WKPP Update: Emerald/Cheryl Re-Lining, August, 2006
Update by Casey McKinlay
Clear conditions in the northern section of Leon Sinks over the past month– in addition to a few weeks off waiting for Wakulla to clear– allowed time for WKPP divers to replace almost 5,500ft of guideline upstream and downstream of Cheryl and Emerald Sinks. In advance of the proposed recreational access through the Wakulla Springs State Park, the Emerald advisory committee and the Florida Department of Enviromental Prtection agreed on the replacement of the existing guideline. The old line(s) were intact but needed to be replaced and routed in such a manner as to avoid any sample tubing and delicate cave structures. Directional markers would also need to be replaced and the number of arrows increased to confirm distances for recreational cave divers accessing the system. Historically, the WKPP and early explorers in these systems used arrows and markers exclusively for marking “T’s”, stage drops and areas of interest for further exploration. The advisory committee requested markers every 200ft and, courtesy of Halcyon Mfg., 3 dozen custom arrows and 2,500ft of knotted gold line were donated to the project in addition to 3,000ft of knotted gold line donated on behalf of the NACD and 500ft from the NSS-CDS.
Special thanks to John Kimberl, Gerry Hammond and Jason Ottinger of the NACD for donating, knotting and delivering 3,000ft of gold line.
Saturday – July 22
(Bognar, Canty, McKinlay, Miller, Cox, Doolette, Bourke, Baldwin, Leonard)
The effort was divided into 3 phases – install the new gold line, remove the old line(s) and install the new arrows. 4 teams would handle the work:
Cox, Doolette – reline from Cheryl into the middle of Emerald Sink. Remove old guideline.
McKinlay, Miller – reline from the middle of Emerald Sink downstream into both the Clearcut and Fish Hole tunnels. Remove old guidelines and position sampling tubing as needed.
Bognar, Canty – reline from Cheryl to Split Sink and continue on from Split Sink to the junction of the Cheryl-Emerald line.
Baldwin, Bourke – reline from Cheryl upstream to the Black Abyss.
The teams completed the work over the course of the afternoon with all teams using open circuit with the exception of the downstream Emerald team. Given the depth and extended bottom time (90 minutes) the downstream Emerald team made use of Halcyon RB80’s and scooters to get the job done.
Huge thanks to everyone, especially Bob and Curtis who finished out the day by lifting and removing an old exploration cattle trough from the early 90’s. Special thanks to Todd Leonard for running the surface and coordinating the multiple teams. Phase 1 & 2 complete
Saturday – August 12
(Werner, Porceddu, Doolette, McKinlay, Miller, Rue, Canty, Bognar, Jackie Booth)
Phase 3 – place marked arrows at predetermined locations and complete any remaining line work.
Werner, Porceddu, Doolette – reline Black Abyss loop and T into main line. Place all upstream Cheryl arrows.
Bognar, Canty – extract remaining guidelines from downstream Emerald, place all downstream Emerald/Clearcut/Fish Hole arrows, place all upstream Emerald arrows, place all Emerald to Split arrows and place Emerald to Cheryl arrows. Plus anything else I could come up with.
McKinlay, Miller, Rue, Bognar – capture High Definition video of the Cheryl-Emerald and upstream Cheryl-Abyss tunnels for the State. Using Halcyon 200watt HMI lights for the Cheryl-Emerald and upstream Cheryl sections and Halcyon 50watt HID lights for the Black Abyss allowed the team to capture some exceptional footage of this pristine section of the Leon Sinks system.
The reline, re-arrow and video work is complete. All lines are “T’d” and marked for the closest exit. It is my understanding that only Emerald Sink will be open for access into and out of the system with the other sinks being “emergency” exit only. Given the additional requirements for cave diving access into the system, all lines are continuous with no gaps even across the sinkholes. Existing sample tubing remains in place for future trace work but should not pose a problem for divers accessing the system. Conditions remain favorable at this point in both the northern and southern portions of the Leon Sinks system but daily rainfall is increasing. Despite the busy summer schedule, the WKPP and the State felt it was important to complete this work under clear conditions. I would like to thank each team member for donating time and resources for the benefit of the entire cave diving community. I expect these improvements to make the Emerald experience safe, memorable and enjoyable.