Wakulla Springs 2005 Update

Wakulla Springs 2005 Update

WKPP ExplorationWKPP/GUE

Wakulla Springs
Wakulla Basin, November 2005

More photos in the Wakulla Update photo gallery

Overview (Casey McKinlay)
I must admit that I was somewhat skeptical about the conditions and had grown weary of diving Wakulla with horrible visibility, but that quickly changed as we motored past the B/C junction and into A-Tunnel with 30-40ft of visibility. The Aug-Oct 2005 work at Chip’s Hole had been a lot of work and having a few weeks off to catch up seemed the right call, but with less than 2 inches of rain in Tallahassee since Sept 1 and clearing conditions we had to take one shot at Wakulla before the Thanksgiving holiday. The gamble paid off and everyone on site seemed up to the challenge and glad to be back. Even David Lennon had a smile on his face and seemed fired up to do whatever it took on Saturday, November 19.

The plan was fairly basic: the K and A/K flow meter units had not been transmitting data since the beginning of the year, so FGS packaged up a replacement unit and asked the WKPP to transport to K-Tunnel at 4,800ft and swap the meters. We wanted to limit the request to one meter in case the replacement did not work, and it turned out to be a data cable issue; otherwise we would have done the A/K meter as well. While we were out in the cave, we figured it was also a good opportunity to begin pulling the safety tanks from 4,800 and 3,500 ft, with team 2 pulling the safety tanks from 2,200 and 1,400ft. In total we removed 13 tanks for cleanup and recharge. We still have 18 tanks at 6,500ft but that would have to wait until Dec 3. On Sunday we took some time out to check some of the sinks in the State Forest and while they appear to be clearing on the surface, conditions within the cave have a few more weeks to go..

David Lennon at Wakulla
David Lennon hauls old safety bottles out of Wakulla Springs during the November event

Operations kicked off at 8am

Casey McKinlay’s Report

The setup crew hit the water early and began placing tanks. Derek Bennett and Doug Mudry took the lead placing tanks with Shellie running the surface. Curtis took care of cleaning all the shallow rock features and bones for the park staff while Anthony Rue took a hard drive full of photos. David Lennon, Walter Gordon and Scott Cox handled intermediate support and cleared out the gear while Mark Messersmith and Jim Miller handled support for the final surface ascent from the habitat. A lean but extremely efficient crew with all objectives met.

RB Team 1 (Koritz, McKinlay, Rose) transported the replacement Falmouth Scientific meter 4,800ft to K-Tunnel. Terry and John unpacked the replacement meter, disconnected and removed the malfunctioning meter, installed the replacement meter and packaged up the malfunctioning meter for delivery to the door. Watching Terry and John operate seamlessly at a depth of 265ft almost 1 mile back in Wakulla came as no surprise. The entire switch took less than 20 minutes and FGS confirmed the new meter was active and transmitting on Monday morning. As Terry and John wrapped up the meter work I grabbed the 4 safety tanks at 4,800ft for delivery back to the surface for recharge and reg overhauls. John stopped at 3,500ft on the exit and grabbed the 3 safety tanks to complete the mission. Total bottom time was 85 minutes.

Cleaning the mastadon bones
Curtis Baldwin cleans the mastadon bones in the Wakulla basin

RB Team 2 (Garland and Leonard)
Todd Leonard’s report

After seeing the first team off and allowing a short head start, our dive got underway at 11:13am with a mission to retrieve old safety bottles from 2200 (A/D junction) and 1400. Each of us was diving an RB-80 rebreather, carrying two scooters, two 300 drive bottles, and a 190 deco bottle.

We plugged in our 190 bottles, and deployed the 190 open-circuit reg for the initial descent (to avoid any possibility of hypoxia while we slowly worked our way through the hydrilla). We paused at 30ft to switch to the breathers, checked the habitats to confirm our deco and break gas were placed correctly, and began our descent into the cave. Working our way out A tunnel, we passed the A/B/C junction. As we approached 1400 the line we were following went to the ceiling where we found the safeties we’d be pulling later. A hundred feet or so later the line crossed another line, so we dropped an arrow to indicate which one would lead us to the safeties — better to take a moment now than potentially waste minutes later backtracking. We continued into A tunnel until reaching the A/D junction. We could feel the change in water temperature and see the clear/tannic mixing. We noted the batch of safeties a short distance to our left. We paused to switch scooters on return to the A/D junction, then moved to the safety bottles. We divided and hip-clipped the three safeties, then began our exit. Back at 1400, we again divided and hip-clipped the safeties, giving us three each. With 64 minutes on the clock, we slowed our ascent at 240… a bottom time of 51 minutes. The photo team met us soon after the switch, and support divers arrived shortly thereafter to pull our scooters, drive bottles, and the safeties. All in all, a very enjoyable day. Max depth 291fsw, bottom time 51min, run time 324min.

The support team had everyone packed up and on their way to dinner by 8pm

The WKPP did some field recon in several of the sinks in the Wakulla Springs State Forest and Apalachicola National Forest to assess to what degree conditions upstream were improving. We put 1 team in the water to check flow and visibility and 1 team on the surface to hike and photograph various sinks. Conditions appear to be clearing but are not quite clear enough.

We will prepare for Dec 3-4 and Dec 17-18 to finish the meter repairs and rotate the safety tanks all the way out to 6,500ft. In total, we have close to 33 safety tanks in Wakulla that need to be rotated from the 2003 effort. If we can wrap this up ahead of the holidays, we should be well positioned to hit it hard in January