Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Diving in Space

Nothing short of one of the most amazing nights of my life. Hands down, no competition. Not only is the water at Ginnie Springs so clear that it looks like you're floating in mid-air but it also looks like it's snowing when you add some glow-in-the-dark liquids to the water...

Cutting the glowsticks open and dumping them into the lemonade bottle using a funnel.

Thirsty?! Picture this bottle opened at 30 feet and spread throughout an underwater cavern. It creates an effect like glowing snow that you can drift through like an astronaut in outer-space floating through the stars.

 More to come soon about the Galaxy dive but maybe not for a while... After a whole 4 hours of sleep last night after the dive (packing after 2 dives at 1am = FAIL), I am just about to depart for Port Fourchon, LA. Running on pure coffee and adrenaline at this point. We're driving over, passing through Alabama and Mississippi on our way, making 3 more states for me to check off my list and giving me my first view of the deep South. I'll be out to sea on the Holiday Chouest for 2 weeks, unfortunatly putting my diving on hold until October 2 :(, but I will get to explore the oil rigs/spill and reefs (using an ROV, sadly... can't quite dive to 250 feet) of the Gulf of Mexico. No cell service but maybe I'll post some updates as we go (when I'm not reading my new copy of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" from "Uncle Reggie" or my Divemaster manual from Harry)!!

Getting our gear ready before our first dive of the night to
explore Ginnie cavern before dark. The black cylinder
farthest to the left is a water scooter!!
Right before jumping in for the first dive. Crystal
clear and all to ourselves :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Diving in a kiddie pool... that's 240 feet deep...

Ok, so I guess it isn't exactly like a kiddie pool, but 40 Fathom Grotto is certainly nothing short of an underwater playground, and exploring it this weekend was amazing. We arrived at 8 on Saturday morning (a short but foggy 30-40 min drive from Gville through farm country) to see a decently sized hole in the ground covered in floating docks:

Stairs going down to the extensive floating docks...  This is the deep dive center for the Commercial Diving Academy (CDA).
This picture basically shows the extent of the grotto at water level, but underwater, the area expands to about 10 times the size you can see here, making for awesome cavern diving. Our first (of four!!) dive of the weekend was only to about 40 feet and was a beautiful introduction to 40 Fathom. Harry swam us around the perimeter at 30-40 feet and we checked out the sea biscuit fossils that date back to 30-50 million years ago. Some are the size of dinner plates! We also checked out the mini gnome village (hopefully picture coming soon!) and stuck our heads into a "bell" at 30 feet where you can breathe and talk because it traps a bubble of air under the cavern top.

They're set up for some serious diving here... Nitrox
tanks are yellow with the green bands and the air
 tanks are the silver tanks on the left.

After lunch at the CDA cafeteria, we explored the grounds for an hour or two then hopped back in the water for another dive at 2:30. (And by hopped, I mean pulled on our 5 or 7 mm full wetsuits, booties, gloves, fins, etc. and headed back down the stairs in the first picture...) Some of the guys from the academy were nice enough to show us around underwater and take us to the motorcycle suspended at 30 feet, which we obviously proceeded to ride on. Pretty awesome. After checking out the motorcycle, we explored all the way down to about 75 feet and checked out the steep wall with our lights in the dark. The visibility in 40 Fathom isn't as great as in springs such as Ginnie and Manatee because it's only partially fed by the Florida aquifer.

We returned on Sunday morning and had our most exciting dive of the weekend, led by Harry. It was exciting for many reasons, namely the fact that it was our first time using Nitrox. This just means that the % of oxygen in our tanks was higher than the 21% usually found in tanks filled with air (28% in this case). This basically means that you can stay longer at depth (and have shorter surface intervals between dives) because your body is exposed to less nitrogen. Anywayy, we went all the way down to 126 feet (the deepest I've ever gone by 26 feet!!) and checked out the plane, 2 crashed cars, a convertible, and a sunken boat. The visibility at depth was better but we still used our lights to explore the different wrecks and poke our heads into the hatches of the boat and peek in the car windows.  We made our way slowly up the sloping part of the wall (not the one that drops vertically to 240 feet...) exploring the different wrecks then did a little swimthrough (like swimming through the middle of a donut) at ~30 feet before our long deco stop.

In the afternoon, I got back in the water and did a final dive to about 65 feet. We circled the grotto at  50-60 foot depth and checked out more fossils and did the swimthrough again. It's pretty amazing to swim along a completely vertical wall and look down into the distance into black nothingness. It's a good time to have control of your buoyancy and hold tightly onto your light and camera... Perhaps the coolest part of this dive was within the last 10-15 feet of the surface, you can look up and see all the treetops surrounding the grotto. It's quite a site after ocean diving for so long.

