My Favorite Most Unique Places to Dive

The United States of America is an amazing country for divers looking for adventure because it has some of the best sites are that off-the-beaten-path.

Bonne Terre Mine

First among the USA’s great dive sites is the Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri, which is about an hour’s drive south of St. Louis if you take Highway 67. Composed of seven miles of Bonne Terre Mine divingabandoned mine tunnels, the Bone Terre Mine is the only aqua-subway system in the world. Before it was abandoned in 1962 when groundwater started seeping into the tunnels, Bonne Terre Mine used to be a source of lead for more than a generation.

The wonder of this dive site is that it runs directly beneath the town’s train station, a funeral parlor, a pharmacy, a bank, and even the City Hall. The divers can even get a glimpse of what the old mine used to look like – there are still some old mining equipment, train tracks, ore carts, shovels and steam-powered jackhammers underneath millions of gallons of crystal clear water.

More than offering a one of a kind diving experience, Bonne Terre Mine dive tours ensures the welfare and safety of divers. Before diving into the abandoned mine, divers are required to demonstrate their diving skills before a team of professionals guides go with them on to the first of the 24 progressive dive tours that ranges from basic open water caverns to diving into cave-like tunnels. Though there are halogen lights to simulate an open water experience, subterranean diving is definitely not for all.

Bonne Terre Mine is open on weekends, but you need to procure reservations for the guided tours. Because of the cold water (55 degrees all year round), artificial lights and cavern/cave-like environment, Bonne Terre is strictly for competent divers only.

Copper River

Another dive site worth visiting is the Copper River – 45 minutes west of Charleston, South Carolina, Copper River offers a black-water diving experience where you can get a chance to copper river divingsee fossils and other wonders. Its tannin-stained water give the river an eerie feel. At 28 feet deep, it would be difficult to see through the pitch black water even with a light. It seems creepy at first but wait until you reach its floor and scan its crevices and troughs. There, divers will be in awe to find dislodged artifacts and fossils of shark teeth and whale ribs some dated to be about seven million years old.

A local dive shop in Goose Creek provides visitors with access to Copper River. Assembly is at a boat landing for a 3-to10-mile ride up to the dive site. Timing is also very important since the river may only be explored during flood tide. Professional guides will bring divers to the best places to dive and also ensure their safety. Because the water is murky, to avoid disorientation during ascents and descents, divers need to check their gauges constantly. A goody bag is also a must.

Tailrace Diving

Next stop is Tailrace Diving in any of the following destinations: Garrison Dam which an hour drive north of Bismarck, North Dakota; the chute below Lake Oahe Dam just outside of lake oahe tailrace divingPierre, South Dakota; and Colorado River in Willow Beach, Arizona. Tailrace diving is a type of drift diving where the diver goes head first through a rapid outflow of a major dam. The diver drops into the middle of the current and cruises downriver just a few feet above the bottom while watching out for and dodging obstacles.

Worth noting still among the Tailrace Diving sites is that depths may vary from a few feet to more than 40 feet, and that in all of the three sites, the water is always freezing. This is why participants should wear extra neoprene, not just to shield them from bumps and snags along the way, but also to provide extra warmth. These dives are for advanced divers only and be sure to seek knowledgeable guides from a local dive shop.

Homestead Crater

There is also Homestead Crater in Homestead Resort – about an hour ride east of Salt Lake City, Utah and near Heberville. Homestead prides itself for giving guests a Journey to the homestead crater divingCenter of the Earth experience. The only difference this time is that instead of a going through a mine, the site is a natural geologic crater. The Homestead Crater is a natural hot spring inside a rock dome – its grotto is 60 feet across and has a small opening at the top. Below is 70 feet of clear and unusually hot water that ranges between 90 and 96 degrees even in the dead of winter.

Homestead has a 100-foot tunnel that cuts into the base of the crater, a space well enough for a tiny dive shop, and access to a floating dock where divers suit up. Inside the bell-shaped crater there is a suspended wagon wheel and mineral deposits lining the walls. The crater also has a lot of natural and artificial lighting, but dive lights will still come in handy in some of the darker portions. The site is open year-round to divers, swimmers and guests of the resort. Divers have to share it with ski bums taking a soak between runs during winter season.

