This was the best dive of the trip. You’ll have to excuse me for adding far too many photos to this post because I just can’t choose between them. Duncan and I headed off to the Cregol with our rebreathers while the rest of the team headed for Landenouse (which requires ropes to get in to). Unfortunately they ended up diving back at St Savaeur again due to divers at Landenouse, while Duncan and I had a brilliant day at the Cregol.
The Cregol has an entrance restriction into the small and short first sump, followed by a large-ish dry chamber and a deep second sump. The second sump meant I was keen to take my rEvo in there, but the first sump sounded challenging for a backmounted configuration. Martyn Farr’s book, Classic Darksite Diving, had a photo of the restriction taken from inside the cave with a diver in sidemounts approaching it. While perspective is hard to judge from underwater shots, it didn’t look like I was going to get through wearing the rEvo.
Given the first sump was only 30m long and about 3m deep, my initial intention was to portage my rEvo through the sump in my hands, using my bailouts as sidemounts rather than trying to breath off the unit. I also wasn’t planning to put the rEvo on underwater – that seems like a game to try once I have a few more hours under my belt. On arrival all this planning was made unneccessary by low water levels.
The photo in Martyn’s book showed the water level above the diver’s head whereas we placed it just below their tanks, as you can see in the second shot here. This meant after portering all the gear through a low entrance crawl to the restriction, I crawled through and pulled the rEvo in after me. Sitting on a very convenient ledge on the inside I geared up and headed into the (even shorter) sump 1. I don’t need to describe the water clarity as “relatively good” or “somewhat murky” – it was crystal clear. Somewhere between Kilsby’s on a good day and Weebubbie, the Cregol has very little silt to disturb. This made it easier for me to turn around for a few shots in the small first sump and catch Duncan coming through behind me.
About 20m later we surfaced into a rockpile. Duncan deposited his chest-mounted homemade rebreather and disappeared up the rockpile in his sidemounted 7s. I considered the situation before depositing everything except the rEvo and following him. Halfway up the boulder pile this became a bad idea and Duncan grabbed the rEvo from the top and lifted it up the rest of the way. After half a dozen Elk trips in a wetsuit I’d forgotten the restricted movement of caving in a drysuit and the weight of real dive gear instead of sump rigs. A couple more trips across to the second sump and we were gearing up again.
The start of the second sump is a shallow flat river bed. Once we had our stuff on we floated out of the silt cloud we had created as seen in the third image. The calcite raft floating on the surface shows that it’s been a while since anyone’s been through here, and I love these pictures of Duncan emerging from the cloud into clear water. At the end of the riverbed the cave dives down a 20m deep shaft. The fixed rope in here is handy as a point of reference as I floated down with the camera pointed back up at the surface. The alternating black and brown stripes on the walls give great perspective here and these shaft shots are my favourites from the trip.
After the shaft we ducked under the lip and headed down a sandy slope under a sculptured roof. From there the cave meandered up and down over silt cones and rock formations. I was happily just a little bit narked and snapping photos in every direction. I was less cheerful on the return as that beautiful shaft doesn’t have a single ledge at 6m for a decompressing diver to wedge under. Half an hour later I surfaced with a shiver and decided to stay in the water to take photos of Duncan surfacing. The trip out to sump 1 was a lot faster than the trip in and we were back in the sunshine in no time. A brilliant day’s outing.
For my shots of the other French caves, check out my articles here.