12 spring water divers

BY SHEILA HARRIS

Special for the Democrat of Cassville

A large group of divers affiliated with KISS Rebreathers were on hand Aug. 19 for the team’s first dive of the month at Roaring River Spring.

Exploration and study of the cave has continued, although no effort has been made to exceed their last national depth record of 472 feet set in November 2021.

New devices and new faces were present in the spring in August.

Youtube channel Dive Talk hosts Woody Alpern and Gus Gonzalez – friends of KISS Rebreathers CEO and head diver Mike Young – made their first visit to Roaring River State Park. Both Gonzalez and Alpern hail from the Atlanta area, where they regularly dive for the Georgia Aquarium. Alpern, a 46-year-old diving veteran, grew up catching lobsters off the coast of Florida.

He said navigating the unexplored area of ​​Roaring River Cave filled him with a sense of awe.

“I laid a survey line in virgin territory today,” he said. “We saw things there that no one had ever seen before and after we left, we will probably never see them again. It’s pretty amazing to think about.

Alpern finds the scale of underwater depth relative to the same linear measurement on land fascinating to ponder.

“When you look at 250 [horizontal] With your feet on the ground,” he said, pointing to the hatchery in front of him, “it doesn’t seem very far, but when you’re underwater and under pressure, 250 feet means something completely different. When it takes all that gear to dive just 250 feet, you find you’re barely able to get anywhere. You get a better sense of this scale when you dive into the ocean.

Alpern says the Dive Talk episode featuring the KISS Rebreathers team dive into the Roaring River Cave will be available for viewing on Youtube in about three weeks.

In addition to the Dive Talk hosts, marine biologist Dr. Fernando Calderón Gutiérrez was on hand again for the August dive with hopes of collecting more creatures below the surface.

During the August 19 dive, KISS diver and mapper Jon Lillestolen caught an amphipod measuring about half an inch (one centimeter) long.

“It’s the biggest we’ve ever caught,” he said.

Gutierrez said he hoped three or four more specimens of the same variety could be caught.

“It takes about five organisms of a given species to ensure that both sexes are present so that we can determine the species,” he said. In addition to catching an amphipod, Lillestolen reported that he and Woody Alpern laid an additional 257 feet of horizontal survey line in the room below the restriction, or “the 100-fathom chasm,” as it is called. Lillestolen. This hall is now known to be capable of accommodating a structure as tall as the 550-foot Washington Monument with its pinnacle projecting into the air bell above the underground portion.

“We now have a better idea of ​​the dimensions of some of the walls in this room,” Lillestolen said. The depth of this abyss, from which the source comes, however, remains unknown. On August 21, during the team’s final dive of the weekend, Lillestolen tested an underwater electronic navigation system, marketed as the Seacraft ENC (Electronic Navigation Console). With the ENC mounted on a scooter (a motorized device that helps propel a diver through water), Lillestolen has gone beyond the restriction to collect data in a way that is believed to be more efficient than collecting data manual.

“ENC essentially collects the same data that we would collect in a manual survey, but in a different way, and what is supposed to be a simpler way,” Lillestolen said. “In a hand survey, we measure the pre-tied dive line, directly, counting the knots, which tells us how far we’ve travelled. We also collect the depth and magnetic bearing (compass reading) of the line. The ENC is supposed to speed up this process so that we don’t have to stay in depth for so long.

The required decompression time quickly accumulates for every minute divers spend – and every foot they descend – below the restriction in the cave that exists 225 feet below the water’s surface.

A few of the divers tested another new device intended to individualize the decompression time required by a diver. The O’Dive uses ultrasound Doppler technology to measure microbubbles of gas remaining in a diver’s veins after a dive. It then assigns them a number on an index of 0 to 100 (100 being the optimum) which represents the effectiveness of a diver’s decompression.

“My first score wasn’t very good: a 52,” said Gayle Orner, the team’s only diver. “So I adjusted my computer settings and increased my decompression time a bit. After my next dive I got a score of 89.”

Orner added that the ability to customize decompression settings based on real life bubble vein data is an exciting advancement in diving science, and that the O’Dive should help improve diver safety.

Water from the spring was flowing at around 18 cubic feet per second for the team’s dive in August.

“If the flow remains low for our September dive, we plan to dive deep again and see if we can find out more about what’s out there,” Young said.

Planned dive dates are September 16-18.

This visit will be marked by a “Meet the Divers” event hosted by the Cassville Democrat and the Missouri State Park System. The public is invited to join state legislators and park officials at the Emory Melton Inn Conference Center Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. as divers present information about their exploration of the Roaring River Cave. Video footage of the project will be shown and diving equipment will be on display, including a rebreather used in Ron Howard’s new Thai Cave rescue film, Thirteen Lives. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session and an activity for children.

Divers in attendance for the August trip were Mike Young, Tony Bryant and Greg Ables, of Fort Smith, Ark.; Jon Lillestolen and Eric Hahn, of Blacksburg, Virginia; Gayle Orner and Bob Dankert, of Madison, Wis.; Randall Purdy and Mike Henry, of Kearney, Neb. ; Dr. Fernando Calderon Gutierrez, of Galveston, Texas; and Woody Alpern and Gus Gonzalez, of Atlanta, Ga. Tom Creason, of Fort Smith, Ark., provided surface support.