How My Rebreather Saved Me

Well let’s see, how do I begin this tale.

A long long time ago, in a cave far far away, a moron decided to get up extremely early to miss the crowds and do a solo dive into a vast expanse of underwater tunnels. He was going to explore some areas that he had never been to before. That should set the tone.

I was finally in an area that I had only previously been able to peek into. I headed into the passage and was feeling like a true explorer since the line had stopped and I was running my own reel. I was pretty sure it was nothing new but the fine silt was everywhere and was pristine with no signs of disturbance or a diver ever being there. The passage was wide but it kept getting lower and lower as I progressed. I had about 50 more feet to go where it looked to open up a bit again and there was just enough clearance for me to make it with very minimal silt. Everything was going great and I was really in the zone with trim and buoyancy (I know, rare for me). My primary was only half empty and I was already contemplating having to tie another reel on to keep going.

Out of now where I stopped moving. It was like somebody was holding me in position. I wiggled my body a bit and did not feel any obstruction. I kicked a slight bit harder but still no progress. I did not have room to move up or down and sideways is rather tricky to pull off. I did the first thing I always do when i get stuck. I stopped and thought, can I breathe. Yes, then relax I will be ok. I always take my sweet time and make damn sure to protect my loop because bailing out in one of these instances starts the OC time clock and I really don't care for the time pressure.

I continued to move and figure out what I was caught on without much luck. I decided to just kick hard and try to force my way through. I went a inch or two and by some witchcraft was pulled right back to where I was previously. This was both good and bad news. The flailing around was starting to stir up the silt behind me and it also knocked the silt off of the line that was on the ceiling that I never noticed. It was this line that I was caught on. I spent several minutes trying to get myself off that damn sneaky line without much luck. To the best of my figuring it had gotten caught between my scrubbers and oxygen tank and I was not able to get it lifted out due to the low area I was in. I relaxed and floated there for what seemed like an eternity when I realized that my primary reel had gone slack. Great now I have to deal with a tangle too, but no, tangle is too good for me. It reeled in smoothly and without tangle, all the way to the frayed and broken end. I had just lost my line and vis was getting worse by the minute. I remember thinking that I would already be dead if on OC and forced myself to relax and think about my situation. I still had a line that went somewhere and at least it was going the right direction, I still have hours of time on my rEvo, I am alone and have to do this myself. How can I get this line off of me? I decided that I should just cut it and get out of there. I had my z-knife over the line above my head and had a death grip on the return side of the line but there was so much tension I was afraid it would pull out of my hand when I cut it. I chickened out and put the knife away.

I will never tell the exact area I was in because I am the one responsible for completely trashing a nice pristine spot. I decided that my life was worth more than this area. I tied my secondary to the line and dropped about a foot or more directly into the silt. I was deep enough that my mask was covered and I began twisting and wiggling in a last ditch attempt to get the line free without having to cut it. I was greatly relieved when the line popped out and snapped back up to the ceiling. I stayed low in the silt and turned for fear of getting caught again. I began my slow exit and was amazed at how long it was taking. I ended up tearing the hell out of my knuckles along the ceiling but letting go of the line was not an option. I was only hoping this line was tied in somewhere to line rather than a dead end. Nope!

I reached the end of this demonic line and the vis was still crap. All I could really make out was the upper walls if I was close. I stayed high and swam along the wall until I reached an adjoining tunnel. I took a chance and did a lost line drill in this new tunnel and got lucky. I now had to decide on a direction. I made my choice and off I went. My relaxation and relief was incredible when i ran my hand into an arrow and it was pointing in my travel direction. I probably traveled another 100' or so when I ran into a slack line tied in. I figured this was mine and assumed that I now knew where I was again. This was a pretty popular tunnel and I was surprised that it was still silted out too. I wadded up my bit of broken line and put it in my pocket and continued my swim out. I hit my next jump reel, still in crap vis, and pulled it. I was finally back on the mainline and still alive. I could see the silt billowing out of the tunnel and following me. I had actually managed to silt out the gold line in Ginnie from a much further distance.

I never saw another diver the entire time I was in the cave, not even on deco. My dive plan was about 3 hours and I ended up with almost 6 hours. Maybe I would not have even attempted this with OC, that could be argued, but I have always been one that likes to both explore a bit and push my own limits.

I got out of the water and left as fast as I could before someone could blame it on me. It seems that I was more concerned with my cave destruction than I was my own mortality. I blame Jill Heinerth for that.