Nov 012012

The 1982 Cocklebiddy trip had representatives from both West Australia and South Australia. With new techniques for combining tanks into a sled, the trip hoped to push past the end of the West Australian line in the second sump and see what lay beyond.

Council of War before the big dive

Left to right: Hugh Morrison, Ron Allum, unsure, Keith Dekkers, Simon Jones in yellow, unsure. The 1982 trip was led by Hugh Morrison from West Australia. Dad, still based in South Australia, knew Hugh from his FAUI instructing and invited himself along as trip photographer. The other South Australian representative was Ron, who was keen to get back to Cocklebiddy and came as photographer’s assistant. Various bits of gear have been hung on the shrubbery to dry, including a buoyancy vest on the salt bush behind Simon.

Simon Jones and the triple bands

Simon Jones from Perth Diving Academy. The triple bands were a West Australian invention, overcoming the limitations of the velcro method used by the South Australians in 1979.

Ron Allum and an early sled

Ron Allum down by the entrance lake, considering methods of binding tanks together for a sled.

Sled underwater

The final 1982 sled in use. Two sets of triple bands were used, with the bottom tank held by both bands at the apex to form three sets of five tanks in a row. A piece of plumbing pipe down the middle, a broom handle through the front for steering and three horse collar vests attached at various points for buoyancy completed the rig. Torches were tied into the structure at various points to provide more light. The sled was propelled by a diver on each side at the front, and one behind. These three are attempting to following the roof of the cave. Staying shallow helped conserve air but following the roof also meant regular depth changes, leading to a change in buoyancy of the sled with no ability to inflate or deflate the attached vests.

Sled on the bottom

As the next shot shows, the sled has headed down through the water from the roof to the floor and the bubble trails show the divers are working hard. As well as the torches and vests attached to the top, check out the 4L orange juice container for hydration at the end of the dive. Dad and Ron moved around the trio as they swum the first sump, taking pictures of the sled in action.

First rockpile

A shot of the first rockpile, with someone (possibly Simon Jones) carrying his twin tanks over the pile. When compared to the 1979 shot, a fair bit more mud has been tracked up over the rocks. The off camera strobe in this shot is a land strobe that could be triggered by a remote flash in a home made perspex box. Advanced technology for the time!

Putting the sled together

Putting the sled back together in the water on the far side of the first rockpile. Simon Jones is inserting the broom handle while his brother looks on. At this point the planned push divers were Hugh, Keith Dekkers and Simon Jones. The plan was for each push diver to breathe off the sled tanks (5 each) while swimming, then to drop the sled and continue on using the triples each diver carried on their back.

Second sump entrance

In the entrance pool of the second sump. By this point Keith and Simon have decided not to join the push dive, and Ron and Dad have volunteered to accompany Hugh. Ron was known to be an excellent cave diver, and Dad was by now a FAUI instructor whose skills at pushing sleds in 1979 had not gone unnoticed. Hugh has also taken time while in the air space to cut the legs off his wetsuit after finding it too warm and restrictive on the swim through the first sump – nice knees Hugh! Ron is in the red vest on the left hand side, holding a fresh reel of line. With Dad now push diving (push being more literal than we’d think of it today) there aren’t any more underwater photos until the sled is deposited on the roof further down the tunnel and the trio moved to triples.


In case you missed it, the photos from the 1979 Cocklebiddy trip can be seen here and here. Coming up next Thursday, photos from the dive into the second sump, and the first ever photo of Toad Hall. 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”).

  4 Responses to “Cave diving through history: Cocklebiddy Cave, 1982 (Part 1)”

Comments (4)
  1. It looks like a whole lot of hard work.

    Why carry the water bottle? Is the cave water too saline to drink or just plain yuck?

  2. Group Photo
    Left to right: Hugh Morrison, Ron Allum, GRAHAM MORRISN, Keith Dekkers, Simon Jones in yellow, TIM WILLIAMS.

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