The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, whose end is still unknown
December 7, 2014 6:29 PM   Subscribe

 
DO NOT OPEN THE GRATE.
posted by sammyo at 6:37 PM on December 7, 2014 [19 favorites]


I have a high tolerance for risk and loved learning how to dive but cave diving makes me queasy just thinking about it; the video here isn't bad but some of the ones that have been linked previously were for me a step too far.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:39 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Cave diving freaks me out so much. I had a coworker who did it as a hobby. I remember him saying that they left full air tanks behind as they went down, to be used on their way back up. I couldn't imagine what it'd be like if you couldn't get to your cached air tank in time or somehow misplaced it.
posted by zsazsa at 6:47 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, you'd asphyxiate and die, of course.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:49 PM on December 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


Silly zsazsa.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:54 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


i like the cave diving stories where they take their tanks off because they can't wriggle through the tiny, dark passage while wearing them. You know, belly against the rock below and back against the rock above, squirming through, dragging the tank behind you. Hope that hose doesn't get snagged!
posted by Nelson at 7:00 PM on December 7, 2014


It's no surprise the cave beyond the grate is filled with debris; this sinkhole formed in what's called karst topography, wherein limestone and other easily dissolvable rock is just that, dissolved, forming a system of caves, sinkholes, and caverns that collapse all the time. It's their nature to collapse (*waves at Florida*), which, personally, is what would give me the willies about cave diving these cave types.

(If you'd like to read a bone chilling article about cave diving, try Outside magazine's article about Dave Shaw's attempt to bring up a body in Africa's Bushman's Hole, the 3rd deepest freshwater cave in the world: Bringing up the Dead.)
posted by barchan at 7:05 PM on December 7, 2014 [15 favorites]


No way I'd dive, but it's beautiful, and I'd visit Santa Rosa. Was in ABQ end of November and looking for something to do. Next year, gotta plan!

Seconding the bone chilling part of the BUTD article. Excellent read, but them peepulz crazy.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:11 PM on December 7, 2014


i like the cave diving stories where they take their tanks off because they can't wriggle through the tiny, dark passage while wearing them. You know, belly against the rock below and back against the rock above, squirming through, dragging the tank behind you.

Nope
posted by dirigibleman at 7:15 PM on December 7, 2014 [7 favorites]


There was a post in the last year or so about cave diving, and it included some spectacular photos of divers in caves, swimming in enormous caverns where the floors were covered with huge fallen blocks of stone. I read Blind Descent not too long ago and felt like I spent most of the book holding my breath and on the edge of a claustrophobia-induced freakout even though I'm not claustrophobic.
posted by rtha at 7:19 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's no surprise the cave beyond the grate is filled with debris; this sinkhole formed in what's called karst topograph

Well, that and the dumptruck load of rocks the local town dumped in there before installing that grate.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 7:24 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


They did? I missed that part. If so, jerks.
posted by barchan at 7:29 PM on December 7, 2014


Hope that hose doesn't get snagged!

And then you don't want to stir up the floor, which will obscure your vision, and you can get lost in tunnels.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:36 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


*Somewhere an SCP employee sighs and types out a request to seal Water intake A3389-LILIAC STORM*
posted by The Whelk at 7:42 PM on December 7, 2014 [34 favorites]


I'm learning how to cave dive next week!

There's a lot of time spent learning how to deal with emergencies and whatnot, so no matter what contingency you may think of, someone else has probably thought of it by now, and has a plan to deal with it. Except for having your only entrance collapse on you. That would suck, but I gather that the probability of that happening is relatively low.

I'm risking life and limb to look at rocks! Yay!
posted by fnerg at 7:59 PM on December 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Also, as far as cached tanks, there's always a line of some sort leading out, (it works so much better than the trail of candy people used to use, I tell you what) and you attach your stage or decompression bottles to that, making it that much less likely that they won't be there when you get back.

