Cave diving is somehow an international passion and therefore I decided to write this report in English. And yes I do apologize to my German folks for selecting this language, but all of those who are not familiar with English are invited to read the German cavebase report available at http://www.cavebase.de. By having a German and English report all people who are sharing this passion will be satisfied.
Let me first introduce the cavebase, where I became a member on 1st of July. Cavebase is a non-commercial association of very impassionate cave divers. Actually all of its members are well experienced and follow strictly the Doing it Right philosophy. However, this group with more than 15 active members is looking for diving challenges all over the world. Cavebase has already done some breathtaking projects where the dives themselves were pretty challenging and the general setup very demanding.
This year a team of 14 highly motivated divers was faced with conquering the Gourneyrou cave in France. This cave has a very exposed location and its underwater profile follows an extreme Yo Yo profile of changing depth from 30 to 90m. Such profiles are really demanding for human bodies.
To get an impression of the surroundings and its corresponding conditions I would like to point out that one has to overcome a height distance of approximately 70 height meters between the street and the cave's entrance. Unfortunately, this 70m are more or less a drop off in the middle of a huge wood – where of course nobody lives. Not even a mobile connection is available and one has to walk around 4km to get to the next phone connection. But luckily the team was not really surprised about these conditions, because a smaller part of the team has already visited this area last year. In 2011 the team figured out how to overcome the 70 height meters by using a self-made cable railway. Due to that very good preparation no serious problems occurred during the whole project.
However, the project started for most of the people on Saturday morning somewhere in Germany. One has to know that the distance from Germany to the Gourneyrou cave is about 1.400 km one way. Such a long distance will take you around 15h, especially if you have a trailer with you – as most of us had…
The team members entered our base camp on Saturday night, but actually there was nothing really done for the project except preparing the camp. So the real project on-site began on Sunday morning.
On Sunday morning everybody began to work on several "stations". Because of the long distances we all were forced to use radios and to behave a bit more coordinated. Our project leader Darko advised us to use station names instead of the person's names. So we defined four of them:
1. Base Camp – location where our tents, cars and trailers were placed.
2. Top Terminal – the upper area in the woods, where our equipment was placed to be transported down.
3. Middle Terminal – Unfortunately it was not possible to generate a direct cable link between Top and Pool Terminal. We were forced to install a Middle Station because of an overhang in the field.
4. Pool Terminal – Area where the cave's entrance was and where all the equipment has to be in place to do the dives.
Perhaps it does sound a bit unspectacularly, but the distances where pretty heavy, everything has to be done by foot, cars could not be used because the path at the Top Terminal was too small for turning a car. The next U-turn possibility was pretty far away, so that the usage of cars would have brought too many disadvantages. To give an impression about the distances:
Base Camp -> Top Terminal: 70HM, 15 min. walk
Top Terminal -> Pool Terminal: 70HM, 20 min. walk
Top Terminal -> Middle Terminal: 20HM, 2 min. walk
But we all did a very good job and we worked like workhorses. There was only one fact which influenced our mood and that was the rain. Sunday afternoon it started raining, first just soft rain, but at 6 pm it got really worse and we had to cancel our work. Unfortunately, during the whole project we had a lot of rain, which caused a delay in our initial time planning. The biggest problem was that we had no dry places at the Pool terminal and in the Base Camp. All project members were more or less prepared for extensive sunshine – what is usually very likely in July for this region. In Order to get some dry areas we decided to use our tarpaulin as a kind of an awning. This provisional solution ensured that the cave's entry and a small area in the Base Camp kept dry (more or less).
I guess it is not worth describing how we built up, maintained and used the cable railway. Have a look at the pictures and you get an impression of the effort we spent.
Let's come to the really important part: The dives. Initially we started with a scouting dive. Heinke and Tibor got their double 12 tanks and all the necessary equipment to do a very first dive in the cave. We all wanted to avoid that we had to spend hours transporting equipment from up to down without checking the conditions in the cave. Thanks to god, the conditions where acceptable – not perfect, but acceptable. So finally, Tibor and Heinke acknowledged that we could start working.
