March 19, 2015

Sam Frushour in Devils Ear High Springs Florida

I finally get around to visiting the Karst Region of North Florida and we work our way over to High Springs where a series of clear water spring resurgences feed into the Santa Fe river.

After a few planes trains and automobiles, I arrive in the small eerie town of Mayo Florida.  The People are curiously nice but what has more curious is what is going on underground in the flooded phreatic tube limestone passages that rest under the Alligator infested swamplands of north Florida. I meet up with Chris Parks, Sam Frushour, Steve Keene, and Sue Sharples on this four day dive trip. 

I took the “easy way” and flew down to Atlanta instead of driving 4 hours to get to Bloomington at 6 am to pack into a truck for another 15 hours down to Mayo Florida.  It was a bit more expensive but this saved some time for me which I guess all works out in the end.  We wake up early to get an early start and grab some breakfast before heading to High Springs.  We went to Cave Excursions and talked to Bill Rennaker about some of the springs in the area Like Cow, Peacock, Little River, and Convict Springs but he mentioned that all of those caves are blown out do to some heavy rains that they have had recently.  That limits our access to only a couple cave locations, the Ginnie Springs area and Manatee Springs.  

That really sucked since we want to visit multiple caves,..some of them were in fact good enough to enter but the state has to “dive” them in order to say that they are clear for divers to enter these caves on state property.  It also appears the most of the caves are on State, County, or Federal Lands so there is generally open access unless the cave itself has a closed sign due to flooding.

We get to The Ginnie Springs parking lot, pay, and drive around to park.  This place was a mix between   inebriated spring breakers, lobster tanned float tubers, and divers.  Among the divers were cavern divers, cave class students, cave divers, and free divers.  This place was packed!! It was ridiculous.  These heavy crowds slowly dull the charm that these spring waters had to offer. 

We get all of our gear in place and remove the pile of steel from the truck, we get set up which always takes some time and prepare for our dive. At least it is warm out and we are diving into crystal clear 72 degree water.  That helps out a lot!!

Chris, Sam, and I make up on team so we enter the water with our doubles and deco bottles. Steve and Sue are on rebreathers so they will be a second team of divers going into the cave. We finally make it to Devils Eye while dodging kayakers, swimmers, tubers, and free divers and drop into the entrance sink.  The bottom of this tube is around 17ft so that makes for a great place to proceed with a decompression procedure. 

Sam Frushour completing his decompression procedure in the Devils Eye High Springs Florida
We tie off a primary line and notice four more primary reels, diver in the cavern zone and oxygen bottles connected to the gold line.  It made for quiet the interesting dive since there is a high flow of water pushing out of the cave that throws off your buoyancy and with a camera, an oxygen bottle, and twin LP 108s, the low ceiling made for an interesting place…lol… We finally get down to the goldline and tie off the primary reel.  I tie off my oxygen bottle and we start our traverse upstream in the main trunk passage. 

At times, the water pressure is so strong that you have to hold on to the floor and the walls just to push through the passage.  Along the way we passed side passages that had some jump reels attached and also passed stage bottles that people have left behind.  We continue upstream and a couple small groups of divers pass by us…more like fly by us as the water pressure pushes them through the passage and out of the cave.   The passage has its own personality of sorts as it is a phreatic tube passage with ancient water cut river passage, some on multiple levels, along with some small scalloping on the walls. 

High Flow in the devils System High Springs Florida

Other than that is was typical clean washed limestone with a black chert like color staining the lower sections of the passage.  It is interesting to see the sand and where the water pooled at times before the cave slowly flooded to how it is today.  I am assuming the cave flooded very slowly as the pooled shorelines appear to not have been interrupted from the waterworks.  It is also nice to see that the cave divers have not silted out some of these features. 

Passage in the main trunk of the Devils Eye High Springs
 We made it up to around 1300 in the main trunk passage and turned our dives.  Coming out was indeed a lot faster than going in and we were gliding out of the cave quite fast which was nice.  We kept meandering around the cut banks of the passage and made it to the light zone where the sun beams were shining in and people were decompressing before exiting the cave.  
Side Passage in Devils Eye High Springs

We get back in the water for another dive and follow a similar route as we did the first dive but exit out of Devils Ear.  This was interesting as there was a canyon passage the opened up into a karst window with a huge tree log lodged in the middle of the window.  This was a rather interesting place for the window as the clear blue water mingled with the red orange tannic Santa Fe river which made the ceiling a beautiful color of blues reds, yellows, and orange colors.  Super awesome!!!!!
Devils Ear High Springs Florida

We went to visit the other springs in the area including, Ginnie Spring which had a locked gate and is only considered a cavern dive now, Twin, Deer, July and Ironwood Spring.

Ginnie Springs Florida
  All of the other springs do not appear to be dive able except for ironwood spring but this will require a sidemount to penetrate into this cave.
Deer Spring High Springs Florida

  Some of the springs had better visibility than others but that might have been from all of the beer piss idiot savant college breakers,…   Yup, I was one too 15 years ago and I prob would have loved the environment back than but I don’t think I would have chosen to go here, I would rather have chosen panama city beach or Daytona beach for my hedonistic episodes. We grab some dinner and go back to Cave Excusions for tank fills.
Ironwood Spring High Springs Florida

We got some bad news that the caves are going to be closed so we are going to either have to suck it up and continue to go to Ginnie Springs or go a couple hours north to Jackson Blue. We decided to stay in the High Springs area and check out the multiple passages in the Devils System including the Cavern and closed gate to the actual Ginnie Springs System which was rather interesting to see as well.

Our dive the following day went pretty much the like day before but we took a side passage to the bone room that had a white sandy floor and a big trunk passage that re connected back to the main passage. We ended up turning our dive before we got to the main trunk. 
Devils Ear Canyon cavern entrance High Springs Florida

The dives that followed in the remaining days went to the Hill 400 Passage, pushed to the Hinkle passage, and took a side passage that turned into a 10ft line drill due to the restrictive passage and the low flow from the water not pushing the silt out of the way.
Devils Eye Lip High Spring Florida

We went to look at Cow Springs and Peacock to see if we could dive them and Cow looked pretty bad but Peacock was good. Unfortunately we couldn’t dive anywhere but Ginnie. All in all it was a great trip and a great experience to get some practice in, hang out with old and new friends, and dial in some core Cave Dive skills I learned in my full cave class.

Chris Parks Completing his decompression procedure in Devils Eye High Springs Florida
some great pics from Jill Heinerth

A pic from the FSS:

DEVILS SYSTEM VIDEO (not my video):

devils eye:

devils ear:

ginnie springs:

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