“Cave Diving is one of the most dangerous sports. Cave diving is diving underwater in a cave that is at least partially filled with water. There are specific cave diving sites where there are caves with water in them, and there is legal permit to pursue cave diving. To even consider pursuing cave diving, you must know the hazards involved in this dangerous activity. The equipment used for cave diving is similar to that of scuba diving with little modifications to suit the special requirements.
Cave diving is considered dangerous mainly because of the absence of free surface for a major duration of the dive. As a result, there is decompression. Sometimes you end up in places where the visibility turns to zero, and you have to find your way out to a point that will lead you out of the cave. Cave diving is also an extension of the popular sport of caving. People who go for caving sometimes come across paths where they have no choice but to dive in the water ahead and swim until they find an exit. But when compared to caving and scuba diving, cave diving is relatively dangerous, and there are a very few experienced professionals who are well trained in it.
A lot of deaths have occurred as a result of cave diving due to lenient preparation, but people do different things for different reasons, and cave diving is one activity that gives you a lot of thrill, in spite of the dangers involved. Notwithstanding the risks, many people go for cave diving to explore the unexplored. Witnessing the eerie beauty of the underwater caves is an out of the world experience. You get to see flora and fauna not found elsewhere in the world.
If you have wanted to go on a cave diving trip and are finally planning for one, then there are certain preparations you must make. Apart from the preparations you must also be aware of the various aspects of cave diving.
Hazards involved in cave diving:
- Cave diving is also known as penetration diving which means that if there is an emergency, and you need to get out of the water, you can’t unless you are close to an opening. You cannot swim vertically to reach to the surface because there is no surface except for the cave ceilings. If you want to get out of the water, then the only way is to swim back to the point from where you entered.
- You must make sure that you have sufficient breathing gas to make the trip
- At times, the visibility nearly reduces to zero. It becomes almost non- existent, and you cannot even see your hands. A genuine cave diving experience involves going down to depths of more than a thousand feet where there is no possibility of any ray of light to penetrate. The presence of clay, sand and mud further reduces the visibility even with the help of an artificial light.
- Water in the caves has strong currents. Some of the caves open up as siphons and springs. Springs have an outward current whereas siphons have an inward current. You must know the cave you are considering for diving whether it has an outward current or an inward current or there can be severe troubles waiting for you.
- Training plays a VERY important role when it comes to cave diving. One of the major reasons that cave diving is considered dangerous is because of the number of cave divers that have lost their lives in the cave water because they were not fully trained and equipped to handle the extreme situations. Many people who go for recreational diving do not have the equipment and the expertise to know the what and the when of cave diving, something that you learn from professional cave diving companies during the training program.
- The underwater cave diving experience is one that not many have had. As a result, it is not possible to document all the data about the dangers involved in it. But after scrutinizing the information that is available, one can say that if you are well prepared and on your guard there is hardly anything that can go wrong. However, always remember, preparation is the key.
Now that you know the risks involved, here is a list of safety measures that you must undertake for a thrilling cave diving experience.
- Training: It is always better to be safe than sorry. A person who wants to be safe will never jump over the boundaries he is supposed to maintain, as per the training. The training for cave diving takes place in stages where each stage encompasses a real- world experience. Through the real- world experience training aims to build you up to more advanced levels and introduce to the greater risks involved. Training helps in remaining calm in an adverse situation that is less likely to happen with an inexperienced diver. Panic makes a situation take turns for the worse which is precisely what the training works to prevent.
- Maintaining an order underwater: Irrespective of whether you are going cave diving in a group or alone, it is important to hold the nylon line at all times. Do not pull on it. Although it is made of nylon that has been twisted and does not break that easily, you must ensure that there is an appropriate amount of tension in it.
- Rules regarding depth: Cave diving takes you deep into the dark, unexplored depths. As the depth goes on increasing the decompression, and the breathing-gas consumption go on increasing. Your equipment has a maximum limit up to which you can use it. Once the Maximum Operating Depth (MOD) is reached you must not go any further. Trying to go into deep depths without the adequate equipment is the reason even experienced divers have lost their lives. You must remember the difference between an open water dive and a cave dive.
- Air gas management: If your cave has an outflow current then your air consumption will increase during the exit. So you must follow the rule of thirds which says:
– Use one-third of the air for entrance
– Use another third of the air for exit journey
– Use the remaining one-third air to support another member in case of an emergency.
But this is applicable only when you haven’t gone too deep, and the tanks of all your co-divers are of the same size. It is because this system does not take into account the increase in the breathing air consumption due to panic, stress and extra effort that you may have to put to struggle and move against and inward flow. Therefore, you must reserve more than one thirds of the air for an emergency,
- Light Sources: Light is very crucial to your trip inside the cave water. Visibility in deep depths is a challenge and the only way to face it is with an artificial source of light. Each diver must carry three independent sources of light. The source that is used is the primary source while the other two are supplementary sources that you might need in case of an emergency to aid you in seeing when one source is not enough. You must know the expected burning time of each source and ensure that they will last you entire dive and may be a little extra. If even one of the sources of light fails the entire dive ends for all the members and an egress trip is made immediately.
- Apart from the above measures, leave your camera behind and avoid photography and videography as they have contributed to causes of accidents.
Cave divers, depending upon the depth they will cover and the type of cave they are going into, choose the equipment that they will take along. There is some equipment that allows movement in confined spaces and allows you to cover deeper depths or go for longer distances. Here is what you must have to get ready for cave diving:
– Independent or manifold twin cylinder rigs
– Side mount harnesses
– Sling cylinders
– Back plate and wing harness
– Guide-lines: They are necessary to maintain your course during the dive. Without these, there is a hundred percent chance that you may get lost and might never be able to trace your way back out.
– Gap spools: They are shorter than the guide-lines and allow you to make a jump into the cave water.
– Line arrows: These arrows indicate the direction towards the exit that is closest to where you are.
– Diver Propulsion Vehicles: They are also called scooters. The main purpose of their use is to share the load of the cave diver so that he can cover longer distances. The scooter allows a diver to travel faster in areas where the cave is open.
– Dive lights: The dive lights are special lights using which you can get visibility into the dark areas under water.
- Physical Preparation: Cave diving is physically taxing. To go in and come out of the cave successfully, you must be physically fit because cave diving requires you to carry equipment on your back, swim to deep depths and then come back. The entire trip lasts for six to eight hours. At no point during the dive are you allowed to sit back and rest for a while because that is not possible. So before you set on your adventure, gear yourself up, physically.
- Areas that have silt and sand deposits required to avoid extra movement. If the sand deposits stir up, then the visibility can reduce exponentially. Therefore, you need to have control of your body, maintain buoyancy and develop an effective finning technique.
- You must develop the skill to find your way out using the guideline in areas where there is no visibility. This skill proves to be immensely useful during an emergency.
- Apart from these, you must also know how to deal with a broken guideline.
Extra Preparation needed:
There are a few extra things that you need to pack for your cave diving experience. To do cave diving you first go to a place that has caves and it may sometimes involve hiking and caving. So you need to pack the following:
- First Aid Kit: In the case of any cut or bruise you must have a first aid kit to deal with it effectively.
- Food and Water: Get packs of MRE, or meals ready to eat as they are high in nutritional content and contain meals for the whole day. They also have water packets, so you don’t have to carry an extra bottle for water. You do not need to heat an MRE as they come with a self-heating system. Also, they are impact resistant.
- Clothing: Always carry extra clothing with you for any outdoor trip that lasts for more than one or two days.
While cave diving is not for everyone, if you have the strength then with the right preparation great things are sure to happen.”