Yellowstone Lake

Another natural wonder is the Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming wherein diving at 7,600 feet above sea level is already an adventure in itself. Within the crystal clear waters of the lake yellowstone lake divingare underwater geysers and some strange lava-like spires (scientist can’t quite figure this out) called mystery spires, the topside scenery ain’t bad either.

Rising up to 20 feet off the lake bottom, the mystery spires look something like rough stone chimneys, which some people think may in fact be the skeletal remains of living creatures. Whatever they are, it is definitely something you will not see elsewhere.

The cold-water, high-altitude dive in Yellowstone is for advanced divers only. Bringing dry suit, taking it easy and not pushing the limits is advised. And, be careful not to touch the spires.

Missile Silo

Further south, about 20 minutes southwest of Abilene, Texas is the Missile Silo – a remnant of the Cold War. This site will bring divers to an underwater tour of what was once a secure military facility.

Way back in 1962, this underground bunker containedmissile silo diving an Atlas F ICBM that has an equivalent firepower of 50 Hiroshima bombs. The nukes however, are all long gone, and what remains today is 130 feet of peaceful, clear groundwater. To access the site from the Texas prairie above, divers must go down a long flight of stairs descending to what was once a top-secret military facility. Visitors will pass through several blast doors to the old launch control bunker then proceed through a tunnel to the enormous concrete silo that is 52 feet across and 18 stories deep.

The water in the Missile Silo is 130 feet deep. There piles of tangled metal debris at the bottom, so divers need to be careful. Also at the bottom of the silo is the missile control station, which is a tin shack structure that sticks out from the silo wall at around 30 to 60 feet.

The water is at constant 61 degrees and is clear at about 60 feet. To explore the depth of the silo, divers’ need a 7mm wet suit with hood and gloves and a dive light.

Clear Lake

Another must visit dive site is Clear Lake located two and a half hours ride southwest of Portland, Oregon. The lake offers visibly clear water beyond anything imaginable, but it is clear lake divingalso quite cold.

Most of what is in the bottom is volcanic ash though it is not all that divers could see there, there are also brilliant-yellow algae fields, frozen lava flows, a sunken forest, and geothermal vents that pour out milky, cloud-like substances. Though it’s only about 45 feet deep, the lake is 4,000 feet above sea level, so divers will need a dry suit and a sealed regulator. Furthermore, the very cold water makes it an advanced dive and good buoyancy skills are required because of the volcanic ash in the bottom.

Emerald Lagoon

A must-visit for diving enthusiasts, the Jules’ Undersea Lodge/Emerald Lagoon is lined with mangroves and can be best described as an aquatic theme park dedicated to dive emerald lagoon divingscience. At the center of the Jules’ Undersea Lodge is a deep-sea research habitat converted into the world’s first and only underwater hotel.

The lodge, located in Key Largo, Florida just off Highway 1 at Mile Marker 103, can accommodate groups of up to six divers. NASA uses it occasionally to simulate living in space conditions, but it is also popular with adventurous honeymooners. Divers in this site use an extensive system of hookah lines to explore the lagoon’s numerous quarry-like attractions, including an archaeological exhibit and second habitat structure that serves as a marine lab.

Mt. Storm Lake

An addition to the diver-friendly lakes is Mt. Storm Lake that is just off Route 42 in northern West Virginia near the Maryland border. It has a large parking lot for visitors, easy mt. storm lake divingshore-diving access, underwater platforms, and plenty of warning signs to keep divers away from the dam. The thing that makes Mt. Storm unique among the other dive sites on this list is its water temperature, which is about 20 degrees warmer. On cold days, the surface of the lake actually steams up. The reason behind this is because Mt. Storm Lake is a man-made cooling pond for a massive coal-fired power plant.

