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Encyclopedia > Cave diving
Entrance to Peacock Springs Cave System.
Entrance to Peacock Springs Cave System.

Cave diving is a type of technical diving in which specialized SCUBA equipment is used to enable the exploration of natural or artificial caves which are at least partially filled with water. Image File history File linksMetadata Image-Peacock_Springs_Entrance. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Image-Peacock_Springs_Entrance. ... Technical diving is a form of SCUBA diving that exceeds the scope of recreational diving. ... SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. ... Alternate meanings: Cave (disambiguation) The outside world viewed from a cave A cave is a natural underground void. ...


The attraction

Water-filled caves attract divers and speleologists for several reasons: Inside the cave at Cave Stream, New Zealand Caving is the recreational sport of exploring caves. ...

Technical diving is a form of SCUBA diving that exceeds the scope of recreational diving. ... Image:Stalactites. ... The Witchs Finger in the Carlsbad Caverns A stalagmite (from the Greek stalagma, drop) is a type of speleothem that rises from the floor of a limestone cave due to the dripping of mineralized solutions and the depositation of calcium carbonate. ... Flora may refer to: Flora (goddess), a goddess in Roman mythology Flora (plants), a collective term for plant life; as distinct from fauna (animals); or, a book or other work that describes the plant species occurring in a particular area or region. ... Fauna is a collective term for animal life, as distinct from Flora (plant life) Fauna is an ancient Roman goddess. ...


Cave diving is one of the most challenging and potentially dangerous kinds of diving for several reasons:

  • is a form of penetration diving: in an emergency the diver cannot ascend directly to the surface but may have to swim horizontally
  • the exit route may be a considerable distance and may be deep. This means the diver needs sufficient breathing gas to make the journey and deep diving risks and problems may be encountered
  • the cave system may be difficult to move through: there may be narrow gaps, currents, low visibility and it may be very difficult to remain on the exit route

Cave diving is perceived as one of the more dangerous sports in the world. This perception is arguable because the vast majority of divers who have lost their lives in caves have either not undergone specialized training or have had inadequate equipment for the environment. Many cave divers have suggested that cave diving is in fact statistically much safer than recreational diving due to the much larger barriers imposed by experience, training, and equipment cost. Penetration diving or no clear surface diving is a type of diving where the SCUBA diver enters a confined space from which there is no direct, purely vertical ascent to the safety of breathable air of the atmosphere at the surface. ... Air is the most common and only natural breathing gas. ... The meaning of term deep diving depends on the level of the divers diver training, diving equipment, breathing gas and surface support: in recreational diving, 30 metres / 100 feet may be a deep dive in technical diving, 60 metres / 200 feet may be a deep dive in surface supplied...

There is no reliable worldwide database listing all cave diving fatalities. Such fractional statistics as are available, however, suggest that very few divers have ever died while following accepted protocols and while using equipment configurations recognized as acceptable by the cave diving community. In the very rare cases of exceptions to this rule there have always been unusual circumstances. One such example involved a pair of very experienced cave divers who were trapped inside a cave when a section of the roof collapsed, blocking their only exit route.

Cave diving includes all of the hazards present in open-water SCUBA diving, and adds many new hazards: SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. ...

  • Caves have ceilings, which prevent divers from making direct ascents to the surface in emergencies. Instead, a cave diver must travel all the way back to the cave entrance before being able to ascend to the water's surface.
  • Caves are quite dark. While a less-intensive kind of diving called cavern diving does not take divers beyond the outermost part of the cave reached by natural light, true cave diving can involve penetrations of many thousands of feet, well beyond the reach of sunlight.
  • Caves can carry strong water currents. Most caves emerge on the surface as either springs or siphons. Springs have out flowing currents, where water is coming up out of the Earth and flowing out across the land's surface. Siphons have inflowing currents where, for example, an aboveground river going is underground. Some caves are complex and have some tunnels with out flowing currents, and other tunnels with inflowing currents. If currents are not properly managed, they can cause serious problems for the diver.
  • Caves often contain sand, mud, clay, silt, or other sediment that can reduce visibility to zero in seconds when carelessly stirred up.
  • Caves can contain tight passages, which require special techniques to navigate.
  • Caves can visually confuse the diver. It is not difficult to become lost in a complex cave, which is why all cave divers use guidelines to keep track of the way out.
  • Caves can present environmental dangers like cave-ins.

