PSAI China, Hong Kong & Macau September 2011 Cave Exploration

By Wang Yuan

 


We organized a diving exploration to GuangXi Province, China from 4th to 8th, September, 2011. With more and more divers getting cave dive training from PSAI, we have more divers join us to explore the caves of China. Three years ago, there were no divers from mainland China with the proper training and skills to explore the underwater caves. Now the PSAI has a team. We rely on the skills and knowledge learned from PSAI cave diving course. We get experience from every dive. Proper critique method after diving makes us improve a lot.

First day. I led the team to Cobra Cave in JinLing town. This cave is familiar to me, I explored the cave first in 2009. This time I retrieved one of the guidelines I set up before to avoid confusion. I set up another side-way guideline, so divers can practice jump and circuit dives here later. This cave's entrance looks like a long chimney. and has a lot of silt on the wall. So this requires good skills and even no kick when descending. The Cobra Cave reaches a depth of 50 meters. Visibility inside cave reaches 15 to 20 meters. With several dives inside before, my bubbles have cleaned the ceiling. I can still remember the first time diving here. Silt from the ceiling rained down on me. Without flow inside, divers should still prepare for the low visibility when turning back.


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 Planning the cave diving

 

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  Autumn leaves on the pool.  It is quietly beautiful!

 

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Equipments check and review of diving plan before every dives

 

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 Carrying the equipments to the dive site is always a good exercise

After the diving in JinLing town., we went to DuAn district. Here we dived a sinkhole with lots of fresh water jellyfish inside. This sites looks like a bottomless hole. Villagers told us the water level can drop 40m in winter. I am sure this sinkhole links to some of the underwater rivers. Above 10 m depth, the visibility can reach 10m. We found a huge entrance at the depth of 20m,.but the visibility dropped to 1 meter below the depth of 35m. The wall of the cave disappears. The divers feel like swimming in the open ocean: No bottom and no walls.- No reference at all! We retrieved the guideline and gave up. but the jellyfish in shallow water is a surprise to me.


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 We named this cave Jellyfish hole

 

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 Fresh water jellyfish.  (Photo by IPOLO)

 

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 Bottomless sinkholes are everywhere in GuangXi, however only a few have good visibility.

 

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Our filling station

 

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Sitting on the pick-up truck, looking for new caves. We enjoyed fresh air and countryside view.

 

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There are some other sinkholes nearby. We believe they connect to each other. The PSAI Chinese Cave Team better come back in winter when the water level is low.

 

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The third cave we explored is led by a local villager. We told him we want to find some springs: small holes , water flows out and good visibility. Then he took us there. It looks like the caves in Mexico, when I first saw the cave: beautiful clean water. Water flows out of the cave and forms a small river. We dived into the small entrance and later found the caves became bigger and bigger. After 50m inside we surfaced to a very big air room with beautiful stalactites. The team descended again ,we found the passage went downward. We descend to a depth of 30m, where my reel had problems. The cave passage becomes bigger after descending. It looks like we have entered one big underwater river. I left the guideline inside the cave for future exploration. This cave we named Cathedral Cave. Visibility ran around 7 to 10 meters. The water is a little cold around 20 degrees centigrade .You can see some stalactites and stalagmite’s underwater and you can hear huge sound when the trucks passed the road above the cave.
 

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Setting up the equipments at the entrance of the cave.

 

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Checking the entrance. Many villagers are watching us. They talked the legend of the cave.

 

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 The entrance is hard to accommodate 3 divers but inside it is big.

 

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The water from the cave forms a small river which is a natural pool for the villagers.


The fourth cave we explored is near the DaXing town. The beautiful rock formation and weeds impressed me .There are several entrances. One entrance is at a depth of 5m.  We found it dead ended after entering 30 meters. We could feel the water flow. However, strangely it dead ended. Another entrance of the cave is at the depth of 40m. Such a depth means a long time decompression and we faced the problem of potential nitrogen narcosis. Although we took stage tanks. we did not venture too far inside. This entrance looks like the way to the underwater river. There is a lot to explore inside. The cave has beautiful limestone formations. We have to bring some helium for the breathing mixture next time. Visibility range 10 to 15 meters. Water temp: 20 degrees centigrade.


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Prepare to descent.

 

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View from underwater.

 

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Free dive in the pool.

 

The last cave we explored is near the town of XiaAo. We had to climb into the cave before descending. This was an exhausting job. The river disappears inside the dry cave. It is obvious this is the entrance of the underwater cave .Everything seemed very good with the cave. Visibility reached 10m. We were excited to dive here. This cave tried us out later and gave us a trilling experience. After descending, we followed a shallow passage to a graded gorge. The walls of the gorge have an angle of 30 degrees with the horizontal horizon. The distance between the two walls is around 2 to 3 meters. I checked and there was a great amount of silt on the walls. We descended following the walls very carefully to a depth of 25m. The gorge still continued down to unknown depths. We decided to move horizontally following the walls. We swam through the passageway of two huge walls. I felt like the meat in the sandwich. The gorge is magnificent. I looked back when swimming, the visibility seemed not getting worse after we passed. When I decided to turn back the visibility decreased suddenly in 5 seconds. I fixed the reel to a rock quickly and then the visibility has dropped to zero. I touched with my buddy with one hand and the other hand on the line. We started the ordeal now. I expected the visibility will get better soon. On the contrary, the visibility remained bad all the way back. With our main light, I could only see a yellow mud cloud around me. I could not not see my dive computer and the pressure gauge. Although we have practiced no-visibility situations many times; when you faced it in real world, the feeling is quite different. I became concerned if my buddy would be able keep control and if the guideline may form any line trap. Good thing is that all members touched line and each other quickly when the visibility dropped .It is dangerous to lose buddy or lose line. I squeezed to my buddy to ask him if he is ok. He squeezed my hand on the line that he was alright. We climbed following the guideline and our manifold hit the wall overhead sometimes. When I felt stuck, I lowered down and pulled back a little to pass. I am begging that the hitting will not cause any air loss situation. Suddenly the visibility got better, around 0.5m.I saw my buddy and checked the depth. I read 3m. I knew we were close to exit now. We have climbed to the shallow passage. Then I checked my air. I still had 120 bar left. I relaxed now. .

When debriefing, I said we are back because we had proper training, well-laid guidelines, good buddy teamwork, conservative gas planning, proper equipment and we controlled ourselves under stress. I pointed out that for all exploration dives we should be extra careful on every dive.

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Prepare to enter the water.

 

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Swim to the entrance.

 

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Climb into the cave with the help of the villager.

 

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