Bonneville Seabase

Last, but definitely not the least among the many dive spots of the US, is the Bonneville Seabase in Utah, 40 miles west of Salt Lake City and near Grantsville, Utah. It is an inland Bonneville Seabase divingsea full of tropical fish species such as angelfish and nurse sharks. With the same geologic forces that help create the Great Salt Lake, Bonneville Seabase provides warm, saltwater ponds somehow similar to the water conditions of the Caribbean, thus supporting a diverse mix of ocean fish – from groupers to nurse sharks.

Adventurous divers just have to choose or just visit one site at a time to enjoy the many wonders and surprises each dive site has to offer.

Cave Diving Photography Challenges and Tips to Overcome Them

Capturing the magnificence of the underwater world is exciting. It is more exciting when the photography session involves underwater caves. All that is needed is a durable waterproof camera. You can probably get away with your typical digital camera with a waterproof casing, though these are known to be unreliable and may end up leaking at the depths you may be diving. These caves are full of mysteries and lure so many photographers into exploring these depths to discover and capture captivating images of the murky environment.

However, cave-diving photography is one of the most challenging niches in the world of photography, which could try a diver’s patience and challenge a photographer’s creativity. It is so different from underwater photography and yet so similar. Below are the challenges you might experience and the tips to overcome these challenges so you could capture the most stunning photos in underwater caves:

The darkness becomes your enemy

Taking splendid photos is using natural light to capture the beauty of your foreground, but with underwater cave photography, this natural light is a scarce commodity. As you dive deeper into the depths and approach the underwater caves, the water blocks natural light. What you see is the never-ending darkness and the lightings you can rely upon are those that you bring during the diving expedition.cave diving darkness is a problem for taking pictures

To solve this dilemma, bring a lot of strobes to light the surrounding area and your foreground. Strobe lights vary from a manual to automatic type and from an on-camera to off-camera.

On-camera lights are easier to bring than off-camera lights because these lights are attached to the camera itself. However, these types do not produce great images as compared to the output of off-camera lights. More often, these lights make your subject over or under exposed. On-camera lights limit creativity since you rely on proximity to take a picture.

Remember, water bends or blocks light (this is called refraction). When using on-camera lights, you should be near enough to the subject to take a good shot. The result is an over exposed subject. On the other hand, a foreground that is far from the source of light makes it harder for you to illuminate it. As a result, you get an under exposed foreground and may end up capturing the wrong angle.

Off-camera lights, most of the time, are impractical to bring but offer a lot more choices especially if you want to produce dynamic images. Manual strobes are easier to use since you can switch them on or off whenever you need them. On the other hand, automatic strobes are the kinds that light when a flash from the camera triggers the sensors. Most of the time, these types of strobes are sensitive from slight flashes, especially with the sunlight reflecting on the waters. The sensors might mistake these reflected light as flashes and trigger the strobes. However, when you and your team swim deeper in the cave, the flashes lessen and may become an advantage on your part if you bring automatic strobes.

Lightings are not working

You prepared everything, and brought the proper lights (and extra ones). Suddenly, the strobes do not flash as you want them to, or flash too often, ruining your shots. These problems are frustrating but you can solve these by knowing the location of the strobes’ sensors.cave diving photography strobe lights

Some have sensors at the back of the strobes. To use these sensor-enabled strobes, make sure you have positioned them strategically, triggering the other strobes when necessary. Another alternative is investing on strobes with omnidirectional sensors or those that allow you to use a remote sensor with accessory cord.

Although more light is advantageous, bringing too many may not be helpful. Remember, cave diving is difficult. As you dive deeper, the physical pressure increases because of the gravitational pull. With all the diving equipment that your team is holding, bringing too many strobes is strenuous. Thus, to avoid additional stress, plan your cave-diving photography session. Although planning is hard if you are diving into unknown terrain, this diving plan helps you decide the number and the type of strobes to bring.

Bring at least one manual strobe so that when the automatic ones fail, you have a spare one to use. A spare may not be enough but is useful when you do not have enough light to capture the foreground. Alternatively, let your team members hold at least one primary light. These lights can provide additional lightings.

