by Bethany Augliere Wednesday, February 13, 2019
While snorkeling the spring pools is cool (no pun intended), a more in-depth way to experience Florida’s freshwater springs is to scuba dive in them. However, entering the caves requires you to get a cave diving certification. That’s because cave diving has inherent challenges distinct from scuba diving’s own challenges. Even after you’re familiar with buoyancy control, breathing control and how to work your gear (all part of getting scuba certified), there’s much to learn about the specifics of cave diving. For example, if you kick incorrectly and stir up silt in an underwater cave, you can lose visibility and quickly become disoriented, which can turn deadly. Because of this, some of the most important parts of training involves learning about cave environments and talking about the psychological aspects of cave diving, along with emergency procedures, of course.
Cave divers have to first get open water and advanced scuba diving certifications and be at least 18 years of age. After that, you start with a cavern diver course, which lets you explore overhead environments and enter caverns while remaining in the light zone. A number of outfitters in North Florida offer training, which typically takes a few days for caverns. Once you’ve completed the cavern diver course and done more than 25 dives, you can train for the intro or basic cave diver course and further certifications beyond that.
Read more about filmmaker Tom Fitz’s experience learning to cave dive in Florida for a film project at EARTH online here: www.earthmagazine.org/article/geomedia-film-exploring-floridas-aquifers-filmmaker-tom-fitz, and read about cave diver Jill Heinerth’s experiences underwater here: www.earthmagazine.org/article/down-earth-underwater-cave-explorer-jill-heinerth.
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