The second dive was the deep setup dive. This dive was conducted by Manuela and Peter. Both divers used their pSCR Rebreather to conquer the cave up to the depth of around 60 meters. Actually, they placed the last decompression stage at 54 meters, but both decided to dive a bit further to shoot some underwater pictures. Due to a technical problem with the camera all pictures got a heavy blur and unfortunately I cannot present them here. The dive itself was around 3h and after surfacing we got the next piece of information regarding the cave and its condition. Manuela and Peter reported that the more they were entering the cave the heavier the percolation was. Even with their Rebreathers they caused nearly a zero visibility situation!
From now on the whole team did "working dives". We all had to place the stages, the habitat and scooters at the predefined locations in the cave. A highlight was the placement of the habitat – which actually went far better than expected. After real 20 min. the habitat was perfectly placed on its place at 9m.
The third day was the "Push Diver" Day. According to our plan Darko decided to start this demanding dive at 10 am. Tobias and Carsten prepared themselves with a little support of some team members. Once they had put on everything, they started to get in their Rebreathers. Both divers used a double 20 tank with a pSCR in the middle. Actually, the configuration is close to the WKPP’s one, but some minor configuration details have been improved by the cavebase team. Precisely at 10:00 am the two divers were ready to start their dive, and they finally descended at 10:24. During their first meters in the cave, our film and photo team took some pictures and short video clips. After around 20 min. both divers escaped in the depth of the cave...
During the push dive Darko decided to put back all equipment which was not required anymore. And so the team restarted the cable railway.
Tobias and Carsten finished their dive after 556 minutes. Both were happy, but also exhausted from this long dive. After a view moments relaxing in the pool Carsten and Tobias took off their equipment and left the water. Everybody was quite excited about the story they would have to tell…
The dive was a full success, of course they did not reach the end of this cave but they made some really important experiences and they discovered a complete unknown part in this cave!
After the dive we decided to remove the remaining material out of the cave. After that we all went back to the base camp and started our big barbecue party.
The next day was pretty nice, no rain, but sunshine at 25° - very nice. We all worked in a very relaxed atmosphere and during the afternoon everything was transported to the Top Terminal. We put all materials back in our cars and trailers. The project was done – everybody was really satisfied and very proud of our achievement.
Some of us did not yet want to drive back to Germany; therefore we decided to visit Bourg Saint Andrèol in France. This little village has very nice caves and so we visited the Goul de la Tannerie cave. The conditions were really perfect; the water was crystal clear and absolutely amazing. This very narrow cave with its three restrictions has its own charm and is worth some effort. I shot some really nice underwater pictures there…
I hope you enjoyed this report a bit. And I am happy to announce that this was not the last trip with cavebase ;-)
In diesem Sinne
Photo Credit: C. Richardt, M. Schoch, H. Teichmann & W. Reints
Ihr habt eine Meinung, Anregung oder Kritik zum Bericht?
Dann einfach hier die Gelegenheit nutzen Euch anonym mitzuteilen:
Wilke, 01.12.2012 - 10:27 Uhr
Hi Flo, kein Problem, freut mich immer wenn meine Seite gefällt...
flo, 27.11.2012 - 01:02 Uhr
Hey! Ich wollt nur mal anmerken, dass ich die Seite und Inhalte echt super finde! ich war
mal so frei, euch auf meinem Blog zu verlinken :) MeinBlog befindet sich noch in den
Kinderschuhen. Ich offe euch stört die Verlinkung nicht Lg Flo
Wilke, 21.10.2012 - 20:03 Uhr
Hallo Andre, einen deutschen Bericht gibt es auf der cavebase.de Seite... LG Wilke
Andre, 21.10.2012 - 19:56 Uhr
Hallo Wilke das ist eine super seite die mir schon oft weitergeholfen hat. kommt der
artikel auch noch auf Deutsch raus ?? mach immer weiter so !!!