Technical diving ineptitude hinders the photo session

Cave-diving photography is a challenging task and ineptitude on technical diving adds to the difficulty. The pressure of taking great photos increases when you and your team are not skilled in technical diving. Thus, before diving, ensure that you learn the fundamentals.

The first dive is difficult for a novice, which is okay. However, as your cave-diving photography becomes frequent, learn the practical details of cave-diving so that you could avoid any accidents. If you have the time and budget, enroll in a cave-diving course. This course is costly, but it is a good addition to your photography skills. Moreover, you are saving your own and someone else’s life during a dangerous dive to take pictures meters beneath the sea level.

Sometimes, technical ineptitude is also apparent on your models. The only solution to this problem is never bring someone who does not know how to cave-dive. Hiring and training professional divers to become your models is better than making a professional model become a professional diver. It would be less stressful and less worrisome. Besides, it would take years of diving experience to become comfortable in exploring caverns and caves.

The subject lacks depth and color

Every photographer knows that artificial lightings make the final images look garish and flat. Even with so many strobes, the foreground may still look blue and green. The answer to this underwater photography dilemma is proper light exposure. Too close means over-exposure of the subject. Too far may under-expose the subject to the lightings. Over exposure may create a flat image, diminishing the colors that are unique to underwater caves. Under exposure may produce too many shadows, hiding your subject.

Captivating underwater cave photo shows colors and dimensions. It is recreating images with just the right amount of shadows. You can either place strobes light behind rocks, let your model hold a light or place a light above your subject. Alternatively, attach a backlight to your model. Doing this brightens the cave (or background) and allows you to take photos without readjusting the lights accordingly. Moreover, with this position, your camera triggers the sensors immediately, which provides enough natural light.

Installing a backlight on your model is easy. Here is how:

Use a cord and attach the flash or lights to the air tanks of your model/diver. Configure the right cords and connectors so that the flash works perfectly. The flash should face the diver’s fins after attachment. Place a wedge for easy positioning of the flash on the diver’s tank. A manual controller is applicable for this purpose because it allows you to manipulate and change the strobe’s power remotely. You do not need to swim back to your diver for any light adjustments.

When taking pictures, let your model face you and with the flash behind your model’s tanks, your lights illuminating the area. When the camera flashes, the sensor triggers the backlight. The important thing is to provide enough lighting to the background. If your diver/model is near enough to the cave wall, you only need a lesser power to light the strobes. This technique lends your image a natural look and adds three-dimensional depth to your photos. You can make your images show more details. You can also apply this technique in taking pictures of artifacts, if there are any inside the cave.

Unknown diving terrain is dangerous

For a photographer, innovativeness is looking for ways to feature new subjects in an environment that no one has ever seen. Capturing foregrounds from unknown underwater terrain can be a breakthrough. It is exciting but is dangerous. Even if you have the professional skills of a cave diver and a license to support it, accidents in underwater caves are a common occurrence.cave diving can be dangerous

Thus, always bring a diver who knows to navigate an unknown terrain. Assign this person in your team to be the one who monitors the oxygen levels and looks out for any irregularities during the expedition. Moreover, you can also request this person to hold some lighting for you. If possible, perform researches on the fauna and the possible terrain courses of the underwater cave. The last thing you would want are surprises such as dangerous animals lurking on the shadows or a burst of underwater pressures that may jeopardize your team’s safety.

Alternatively, navigate the area first. The navigation could be more than once or fifty times even. When you are certain that the area is safe and you are comfortable with diving to the cave, proceed with a cave-diving photography expedition and capture the surroundings with models to make them more real.

Get a team to help you. Never dive alone, even if your objective is to capture the environment and fauna found inside the cave.

You can also group the team in pairs. One monitors the diving equipment and the other one could be your model. Doing this enables you to concentrate on taking excellent pictures.

Safety is compromised

To capture stunning underwater cave-diving photos, it is important that your models are comfortable with their surroundings. Comfort is only possible if they are technically proficient in cave diving. Explore the cave carefully by letting a designated person to navigate the area before the team proceeds. If safety is compromised, abandon the expedition and reschedule. The safety of your team is more important than taking pictures.

