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  1. #1

    Default Here I am again, or Cow Spring Take 2

    So, for a little context less than seven days ago I dove Cow Springs with an extremely experienced cave diver leading the dive and it was an amazing experience. I couldn't believe the stuff we were going through to enter the system and I really thought I was paying attention to how he was laying the line and the route and it was a great dive. We made it into the deeper section.

    Today, I thought I could certainly find the way into the system and so far, I have been fairly adept at running a reel. So, diving with another more experienced diver (who had not been in the system) I was to lead the way.

    There was already a team in the water when we arrived and they were preparing to go down. We set up our gear, made it to the water, START drill, everything is great and we head down. Buddy leaves O2 bottle at spot with the other team?s bottles. I tie off primary and we head to the entrance.

    I thought, I really needed to be careful about line placement because the entrance is tight and I didn't want line entangling anyone. As I got down to the bottom of the first little shaft, I was fully engaged in a wrestling match with the reel and line placement and I think the line had the better of me. I noticed a light. The first team was surfacing. I signaled we would get out of the way. Our team went up to the basin and waited for the first team to pull their reel. All was well.

    We decide to make a second attempt. I was fairing a little better in the wrestling match with the reel and line. Made it down the first straight shaft and this is where things start going poorly. Rather than making the hard-right turn that leads down into the system (which really is obvious from the diver rubbings) I headed more or less straight into an opening. It seemed a bit small. Didn't feel quite right. Then I noticed a laminated piece of paper hanging from the ceiling that was for the most part covered in the brown that everything is covered with in Cow. I could just make out, "Please Don't go This way...", everything else was illegible. That didn't seem at all familiar but I thought maybe I just missed it on my previous dive when I was following the leader. I could see signs where someone?s spg had dragged through the tunnel recently and could see recent scarring on the ceiling. Maybe this was the way. Yes, I went in further. I went just far enough to decide this is really tight and certainly not where I was the last time I dove here (maybe 15-20'). So, I gave my team the universal "we have to back the hell out of here" symbol, my fins and a cloud of silt moving toward their mask.

    My buddy caught the signal and I also reached back with my left hand to point that we needed to back up. Buddy was great and grabbed my finger to let me know they were still with me. I think I pushed to indicate back up.

    By this time the entire little passage was silted out. I don't think I got scared. I really subscribe to that "as long as I have gas everything is manageable" theory. I started backing out. I know I started thinking through potential problems like getting stuck, hoses catching on something, etc., trying to move REALLY slowly and feeling the way as much as possible. I also know I had a reel in my hand, so I had the line. At one point I thought about securing the reel and leaving it but it seemed like a better idea to hang onto it and wrap the line as I backed out. We managed to back our way out to where I had made the wrong turn and the water cleared.

    I could see without any mistake that clearly the entrance was that Hard-Right turn and not the stupid little passage I had chosen. Not certain how I missed it. I signaled to my buddy and showed the difference between the two openings with very emphatic hand signals expressing which one was the correct tunnel and which one was a DO NOT ENTER tunnel.

    We went back up the first little shaft and I signaled to surface so we could talk.

    On the surface, I was laughing out loud at my stupidity. I couldn't believe I chose the wrong turn and then decided to disregard an obvious clue that I was headed into a spot I should not have been in. We talked about everything. I knew for certain which way the first turn was at this point. We both decided to give it one more shot.

    We checked our gas supplies. Re-vamped the gas plan to account for the consumed gas and entered the system with no major difficulties the third time. Took it nice and easy and slow to just beyond the big clay bank and I turned the dive 100psi before thirds. Seemed like a good moment to bank a little conservatism.

    In hindsight:

    Probably a good idea to dive a complex entrance more than once prior to attempting to lead a dive through that entrance and even better have the opportunity to lead it with someone experienced in the system.

    When uncertain of the path, STOP!!! Stop and really look around. I should have seen the obvious tunnel.

    When a laminated piece of paper hanging from the cave ceiling reads, "Please do not go this way..." Do not go that way.

    Next time running reel into Cow, I am keeping the line to the right and low as there is a really hard right turn at the bottom of the first little shaft. I had tried to run the line low and on the left this time which may have led to me not looking all the way to the right to see the correct tunnel.

    The extremely experienced diver who led me into the system last week told me that things are going to go wrong when cave diving and you must have the ability to handle it when they do.

    I know I made mistakes this dive. I am glad that the training that I have received kept me calm and relatively comfortable in what could have been a bad situation.

    Dominick Gheesling

    Hike your own hike.

  2. #2


    I remember my first time in true zero viz, about 1800 ft in little river past 2 Ts and my first time in that passage(small creek) bad idea. I also only turned about 100psi from thirds.I’ve found that it’s best for me to just close my eyes and it puts me into automatic training/practice mode. Then I’ll open them every few minutes to see if there is a little bit of viz, even a few inches is better than when you can’t see your gauges when there against your mask ��

  3. #3


    Good job keeping your cool, as long as you have a line you’re good to go

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Roaming in Cave Country


    just follow the cave diver breadcrumbs when entering..its easy, banged up walls and white marks

  5. #5

    Default Here I am again, or Cow Spring Take 2

    Your not alone. Probably the first 6 dives there I always had a moment of ?panic? going in AND coming out of Cow. Oh crap where did the line go? Seemed like the line disappeared. I would stop and back track a little. I was always with other divers at that point. Seemed like they just disappeared also! Lol.
    Then I knew the line goes to the left going in and to the right coming out.
    Now I?m comfortable in Cow.
    I?ve had my share of total silt ours too. Just go into tunnel vision mode and stay on the line. Most were in Anderson. I thanked God many times for really paying attention to the line , or should I say multiple main lines, going in. So when I came to the line ending in dirt I didn?t panic. Just backed up a little and could feel the other line. I will say I was a little stressed.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


  6. #6
    Administrator Forum Admin
    Join Date
    Oct 2000


    Dominick, I bet you will temember the right way from now on

    It might be usefull to practice reel handeling in open water a little

    Forrest Wilson (with 2 Rs)
    Any opinions are personal.
    Sump Divers

  7. #7


    About twenty years ago I led two of us in doubles into that little room. Took 20 minutes to turn around and squirm out. It does get your attention. That sign is a good idea. Maybe it should be bigger....

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Melbourne, FL


    I remember posting a dive report about that. I was the first man in a three man team. I tied in, got down to the line and waited a bit.

    Then the number three showed up. HUH? What happened to number two?

    Number two had wandered off the line into that little bit of heaven, and number three never saw him go awry due to the corners.

    Some interesting conversation after surfacing.

    Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
    -Ferris Bueller

    The most certain way to stumble into the future, is to live your life looking over your shoulder.
    -Jeff Hawes after getting a huge mulligan...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Mount Holly, NC


    So glad I never saw the “please do not go this way sign.” Is that something new?

    "...some night, in the chill darkness, someone will make a mistake: The sea will show him no mercy." John T. Cunningham


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