US divers create new record for longest underground cave passage swim

December 18th, 2007 - 1:55 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 18 (ANI): Divers in Florida, US, have created a new diving record for the longest cave passage by swimming a total of 7 miles (11.25 kilometres) through underground freshwater caves.

For their record-breaking passage, Jarrod Jablonski and Casey McKinlay, dropped into a small cave entrance called Turner Sink on December 15 and swam through 7 miles of underground freshwater cave, before resurfacing at Wakulla Springs State Park near Tallahassee, Florida, on the 16 th .

According to National Geographic News, it took the pair over 6 hours to complete the two-entrance cave traverse, and more than 14 more to gradually decompress before surfacing.

The record dive took the duo through passages as tight as ten feet by ten feet (three meters by three meters), and into soaring caverns big enough to accommodate office buildings.

“It was just cruising through some of the most incredible cave systems anywhere,” said McKinlay.

But the ride wasn’t all smooth sailing. During the dive’s second half, visibility dropped from 50 feet (15.25 meters) to about 5 feet (1.5 meters).

“We turned the corner to the Wakulla cave and conditions were worse than we expected, so that slowed us down, but we pushed on through,” the journal quoted McKinlay as saying.

The team had to rely on special systems to lessen the risks of such extreme diving.

The divers each used some 20 different scuba cylinders, filled with seven different gas mixtures for various depths. They also had six different underwater vehicles and two separate rebreather systems underwater breathing aids that recycle air to conserve oxygen.

According to Jablonski, nearly two decades of exploration laid the groundwork for the record-breaking dive.

“The cave kept sending us in the wrong direction,” he said. “So coming out today, I was thinking about the thousands of feet of line we’ve laid down over the years,” he added.

But the dive was not only for the sake of setting a record. It is actually a part of the Woodville Karst Plain (a 450-square-mile region that stretches from Tallahassee to the Gulf of Mexico) Project, an effort to map the region’s underground cave systems, understand their role in the aquifer, and protect their waters from pollution.

“To me, the fundamental significance is demonstrating that these caves exist, how pervasive they are, and how they provide connectivity between various points in the basin,” said Hydrologist Todd Kincaid, lead scientist on the team.

Next, the team hopes to explore the cave system south, to its juncture with the Gulf of Mexico some 8.5 miles (13.7 kilometers) as the crow flies. (ANI)

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