Additionally, before the diving commences, orientation is an important safety protocol. Reiterate everything about safety precautions, even if your team might tease you for being too cautious. When safety is jeopardized during the expedition, remember to be calm or at least bring someone who is relaxed during emergencies.

For future photography sessions, enroll in a course that tackles how to manage risks and emergencies on cave dives. Although this topic is a part of diving lessons, trainers usually discuss this in passing. To ensure that you remember what to do during these times, refresh your knowledge on handling emergencies.

Sometimes, weather conditions may hinder your photo sessions. When the weather seems bad and you know that a storm is coming, postpone the photo shoot to avoid undue incidents. The sea is turbulent during these times. It is even more turbulent undersea.

You might even encounter undercurrents that may make the dive more difficult than during normal sea conditions, especially if your divers are all amateurs. Although even if you and your team are all expert divers, pushing through an underwater cave photo session with a storm brewing in the horizon is a dangerous task.

Cave-diving photography is challenging, but make sure your team is safe during the photography session. Treat your team to a little celebration after diving whether the expedition is a success or not. When you develop the pictures, give them a copy as a token of appreciation.

The success of your cave-diving photography is not just taking great pictures. It is also about building good relationships with people who are willing to help you with your passion or career for that matter. Making your team feel appreciated after grueling minutes or even hours of cave-diving is also part of the photography session. Consider them your friends and they will reward you. Friendship is not tangible, but the relationship you build with your diving team sometimes shows in the photos you take.

How to Put a Shark in a Deep Trance – A Diver’s First Hand Experience

how to put a shark to sleep

There is a way to lull a shark to sleep… to put them in a deep trance for a few minutes, just enough so you can pet it or let others gently touch it and feel its sandpaper-like skin. It is called tonic immobility: a state in which the shark is placed in a natural state of paralysis. It is an instinctive reaction when stimulated a certain way. It does not harm them. Science still doesn’t know the purpose of this reaction, but it is a truly fascinating thing.

Calming a shark and putting it to sleep is something I have done a hundred times, but I never get tired of it. I love sharks, and when I hold them in their trance-like state, there is a great fascination that I feel for these incredible creatures.

It all starts with choosing the right shark to handle. A great subject is the Caribbean reef shark. When diving underwater, you have to be completely calm and find a shark that is relaxed and does not seem aggressive. One that is swimming lazily and slowly. It may seem more intimidating, but the bigger ones are usually the more stable and willing. Additionally, females are almost always the easiest to entice.

When I spot one, I extend a hand to feed it, usually with a herring. Although it may seem like free food, not all sharks can be lured to it. Others who do not want the attention would simply swim away. The shark should be willing to take the food before you are able to pet it. When it comes close enough, I start petting it under the snout. That’s where the magic happens.

Under the shark’s snout are freckle-like dots called ampullae of Lorenzini. It is so sensitive, that if you twitch just a single muscle, they would be able to sense it. Because it is overly sensitive, it is also easily stimulated. So when you gently touch and massage it, they feel an overwhelming sense of stimulation that limits their mobility. Their bodies fall into a completely relaxed state. You can touch and move them around without much struggle. How long does this trancelike state last? About a few minutes. I have once handled a shark for 30 minutes in this state. If I want them to snap out of the trance, I simply stop stimulating and let go. Then they go back to their business like nothing happened. It is truly an amazing phenomenon.

I usually do this in front of an audience, not to draw attention to myself but to show them how fascinating sharks are. Tonic immobility is just one of the interesting facts about them and there are so much more people ought to know.

To lull a shark to sleep requires a great amount of diving experience and extensive knowledge about their behavior. I don’t encourage inexperienced divers to do this when they encounter a shark. What I do encourage is for everyone to get to know these amazing creatures. I hope more people will love them and save them, in the same way that my fellow divers and I do.

Cage-Diving with Wild Bears

cage diving bear photos underwater

I went to Kurile Lake in Kamchatka, Russia after watching about it on a television documentary. I got fascinated because bears come there every year, as they consider it the best place for them to find food or take shelter. Aside from that, the lake is the largest breeding ground for red salmon—one of the best of its kind—in the whole of Eurasia.

