The cave is a non-descript water hole on the side of the main
north/south highway. There’s a trash heap in the parking lot and the
water stinks of sewage. Garbage floats in the brown water and a
home-made ladder is tied to a pine tree. It’s not very inviting. We’ve
come to this site to investigate a fully articulated crocodile skeleton
and its trail of fossilized feces. Given the small passages, hydrogen
sulfide, sliding peat avalanches and lack of visibility, Wes trims the
team down again to Kenny Broad, Brian Kakuk and myself. Three of us
dive our Megalodon rebreathers in order to minimize the percolation and
Wes opts for open circuit sidemount gear.
We descend through wispy veils of hydrogen sulfide and dodge branches and tree trunks that choke the entrance. We follow a loose mound of collapsing peat down to a deeper layer that has a little bit of visibility. It is there that we find huge petrified turds. It seems this crocodile had an enormous digestive tract, large enough to pop out something the size of a human baby. After descending to 100 feet, we follow a silty passage to a small alcove, dodging crumbling formations along the way. Brian ties in a line and we cautiously follow to the resting place of the large croc. Bringing up the rear of the pack, I have lost all visibility and can no longer see my displays. Luckily my heads-up light keeps me in contact with pertinent information about my life support. I know we are at the croc site only because I can hear Brian and Kenny yelling measurements and depths. The pace of Wes’s bubbles tells me he is fine too. For twenty minutes, the guys try to document and retrieve a long bone for dating. Wes is off the line attempting to film the event. Once completed, the only way to get Wes out of the murky recess is for Brian to gently pull the camera lens to safety. Wes hangs limp and rides the camera in trust to get back on the line. Our exit is completely silted out, so we follow the line and play “bump and go” to get to our decompression stop. Seventy-eight minutes in complete milk. The dive is a great success. Jill Heinerth
We are back in the States after an inspiring month in Australia. We did not always have Internet access in the bush, so could not post as much as we would have liked to. However, we have heaps of photos and stories to share. We start teaching a CCR class tomorrow, bright and early, so it is off to sleep for now. Thanks to everyone for your continued support of RebreatherPro.com. Jill Heinerth and Robert McClellan
We continue to experience Australia. Top Aussie cave diver and rebreather pioneer John Vanderleest is our host for this week and we have enjoyed Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road. John introduced us to the Australian version of 4-wheelin' and it involves large caravans of specially outfitted Toyota Land Cruisers and very daring drivers negotiating mountaintop fire tracks! A real rush for us Florida flatlanders! Of course, in true Ozzie style, the trip involves a four-star lamb barbeque with all the trimmings and apple pie with custard. These guys really know how to rough it in the bush.
Apollo Bay, in the south part of Victoria is a surfer's seaside Valhalla. There are dozens of secret little surf beaches, and each one is more beautiful than the next. The picture above depicts surfer's "Rush Hour" at Johanna Beach. Needless to say, this is a welcome and well-deserved time out for us, and we are looking forward to the adventures of the next week. -- Jill and Robert, Melbourne, Australia
I had a wonderful opportunity to dive and speak with two exceptional women in Australia, Linda Claridge and Lorraine Hardman. Both, veteran cave instructors openly shared some of their thoughts about women and technical diving. Tune in to our podcast to learn about the things that are rarely discussed in our community: "She Peeing" and unique issues about woman and decompression illlness. Learn more about cave diving and the wonderful tech diving community in Australia at: http://www.cavedivers.com.au/
Photo: Instructors John Vanderleest and Linda Claridge in Tank Cave, Mount Gambier.
The Biennial Oztek Dive Show has come to an end, and I finally have an opportunity to report on one of the finest organized diving events I have ever attended. The Gala Dinner last night overlooked the bustling Darling Harbour, and we all enjoyed a gourmet meal with plenty of local beverages. Highlights of last night included a hilarious short film by Leigh Bishop and Carl Spencer who assembled the “Lost episode of Deep Sea Detectives” which was immediately answered with Richie Kohler’s own “Brokeback Divers.” If these ever end up on YouTube you owe yourself the time to sit back and laugh until you pee.
But, beyond the entertainment, the speakers and presentations were stellar and so numerous that it was a challenge to attend them all. Since my own presentations conflicted with others, I had to send Robert to quietly record a few talks for me. Sorry I can’t share those with you as a courtesy to the presenters!