A natural spring. ... siphon principle A siphon is a continuous tube that allows liquid to drain from a reservoir through an intermediate point that is higher than the reservoir, the up-slope flow being driven only by hydrostatic pressure without any need for pumping. ...


Most cave divers recognize five general rules for safe cave diving:

  • Training: A safe cave diver never exceeds the boundaries of his/her training. Cave diving is normally taught in segments, each segment focusing on more complex aspects of cave diving. Furthermore, each segment of training must be coupled with real world experience before moving to a more advanced level. Accident analysis of recent cave diving fatalities has proven that academic training without sufficient real world experience is not enough should an emergency occur underwater. Only by slowly building experience can one remain calm enough to recall their training should a situation arise, whereas an inexperienced diver (who may be recently trained) will tend to panic when confronted with a similiar situation.
  • Guideline: A continuous guideline is maintained at all times between the leader of a dive team and a fixed point selected outside the cave entrance in open water. Often this line is tied off a second time as a backup directly inside the cavern zone. As the dive leader lays the guideline he takes great care to ensure there is sufficent tension on the line. Should a silt out occur, divers can find the tought line and successfully follow it back to the cave entrance. It is important to note that not using a guideline is the number one cause of fatality among non trained, non certified divers who venture into caves.
  • Depth rules: Gas consumption and decompression obligation increase with depth, and it is critical that no cave diver exceeds the dive plan or the maximum operating depth (MOD) of the gas mixture used. It should be noted that among fully trained cave divers, not paying sufficient attention to depth is the number one cause of fatality.
  • Air (gas) management: The most common protocol is the 'rule of thirds,' in which one third of the initial gas supply is used for ingress, one third for egress, and one third to support another team member in the case of an emergency. UK practice is to adhere to the rule of thirds too, but with added emphasis that you must keep depletion of your separate air systems "balanced", so that the loss of a complete air system will still leave you with sufficient air to return safely. Note that the rule of thirds makes no allowance for the increased air consumption that the loss of an air system will induce. Dissimilar tank sizes among the divers are also not included and the proper amount of air reserve must be calculated for each dive (if tanks are dissimilar). UK practice is to assume that anyone else diving with you does not exist, as in a typical UK sump there is absolutely nothing that you can do to assist him. Most UK cave divers dive solo. US sump divers follow a similar protocol. Note that the rule of thirds was devised as an approach to diving Florida's caves - they typically have high outflow currents which help to reduce air consumption when exiting. In a cave system with little (or no) outflow it is mandatory to reserve more air than is dictated by the rule of thirds.
  • Lights: All cave divers must have three independent sources of light. One is considered the primary and the other two are considered backup lights. If ANY ONE of the three light sources fail for one diver, the dive is called and ended for all members of the dive team.

Please note this article cannot substitute for actual cave-diving instruction. While these rules sound very simple, cave diving requires a wide variety of very specialized techniques. Many divers have died because they did not appreciate how difficult it is to correctly implement these five guidelines. For example, many divers have died because they attempted to adhere to the guideline rule, but did so improperly, using water-ski rope (which floats), or an improvised reel which entangled them in their own guideline. In technical diving, the maximum operating depth (MOD) of a breathing gas is the depth at which the partial pressure of oxygen (ppO2) of the gas mix exceeds a safe limit. ... When using the buddy system, pairs and groups of three SCUBA divers dive together and co-operate with each other, so that they can help or rescue each other in the event of an emergency. ...

These six rules may be remembered with the mnemonic The Good Divers Are Living, the first letter of each word referring to the first letter of the corresponding rule. A mnemonic (pronounced in American English, in British English) is a memory aid. ...

The cave diving community has worked hard to educate the public on the risks they assume when they enter water-filled caves. Warning signs replete with likenesses of the Grim Reaper have been placed just inside the openings of many popular caves in the US, and others have been placed in nearby parking lots and local dive shops. Cave diving instruction is relatively inexpensive and a lot of fun; there simply is no reason to attempt cave diving without proper instruction or equipment. Death, personified is an anthropomorphic figure or a fictional character who has existed in mythology and popular culture since the earliest days of storytelling. ...

