About the site
Gouldens is the cave diving training hole in Mt Gambier. Characteristically green and murky, all three levels of CDAA cave diving training start with dives here. Simulated equipment failures and appropriate emergency procedures are demonstrated and practised. By the end of a training course, the black organic silt across the bottom of the hole is usually evenly distributed throughout the water, with vis reduced to a few feet.
As a result, very few divers get back in here for what’s possibly a nice dive. I say possibly because I’m one of them, and I haven’t dived in Gouldens without an instructor in the water, either for my training or when assisting with someone else’s.
About the dive
On this occasion we weren’t in for a pleasure dive either. Wayne had completed his full cave course with another agency, and was doing the parts of the CDAA Advanced Cave course required to cross over his certification. This includes the stress test which is done in pairs, and put me in the water as first buddy.
While I was required for the stress test, the other exercises are performed solo under supervision of the instructor. They include gear removal and replacement through a restriction, lost line searches, and line following with a mask black out on to simulate loss of visibility. I took advantage of the opportunity to take some photos in a different environment, and took the camera in.
Although taking photos of course candidates restricts their ability to hold additional strobes for you, Goulden’s is a sinkhole site with background sunlight. The top layer of water is very green and filters the light that penetrates to the clear layer of water below. After swimming out to the end of the line through the log “restriction”, Gary blacked out Wayne’s mask and the return trip along the guideline began.
About the photo
While this wasn’t a photo dive with co-operative models following my every instruction, the planned nature of course dives meant I had a good idea of what was going to happen next. The line placement and the slower movement of blacked-out divers meant I could swim ahead and position myself in likely areas for a good shot.
I like this shot because it gives a clear view of the mask blackout, which goes some way to explaining the line following technique being used – creating more silt isn’t a concern when you can’t see anything. The framing through the log and the dull green sunlight glow in the background sets a context that CDAA divers will quickly recognise. For those who are considering cave diving courses, these shots may give you an idea of the training environment.