In addition to my usual Monday photo posting schedule, over the coming weeks I’m going to share some more historical cave diving photography with you. With my cave diving photography I’m following in the steps of my Dad. With a Nikonos II and later a Nikonos V, Dad documented the exploration cave diving out on the Nullarbor through the 80s. He was part of the 1982 and 1983 push dive teams in Cocklebiddy, the trips on which Toad Hall was discovered and the third sump dived for the first time. Cocklebiddy held the world record for the longest cave dive at the time, and the expeditions out there were using cutting edge techniques and technologies.
As trip photographer, Dad captured the unfolding events. A lot of divers now visit Cocklebiddy and more than a few histories have been written around the initial exploration. While every person tells it from their own point of view, a photographer has the distinct advantage of pictorial evidence to back up their claims.
Lastly, these images are no good to anyone sitting in a cupboard. As you can see from the marks on some of these images, the earlier slides in the collection are starting to degrade. Dad has spent a great deal of time sorting and scanning and sorting again. I’m proud to present the results of his efforts, and I’ll post the Cocklebiddy photo files each Thursday for the next six weeks. If you’d like to use, reproduce or get copies of these photos, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. Captions are below each photo.
Lowering a tank and reels over the edge with a larkin frame. The 1979 trip was a South Australian affair with Peter Stace on the left, Phil Prust in the brown jumper, Russell Kitt with the blue hat, Ron Allum standing on the trailer and Jenny Hiscock off to the right.
With a large assortment of gear down by the water’s edge. Front and centre is Ron Allum in the green shirt. Alan Joliffe on the left, unidentifiable person behind, Russell Kitt crouching down and Peter Stace on the right.
Alan Grundy (left) and Ron Allum packing a dry tube in preparation for the first dive. The perspex box with a garden hose coming out of it in the foreground is a homemade dive torch. The first rockpile had been discovered the previous trip, and at nearly 1km from the entrance was considered a big dive.
The first attempt at combining tanks together to form a sled. Two sets of banded twins were strapped around a drytube for buoyancy. Peter Stace, Alan Grundy and Ron Allum were the only three divers on this trip who had previously been to the rockpile, and staging tanks throughout the cave hadn’t yet been dreamt up. Alan and Ron set off for the first rockpile with this contraption, only to return about 40 minutes later having realised they were past their thirds – not the most hydrodynamic getup to be carrying around underwater. Dad and Peter Stace headed off on the next dive and picked up where they left off, making it all the way to the rockpile.
Ron Allum getting ready to dive at the entrance lake in Cocklebiddy.
Peter Stace gearing up at the water’s edge, helped by Jenny Hiscock.
Peter Rogers in wetsuit and fenzy on his first Nullarbor trip, prepping for a dive into Cocklebiddy.
Alan Grundy swimming through the first sump. The drytube between his tanks may have had snacks and other useful things. There was also some concern that the fenzies wouldn’t have enough lift with the twin tanks. Most diving at the time, even in caves, was done using single tanks.
Next Thursday I’ll upload the other half of the 1979 photos, and after that share the 1982 push to Toad Hall and 1983 push into the third sump. If you’d like to stay updated without checking back, you can subscribe via RSS or email (scroll up to the top and enter your email under “Follow me on the web” and click “Subscribe to articles”).