International differences

The cave diving community is a global one. Cave diving practice can differ markedly by locality. While most cave divers in the US would balk at the use of any sort of floating polypropylene guideline, 6mm polypropylene line is the norm in UK sumps precisely because it does float - the line is regularly anchored to stones, lead weights, or whatever is needed and the floating keeps it clear of mud and silt. On the continent (Europe), in larger sumps, thinner yet slightly buoyant line is typical. This disagreement illustrates that you must contact your local organisation for cave diving to learn from the experience of others - often that experience has been bought with people's lives. Cave diving practices in some localities may be different than those in other parts of the world because those caves require specialized techniques. Always contact someone familiar with a cave before venturing inside it. Polypropylene lid of a Tic Tacs box, with a living hinge and the resin identification code under its flap Polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic polymer, used in a wide variety of applications, including food packaging, textiles, laboratory equipment, automotive components, and polymer banknotes. ...

Regularity in signs and warnings may also differ around the world. For example, warnings signs are rare in the UK, and are also frequently ignored with fatal consequences.

UK requirements are generally that all people wishing to take up cave diving must be competent cavers before they start cave diving. This is primarily because most British cave dives are at the far end of dry caves. The number of day lit sumps in the UK is small, perhaps fewer than a dozen with any appreciable penetratable sump behind them. Also, the process of learning to cave will automatically give you an appreciation of the seriousness of cave diving. Most people start to cave unaware of the existence of cave diving, then go through a period when they see the water disappearing into the sump and wonder where it goes. Then comes a phase when they see the guideline disappearing into the sump and they ask themselves how on earth people can be so insane as to even contemplate diving down that squalid, constricted hole. Then the fear starts to get to them, because realise that they are contemplating diving down that squalid little hole to get to the dry cave on the far side. The fear abates after a time and is replaced by a [zen]-like feeling of resignation. If you reach this point, and can control your own instincts, then perhaps you're ready to learn to dive. Always seek out instruction before attempting to dive, however. Martyn Farr's excellent book The Darkness Beckons (ISBN 0906371872) has a most excellent title - if cave diving is for you, then the darkness will beckon you; if it doesn't beckon, don't go chasing it. The Darkness Beckons (ISBN 0939748320) is the definitive book on the history of UK cave diving. ...

Some people have come to cave diving directly from the diving community, but they're far in the minority in the UK, and represent only a few percent of the CDG. They've universally become competent and keen dry cavers in the process of learning to cave dive. As is said in the UK, Come on in! The water is horrible, cold and full of mud.


Cave diving training includes equipment selection and configuration, guideline protocols and techniques, gas management protocols, communication techniques, propulsion techniques, emergency management protocols, and psychological education.

Cavern Diver

Cavern training will lay down the basic skills needed to enter into the overhead environment. The training will generally consist of

  • gas planning
  • propulsion techniques needed to deal with the silty environments in many caves
  • reel and handling
  • communication

Once certified as a cavern diver, a diver may enter the overhead environment with certain limitations which will include limits on penetration distance, visibility and others.

Intro Cave Diver

Intro to Cave training will build on the techniques learned during cavern training and will include the training needed to penetrate beyond the cavern zone and working with permanent guide lines that exist in many caves.

Once intro to cave certified, a diver may penetrate much further into a cave, usually limited by 1/3rd of a single cylinder or 1/6th of double cylinders. An intro cave diver is also not allowed to do any complex navigation such as going past a split in the permanent line or venturing off the permanent line.

Apprentice Cave Diver

Full Cave Diver

Advanced Cave Diver

  • Stage Cave Diving
  • Sidemount Cave Diving
  • Diver Propulsion Vehicle (Training for use in caves, permitted use only after certified Scuba Diver)
  • Survey

A Diver Propulsion Vehicle or a DPV is an item of diving equipment used by scuba divers to increase their range while underwater where their endurance is restricted due to limited availability of breathing gas and need to avoid decompression sickness. ...


The beginning

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, co-inventor of the first SCUBA equipment, was both the world's first SCUBA diver and the world's first cave diver. SCUBA diving in all its forms, including cave diving, has advanced in earnest since he introduced the Aqua-Lung in 1943. Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1976. ... ...

