Separation Protocol

Separation Protocol

Separation Protocol

by George Irvine

This is how we handle buddy separation issues. It is the responsibility of the front diver to know if the next guy is there or not. If he is not, the front stops, turns, and retraces. If the third guy stops, the second guy must stop and deal with him. It is still the responsibility of the front guy to know if the second guy is there. A light flash would be great, but the protocol must work in the event that a light flash is not possible.

It is the responsibility of the guys in back to hold light on the person in front of them such that the front person can see the beam and know the buddy is there. We stay close in all cave, regardless of size, but in small cave this prevents losing buddy at every turn, and it allows the buddy to ride through any silt or halocline or whatever stirred by the front guy without stopping and starting. If the vis gets really bad, the back guy’s responsibility is to either be in touch contact with the front swimming or to bump the fins with the vehicle if scootering. This is standard WKPP stuff and I expect everyone to know this and adhere to it. I hate diving with people who can’t play by these rules as it results in a slinky dive and a stress out. I personally thumb any dive where this or other breaches of protocol occur.

The front guy can do a sidewave signal if he can not see the back guy, which tells the back guy to swing his beam across the front guy’s mask, showing that he is there. If the line is buried, the front guy must signal no line with his light (slow back and forth), and the back guy must automatically stop and hold his position on the line that he can still see. When the front guy finds the line ahead, he signals a fore and aft sweep of the light indicating he has regained the line, and the back guy can then proceed by returning the signal (not an “ok” signal).

We have no excuses for buddy separation lasting more than seconds. We stay as close as possible at all times. If you are not bumping into your buddy from time to time, you are too far away. The trick to what we do is team execution. The reason nobody can touch us in this game, including what are considered the ‘best” in the world, is that they don’t get this part. When Sheck Exley started diving with me, he was so amazed at what can be done our way that he talked to me every night at home and called me every day on his lunch break to talk about what dive we could do the next weekend. What Exley used to tough out by himself or with strokes over periods of weeks of aborted CFs, he could do with me in one day.

Just by way of comparison of philosophies, the UDSCT (made of up some of the most horrific idiots in Florida cave diving as well as the “best” from Europe and other places) took 90 days of diving to get halfway out JJ and my line in the main tunnel of Wakulla, and JJ and I went back after they were booted out and added to the end of our own line (twice as far as their max pen) in one dive in one day. The difference is in the ability to work a dive as a cohesive team. The little details are what makes this happen.

Woodville Karst Plain Project