2/13/2016 New Exploration in Weeki

This lead finally got explored. Brett and I had noticed it on more than one occasion during the 2012 Weeki Wachee diving window and at the end of what was to prove our very last dive there before the rain drove the flow too high to enter, Brett took a look at this deeper opening on the east side of the huge trunk passage, coming back confident that it was a real prospect. We planned to explore it on our very next dive in Weeki Wachee, but since then it had been impossible to enter the system, until connection to it from Twin Dees in September 2014 gave us a back door. Even then, we had enough easier exploration to do in Twin Dees that we have only just raised our sights to this lead.

Following a series of progressively longer and more complex dives, during which we and other members of the team placed all necessary open circuit bailout gas in the system, Matt Vinzant and I made a plan to take a look at the tunnel and if possible do some exploration. Our other objective was to shoot some high-quality video of the important passage that connects the two systems. Despite a series of frustrating equipment hiccups, Matt and I got underway into the Alph Tunnel from Middle Earth, pushing our scooters to top speed for the 20 minute journey out to F-well where we switched scooters and activated video lights to video the last 1400 feet over to Weeki Wachee.

I had, of course, seen this tunnel before, but with powerful video lights and without the focus of exploration I was able to enjoy so much more interesting detail than before. In many places this wide and often low passage is heavily decorated with fossilized microbial formations, the roof is studded with scallops and grooves, the floor alternates between coarse breakdown and smooth silt, and the whole impression is of a highly geologically active conduit. Many spots were engraved on my memory from 18 months before: where I dropped the reel, or hit the ceiling surveying. The most memorable was at the end – ascending smoothly over the last pile of breakdown into enormous passage and the connection to Weeki Wachee guideline.

Matt dropped his stage at the T and I deposited our extra scooter. Looking up and down the line I immediately saw to the south (my right) the distinctive pair of line arrows, one blue, one white, that I remembered as marking the lead. While Matt hovered over the line I quickly descended to 300 feet in the opening where I could see a wide passage extending roughly eastwards and filled with slightly hazy water. I turned, gave Matt the prearranged up/down light signal, he tied his reel in and scootered down to join me. The floor was light brown silt, the walls white and the ceiling the same pitted dark brown seen all over this system, like the inverted cratered surface of an alien planet. Quickly we came to the first room, the floor covered with piles of flat rocks like paving stones. A lead appeared to the left (north) but the main conduit bent east to the right. As it curved round another opening appeared on the left as the passage reappeared ahead with the characteristic white walls and dark ceiling. A mile away from the Beleriand tunnel, the same DNA was evident in this place.

I checked Matt was still close behind with the reel as the tunnel opened up into a spectacular large room with huge breakdown boulders scattered among a jumble of flat slabs. Rooms like these often signify a transition in the cave morphology. Where was the exit? Was there an exit? Yes, straight ahead was the same trapezoid outline we had just travelled through, this time with a white ceiling dipping down to 310 feet. As we ducked under it the brown rubble of another breakdown room became visible; we followed it up into another large room. A small opening was visible down to the right as we ascended over the breakdown, winding around it to the left. When we reached the top the dark wall ahead sloped down into another potential passage, this one pointing approximately due north. Knowing we had almost exhausted all the line on that reel, Matt tied off while I checked the lead ahead – it looked possible but not particularly inviting.

As usual we made quick work of the survey back to the main Weeki Wachee passage, a total of 883 feet of line trending eastwards. The mile-long journey back to Middle Earth passed uneventfully, stopping to check a couple of other leads on the way. The rest of the exit and decompression was straightforward and we surfaced to a cold night after a total of 12.5 hours underwater.

Thanks as always to Eric Deister, Derek Ferguson, Kevin Leonhardt, David L. Jones, Charlie Roberson, Brett B Hemphill, AJ Gonzales, Brian Richardson and the rest of the crew for their generous help. We couldn’t do it without you.

Andrew Pitkin

Author: Robert Beckner

Bob Beckner has been diving for 36 years and technical diving for 27.  Growing up in Florida led him to cave diving and wreck diving and working in several dive shops along the way.  He was fortunate enough to have had Terrence Tysall as a technical instructor and learn in a very “GUE” like fashion before GUE existed.  He has participated in several USSR Monitor expeditions with the Cambrian foundation, gone with Mote to the Gulf Blue Holes and worked with Karst Underwater Research for 13 years helping Explore and Document Florida’s Karst features. His favorite KUR projects are Weeki Wachee Springs, Peacock Springs, Werner Boyce State Park/Deep Salt Springs and any site that needs photo documentation. Number one bucket list dive type: mine diving.  He lives in Central Florida under the watchful and protective eye of Sheriff Grady Judd.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top