US history

Sheck Exley was a pioneering cave diver who first explored many Florida underwater cave systems, and many other underwater cave systems throughout the US and the world. Sheck Exley (April 1, 1949-April 6, 1994) was a cave-diving pioneer. ... Official language(s) English Capital Tallahassee Largest city Jacksonville Area  - Total  - Width  - Length  - % water  - Latitude  - Longitude Ranked 22nd 170,451 km² 260 km 800 km 17. ...

The largest and most active cave diving community in the United States is in the panhandle of northern Florida. The North Floridian Aquifer expels groundwater through numerous first-magnitude springs, each providing an entrance to the aquifer's labyrinthine cave system. An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, or permeable mixtures of unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, silt, or clay) (see also groundwater). ... A natural spring. ...

The largest underwater cave in the USA is the Wakulla system, which is explored exclusively by a very successful and pioneering project called the WKPP. Wakulla County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. ... The WKPP is the Woodville Karst Plain Project, a cave diving organisation in the Woodville Karst Plain of Florida, USA. It is notable for its part in the development cave diving techniques, the DIR method of scuba diving and the use of the Halcyon rebreather. ...

UK history

The Cave Diving Group (CDG) was established informally in the United Kingdom in 1935 to organise training and equipment for the exploration of flooded caves in the Mendip hills of Somerset. The first dive was made by Jack Sheppard on 4th October 1936 using a home-made drysuit surface fed from a modified bicycle pump, which allowed Sheppard to pass Sump 1 of Swildons Cave. Swildons is an upstream feeder to the Wookey Hole resurgence system. The difficulty of access to the sump in Swildons prompted operations to move to the resurgence, and the larger cave there allowed use of conventional "hard hat" equipment which was secured from the Siebe Gorman company. The left photograph on the standard diving dress page will give some indication of the scale of operations this entailed. In UK cave diving, the term "Sherpa" is used without a drop of irony for the people who carry the diver's gear, and before the development of SCUBA equipment such undertakings could be monumental operations. The Cave Diving Group is a UK, diver training organization specialising in cave diving. ... 1935 (MCMXXXV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... The Mendip Hills as seen from Crook Peak. ... Jack Sheppard (1702-16 November 1724) was a notorious English robber, burglar and thief of early 18th century London. ... Wookey Hole is a tourist cave in Somerset, England, on the southern edge of the limestone Mendip hills named for the adjacent village of Wookey and 3 km from Wells. ... Siebe Gorman Ltd was a British company which developed diving equipment and breathing equipment and worked on commercial diving and underwater salvage projects. ... Hardhat diver entering water at Stoney Cove, England A standard diving dress consists of a metallic (copper, brass or bronze) diving helmet, an airline or hose from a surface supplied diving air pump, a canvas diving suit and boots. ... See at the bottom of this page for other meanings of the word Sherpa. ...

Diving in the spacious third chamber of Wookey Hole led to a rapid series of advances, each of which was dignified by being given a successive number, until an air surface was reached at what is now known as "Chamber 9." Some of these dives were broadcast live on BBC radio, which must have been a quite surreal experience for both diver and audience. Corporate logo of the British Broadcasting Corporation. ...

(Normal practice in UK caving is to number sumps and sections of open cave, not exploration limits, but Wookey is a special case. At the time of writing, Wookey is still at limit 25 in the eighth sump. At the other end of the system, Swildons has been pushed to sump 12 and is still giving people "interesting times.") A sump is a low area that collects an often-undesirable liquid(s) such as water or chemicals. ...

It is also worth noting that one of the front-line divers in these early operations was a woman, Penelope Powell ('Mossy'), which must have created quite a lot of comment at the time.

