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CAVE DIVING: HANS HASS - ROB PALMER

Menscen unter Haien (Men Amongst Sharks) HANS HASS, 1942

Early submarine cave diving was undertaken by Hans Hass in the Aegean Sea during 1942 using oxygen rebreathing apparatus.

Hans Hass speaking in person:

"The rock faces are heavily fragmented and as the fishermen maintain that a few sea lions

still live in some grottoes we were also driven to go there.

This led us deep into the rocks so that we had to complete our trip by torchlight. This work was somewhat fascinating for us. When one thinks of going out today into the wide world to discover new lands, it appears to be completely impossible to find somewhere man has not been already.

Man has advanced everywhere and unfortunately his traces can be seen all over. Therefore it is so wonderful that one land remains which man has not yet been able

to conquer - The Deep Sea."

CAVE DIVING: JACQUES COUSTEAU - ROB PALMER

Four years later Jacques Cousteau and Frédéric Dumas set out to conquer the inland cave: Fontaine de Vaucluse, near Avignon using their new self-contained scuba diving apparatus.

A trickle of water normally flows from the spring which lies beneath a 600' limestone cliff. However, every March, for five weeks of the year, the trickle becomes a gushing torrent, almost independent of local rainfall. Cousteau and his companions hoped they might be able to learn the secret of its operation.

24-27th August 1946

At a depth of 200', some 400' into the sump, the two intrepid divers were struck by a narcotic rapture of the depths, feeling strangely heavy and anxious. Attached together by a 30' length of rope the two finally made it back to the surface with the help of Maurice Fargues, hauling up the main line. A dramatic escape from near death.

The next pair of divers suffered a similar fate before the culprit was found to be carbon monoxide exhaust fumes from their new diesel powered, free-piston air compressor. These had entered the air intake whilst filling the bottles. At the depth the team had been diving this was increased sixfold, enough to kill a man in only twenty minutes.

CAVE DIVING: GRAHAM BALCOMBE - ROB PALMER

Just a few months earlier, at Easter 1946 in South Wales, Graham Balcombe and Jack Sheppard tackled the Swansea Valley rising at Ffynnon Ddu. Out of this enterprise the British Cave Diving Group was born.

GRAHAM BALCOMBE

At the end of the war we returned from Harrogate to London and it was my hope to resume work at Wookey Hole.

GRAHAM BALCOMBE (1907-2000)
Founder - Cave Diving Group

So I contacted Jack Sheppard and said well we can get back into diving, but we think we ought to organise things a bit better than we have done in the past. So I sent out a circular to all those prominent cavers who might be interested and said, "We are going to form a loose association of people interested in diving and we think it would be a good idea if we had a meeting down in South Wales at Ffynnon Ddu". The ĎOgofí wasnít known in those days, it was just the spring. We would dive in the spring and there was always the hope that we could get through and find a cave beyond.

Ffynnon Ddu Rising, Easter 1946

At the end of the weekend, having put down about 6 or 8 divers for the first time and laid the foundations of a group, united them in interest, the meeting closed. From then on the Cave Diving Group was operated or run as it was from my headquarters by the dint of midnight oil and a cheap old duplicator and typewriter. Bashing things out, trying to keep things together and making equipment in the odd moment that was available.

The other members started making equipment for themselves and working in their own areas. There was one in South Wales and another one in Somerset and generally the enthusiasm was beginning to seep in and spread around.

You hear nothing at all except the burble of the gas from your helmet blblblbl blblblbl blblblbl as the bubbles rise up. Otherwise itís completely silent. You hear a click of a stone occasionally if you disturbed a rock and sent it rolling down a slope. A clink, very high pitched clink, but otherwise itís dead, itís a dead place.

Itís like a dream being down underwater.

CAVE DIVING: MODERN TECHNIQUES - ROB PALMER

Cave Diving requires a modified approach to suit the often murky and constricted nature of flooded subterranean tunnels. In the UK, side-mounted bottles give the most flexibility for tackling constricted underwater passages.

A line reel enables the diver to lay a thread which will guide him back out of the dark maze to safety at the end of his exploration. Powerful lamps help to illuminate the inky dark waters. A complete second set of diving apparatus, and the rule of returning once 1/3 of the carried air supply has been exhausted, helps to ensure the safe return of the diver.

 

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