Sunday, October 23, 2011

Orange Peacock!

Saturday, October 22: 3 dives at Troy Springs, Orange Grove, and Peacock Spring

Stop 1: Troy Springs

Harry and I started off the day at a hidden outdoor dive shop in Fort White then headed over to Troy Springs. There were a few divers just getting out of the water, so we had the whole spring to ourselves. The air temp was very chilly (about 45 degrees), so my new 7mm and hood were 100% necessary.
A beautiful (chilly) morning at Troy,
just before jumping in the water for the
first dive of the day.
Checking out the spring before the first dive in the morning.
  I have been excited to dive in Troy after snorkeling in it twice, and the dive was amazing, as I expected. The water was crystal clear (the overall color was not as green as it looks in the pictures, but there was quite a bit of algae) and the view looking up from the bottom (just barely 70 feet because the water level is so low) is breathtaking... the camera can't entirely capture how it really feels to be at the bottom of a 70' hole underwater looking up and seeing the tops of trees as close enough to touch:

Taken at ~20-30 feet below the surface.

Looking down at Harry...crystal clear :)

This is where we entered the water... there is a little sandy beach just above the water in this photo.

 We had a total dive time of 36 minutes exploring from the bottom up, making a spiral approach to the surface around the spring. Harry let me practice leading the dive, more training for my divemaster. We reviewed the hazards of the spring, including the dangerous entry into the water, depth (up to 80 feet), and overhead environment (at depth).
Me in Troy Spring :)

Orange Grove

Don't be fooled by the duck weed on the surface...
what lies below is a crystal clear sink with an amazing,
crystal blue cavern.
Next, we drove over to Orange Grove, which is a technically a sink, not a spring. This was very exciting because it was my first real guided cavern dive (besides Ginnie Cavern). SO AWESOME!! I didn't bring my camera on this dive because there was enough to focus on and take in without a camera. I had a reel (just in case) attached to my BC for the first time and didn't need extra things hanging off my BC that could potentially get caught or tangled.

In the picture on the right, you can see that the duck weed (which is actually not slimy, it's just like miniature leaves) moves aside when you jump in the water. From below the surface, the sun makes its way through the duckweed and adds a greenish tint and looks like you could get out of the water and walk on top. If you do your safety stop right below the exit, your bubbles move the weeds away and you can get out without getting covered! This is Reggie in the water waiting for his cave student:
No open water divers allowed!! I am not cave certified, but since I was with Harry (a cave instructor), I was allowed to safely enter the cavern portion of the sink. The difference between a cavern and a cave:
in a cavern, if you cover your light, you can always see the entrance. In this case, when we covered our lights at the farthest point we attained from the cavern entrance, you could see crystal clear blue light shining into the cavern. When cave diving, you need 3 sources of light, and in the cavern, the light coming in the cavern is your third source, so you carry a primary light and a backup. This dive was really cool too because there were quite a few catfish that were not shy at all and would swim right up to your light and hang out :)

On the right is a picture of the cave system extending from Orange Grove. According to Harry, you can actually swim ~1 mile underwater from Orange and end up popping up in the Peacock Spring!

Peacock Spring

From the surface, Peacock also doesn't look too exciting. But again, don't be fooled. Directly below the stairs is the entrance to a cavern and an extensive cave system (As seen in the picture on the right and the huge, crazy looking map below). We did a quick 15 minute dive to check out the spot (and avoid hypothermia... can't wait to dive dry!!). Amazing introduction to caverns, I'm hooked.

Further proves the point that you seriously don't want to enter the caves without proper training. Think you could navigate and come out without getting lost, stuck, or running out of air?! Pretty tricky...but awesome.

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