Cave Diving Expedition – August 2012

Posted on 08/28/12 No Comments

We are all packed and ready for our trip, we are heading deep into north Thailand. Please follow this blog for more information and there will be some pictures to follow shortly.

Day one

Roger Smith and Jason Orage of Aquanauts CDC in Pattaya have packed our bags and loaded the truck with a small mountain of dive gear. We left a little late to try and miss the traffic but we’ll see what Bangkok will bring.

Bangkok traffic hasn’t changed it’s always busy here, but it is here that we shall pick up our third member of our team. Mario, and yes he is Italian.

Roger Smith preparing to leave for the dive

Roger Smith preparing to leave for the dive

Just made it clear of the Bangkok traffic and now we are on our way to Thong Pha Phum, Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

It’s just passed 1 in the morning and we are still 30 km from our destination and the rain is coming, it is rainy season after all.
We are all arriving safe and sound, it’s been a long day and we haven’t even started diving yet, see you all in the morning for a early start.

Day Two

Had a little lie in this morning, up at 09:00 down to 7/11 for a quality breakfast including one tin of red bull and ham and cheese toastie, then down to the boat. We arrived in the dark so didn’t see anything. However, this morning, the mountains towers above with mist rolling down their sides towards the water. It’s really Thailand up here.

We loaded the boat, I say boat it is more like a small canoe with a v8 strapped to the back, then headed out onto the water. It was flat calm with steep limestone walls towering out of the water. We come to the entrance of our first cave. Somewhere under the slightly green water was an under water entrance to a magical place.

Down we went and in we go, it’s dark and a little strange at first, nothing but the glow of our torches to light the way, you see only what you imagination allows you to see. But after the I initial murk and apprehension your mind clears and you start to feel the cave, you begin to sense your surroundings. Looking and feeling what is coming next and hopefully remembering, left, left, right, round rock, sharp rock. Building your mental map just in case the worst should happen.

You start in the cavern portion of the cave where daylight can be seen, but not felt and then you turn a corner, over one rock and down into the dark zone, now we are cave diving. Nothing more than your thoughts and a line, your life line, your teams life line. Its a feeling you may of felt on a wreck dive but more intense.

You build your mental map because soon your diving with no mask and having to feel, to sense your way out of this dark cocoon into the light beyond and normal life. It’s only the first day diving in the caves here, but I already know I like it, everyone who is passionate about diving everyone who teaches diving should know what it is like to dive in all conditions.

Cave diving is not for everyone and should never be undertaken without proper training, anywhere, anytime. There are no guarantees you’ll like it, but as an experience it should be felt. For more info please feel free to contact us at prodivertraining or at aquanautsdive.com.

Let’s see what the next day will bring.

Day 3

Roger Smith Filling the dive tanks

Roger Smith filling the dive tanks for the dive

As you can see it really is a canoe, day 3 started a little earlier than yesterday but with us all filled up on more 7/11 wonder we headed down to the boat and loaded it fully with all the tanks, gear, compressor and of course us. A one hour speed boat trip will take us to our next set of caves, it’s drizzling so we all curl up and get a little shut eye before the dive. We arrive at what used to be, and apparently still is a floating hotel and restaurant but it is need of some tender love and care, this is our base of operations for the next couple of days. Just across are the limestone cliff that hold our days adventure.

So our first dive is normally at about 12m but the dam is that full the water levels are nearly 8m above our last visit. In the end we end up at around 22m at our turn around point. Dive 1 is reel in and dive 2 is reel out. Simple some might say but you have to remember this is a cave full of water and no direct access to the surface. You must stay alert and concentrate on yourself, your team mates, the line and the cave.

Dive 3 has a few more surprises we get tangled in the main line and have to cut ourselves free our torches fail and a giant cat fish scares us. However this is all part of the course apart from the fish he was just saying welcome for his home and we thanked him for that.

Back to the floating hotel to pump some tanks and have a little bite to eat and discuss the morning dives before getting ready for a exploration dive of the cave just next door. As we descend we come across an entrance which is normally high and dry, literally, but with this extra water. We enter and we are not sure if it’s been dived before. We tie off out line just outside the cave and slowly enter being careful. It to dislodge and loose rocks or Stir up the floor, we have a good look around and fit a small passageway that leads down and we come to the main line that exits through the lower section of the cave. We join the lines together not to forget to mark our line so we remember which way to go back. Deeper we enter, decisions have to be made, do we follow the line or follow another interesting passage on our lefts. We use another reel and go and take a look. The passage was about 50m long and stops so we have to turn around and try and look somewhere else. After an hour in the darkness we turn to the light.

Tomorrow is an even earlier start but we have a lots more diving to fit it as tomorrow we head to a deeper, darker and colder cave.

One last job to be done before we can clock off and relax till the morning, when the next adventure begins.”

Day 4

We’re do I start, for us it was it started at 05:45 in the morning with my alarm going off packing up my stuff and meeting at the truck just after 6:00. Down the boats and off to our floating base at the foot of the tower limestone cliffs.

We set up our gear, check and double check and check one lasts time, everything is in order so be roll off the boat and attach our line. Down we go to about 10m and find the entrance to what is known as table cave. The visibility outside the cave is down to about 3m if we were lucky, As we enter the cave the visibility drops to near 0m, even with our powerful torches. This cave is known to be silty, but none of us were expecting this. As I take the lead we descend straight down a shaft to about 20m where we come across another line left by the last divers. We attach ours and start to follow it. Conditions inside are really bad so we bunch up and use touch communication and continue blind. As we get deeper inside the cave and reach a water depth of 25m and about 100m into the cave we decided to turn around and exit the cave.

An experience, surreal and despite knowing my team mates where just at my finger tips it felt lonely, but that’s what we have been training for. To deal with all conditions including the worst of being alone.

We head down for our next encounter with the dark, this time the visibility is amazing. With our torches we can see a good distance, 8-10m, but you look to the side and it’s 0m, not because of conditions but because it’s dark, black, blacker than the nights sky.

On the way back we find a chimney, a passage leading straight up, round a corner, a squeeze past some rock formations and into a small air pocket where we are told that you are out of air and all lights have failed, they haven’t we just take our masks off and get blindfolded. Using only touch we have to work as a team maintain contact and find our way out. This was not a nice experience but something that you have to be prepared for.

We make it out safe and sound, not sure how, the rocks feel different but you have to trust your equipment and your markers but even then there is no guarantee of survival.

At last it is lunch time, we fill up of more 7/11 goodies and change tanks again it’s our last dive for this trip, we pick a cave at random and have a good look around and explore, we are in this hole and down this gap and it’s brilliant, 40 minutes later it is time to turn around and wind our way back to the light above.

We load all our gear back onto the boat for the last time this trip and head on back to land. Transfer all the gear to the truck and it’s back to the lights and chaos that is Bangkok and Pattaya. The country of Thailand is an amazing place, you have the cities with the lights and parties, you have some amazing beaches and up here in the north you have the most wonderful jungles. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. This week has left a a big one.

written by: Jason Orange

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