I knew that no one had tried taking underwater pictures of the bears, since it would be strenuous and dangerous. Knowing the obstacles that I will go through, I still made a go for it. I went to a shop and asked for a box for my photo camera, telling the assistant my intentions. He reacted as if I was completely insane.

Working with a predator means having one foot in the grave; one tiny mistake can lead to a giant mess even if you work with one easily at first. Because of this, we had a special cage built to prevent direct contact with the bears. What I had to do was watch from the bottom up every time one got up on its hind legs.

I was that desperate to get a shot. I spent hours soaked in the freezing cold water, and it thrilled me whenever a bear came near. There were times when I got really close to them, and I tried my best not to ruin the moment. However, they turned from pretty creatures to beasts as soon as I got in the water, chasing me, hunting me down like I was food.

Bear attacks really are fatal. There are more chances of being killed by one than being killed by a lion, tiger, leopard and shark combined. Looking back, fulfilling this dream of mine—taking shots of bears underwater—almost caused me my life. It was something exciting and memorable, but it was a bad idea. Never in a million years would I recommend what I did to anyone.

PADI Course Director

What is a PADI Course Director?

Course Directors are a step up from the typical PADI Master Instructor. The Course Director is responsible for teaching the PADI IDC (Instructor Development Courses), along with other more advanced, instructor-level dive training. The PADI Course Director is highly skilled, and can be considered an expert in the field of scuba diving. In fact, this is the highest rating that can be held with regards to recreational scuba diving.

Should You Apply?

If you are passionate about diving and are eager to make money helping others, I encourage you to apply for a seat in a CDTC (Course Director Training Course). Space is limited, and as such the application process is moderately competitive. If you have at least 250 successful logged dives, are a certified EFR Instructor Trainer, and meet the other eligibility requirements, you have a decent shot. If you have teaching experience, or have assisted a Course Director in Instructor Development Courses, be sure to put that on your resume, as this is highly desired.

PADI Continuing Education Flow-Chart

Cave Diving In Madagascar – Stories Worth Telling

Similarly to many awesome stories, this one begins with a simple phone call from my life-long friend Adalrik. “Eis, I met a girl [Hannah] who has had over 20 successful dives in the caves of Madagascar, she’s planning her next trip in two weeks and I already told her that you were going with me.” I usually like to have more notice, especially for a long distance trip – not to mention all that goes in to preparing for a cave dive. But I’m not one to turn an opportunity like this down, so I agreed. The next two weeks consisted of us gathering as much intel as we could on the caves, while we bought tickets, made travel and hotel arrangements, and mentally prepared for this experience of a lifetime.

Adalrik had close contacts with a Hungarian geologist that had been employed in Madagascar for many years – a valuable friend indeed! He was able to make copies of a number of his own personal geological maps, which also included survey data of caves and their dimensions.

Fast forward two weeks and a day and we arrived at Ivatao International Airport. Keep in mind, this is not an American airport. I was expecting some nice air conditioned building where we would calmly wait in line until it was our time to speak with customs officials and have our passports stamped. Boy was I wrong.

The plane lands. We walk directly onto the field and must have walked at least a quarter mile to the location for arrivals. There were no lines in the arrival hall. There were two employees working at the center of the building that were responsible for taking the Ivatao International Airportpassport and stamping it. Unfortunately, stamping a passport is a long, drawn out procedure in Madagascar. I had to stand around in the chaos for nearly 25 minutes before I heard someone scream out some sounds that resembled my name. Ah finally – now I just have to fight my way back through the crowd to retrieve my stamped passport and I was on my way. An African airport – such pandemonium!

Our hotel was located in a city that seemed almost third-world. Dirt roads – if you can call them that – lacked any streetlights or signs. Quite a culture shock. The inside of the hotel was surprisingly very nice. Almost felt like I was in the twilight zone once I entered as it felt out of place from the street it was located on.