Luminaries like Leigh Bishop (UK), Dr. Andrew Fock (Aus), Grant Graves (US), Kevin Gurr (UK), Dr. Richard Harris (Aus), Trevor Jackson (Aus), Richie Kohler (US), , Dr. Simon Mitchell (NZ), Martin Parker (UK), Carl Spencer (UK), Rick Stanton (UK) and others spoke on topics as varied as micro-rebreathers, PFOs and exploration. It is hard to imagine a more diverse and comprehensive group of tech experts ever assembled.
Leigh Bishop, Carl Spencer and others spoke about tremendous wreck explorations beyond 500 feet. Kevin Gurr charmed crowds with a talk about how to build your own life-support rebreather. Rick Stanton revealed some of his secrets to deep cave penetrations below 500 feet and Drs. Simon Mitchell and Andrew Fock packed rooms with information on the physiology of deep diving.
I spoke with organizer David Strike (Strikey) this afternoon to express my congratulations for producing such an incredible show. Although he claims he may have gotten a “bad ice cube” at the Gala last night (much of the crowd may have!), he was jubilant and ready to prepare another show for 2011. If you ever wanted to visit Australia, mark that on your calendar for the time to visit.
We’re off to Mount Gambier for cave diving while others are headed to push exploration in the Nullabour Plain this week.
PHOTO: Australian rebreather pioneer, Dr. Errol Harding
(Photo: Jill self portrait on the Nautilus)
Most people would give their eye-teeth for this experience. Imagine a week in Cabo San Lucas with world-class diving, expert instruction, boats, fills, consumables and outstanding educational materials for $5750. Not bad, you think? But, you also own the rebreather when you are finished! That’s right. You can own a Nautilus rebreather and receive instruction from the manufacturer for less than $6000, and that includes absolutely everything.
I caught up with Casey and Bruce Omholt at the DEMA Trade Show this fall, and recalled seeing them at a DEMA Show five or six years earlier. At that time, they had shared a stand with friends Peter and Sharon Readey who were selling their PRISM Rebreather. I recall Bruce boldly stating he would bring his rebreather to market for half the price of other rigs. His plans were to manufacture in Mexico, so I assumed he was going to take advantage of inexpensive labor. Boy, was I wrong. An engineer and expert in manufacturing, Bruce knew that if he could make a rebreather with a completely new manufacturing process, he could dramatically reduce material costs and the bottom line of the rebreather. As for the Mexican labor, he’s not only paying a fair wage, but a wage that would be coveted in America.
Add to the Omholt’s manufacturing skills, their ability to draft their own CAD drawings, make models, tooling, create educational materials, shoot and edit video and you have a unique family skill-set that keeps the unit price down.
In the exceptionally competitive rebreather industry, the Omholt’s have chosen patience. Bruce’s vision for a new rebreather began a decade ago, but as his son Casey regales, “You only get one opportunity for a first impression.” Over the course of ten years, they have engineered, built, dived, and documented and now stand on the cusp of their debut in the dive world. [With this writing, I may even be breaking my vow of patience, but I just got home from a beautiful week of diving with them and couldn’t resist!]
The Nautilus is poised to fit into the marketplace as a simple closed-circuit rig that offers recreational divers an easy transition to rebreather diving. Simple, fun, robust and safe will be their calling cards.
Stay tuned for future updates when I get permission to share the knowledge!
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KEY WEST, Fla. -- The State of Florida is poised to contribute up to $1.6 million to satisfy a shipyard lien so a 524-foot decommissioned Air Force missile tracking vessel can be scuttled as an artificial reef off the Florida Keys, Key West officials said Tuesday.
The money to complete the General Hoyt S. Vandenberg project is to come from an Office of Tourism, Trade & Economic Development grant.
But a contract between the state and the city has to be executed and additional details are pending.
A federal judge recently ordered the auction of the ship after a contractor failed to pay Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk, Va., for cleanup of the vessel.
Key West City Commissioner Bill Verge said efforts are being facilitated between the city, Florida and lending institution officials to persuade the judge to stay the auction while a settlement is reached.
"This has been an incredible effort (to get state funds)," said Key West Mayor Morgan McPherson. "We have to thank (Florida) Gov. (Charlie) Crist and OTTED for coming through during tough economic times."
Verge predicted the Vandenberg would be towed from Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk, to Key West in December with a scuttling to take place in February 2009.