December 27, 2017.
Both of us slept poorly again last night, and this morning My dive buddy was feeling worse than yesterday. She had a lot of congestion, and was up coughing all night. However, we managed to get moving fairly early. The morning started with the usual gear prep and breakfast. We analyzed gas, and I did some fixing of any last minute things that need to be addressed. Cave diving is hard on gear. We take care of our stuff really well but it still breaks. My dive buddy had an SPG leaking small bubbles like a champagne type bubble stream at Ginnie yesterday, so I pulled the O-ring spool out and re-lubricated it, which seemed to fix the issue. It was cold and spitting rain so My dive buddy went back inside, packed the cooler, and got all the undergarments out of the dryer. We were bringing the drysuits inside at night because they would freeze otherwise. After the gas was analyzed and all the gear was fixed, we hit the road and headed towards Peacock. We stopped for some coffee at a little gas station along the way. The sun was up by then and the temperature was still quite cold and it was still drizzling. “What happened to our Florida sunshine” we thought.
We met Mark and Mer at the parking lot in front of Peacock Springs around 8am. My dive buddy was feeling better. We are careful to pay attention to the congestion, because this can inhibit gas exchange in the lungs, and ultimately lead to DCS. The good news about Peacock; is that the depth is relatively shallow. However we were also worried if she was going to be able to clear her ears. As the temperature warmed up (barely), she felt a bit better. We did tell Mark about the congestion and he (as with all GUE instructors that we have met) was very understanding. We would play it by ear. The caves will always be there. There is absolutely NO reason to push it. If you can’t dive, you can’t dive.
We began to gear up since My dive buddy was feeling better. I absolutely love peacock, It’s my zen cave. Our plan was to go up the peanut line and jump over towards Olsen sink. The next dive (if all went well on the first) we planned to go the other way and see if we could do a circuit. The cool thing about peacock is that it connects multiple sinks and you can surface in them. After dropping our O2 bottles off at the spring, we got in our gear and hit the water. The relative temperature difference between the air (it was a brisk 35 deg F) and the water (always 72 deg F) was like jumping into a warm bath. Peacock was looking clear and blue, just the way we like it. We were about to do our longest dive in a cave ever. We figured it would be close to 80 minutes. The cool thing about cave 2 with Mark is that we get to plan our dives. He’s there to keep us safe and keep us from Killing our selves. Both My dive buddy and I were energized even though it was cold.
The dive was absolutely awesome going in. We got the the crossover tunnel and tied in. We have dove past the crossover tunnel a dozen times and always looked down it, peering down as far as our lights would illuminate the blackness. This time we would go explore it. You have to be careful in there because it’s silty, but big enough that you can stay away from the bottom for the most part. We managed not to silt the tunnel up, and made it over to the Olsen line, where we tied a gap spool in. After swimming north a bit on the olsen line we finally surfaced in Olsen sink. It was really pretty spectacular. We had a chat with Mark and Mer and they told us some things to work on, on the way back. Surfacing in Olsen is interesting because now your dive is only half over. We still had to swim back approximately 1400 feet to the entrance.
We submerged in Olsen sink and made our way back to the gold line. We got to our jump spool that we tied into the main line at the cross over tunnel and made our way back over to the peanut side. Of course shortly after this, My dive buddy and I started to have our random failures. Each failure is a little more complicated as the days go on. We would get nice and comfortable on the swim out, then the crap would hit the fan, and we’d have to manage it without making the situation worse. I’m not going to sugar coat it. These failures are challenging. Cave 1 did a great job of preparing us but this was cave 1 failures plus the added complexity of task loading, dealing with more stuff all at once and being further back in the cave. Of course Mark and Mer are professional ninjas, so you never see them. The fun part for us, was that My dive buddy and I dove the way we dive. We didn’t try to do anything different in front of Mark that we would normally do on a dive. We wanted honest feedback. It does no good to try to tighten up or do something uncharacteristic when you are in a class. Mark was great about giving us constructive feedback and we definitely had things to work on. Once we were finished the dive, we had some things we needed to change for the next dive. We also had some flutter kick issues that needed sorted.
After some lunch and a debrief, we switched tanks and went back into the water for our second dive. We swam up the Olsen line heading towards our jump spool that we left tied in. While we swam, we were working on some of the things Mark pointed out. We tried to fix our kick issues but my nemesis “The Flutter kick” seemed to best me on this dive, and I cramped up. I think because We were focusing on fixing stuff, this dive was less fun for us. Something was off. Maybe we were tired or mentally we were focused on our issues or whatever. Anyway My dive buddy and I may have gotten into a little debate about some backup lights, about 1000 feet back in on the peanut line. And although it looked funny, the reality is that, if it caused further issues, it could lead to a tragic accident. This can’t happen and decisions in a cave must be clear and concise. There is little room for error. Anyway we had lots of fun and we ended up completing the circuit we had set up on the first dive. Of course we had failures to deal with that seemed to happen at the most inconvenient time. But at the same time It was really cool to finally do a circuit in peacock. Even though we were supposed to be stressed with things going wrong in the cave, I can remember being on a back up light, down a regulator and swimming out on the peanut line looking around having fun. Not once did I feel like it was urgent to get out of the cave. So what if i was down a light and a reg. My dive buddy had and I had 5 lights between us and 3 regs. This is a huge mental shift from cave 1. Where before, when one tiny thing would go wrong, I remember feeling a sense of urgency to get out. Now I feel like we can handle it, fix the problem and take the time to get out safely. We don’t need to rush and make a bad situation worse.
Our day ended with some lectures at EE and gas fills. We ended up getting back to the house pretty late. We were both starving, so while My dive buddy made dinner, I brought in the wet undergarments for the dryer, rearranged the truck and loaded up the stage bottles for day 3. Dinner was left over pasta, general tso’s with veggie rice. We were both so hungry that we woofed down our food. It’s amazing how much energy that we burn diving. I think we may be in a calorie deficit. Peacock was so much fun, but we both commented that we were really glad that we spent so much time doing Cave 1 level dives in peacock because it allows us to really focus on the navigation. Tomorrow is our fist stage dive at Little River. After day two we are feeling pretty good. Tired but good.
Here is a video we made of us diving on the Olsen line. We really love this cave dive because the tunnels are large and tall. You really get the sense of flying in them. At 450′ from the entrance there is a shelf with some really old bones on it. This shelf sits below a small karst window called Pothole Sink. Some people refer to this dive as Pothole line.