The number of sites where "standard dress" could be used is clearly limited and there was little further progress before the outbreak of World War II reduced the caving community considerably. However, the rapid development of underwater warfare through the war made a lot of surplus equipment available. The CDG re-formed in 1946 and progress was rapid. Typical equipment at this time was a frogman rubber diving suit for insulation (water temperature in the UK is typically 4°C), an oxygen diving cylinder, soda lime absorbent canister and counter-lung comprising a rebreather air system and an "AFLOLAUN". That's "Apparatus For Laying Out Line And Underwater Navigation", a god-awful contraption of lights, line-reel, compass, notebook (for the survey), batteries, and more. Progress was typically by "bottom walking", as this was considered less dangerous than swimming (note the absence of buoyancy controls). The use of oxygen put a depth limit on the dive, which was considerably mitigated by the extended dive duration. This was the normal diving equipment and methods until approximately 1960 when Mike Wooding (and others) developed new techniques using wetsuits (which provide both insulation buoyancy compensation), twin open-circuit SCUBA air systems, helmet-mounted lights and free-swimming with fins. The increasing capacity and pressure rating of air bottles also extended dive durations. Combatants Allied Powers Axis Powers Commanders {{{commander1}}} {{{commander2}}} Strength {{{strength1}}} {{{strength2}}} Casualties 17 million military deaths 7 million military deaths {{{notes}}} World War II, also known as the Second World War (sometimes WW2 or WWII or World War Two), was a mid-20th century conflict that engulfed much of the... The fundamental item of diving equipment used by divers is the SCUBA equipment, such as the Aqualung or Rebreather. ... 1946 (MCMXLVI) was a common year starting on Tuesday. ... Frogman is a popular term for a scuba diver. ... Two divers, one wearing a 1 atmosphere diving suit and the other standard diving dress, preparing to explore the wreck of the RMS Lusitania, 1935. ... General Name, Symbol, Number oxygen, O, 8 Chemical series Chalcogens Group, Period, Block 16, 2, p Appearance colorless Atomic mass 15. ... 12 litre and 3 litre steel diving cylinders A diving cylinder or SCUBA tank is used to store and transport high pressure breathing gas as a component of an Aqua-Lung. ... Soda lime is a mixture of chemicals, used in granular form in closed breathing environments, such as general anaesthesia, submarines, rebreathers and recompression chambers, to remove carbon dioxide from breathing gases to prevent CO2 retention and carbon dioxide poisoning. ... Inspiration closed circuit diving rebreather A rebreather is a type of breathing set that provides a breathing gas containing oxygen and recycles exhaled gas. ... A distance line is an item of diving equipment used by SCUBA divers as a means of returning to a safe starting point in conditions of low visibilty or where pilotage is difficult. ... Compass in a wooden box A compass (or mariners compass) is a navigational instrument for finding directions on the earth. ... 1960 (MCMLX) was a leap year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... SCUBA is an acronym for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. ...

The definitive volume on the history of UK cave diving is Martyn Farr's The Darkness Beckons, ISBN 0939748320, which has been through 2 editions (1980, 1991) and was written by a major figure in UK diving at a time when many of the original participants were still alive and available for interview. The Darkness Beckons (ISBN 0939748320) is the definitive book on the history of UK cave diving. ...

External links

Cave diving in general

Training organizations

The following is a list (not complete) of agencies, which offer complete, cave diving training.


In the US:

In the UK:

In Australia:

In Japan:

Florida Cave Diving

  • Florida Caves & Caverns

Cave Diving Rescue/Recovery

  Results from FactBites:
Four oh four - What ever happened to cave divers corner? (1018 words)
Cave diving is the worlds most dangerous sport, failure to perform it properly can be fatal - if you fuck up you can die.
Don't be fooled by the BS that some training agencies espouse, cave diving (and technical diving in general), is not for everyone.
Yes, there are other agencies out there that offer cave diving courses, and they may have one or two good instructors, but overall most of these other agencies have let instructors pass through the cracks that have no business teaching, so I won't list the agencies because of this.
Speleonet: Cave Diving (6771 words)
All my cave dives so far have been in Florida, which, with the warm weather and the picnic tables, is almost the amusement park feel to it.
In a sense the cave system is an underground geo-biosphere wherein the peculiar water flow patterns foster a specific, sometimes rich and unusual, fauna and flora that is a treasure for science and a sight for humans to enjoy.
Shaw's technical diving team (those who are spaced out along a deep-dive route to support the deep diver) went back to the cave for the grim task of retrieving equipment, such as extra diving cylinders, that had been left behind when Saturday's dive went so badly awry.
  More results at FactBites »



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