Oct 152012

Diving under the Niggle bridge

About the site

I talked about the trip to the water in Niggle Cave two weeks ago, and promised a follow up post on the diving. Niggle Cave is located in the Camooweal region of Far North Queensland, near the border with the Northern Territory. The dry caving effort required to get down to the water level is significant, but with the underwater sections being largely unexplored there’s a lot of incentives to do so. With permission from Parks and the blessing of the local traditional owners, we spent some time expanding the limits of the known.

Ryan in Niggle Cave

About the dive

Joel and Ryan spent a day rigging the cave and carrying a lot of the gear in, but after checking out a lot of the dry cave ran out of time to get in the water. So the following day I accompanied them with some more gear down to the water’s edge, and we volunteered Joel to get in for a checkout dive. There was the beginning of  a pre-existing permanent line heading down the rockface and into the water, and Ryan and I watched Joel’s light disappear into the depths.

By the time he returned I had got the camera sorted and jumped in the water. After lugging gear through the hot and humid cave air, the 28 degree water didn’t do much to cool me down and you can see Joel decided to leave the wetsuit behind. The other thing I discovered as I trod water in my shorts and T-shirt with an aluminium camera housing was that the water is very fresh. Lifting the camera to take split shots like the second shot here rapidly put me underwater and sinking.

About the shot

After seeing the limestone bridge formation from the suface above (check out the shot here) I was very keen to get a photo of it underwater. While the water was relatively clear on arrival, all the gear going in the water had already been transported through the muddy cave. This immediately put a silt cloud in the water and created the haze in the photos. Of course, my frantic trying-to-stay-afloat kicking probably didn’t help either.

As is usual by this point in the day, we realised we needed to head for the surface to make it back to camp in time for dinner. While I would have liked to get some more shots here, the increasing amount of mud in the water made for diminishing returns on effort and we left for the day.

Two days later, Joel laid line further into the cave to a maximum depth of 46m and with the tunnel continuing down. The entrance to the dry cave on the surface is too small to fit a rebreather into, and access to the water is not easy. With the cave disappearing into the depths we made a collective decision to leave this one to explorers more intrepid than ourselves, and relocated to Great Nowranie Cave for the remainder of the trip.

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