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Teddy Garlock is an avid cave diver, SUOC alum, and all-around adventurer currently living in upstate New York. These Selleck Sump stories document his exploration of the (mostly underwater) Sellecks cave system. This is Part 4
Seven months had gone by since we had a chance to continue the exploration of the Sellecks cave system. Over the winter I spent a couple of months in Florida cave country, learning how to survey underwater caves and building my cave diving skills and experience. Suffice to say, I was more than a little excited to get back to my little NY project.
During my last dive in November I wasn’t able to push the line in sump three, but did discover a new air chamber in sump one. The biggest limiting factor to exploration has been limited visibilty, typically less than 3′-5′ on the way into the system, and always zero on the way out. As sump three continues it get bigger and bigger, not ideal in such low visibility. We’ve been watching the weather closely over the past month, hoping for a few weeks with no rain. We were hoping that with a decrease in rainfall we would see significant improvements in conditions… we were correct.
For our dive on 6/26/2016, we certainly didn’t have a shortage of sherpas! Assisting with the dive was Nathan Roser, Steve Millett, Thomas Holder, Marlene Holder, Dan Gilroy and Owen Gilroy. We started out in 90 degree heat, hiking the fifteen minutes through the woods to the cave entrance. Steve rigged the drop and the team began moving all of the gear into the cave. For this dive I brought LP95’s, along with two bags full of gear. For exposure protection I am using a DUI CF200 compressed neoprene drysuit. This suit is amazing. It keeps me warm, dry and safe with its phenomenal abrasion resistant neoprene.
Getting to the sump was uneventful, and it was really nice to finally be deep underground, out of the heat. While everyone made their way down into the cave, I prepped all of the dive equipment and suited up. Since the water is 47 degrees, I need to wear some pretty thick dry-gloves. Dexterity is a major issue, so I required some assistance gearing up.
Due to the drought conditions there was no visible flow in the stream that connects the upstream sump to the downstream sump. In fact, there was no visible stream at all! This made my entrance into the water very difficult, because the pool of water I usually float myself in to gear up was no more than a puddle now. In fact, I was a little worried that the water would be too low for me to get through the entrance restriction without a lot of effort. I taught my sherpas the signal for “stuck!” (crossed legs) and took off. Luckily it was easier than expected. On the way through sump one, I surveyed the line to make a map of the system in the future. The line was in great shape, buried in a few places but completely intact. I surveyed 226′ of sump one, and surfaced into the first air chamber. I did a rough survey of the air chamber, and continued into sump two. Sump two is much shorter, only 117′ in length. The second air chamber is extensive, roughly 500′ and perfectly straight. Due to the difficulty of surveying while traversing this passage, I took an azimuth and estimated the distance (approximately 500′). In the future I will return with another sump diver to do a proper survey of the air chambers, but for now this was sufficient.
Finally, the start of sump three. I began by fixing a potential line trap towards the entrance, and surveying on the way in. I surveyed 103′ of passage in a straight line to the end of my exploration from last year. The visibility in sump three was unreal. I had experienced ~5′ on the way through the first two sumps, and now I was blessed with almost 20′ of visibility in some sections. I stowed my survey gear and tied in a new reel. I continued on for approximately 100′ before coming to a junction. There was a large passage going right, and another going left. Based on the progression of the cave so far, I elected to go left. Soon I arrived at another passage, shooting off to the side. Straight ahead looked like it may surface into another air chamber, with fissure-like passage. I decided to shoot to the right, into a tunnel approximately 3.5′ tall and 6′ wide. Absolutely PERFECT dimensions. The visibility decreased slightly with a visible halocline, what looked like some sort of tannic intrusion. I continued onwards until running out of line another ~100′ into the tunnel.
Remember how I mentioned those dry-gloves and decrease dexterity? Well, let me remind you… dry gloves SUCK for line work! While trying to get the looped end off of the reel drum, I accidentally knotted the line, preventing the line from coming off the reel and also from the reel being able to function as a reel. Since I had stopped moving and was now turned around, visibility was zero. The only thing I could see was a glow from my light. I felt around on the bottom and the sides of the passage for a place to tie off. None. I considered a silt-stake, but the silt was far too shallow. I drop-weight would have been ideal, but I didn’t have one. I decided to wrap the line around the reel, then stow the reel at my last tie-off. Soon enough I was there, and I parted ways with my reel (to be recovered next time). Cutting the line to tie off is a last-option in my opinion, since a loose end of line in zero visibility with no dexterity is a horrible recipe for disaster.
On my way back through sump one, I took my jump from last year into another air chamber. When I surfaced I could hear voices!! Sure enough, I shouted and had a brief conversation with the sherpas on the other side of the walls. This is significant, we’ll map out the location and it might be worth digging out the connection. Not that it will add any dry passage for cavers, but it would be cool all in the same.
All in all, an extremely successful dive. Time to plot out the survey data and start preparing for a return trip, ideally in the next few weeks.
here’s a video of the dive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wacR9ExFijM