One of the other fun possibilities is that, if you're too close to the ceiling, things can turn the valves on your tanks off, so you have to be able to reach back to them and turn them on again in a reasonable amount of time.
posted by fnerg at 8:03 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Snap Judgment radio program did a very tense segment about that Dave Shaw story. You can hear it here.
posted by painquale at 8:34 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


This just seems like the perfect situation for an underwater drone.
posted by happyroach at 8:47 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


It eats you, starting with your bottom.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:02 PM on December 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was never excited about cave diving conceptually... a persistant nightmare scenario for me is getting trapped in a tight squeeze, ever since reading in grade 3 about Floyd Collins dying after 17 days trapped underground in a cave. Add running out of oxygen in the dark underwater, where sharks might sneak up... no. Just no.

But then I read the story linked above about retrieving the body of the diver, and how extreme diving of the sort they did added, above all other perils, a condition in which you were effectively drunk most of the time, and had to manage like that... OMFG no.
posted by fatbird at 9:30 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]


if you're too close to the ceiling, things can turn the valves on your tanks off, so you have to be able to reach back to them

I know you probably mean, like, bumps in the cave roof, or stalactites or something, but the idea of monsters of some sort sneaking up behind you and turning the air off is much more congruent with my perception of cave diving.
posted by lollusc at 10:45 PM on December 7, 2014 [25 favorites]


if you're too close to the ceiling, things can turn the valves on your tanks off

Well, fuck everything about that.
posted by The Tensor at 11:20 PM on December 7, 2014 [9 favorites]


Drove by Santa Rosa many, many times and always wanted to visit the Club Cafe. Very iconic billboards along I-40.
posted by jabo at 12:04 AM on December 8, 2014


I get the 'see something nobody else has seen before' and the 'where does it go, when does it end?' and the 'using wit and skill to put a line in the sand where no sane person would go', I really do.

I'd sit up top in the shade with chilled beer and chilled beats, spark up a phattie and send down an Arduino first, though.

(No mention of operational ambience, but these guys have the right idea.)
posted by Devonian at 12:38 AM on December 8, 2014


I learned about Cave Diving when working on GET LAMP (since the documentary talked with cavers whose work help inspired the first computer adventure game).

All I needed to know was that one of the great books on the subject, Caverns Measureless to Man, was published posthumously. The author, a lifetime expert died during a cave dive. At 45.

Nooooo thanks.
posted by jscott at 12:47 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I had a hard enough time when Jinora was exploring the water-filled city under Lake Laogai, and A) she was astral projecting, so there was no worry about her getting stuck and B) it was a cartoon.

Nope, nope, nope.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:15 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


M. Night Shyamalan needs to make his next movie about cave diving and call it "The Bends."
posted by discopolo at 1:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


the idea of monsters of some sort sneaking up behind you and turning the air off is much more congruent with my perception of cave diving. (lollusc)

During Full Cave training, your instructor basically is that monster. It's particularly fun when both your hands are full winding up a reel and your instructor's lights "fail." At that moment he turns around and makes excited motions in the direction of his pressure gauge. As you swim over you see the little red dial points to "0." He's out of air.

And then, as soon as you're close to him, he reaches over and kills your lights, too.
posted by SemiSophos at 1:26 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


So, there is a training system used to prepare cavers and divers for exploration? Does it involve certification? Does a university give you a Masters' Degree in Caving? Is it outright illegal to do stuff like this unless someone's confirmed you know what you're bloody well doing? How does that training work? Do people professionally employ cavers, and/or cave divers?

Are there conventions for this kind of thing? Is it regarded as a profession, or just a life-risking kind of hobby?

(I am gathering facts since all this is somewhat relevant to a certain computer game project I have not at all given up on....)
posted by JHarris at 2:58 AM on December 8, 2014


Cave diving is one of the most dangerous things you can do that isn't outright suicidal. People always get mad when somebody says that, but it's true. The reason I know it's true is that expert cave divers, even instructors in the craft, die with fair regularity doing it. There are just too many unforgiving circumstances and unforeseen emergencies. The heading on that linked list of drowned divers is ANY PERSON CAN DIE ON ANY DIVE IN A CAVE. Ask me to rappel into a black pit, fine, I'll do it. Crawl through a space I barely fit into, sure. Duck my head under a sump that has air on both sides, OK. Strap on an air supply and swim off into places where that's the only air I'll find -- no, I won't do it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:24 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Seasoned cavers frequently call cave diving "cave dying." There is no way I would even consider it.

