Running your own line is a lot more fun than following someone else’s, even though we knew this part of the cave has been visited 15 years before. We swam on through the second sump with the tunnel gradually becoming both wider and taller. After a few hundred metres the passage appeared to end in a flat wall. After checking each side I spotted air above and scooted up between the wall and ceiling to surface in the second air bell.
This one was a lot more diver friendly with a few big rocks sticking out of the water, but deep enough to swim from one side to the other fully kitted up. The air seemed fine and there were no tree roots or other organic matter, just pure white rock. This would be a great spot for some very nice lake shots. At this point however, the cave was beckoning us on.
On the far side of the air bell the passage drops again and gets even bigger. With both my DiveRite canister torch and Scurion headlight on full beam all I was seeing straight ahead was deep blue water. At every rise in the floor I was worried we’d see the tunnel narrow down, and each time I swam over the rise it just kept going. In places the halocline was shimmering along the walls.
The best bit was yet to come. In the light beam ahead I spotted a cluster of large pointy stalactites. The photo above is my favourite from the whole trip. I admit, I have a thing for cave formations. These ones were particularly good, and the massive stump of a stalagmite on the floor suggests an interesting history. The tiny beginner decorations in the first air chamber have a long way to go to make it to this size!
Seeing isolated decorations like these where there hadn’t been anything in the earlier parts of the cave was interesting. There weren’t any underwater decorations in Kristal Cave, and I’m wondering if they’ll show up in the other nearby caves. I suspect that the area doesn’t get very much rainfall and when it does the crumbly limestone is so porous that the water drops through too fast to pick up enough calcite for formations. But maybe in a few places, the conditions have been just right…I can only hope.
After photos from a few different angles (while being careful not to overheat the strobes) we headed on. By this point we were on the second reel and the remaining line was looking a bit scant. Reaching the end of the reel mid-tunnel, I produced my longest finger spool and we got another 20m out of it. This was enough to take us over a ridge and down to a slightly deeper, less tall passage with the halocline right in the middle of it.
The far end had a flat white wall across it, similar to the slab we had swum up to enter the second air chamber. Regrettably, this one doesn’t appear to have left enough space to swim past. Looking up at the gap between the ceiling and the blockage, the fissure appears just big enough for underwater bats. Which, given we were out of line and pretty much at our air turn, was not the end of the world. We turned for home at a slightly more leisurely pace. Taking time to appreciate the sights and check out some walls on the way home was fun, as well as making time for a bit of video.
This was easily one of the best dives I’ve done, and I sincerely hope that some more time in the area will yield similar results. There’s more to find…we just need some more time on the ground to hunt it out. Next year beckons.