It’s been a little while since my last update here. I find I’ve gotten into the habit of posting and talking about the photos from the most recent weekend, which leaves me in a spot of trouble when there either aren’t any, or I’m not able to share them. So while I can’t show you last weekend’s filming trip, I can share our latest Elk River adventures (even without pictures). Three weekends ago we had a great trip into Elk River sans camera. The joint purposes of the trip were to remedy the line in sumps 6 and 7, and to place dye in the stream for tracing. With a smaller team than the last few trips we cut the gear down to the essentials and moved rapidly through the cave.
At sump 5 we inserted Steve into the water and sat back for a long wait. I was particularly glad of my new heating vest. I previously used it in Tasmania under my drysuit, but this time it really proved itself under my wetsuit. After three hours of waiting in a wet wetsuit I was still warm at the core and relatively comfortable. In the meantime, Steve was off fixing the line in sump 6. The sump 6 line was running through a line trap that was not too bad with smaller tanks and when you had seen the cave in clear water. As our tanks got bigger it got squeezier, so Steve spent a fair bit of time in the 50m long sump resolving the issue. From there he moved into sump 7 to replace the tie-offs that I pulled off while surveying the line last year. At the limit of his dive he released a litre of red dye into the stream.
It’s been a dry summer in Buchan and the water in the stream was definitely lower in a few key spots. During the flood last June we had seen higher flow through the cave, but otherwise the water levels and flow remain remarkably static between trips. It was interesting to see how low they do get and to see that there definitely was still flow down the streamway. We hope that the reduced water will carry the dye through for tracing. Answers to come in a few weeks.
Our exit from the end of the cave with a pair of 7L tanks was very efficient. Steve’s schedule of events was pretty close to accurate, revealing that we spend a lot more time getting changed (from trog suits to wetsuits, from sump diving to cave diving gear, from wetsuits back to trog suits) than we do travelling up and down the streamway. Perhaps we all need to practise some Superman habits for getting changed in confined spaces at high speeds. The long wait at the end of the cave is only getting longer as the push diver has more gas to play to with, and I was very glad of my heating vest.
I also discovered that a 7L tank is lighter, less delicate and easier to carry than the camera with strobes attached. Camera free trips are significantly easier…but not nearly as much fun! I’m keen to get some photos from sump 7 where the underwater nature of the cave changes dramatically. Maybe next time…