My favorite story is the guy who came up "on the other side" of a sump. Nope! Air pocket undisturbed for years! Poisonous air! Dead!

Or you might think leaving a line to follow is good insurance against stirring up silt and getting disoriented. Nope! Karst is sharp, and saws your line in two! Lost! Dead!

Retrieving the body of someone else who died on a dive, you put your light on the floor of the cave to disentangle them from the rocks—oops, the body is buoyant! it moves your wires! You're entangled with your own lights and batteries! Dead.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:04 AM on December 8, 2014 [6 favorites]


The "American Caving Accidents" page from the NSS is pretty good (although 2014 looks incomplete).
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:07 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


i like the cave diving stories where they take their tanks off because they can't wriggle through the tiny, dark passage while wearing them. You know, belly against the rock below and back against the rock above, squirming through, dragging the tank behind you. Hope that hose doesn't get snagged!

I've done dry caving where I had to squeeze through tight passages exactly like that, with barely any height to fit your head through, and the sense of entrapment and claustrophobia can be very, very real. But, do it underwater with breathing gear? NOPENOPENOPENOPENOPEOHHELLNO!!!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on December 8, 2014


Google teds caving page
posted by pravit at 6:21 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, the American Caving Accidents publication is an eye-opener. For instance, the 2013 report. Notice the Results column of the Caving Incidents table, which shows of all the incidents, only one involved a fatality. Now look at the same column in the Cave Diving Incidents table, where only one item is not a fatality. What you should take from this is that if something goes wrong dry caving, you'll almost certainly come out of it OK, but that if something goes wrong cave diving, you'll probably die. These are not good odds.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:35 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ok, so as a positive derail, when we hit critical mass in asteroid exploration and shift into practical mining, it looks like this would be a reasonably well trained demographic to hire for a job that is incredibly dangerous, disorienting, unknown and probably a one way trip for many.
posted by sammyo at 6:50 AM on December 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Do not want
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 7:18 AM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


I went to the Blue Hole recently, because I had a meeting in the nearby community meeting hall. You see signs for the Blue Hole throughout Santa Rosa, but I had never taken the time to see it. After the meeting, I went out and saw the Blue Hole - it's rather nondescript. On the surface, it looks like a nice little swimming hole, which it also is, especially in the summer. But knowing it went down 81 feet squicked me out. Maybe it's more clear once you're in the water, but I couldn't see the bottom as I stood down looking in.

But if you do dive here (or one of the two lakes where you can also dive), you can get a Dive New Mexico decal and not just to get confused looks.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:18 AM on December 8, 2014


JHarris: "So, there is a training system used to prepare cavers and divers for exploration? Does it involve certification?

[Disclaimer: IANACaveDiver, although I've dived with a few, and enjoy scaring the bejeezus out of myself reading about it.]

There are a number of agencies that certify cave divers, and their training systems vary. Some agencies distinguish between 'cavern' and 'cave' diving (cavern diving involves staying within sight of the exit at all times) and require certification in the former as a prerequisite for training in the latter, although this isn't a universally recognised distinction. There are also differences in the recommended equipment configurations (for example, how many lights a diver should carry) and personnel (some recommend diving solo, others in groups of three).

Plenty of spirited discussion goes on about the pros and cons of the different systems. It's been argued (see here) that many of the differences stem from the differing conditions. For example, the British CDG, who generally dive solo with helmets and sidemounted tanks, tend to be primarily cavers foremost, who've got into diving in order to push further into the cave, and dive in cold, narrow and muddy sumps a couple of kilometres in. GUE, on the other hand, essentially grew out of the Woodville Karst Plain Project in Florida, and teaches a style of diving based on the local conditions there: caves accessible from cenotes or sinkholes, clearer water, and larger caves.

