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!


  1. SOooooooooo cool!!! Your life sounds so awesome :) Also, you are very brave. I don't think I would ever do that! Have fun on the ship-tanker, and don't get swallowed up by any BP giants. xo

  2. Wow, great article. Very good read... you should so publish this... or... use it as your Dive Plan for your DM cert. Anyway, it's good... real good :) Glad to have ran into you at Troy Springs, made for an interesting week and I'm also glad you had a good time here at 40 Fathoms. You're welcome here anytime you want, hope you come wandering into the dive shop again soon.