Many thanks to Steve Gerrard for permission to use his photos!              

Cave Diving

Cave arrow and markers used in navigating in the cave.

Cave diving is often touted as the MOST dangerous sport in the world. I even heard one documentary commentator say that most cave divers die as cave divers, that is, in a cave diving accident. Makes a great sound bite, but it is overly dramatic and just wrong. Cave diving is risky, but your personal risk depends mostly on your discipline and skills. Too many cave divers die as a result of pushing their limits too far or violating one of the basic rules. It is something akin to summit fever in high altitude mountain climbing. Maintain your skills and vigilance then dive conservatively, and I believe that the risk is acceptable.

When I took the full cave course (Cave Dive Training) in 2001, I was lucky enough to get into a class with Steve Gerrard . My classmate was Terry Barlow, the owner of Extreme SCUBA in the Dallas, Texas area. Steve pushed us to our limits allowing us to make mistakes under his watchful eye. He would often "set us up" for a common mistake all the while lurking in the dark ensuring our safety. During a de-brief of the dive, your error in procedure or thinking was seared into your brain by the realization of what a "real" mistake might have cost you. Day after day, Steve built our confidence and skills, as well as, our awareness of the risks.

Most of the cave diving in this hemisphere is in North Florida and the Mexican Yucatan. There are other places for sure but none of them have the shear density of caves of these two regions.

My cave diving has been confined to the caves on the Yucatan peninsula. I choose to dive there for two simple reasons:

  1. The caves are mostly shallow (15-60 feet). Given the expense of a trip from California, my bottom time is greater in shallower caves.
  2. The level of decorations found in a lot of the Yucatan caves is nothing short of extra-ordinary. Stalactites/stalagmites, soda straws, flow stone. In some caves, it is nearly overwhelming. One of my favorite tunnels is called Room of Tears so-called because it brought tears to the eyes of the original explorers. Because of the high water flow in most Florida caves, the decorations are nearly non-existent. Some Mexican caves close to the ocean have lost their decorations because of the intrusion of salt water but most have at least some decorations. Others, like Sac Actun and Nahoch Nachich, are never ending floor to ceiling decorations.

Cave Diving Accidents and Risks 
Underwater Cave Photos By Steve Gerrard
Dec 2004 Yucatan Trip