The next morning me and Adalrik decided to try a dive on our own without Hannah, as we were there a day earlier than she was. Using only the geological maps, Google Earth, and a small tidbit of information we were able to gather online on the days leading up to our expedition, we told our driver where to go. This particular cave was in the middle of the desert. Cactus all around us, and aside from this hidden water source, there was no other water in site. Once we arrived we were both pretty psyched to jump right in. We checked the tanks – Carbon Monoxide levels were good. We geared up and gently eased our way into the water.

Within a few minutes we realized that there wasn’t any opening wide enough to fit through that would lead us to a cave system. After nearly twenty minutes we found a small hole that was just barely big enough for one person to slide through. This small tunnel continued until it pretty much closed off with debris. We each took turns trying to remove rocks from the opening to clear a path, but this didn’t seem to get us anywhere. After a while we decided to cut our losses and get back out of the water.

We continued on to the second potential site about one kilometer to the east. Walking down the steep depression was quite a task with all the gear still on. The anticipation was killing us so we didn’t want to waste any more time than we already had. Finally I could see the pool of water. The water was crystal clear with a slight blue tinge. It was unreal. From the surface it looked as if it was about 10 meters deep, but this was only an illusion due to the clarity of the water, it was actually close to 50 meters.

Towards the back of the submerged cavern was a huge underwater tunnel that dropped down moderately fast – probably close to a 40° angle. Swimming around the edges of the tunnel, we could marvel the intricate patterns made over thousands of years, and just couldn’t be replicated – this was simply one of a kind. On the floor we could see huge cayman skulls, which Adalrik quickly captured with his underwater camera. Unfortunately, he is not an experienced underwater photographer so the picture wasn’t the best. This was alarming for a few moments as we were unsure whether we were swimming around in a cayman skulls in underwater cavecrocodile’s den but that fear soon passed out of excitement for our new find. We later found out that these were most likely fossilized. After reaching nearly 200ft of registered depth as measured by our line, we decided to start heading back. Along the way we spotted a number of other tunnels branching into multiple directions, which gave us hope that we could have a much more successful dive the next day with Hannah, as our Carbon Monoxide (CO) levels were approaching 40 ppm and we had already both gone through our spare tank at this point. Upon reaching the surface, we were both enthralled at what we just got to experience. It was quite possible that we were the only two people that have ever actually been at this site, as cave diving in Madagascar is not popular at all. We hypothesized that this would be the perfect starting point for the days ahead, as there were a handful of unexplored tunnels, at least one had to connect with the underwater cave system. Swimming through the tunnels for the duration of our trip confirmed these expectations.

Over the next few days I will continue to document the most memorable experiences of this trip. If I had the chance, would I go back to Madagascar to cave dive? Absolutely. Each underwater cave system is unique. This uniqueness and all the characteristics and small details that you learn to take note of is largely dependent on the location of the cave. A cave dive in Florida compared to in Mexico compared to in Madagascar is a completely different experience. Not only does underwater visibility vary from dive to dive, but the color of the rock, the soot, and the intricacies of each tunnel and underwater cavern vary tremendously down to the smallest details.

CCR Cave Diving

ccr cave diving - totally possible

I would consider myself an enthusiastic rebreather diver. I also love caves. If someone can come up with a better way to combine both of these obsessions in one activity, please enlighten me. Until then, closed circuit rebreather (CCR) cave diving will continue to keep me occupied.

There are plenty of people that will tell you Florida is not the ideal locale for CCR cave diving – whether they argue it as being too shallow, or the tunnels too narrow, I can personally tell you that this is simply not true. As I’ve preached before, when it comes to cave diving, or scuba diving in general, maintaining awareness of your surroundings is crucial. With a bit of forethought, some skill, and a love for the sport, the utilization of your diving machines can be incorporated into many cave diving scenarios.

Whenever someone uses the “its too shallow” argument, I always bring up the fact that with a low set point, and adequate bail out planning leading up to the dive, you can spend the entire time floating around underwater. With proper technique, you can experience the entire cave in only one dive. Keep in mind this depends on the size and complexity of the caves and tunnels. Florida has a wide range of caves that are well suited for rebreathers.

