Josh Thornton, myself (Randy Thornton), Richard Lamb, Tom Lamb and Amy Smith dove Ricks Spring last Saturday with the intent of shooting some photos of as much of the explored sections as possible. When we got there the entrance appeared to be quite a bit smaller due to a substantial amount of rock that had slid down closing off a portion of the entrance. It has always been a side mount entrance, but Saturday it was suitable for skinny guys only! This basically meant that Josh was the only one who could initially get in! Once Josh was inside, he was able to scoop some of the new rocks out of the way which allowed Richard to barely squeeze through! The next 40 mins or so was spent with both teams (inside and outside) clearing the entrance so that we could all make it through the entrance. This also meant because the water is 40 degrees cold, we were already quite cold before the dive really got under way!
My camera set up is a Canon 1DS
which is quite large. It's housed in a Subal housing with two large Sea & Sea strobes on long arms. With a large dome port to accommodate the wide angle lens,we were all quite concerned about damaging it in the restrictions in a couple of different places. Consequently, we decided to put it in a milk crate to transport it to at least the first dry section. This turned out to be a very bad idea! I was to be the lead diver carrying the milk crate/camera so that I could be ensured of good visibility, but between the cold, flow, and trying to swim carrying a heavy milk crate, it was just about enough to do me in! About 35 mins. into the dive we were in a fairly tight tunnel called the "Slippery Slide" that only has room for
one diver when I suffered a major free flow! (I'm assuming due to the cold!) Carrying stages, camera, in a tight tunnel with a free flow made for some hair raising moments, and by the time the team was able to turn around in tight quarters with all of our gear and high tail it back towards the entrance, I had experienced about as much fun as I wanted for one day! Fortunately, my son Josh offered to carry the camera back out! (OK, I shoved it in his face and said: "Here you take this sucker!") Turning around in the Slippery Slide caused a silt out and we excited in next to zero viz. We ended up loosing two additional strobes that we were going to use in slave mode to light up the place. They were worth about a $1000 so we were pretty bummed about that, but better strobes than a diver! Hopefully we will find the strobes on another dive sometime.
Diving in cold water caves is another whole level of
stress that is hard to explain. Heavy gloves, hoods, thick undergarments, etc. etc. just complicates virtually every aspect of the dive. We are seeing incredible sights, but it is WAY hard work!
Josh and Matt are heading back up to Ricks on Tuesday to do another push and get some pictures for an article his is writing for Advanced Diver Magazine. I won't be able to go, but I wish them luck! We don't believe we are close to hitting the end. This is exciting stuff. Josh and Richard are convinced that we can haul a ladder somehow in to the 2nd dry section and climb up the 20 foot waterfall and explore that section, but I am not convinced it's possible. We'll see how that goes! We now know that there are at least two sources of water, one of which is coming down the water fall.
That's it for now. Stay tuned!
Josh, Amy, Me and Tom showing off the Crate of Death!