Dec 172014

Empty reel returned!

About the cave

Growling Swallet is a major sink in the Junee Florentine karst area in Tasmania. Water from the river that rushes into the cave entrance has been dye traced to emerge in the Junee resurgence, several miles away. Unlike other caves in the area Growling has an entrance that doesn’t require ropes or SRT, just a few very sketchy free climbs. The name describes the noise of the river rushing in when in flood, and as you would expect caving is only possible in low water conditions.

The way through the cave alternates between following the water and climbing up and over it. From a caving perspective this means that even on the way in (usually downhill) there are several large ups to be climbed. On the other hand this provides some downhill on the way out…

Watching and waiting

About the trip

The intention for the weekend was to carry one set of dive gear, plus a suit for a second diver to the terminal downstream sump. Dreamtime sump is where both water from the entrance and water from a terminal branch disappear underground. The water here is next seen in Niggly Cave before eventually resurfacing in Junee. The estimated distance to the mapped passage in Niggly is only a few hundred metres. More interestingly, the data suggests that a major branch of water should flow into this gap between the two known systems. The sump was dived years ago without success, but with sidemounts and improved equipment and techniques we were somewhat optimistic about making progress.

About the dive

After nearly 5 hours of hauling packs through the cave, we lined up on the bank and watched Steve put his dive gear on. The plan was for him to dive first using the two 7L tanks. Andreas was then going to dive second with the remains of the gas to see if further progress could be made. He crawled off into the water and after watching for about 5 minutes it became obvious this was going to take a while. 35 minutes later he appeared, with survey distances and directions memorised. After a quick transcription onto paper we got the full story.

The sump continues 50m or more through a wide and low silty flattener, requiring a bit of wriggling to get through. It then surfaces briefly into an airbell with no “dry” land, but remains shallow enough that you could stand up. Following this the dive heads back into the water and the passage opens up into swimmable territory. All of this was shallow at less than 3m depth. Despite the feeling that we might get somewhere, I definitely had the view that carrying in the full reel of knotted line was slightly delusional. As it turned out, Steve ran out of line well before approaching his gas limits.

The first photo here is the triumphant return, following survey transcription. The reel has a bit of line left on it due to a lack of suitable tie-offs on the silty floor at the further point reached. And the second photo here is the chorus line of cavers, finding out what happened underwater. Sump diving is not generally a spectator sport so a successful return with news of ongoing exploration is always good news.

Dec 022014
Elk River push dive

  We were back in Elk River cave on the weekend, once again searching for a way on and through the current final sump. Over the last year or so we’ve laid 250m of line into sump 7 over several push dives. To achieve those dives there have been 15 trips into the cave – to survey, photography, resupply and explore. As the end of the sump got further and further away the dive required larger and larger tanks. This means each push dive trip requires two or three resupply and stocking trips to carry tanks to the end. One of those was just a month ago, where we carried [read more…]

Nov 252014
Blenny central under Mornington Pier

About the site Mornington Pier is currently under reconstruction. In the last 12 months they’ve removed and replaced almost all of the pylons, changing from the old wooden pillars to new steel and plastic contraptions. All of this work hasn’t done much for the underwater scenery with many of the critters that could manage it moving on. The bottom has been scoured down in places and until the greenery grows back there won’t be very many places to hide. On the other hand the local fishing community hasn’t had easy access to the end of the pier either. I spent the dive surrounded by schooling old wives, juvenile sweep and [read more…]

Nov 192014
Sunbeams in Sinkholes

About the dive Kilsby’s is gorgeous…I’ve been there many, many times and it’s usually great. Then on some occasions it moves from being great to being truly awesome. These photos were taken on one of those days. On this particular weekend the whole cave diving world was booked in to dive Tank Cave. Myself and my parents had three awesome dives at Pics, Pines and Kilsby’s without seeing another soul. The water in both the Cathedral in Pics and in the main cavern of Pines was crystal clear. And then there was Kilsby’s. In early November I wasn’t sure if we’d be seeing much sunlight in the water. But by 9.45am [read more…]

Nov 042014
Tassie cave rescue exercise

  Since getting back from my trips after to France and Komodo, it’s been all work on the weekend front. Our Elk resupply trip and a weekend in Mt Gambier to talk at the CDAA AGM were followed by a trip down to Tassie to participate in a cave rescue exercise. The Tassie exercise was co-ordinated by Andreas of the STC, and partially funded by an ASF grant to get Al Warild down south from NSW to run it. Cave rescues in Tasmania are likely to be vertical affairs and the 4 day course focussed on rigging and lifting stretchers up and out to sunshine. The group attending included cavers from NSW, [read more…]

Oct 282014
Sunday afternoon in Pines

Weekend before last was the CDAA AGM and associated talks and dinner in Mt Gambier. After giving a talk on my evolution from cave diving to sump diving over the last ten years and listening a bunch of excellent presentations from the other speakers, it was great to get in the water on Sunday. Steve and I headed to Pines, a site I haven’t visited much since finishing my Tank pre-requisite dives some years ago. My Pines dives in the intervening time have mostly been with cave-rated buddies or for gear checkouts and involved photos of sunlight in the main cavern. So it was nice to be back, on the [read more…]