Sure, I’ll acknowledge that the majority of dives can be accomplished with OC alone, though you have to admit that CCR is well ahead of the pack with regards to gas logistics and cave diving of extended durations. Long story short, if you already cave dive, and you are experienced with CCR diving, combine the two of them together. Have no idea where to start when it comes to rebreathers? Have a look at this. Enjoy!


Cave Diving Documentary – Worth the 53 Minutes

Cave diving gets a bad rap because of the dangers associated with it. Sure, cave diving can be dangerous, but it can also be fascinating. I thought I’d post this video up from Youtube. It does a great job at providing you with the overall picture of cave diving. You’ll see some beautiful underwater footage along the way. If you really are interested in cave diving, try not to get all caught up in the media hype. The media is only going to report when things go wrong while cave diving. There are substantially more successful dives than their are those that end in injury or other forms of tragedy. Hope you enjoy.

Debunking the Age Old Myth of “Size Matters” for Flashlights

NIGHTSTICK is an industry leader in professional lighting solutions. Recently, it launched its flagship product the MT-100, which has taken the market by storm. NIGHTSTICK’s MiniTAC MT-100W family is known for its typical four-flashlight nightstick flashlightconfiguration. What’s amazing about this particular flashlight model is that it is a top quality product while being relatively small and lightweight. The MT-100 houses the brilliant CREE LED flashlights with a deep parabolic reflector and measures less than 5.6-inch. This peculiar design means that the light produced from this flashlight is a tight, long beam which is ideal for long distance illumination.

The first warning bell that might ring in the mind of most customers is that due to its short size, the model must compromise quality. However, this is not the case as the NIGHTSTICK MT-100 family boasts a high level of functionality and can be flicked on or off in a moment by using the tail switch. The body of these flashlights is made from aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum which has not only made the model light but also virtually indestructible. On top of the MT-100 family being chemical and water resistant to an astonishingly high degree, it has also survived the fall test from a height of 2 meters.

All of the four NIGHTSTICK MT-100 series flashlights are powered by a set of batteries and are protected by a limited warranty. The MT-100, MT-110, and MT-120 models all feature a sturdy metal pocket clip. The MT-130 (Gooseneck) takes this a step further and features a removable clip-on magnet that makes it ideal for hands-free use. Undoubtedly, the most exciting feature of the Mini-TAC MT-100 family is the sheer amount of concentrated light the flashlight gives off. Even though it is a very small model, it is incredibly powerful and has successfully debunked the age-old myth that the size matters.

The SafetyBlu Inspection Kit – Is it Worth It?

safety bluThe SafetyBlu SB-450 Inspection Kit has taken the market by storm. It can be described as a lightweight, easy-to-carry, high-intensity LED flashlight. What separates the SB-450 kit from other tools in the industry is that it can locate fluid leaks quite early on. This not only reduces the number of injuries miners or scuba divers sustain but also reduces fluid consumption by 5-7% annually.

The FluidSafe technology of the SB-450 kit assists in the early detection of leakage and removal of liquids used in hydraulics if a haywire fluid injection penetrates the human skin. When a suspected area is illuminated under SafetyBlu’s powerful blue LED light, the fluorescent glow highlights the exact location of the injected material, which makes it easier for medicinal practitioners to deny or confirm if the hydraulic penetration took place. Thus, it is fair to say that it also aids in the surgical removal of excess fluid.

The usefulness of the SafetyBlu flashlight extends to fluid leaks in hydraulic system hoses, fittings, and seals. This can result in the prevention of catastrophic mishaps.

The LED is housed in a robust aluminum body which has been anodized. This makes the SafetyBlu corrosion resistant and increases the life of the instrument. The SafetyBlu derives its power from a NiMH battery. This battery is of rechargeable nature and provides up to 1.5 hours of regular usage between charging cycles.

The SB-450 kit also includes AC chargers, a belt that can support the kit, DC chargers, and illumination-improving glasses. All of the components mentioned above are packaged in fitted compartments in a sleek carrying case.