, or the gear cached throughout. The first victim of high water levels was the first aid kit, laid out on a beach before sump 4. We found most of the items from the kit floating in the water just before sump 4 and were able to rescue them all. The bag itself had made further progress and was [read more…]

Jul 192016
 
Exploration and photography in Timor

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 [read more…]

Jul 122016
 
Split shots in Timorese air chambers

One of the features of Timor is the very soft limestone that I talked about last week. As well as exploding cave ceilings, this also leads to large breakdown piles in the cave tunnels. Which means that the big blue passages are periodically interrupted by collapses both underwater and above. As you can see from these shots, air chambers provide a whole new playground for cave photography. Taking split shots in the ocean means waiting for very calm days or finding sheltered spots. Underground, in a place completely enclosed by rock, there’s no need to worry about the weather rippling the surface. When the divers are still the water surface is completely flat. With a rock to stand on and not [read more…]

Jul 072016
 
Silt explosions in Timor

We are back in Timor this week, expanding the limits of the caves we have previously discovered and exploring new caves and new areas. Luckily for me, pushing new areas in known caves means swimming through previously discovered areas first. This makes photography possible – I know what the cave discovered last year looks like, and what’s going to happen when we get in there. I can plan my lighting and instruct my dive buddies for the best shots in otherwise challenging conditions. This Timor trip is the first one where the photography has really come together to show off the beauty of this new area. The limestone in Timor is soft and crumbly. It’s easy to see ancient and [read more…]