A picture that Harry took at the end of the day on Sunday. Not entirely sure what's going on here/why i'm doing some extremely awkward hand-on-the-hips and right arm pointing at something pose, but whatever, it was an awesome day of diving :)

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend trip... Harry and the guys at the CDA were so nice to show us around!

Friday, September 9, 2011


Officially certified to dive with Enriched Air Nitrox (EANx)... aka longer bottom times and shorter surface intervals!! I like to say that this is my next step to becoming a mermaid/fish... Got certified by Harry Averill with the help of some of the guys from the Commercial Diving Academy in Jacksonville. We're headed over to Forty Fathom Grotto tomorrow and Sunday morning at 8:30 for our first Nitrox dives (28%). I'm counting down the minutes... 40 Fathom is literally an underwater playground:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Diving with the Devil

When you search “Devil’s Den” (or any of the Florida springs) online, the pictures that come up are ridiculous, and I thought they were photoshopped and too good to be true. Being there isn't like the pictures. It's better. Diving Devil’s Den today was easily one of my top 5 favorite days of all time, and I certainly couldn’t have asked for a more amazing first dive in the fresh water Florida springs.

I didn't take these 2 pictures, but examples of what come up when you google "Devil's Den". Pretty Amazing... Can't wait to have my underwater camera here!!!

Picture of a diver on the Devil's Den website. The water looks even more crystal clear when you're diving.

Picture diving into a huge bowl of bottled water.  Now put the bowl underground with a hole above it to let in light. Line the bowl with rock and picture thousands of caves, caverns, and crevices all around you. Imagine rays of sun shining into the middle of the bowl but edges dark enough to need a flashlight to see to the bottom. Now imagine no need to surface after you dive in because you can breath underwater.

The day's adventure all started in the morning when Kate and I drove up to Troy Springs and snorkeled around. We were the first people in the water this morning so visibility was amazing - 70 feet. Unfortunately, it was still too shallow for a good snorkel over the wreck, so we kind of attempted to drift over it in 6 inches of water but ultimately failed and ended up looking like beached whales. We walked back into the spring, fighting the strong current ripping out into the river, and swam around in the crystal clear water with some turtles, minnows, and after a while, some other people.
We got out to warm up and meanwhile counted 12 divers go into the spring. The entire top of the spring became bubbles – it looked like a hot tub! We ran into a man with a dive shirt on who had been talking to 3 divers before they jumped in and he was very friendly and was telling us about the steamship wreck that was apparently burned down to the waterline by the crazy confederate man that owned it. Anyway, we were chatting with him and he remembered seeing us (looking like fools obviously) trying to snorkel in the spring run and said that they were diving in the afternoon at Devil’s Den and we could meet them there. 

So, we packed up our stuff, ditched our snorkeling for the day, and headed straight for Gainesville where we grabbed our SCUBA gear and had a quite entertaining trip out to Devil’s Den in Williston. It’s only a 25 minute drive (when you don’t get lost) but we ended up seeing some cool emus and horses along the way and Kate got to practice her navigating as she “double-fisted” phones and GPSs.
We got a tour from Harry, geared up, and headed down to the Den, which is actually just as much of an adventure as the dive itself. There are really no words to describe it except CRAZY/awesome. Take a look for yourself:

View of the diving platform area from above.
A look down the steep and winding trail down to the hole.
Now try it with full SCUBA gear...

Continuing down more stairs to the dive platform.

Made it down on the platform. Checking it out before gearing up :)

We dove for about an hour (max depth 53 feet), going through little tunnels and peeking into cracks and crevices and shining our lights into caves with grates over them and big grim reaper signs warning that divers have died in these caves:

One of the several underwater Grim Reaper signs warning you not to enter the winding caves.

 Most of the caves are gated off with big bars, and since we’re not cave certified, we didn’t enter the miles and miles of tunnels where about 150 people have died since 1989. Not interested in becoming one of those people. Although I thought I'd never want to cave dive, my mind may have been changed today...

Absolutely amazing dive and ready for more… starting Nitrox class on Thursday night at Ginnie Springs and more diving this weekend!!!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sweet 1st Magnitude Map and tomorrow's adventures

Looking forward to Troy round 2 tomorrow as well as some (or all!!) of the following: Siphon Creek, Columbia, Treehouse, Hornsby, and Santa Fe River Rise. All in the High Springs area, check out the map below :)

1st Magnitude Springs, Florida, 2001 at GeoCommons

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Underwater FL

My "bible" for the next year...

P.S. Click on any of the pictures in the posts to make them bigger :)