how to navigate in caves

… or why cookies are better than bread crumps …

One of the biggest challenges in cave diving is to navigate inside of the cave. The main question is: how can I find myself a safe way to the next known exit?

§ 1. rule: the exit nearby isn’t always the best choice in all your cave dives, you have to be enabled to manage diving like being blindfolded within complete darkness. Circumstances like crystal clear water or visibility up to 100 meters (like in the cenotes in Mexico) can switch within seconds. Wrong kicked fins, occurring debris from the exhalation of gas bubbles or even starting rain outside the caves or debris from bubbles can change the visibility within seconds. No-touch contact to the line leads to disorientation and stress. What is the right way to act?
– the best way to the exit is the way you came in
– follow an exit which is lined (stay with one line)
– if a possible exit isn’t lined already, use your primary reel for a jump
– only do your explorations/jumps in the first third of our breathing gas volume

§ 2. rule: primary and secondary tie off
Starting your preparation outside the cave, you can attach your first tie off above the surface or with a direct connection without any obstacles nearby. But starting the jump outside the water can be problematic. Some visitors who see the line and try to pull it and cause serious damages to it. My preferred way for the primary tie-off is below the water with no overhead obstacles to the surface. If possible, my secondary tie-off is placed some meters away from the primary with no overhead obstacles, too.

§ 3. rule: keep in permanent touch to your (life)line
If your life is dear to you, never dive in a cave without a line – and keep your contact to it! To mark the right direction (if the entrance is supposed to be the exit), start by setting the OK-sign with your thumb and index finger around the line. Please be aware that the line is not set up to pull yourself backward or forward! … So please only use a gentle touch to place your markers. It doesn’t matter, if the line is your primary reel, safety reel, jump reel or any other reel (like gap or exploration reels), you need a permanent contact to the line. This rule isn`t exclusively made for the first and last diver in the group. Every team member is obligated to follow this rule for their own safety.

§ 4. rule: mark your markers
Like in the Tale of „Hensel and Gretel“ (Brothers Grimm), the bread crumbs are your personal safety system to get back to the secure surface. These Signs (the bread crumbs) won’t swim away or get eaten, but you need to personalize what is yours. Line markers are available in a lot of different colors. To make sure that your markers are truly unique, letter your markers with a permanent pen. But wait – how to differ the markers, if you are in complete darkness? It`s essential for your survival that you can recognize your own markers just by touch! Here are some options to make your markers one-of-a-kind:
– cutting the edges in a clear way to grope
– drill one (ore more) holes into each marker
– link two ore more holes in your markers to a group, by using a cable tie. 
Why must your own line markers be recognized by your self?

§ 5. rule: only take, what`s yours 
One of the main rules in cave diving is, to remove everything you brought to the cave when you are finished. Be aware to take only what is yours. It`s dangerous for other divers if you take stuff out or remove things. In some countries like Mexico, it’s a case of murder when you intentionally take or change foreign markers or lines.
Every line and line marker placed inside the cave has to stay where it`s found. But you have to manage to return every marker you placed on a line back to your inventory. 
In common circumstances, the entry is the exit. 
On these dives, it’s simple to take everything off what was brought inside. Just simply collect the markers you set on the way inside when returning.
Sometimes, the planned dive is a round path. On this occasion, a second dive is needed to pick up all of your lines and markers. 
In the case of an emergency, everything stays in the same place and needs to be picked up later on a second dive. Even in case, you lose your group or buddy, everything stays in the cave. You can additionally leave one of your dive torches on the line.

§ 6. rule: planned dives, mainlines, and jumps
Like every other dive, but especially at the cave dives: plan your dive and dive your plan! The most known, public caves have got a permanent mainline. The color of these mainlines depends on the region of the world. For example, these mainlines are in Mexico yellow and named „golden Line“.
On the mainline are not personalized arrows placed in direction to the next exit. These arrows are placed on junctions or …
For your dive planning inform yourself about the mainlines, starting points, and the cave topology.

… to be continued

hello darkness

… or why most people don’t find something in the dark, but a few good divers find themselves…

Scuba diving is an upcoming market of activity when people are on vacation or have some free time. It is feeling like an adventure to go diving on the weekend, left the chairs in the offices behind. Well, and today’s equipment for scuba diving is easy to handle and secure. And what’s about the certification? In 4 days you can certify an open water diver on your holiday at the red sea … Everybody can do that.

I do not appreciate the certification of open water divers in 4 days. In my organization CMAS, it takes up to 4 months for a one-star certificate (bronze) analog to an open water diver. But never less, it’s more a question of experience than of certification to be a good diver.

And if they are an open water diver, one of the bigger challenges for their experience is a night dive. What is going on with the diver in the dark?
– some of them are feeling more comfortable in the dark than in the daylight
– but most of them are getting feared
– do not know, what’s around them, because of visioning only what is in the reach of their own light(s)
– hear the melody of the movie „Jaws“
With all of these feelings, they breathe harder and quicker than in the daylight.
And they feel alone in the dark …

Another bigger challenge is to dive into the first wreck with a dive guide. Most times, it isn’t dangerous to dive on a wreck, but the possibilities of getting caught with the own equipment are higher than in the open water. Diving the first time in a wreck by knowing, that you can not surface gives the diver a feeling of being helpless. They worry about things which can happen.

If you have experience with night diving and wreck diving and you still feel comfortable, then your next level can be cavern diving. The cavern is the beginning of diving caves. The maximum operation deep is 18m and you will never be farther away from the surface than 50m. In this area you still have daylight, but a diving torch is needed at any time.

If cavern or cave diving is your goal, you should start a special training and certification for that. These levels are Cavern – Cave 1 – Cave 2 and Cave 3 (full cave diver).

… but still the question why …
I love the darkness and the sound of silence. The only sound you hear at a deep penetration of a cave is your own breath. Nothing else! And switching off the light is real darkness around you. You are a visitor to a hidden kingdom. In some caves, you are the first human since the last 10,000 years. What you find deep down below is yourself!

You are alone!
Even when you dive with your buddy or in a group. You are responsible for you and your equipment. You are responsible for the line and your navigation points. Nobody else is responsible for your life. You are!
(you will find other posts about buddies, roles, and groups later on)