Thursday, June 14, 2012

3 Devils

They say "the devil is in the details," but in Florida the devil is in the springs. I like to think that each of the springs is a bit of heaven on earth but Ginnie Spring's Little Devil, Devil's Eye, and Devil's Ear don't seem to give the same impression. Neither does "Devil's Den" down in Williston (Devil's Den and Diving with the Devil).

Anyway, the devil was certainly in the weather on Saturday when we set out to dive at Ginnie. Planning on a night dive in the cavern, we left at 1:30 to enjoy a dive or 2 before dark and maybe float the river. But the onset of the rainy season and some storms changed our plans a bit that afternoon. As we turned right at the big Ginnie Springs sign, the skies opened up, but we didn't let it turn us around... a bit of rain only makes the diving more fun. Thankfully it also made the Saturday crowds a lot smaller than usual, although there were still some diehard campers and day-trippers running around in swim suits and balancing tubes in jacked-up pickup trucks blasting country music. While balancing a beer in the other hand, of course. But this just adds to the atmosphere and entertainment.

This is a google earth view of our first three Devil spring system dives. Little Devil is at the orange arrow, Devil's Eye is at the purple arrow, and Devil's Ear is at the yellow arrow where the run meets the Santa Fe River.
This is the representation of the 3 devils as seen on the Ginnie Spring website...  basically a close-up cartoon view of the google earth image above.
This is the first thing I saw when I got in the water. It's just to the right of the stairs that are only feet from Little Devil. Despite the length of the roots, it doesn't seem like the water could get any lower without some serious consequences. 
Looking up from the bottom of Little Devil (~30 feet), before the rain started. Little Devil is a thin crack running only as long as you can see in this picture. It's not much of a dive but does make for a cool picture or two of snorkelers swimming overhead. 
Next stop after Little Devil: Devil's Eye. This is the view looking back towards the eye from the farthest point back you can go in the cavern without reaching complete darkness. The park does not allow you to bring lights into either of these sites unless you are cave certified - this prevents open water divers from ending up in places where they could get in trouble. The cave entrance is about 15 or 20 feet behind me in this picture. 
Usually springs seem quite species poor compared to coral reefs. Sunfish, turtles, eels, and bass are common, but I had never come across a crayfish before! This is a Spring Crayfish (Procambarus speculifer) that Kate found at the entrance to the Devil's Ear cave.
1, 2, 3, JUMP! Even though Austin is just floating over the surface of Devil's Ear, it appears that he is about to jump off a cliff. Silhouette views from the bottom are still one of my favorite shots and the rain at the surface adds a whole new dimension to the flying swimmer. 
More raindrops at the Devil's Ear cave buoy. The yellowish-brown color in the bottom right of the photo is where the tannic river meets the spring run. At this point, it was around 4:30 and we were done playing in the high flow of the rushing spring water. I had my hood on and could hear some low grumbles but was far to intent on taking pictures to think twice about what was actually happening. As soon as I surfaced, the rest of the crew waved me towards shore and we made a run from the thunder that was quickly approaching.
But soon after the thunder started, it slowly became more distant and there was a break in the rain. Austin and Jennie headed home while Kate, Will, and I geared up for a dive in the main Ginnie cavern. We were originally planning on doing a galaxy dive with glow sticks, but we decided to jump in earlier while the weather was still ok. There were so many clouds that it was basically a night dive anyway. This is the main basin, and the entrance to the cavern is the dark area on the far right.
Keep out! These bars are welded over the cave entrance in the main Ginnie cavern. The cavern is open to open water divers, so the park does all in its power to keep people out of trouble... unfortunately it took an accident or two before these bars literally held people back.  One of my favorite things to do in the cavern is kick with all my might to swim up and hold onto the bars then let go, close my eyes, and let the strong flow push me back towards the middle of the large room. 
There is one spot in the back left corner of the cavern where you can swim up from below and pop your head up in a circular rock. The only way to get out is to go back down the chimney-like swimthrough because all around you it's a tight squeeze. In the picture above, there is only about a foot between the ceiling and the sand. The pools on the cavern roof are trapped air bubbles that have no path to the surface.
The american eel (Auguilla rostrata) is one of the only forms of wildlife you will find in the cavern - this one was all the way at the bottom in about 65 feet of water. They have an amazing life cycle, originating in the Sargasso Sea (read more here: 
Pending thunderstorms underwater? As we swam out of the cavern and towards the stairs,  sand at the surface took on the appearance of a big thunderhead. Runoff from all of the rain that day caused sand from the banks to rush into the spring and spread out, suspended at the surface and waiting to get trapped in our gear.
Not bad for a rainy Saturday afternoon... I was happy after 3 dives and 238 pictures. More pictures are here (in the same album "Gills" with photos from Madison Blue and Troy Springs).

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