3/12/2016 Deja Vu Passage

On Saturday, March 12th, Ted McCoy and I added and surveyed 952′ of line in the Post Mortem section of Weeki Wachee/Twin Dees cave system. The Post Mortem section was originally explored in November 2014 by Andy Pitkin and Matt Vinzant. Andy and Matt noted several leads in this deep maze-like area so the plan was to go back and explore these leads.

Ted and I got underway at 10:19 Saturday morning. Ted was diving his SF2 eCCR and I was diving my Fathom mCCR. We both had 120s with 10/85 as diluent/bailout gas and we both rode Suex xk1s, which have more than enough range for the 4,800′ eol. I towed a Suex xJoy 37 as a backup since towing another diver is not a great option at 330 ffw.

Ted descended the manhole-sized entrance shaft wearing the 104s he planned to use for shallow deco and pushed his rebreather ahead of him. I descended the shaft on my rebreather. Our 120s and scooters had already been taken down the shaft to the fitting room at 40ffw by the support team. Ted went first since he had to ditch the 104s and don his rebreather. We got underway after about 15 mins. and slowly started making our way towards the beach. It was slow going as the flow was almost non-existent and the inevitable dust-ups in the low sections didn’t clear as usual. Despite the slow pace, we arrived at the near-earth balcony in 48 mins. and descended towards the Alph tunnel.

Scootering in the Alph tunnel is an amazing experience. It’s a huge canyon-sized passage with sheer walls that look like a layer cake in some areas. The visibility was better than expected but the large size of the passage makes it difficult to see both walls. As we progressed out past the first Beleriand (Deep Earth) T we started seeing the clear blue water at depths below 300 ffw.

We spotted the T to the Post Mortem section and paused momentarily while I placed an engraved cookie on the line while Ted checked the safety. As we entered I was surprised that it was smaller than I expected but the visibility was unlimited with an electric blue color. Maybe the best visibility I’ve ever seen. As we followed the line the passage started to increase in size with chambers and ante-chambers in every direction. Andy and Matt spent a fair amount of time route finding and did an amazing job. The possibilities for exploration seemed limitless. Their line ended in a large room and Ted scootered across to the far side to make sure it didn’t go. I held on the line until he returned and then scootered over to scout our main objective, the lead closest to their eol. Being 100′ or more away from Ted and the line wasn’t a concern in such a huge room with white walls and air clear visibility. The lead continued up a breakdown so I signaled Ted to tie in and follow. I scouted ahead as Ted laid the line. The passage ascended into a huge breakdown room and I scootered from wall to wall looking for going passage. The only possibility was a small 8’x10′ shaft down through the breakdown at 2 o’clock in the room. We had ascended from 330 ffw up to 255 ffw on top of the breakdown and the water had lost that electric blue color. I saw that electric blue color and white floor down the shaft but decided to check some other more obvious leads first.

We surveyed the ~250′ of line on the way out and headed back to the next lead I had seen on the way in. This was actually a series of leads that all looked to be connected like rooms in a house. I choose the middle of the three, which looked to have an obvious exit out the back side. I scouted it out as Ted finished the survey and stowed his notes. By the time he arrived I was headed back his way telling him to tie in again. He did and we were off again. As we exited the backside of this ante-chamber we again ascended into a breakdown room bigger than the last one. This room was truly impressive in size with shear walls and steep breakdown that created a space all the way around the room. I looked left first but there was no obvious lead out the bottom of the breakdown so I shifted right. On the right side there was a crescent of blue water and white floor that appeared to be a duck under back into Post Mortem like passage. I dropped down as Ted waited on top of the breakdown but as I descended below the duck under I realized it was just an undercut section that formed a crescent shaped room. Cool looking but no going passage. As I ascended to keep going around the room I thought that this was going to be just like the last room, a dead end. But as we came around to the backside of the room we found going passage, not back down at 330 ffw but up at 275 ffw. This was large passage with cream and brown layer-cake walls like the Alph tunnel. We put in about 700′ with around 300′ past the breakdown room. We tied off in a huge room/passage that had considerably hazier water that reminded me of sections of the Alph tunnel. In fact, I had the distinct feeling we had broken into a section of the Alph tunnel. We surveyed out and decided to head for the door.

We arrived back at Middle Earth and our first deco stop at 148 mins. We had spent exactly 100 mins. below 250 ffw with a significant portion below 300 ffw. On the way out we moved the radio locate from the 2nd Beleriand T to the 1st Beleriand T. While Ted dealt with the radio locate, I placed engraved cookies on both Beleriand lines.

Deco was uneventful. We both flushed our loops with 18/45 at 190 ffw and were met at 70 ffw by the support team to take our scooters. Ted choose to do most of his shallow deco in the shaft on OC doubles and a full-face mask while I utilized the habitat at 40 ffw. I pulled all of my 30 ffw stop and all but 30 min of my 20 ffw stop in the habitat on 70% with breaks. I got back in my rebreather for the slow ascent to the surface. I did 10 min at 30 ffw and 20 min at 20 ffw before ascending to do the last two hours at 10 ffw. I surfaced around 23:30 with a run time of 788 mins.

New survey in red below. There’s a reason why we felt like we we back in the Alph tunnel. As such, the new passage will be named the Deja Vu passage.

Thanks to Eric Deister, Kyle Moschell, Forest Rothchild, Derek Ferguson, AJ Gonzales, and Robert Schulte for their support.

Charlie Roberson

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.

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