Is it outright illegal to do stuff like this unless someone's confirmed you know what you're bloody well doing?

I'm not aware of any blanket legal bans anywhere on cave diving without training, but it's not necessarily easy to get access to the cave without proving to somebody that you're trained. In the US and Australia I know it's common enough for the owners of popular inland cave diving sites to restrict access to people who can produce proof of certification. In the Ireland (and, AFAIK, the UK) you generally just need the owner's permission to dive on their land.

At the far end of the spectrum: I've been on dives on the Costa Brava and in Tenerife where non-cave-trained guides led non-cave-trained divers into caves. Being cravenly attached to coming back alive, I always agree in advance to wait with my buddy at the entrance; in Tenerife, we did so beside the cross placed there in memory of the divers who've died inside.
posted by Zeinab Badawi's Twenty Hotels at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


Even taking into account the many ways people risk their lives unnecessarily, it seems to me that dying diving in a cave would be a particularly awful way to go. To die, not in the company of family or friends, not in a clean well-lighted room, but alone in a soggy-damp rocky hole barely bigger than you way underground, where you might end up suffocating or even starving to death in a claustrophobic little chamber surrounded by other similarly choked passages. Incredibly bad.
posted by JHarris at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2014


Jesus crap, talk about phobias that you never knew you had. It's a good thing I'm reading this midafternoon, because otherwise I'd have to sleep outside tonight, even though it's in the thirties and rainy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:07 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry HJ. It was just something I've thought about lately. For Reasons, I'd never try something like this, but the process of getting around in caves itself is interesting, and I am working (fitfully) on a game about it, although in a fictionalized form.
posted by JHarris at 2:53 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


To die, not in the company of family or friends, not in a clean well-lighted room, but alone in a soggy-damp rocky hole barely bigger than you way underground, where you might end up suffocating or even starving to death in a claustrophobic little chamber surrounded by other similarly choked passages.

Caving is dangerous, no doubt about it; however, it isn't as dangerous as all that. I'd tend to say that, for the average practitioner, it's less dangerous (by far) than mountain-climbing, because most accessible caves have been thoroughly explored and you can make choices that are consistent with the level of danger that you want to experience. There isn't the "base level" of danger that is inherent in rock climbing, because you're not always "exposed" to falls in caves.

Cave diving, for example, is something I would never do. I also don't want to do anything vertical (ropes and pits). I am mostly a "stroll, crawl, scuttle, and scramble" caver; I don't want any more exposure than I have to have. I will go through squeezes, although I prefer not to have to go through them backward.

Furthermore, you should always be in the company of family or friends. The rule is that a foursome is the minimum: if one person is trapped or injured, there needs to be one person to stay with him and two to go for help. Furthermore, the local caving group should know about the trip and its expected duration. There are cave rescue teams that will come and get you out if you twist an ankle or break a leg.

The biggest "non-elective" risks are entrapment and hypothermia. Entrapment can result from legitimate mishap, such as a stone falling onto your limb, but the most common cause is actually your own stupidity. Going into a tight tunnel that you're not familiar with, that heads downward, head first? You're in for a bad time. (It's too easy for the tunnel to turn into a funnel, and then you're practically dead.) Hypothermia is a constant risk because rocks are massive thermal sinks, so they will take any heat you give them. It's important to dress appropriately, and better to overdress than underdress.

Both of these risks more commonly befall drunken frat boys who go into caves on dares, carrying flashlights and without helmets.
posted by sonic meat machine at 3:18 PM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


get cage
get lamp
xyzzy
e
e
get rod
w
drop rod
get bird
get rod
w
w
d
d
release bird
posted by jferg at 4:06 PM on December 8, 2014


Forget it, you're submarine grue shit.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 4:24 PM on December 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


The "American Caving Accidents" page from the NSS is pretty good (although 2014 looks incomplete).

The person responsible for updating it probably died in an underwater cave.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:32 AM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


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