So after two days in Abaco and 5 dives later I have completed the NACD Cavern Diver course. I won’t say it was easy because it wasn’t, but because I have put in lots of effort before coming here it has made it easier than it could have been.
The course involves lots of drills:
• laying a primary guideline
• checking the daylight
• loss of visibility drills
• out-of-air drills (OOA)
• buoyancy drills
• shutdown drills
The drills were always practiced on the return journey.
I also had to become accustomed to diving in a helmet and carrying two backup lights, a primary reel and two safety spools.
The first dive sight we went to was Crossing Rocks Quarry. It was my first quarry dive and even though the water looked crystal clear the visibility at 6m was about 1m. Here we practiced laying a primary guideline and some OOA drills while swimming back and forth along the line.
We then moved onto Dan’s Cave. This is a cave that has over 8 miles of passageways that can be explored, though it does have a fantastic cavern so we went to explore it. The entrance looks small but it soon opens up into a huge room. There is a permanent guideline running in the floor (but as a cavern diver we are not to use that we must use the guideline that we lay ourselves) and it leads down the cavern until it reaches a sign warning that only cave certified divers are allowed to pass. Again we practiced OOA drills and no-vis drills.
The next day we headed to The Magical Blue Hole. This is a huge sink hole that has a base at 175ft but has a corner that goes all the way to 340ft. We kitted up, avoided the poison ivy, and jumped in. There is a descent line so we followed that down to about 70ft where we would then tie off our guideline and make a tour around the edge of the blue hole. The descent down into the blue hole freaked me out because all I could see was a black abyss speckled with stars. But I quickly regained my wits and continued the descent. The cavern was amazing there were stalactites that had infused with algae, over the years this caused the stalactites to curve towards the sun. They can only be found on the east and west sides. Again we did some drills and finished our dive with a mandatory safety stop.
We then headed back to Dan’s Cave to do two more dives. The first dive we practiced more drills and then the second dive I was the dive leader. I had to plan, brief and run the dive. Brian, my instructor, took on the role of an inexperienced cavern diver. After we had reached out turn pressure, Brian would introduce problems. Pretty much the same as drills we had practiced. He did try to pass the cave diver only sign, but a quick light signal stopped him in his tracks and brought him back to the centre of the cavern.
With all dives done all that remained was the written test. We did that this morning. The test was on the limitations and causes of cavern diver death, with a few scenarios thrown in, a gas management situation, and dive tables question.
As the title suggests, I passed my cavern course. I really enjoyed it. To celebrate we started the Intro to Cave Diver Course. So we packed the van headed back to Dan’s Cave.