Motivations (Parker Turner)
Article by Parker Turner June 26, 1991
In the summer drought of 1986 I received an invitation from Dr. John Zumrick to go cave diving. “Where,” I asked? “Somewhere deep and black,” Zumrick replied.
Later that day we were free falling down a huge dark shaft, the water was so cleat it almost seemed purple against the black walls. It was my second dive in Sullivan Sink; my first downstream. At 190 ft. we slipped sideways through a restriction reminiscent of a set of teeth, our steel tanks banging the rock. Ahead, loomed a gloomy black tunnel. John stopped to fix an old break in the line. I held the light so he could have both hands free. Having completed his chore, John floated on down the tunnel. My lips were going numb from narcosis, I looked at my depth gauge, we were at 240 ft. Swimming out I noticed we had to swim harder. Bad place I thought, deep and siphoning.
“Where does it go,” I asked, once we were at the surface? “Towards Emerald Sink,” John said, with a faraway look on his face. Months late at Zumrick’s house in Panama City, John was packing to move to Maryland and I was snooping through old cave maps. “What’s this,” I asked? John yelled from across the room, “the Sullivan data. Take it. I’m moving to Maryland and I’m getting to old and fat. I don’t have time to make the connection. Get with Gavin. You guys live here. You do it!”
Later that night I watched Bill Gavin as he spread out the map. He was swiftly computing gas requirements, his engineers brain whirring away. Gavin was known as one of the most talented cave divers in the world and a hard pushing explorer. He also was considered to be somewhat of a renegade. ” It looks as though there might be only 1000 ft. tunnel to connect,” said Bill. It looks as though a connection might give us the longest underwater cave in the world, I thought. Bill’s eyes lit up. “We might be able to pull this off in one or two dives.” As it turned out it was 3000 ft. between the already distant ends of exploration and it took many more dives than one or two to finally connect.
As of June 26, 1991 The Leon Sinks Cave system contains 48,754 ft. of mapped passage and is currently the Worlds Longest Underwater Cave. Many more connections are pending . Big Dismal, Chips Hole, Indian Springs are all in close proximity. Southeast lies Wakulla Springs, perhaps the resurgence of this magnificent cave. There are other areas in the Woodville Karst Plain with just as much potential.
On Oct. 24, 1990 the National Speleological Society’s Research and Advisory Committee accepted the Woodville Karst Plain Project as an official NSS Project. The WKPP has as its members some of the most experienced cave divers in the entire world. It has been my good fortune to have shared so many wonderful adventures with such good friends, and to stand in awe at what must truly be one of the great wonders of the world; The Woodville Karst Plain.