Cave diving basics explained

Cave diving involves exploring caves that are at least partially filled with water. Many experienced divers enjoy this type of diving because the water inside the caves is usually calm and absent from the surges often experienced in the open ocean. As a result, visibility within the caves is extremely good and can span several hundred feet. But, cave diving involves special equipment, special training and extra safety precautions. In this article, you'll learn about some of the basics of cave diving including the potential dangers, safety rules and equipment used by experienced divers.

Potential perils of cave diving

Many divers underestimate the inherent dangers of cave diving. Since 1950, hundreds of cave divers have perished while diving caves in (one of the most popular locations for cave diving). One of the main hazards of exploring caves and caverns is that your access to the surface in the event of an emergency is limited. Rather than being able to swim directly upward toward the surface, a diver often has to travel through the cave horizontally before ascending. This can be especially dangerous when air is limited.

Also, while visibility near the mouths of caves and caverns is very high, experienced cave divers often penetrate thousands of feet where darkness prevails. Without light, it can be nearly impossible to see and navigate during deep penetrations. Of all types of diving, cave diving is considered one of the most dangerous.

Rules of safety for cave diving

Because cave diving can expose you to extreme darkness during deep penetrations, you should carry several lights. Many fatalities while diving in caves happen when a diver's light fails. This can cause the diver to become disoriented and unable to find the exit. By having a primary light as well as 2 backup lights, you can avoid being trapped in darkness.

Many beginning cave divers make the (sometimes fatal) mistake of not planning their air (or breathing gas) properly. Remember, exiting a cave can take a significant amount of air. If you used 1/3 of your supply penetrating a cave, you'll need 1/3 of your starting supply to exit. Keep more than enough in your reserve to ensure a safe exit.

One of the most important safety precautions you can take is to mark your exit point. That is, make sure you know the direction of the cave entrance. You may be surprised by the difficulty even experienced divers have in finding the entrance to the cave they've penetrated in the absence of a marker.

Equipment used for cave diving

Much of the equipment used for cave diving is similar to that used for conventional scuba diving. However, there are some differences. For example, cave divers don't use snorkels. Also, cave divers typically need more protection from exposure (especially on deep penetrations). While scuba divers use ballast to weigh them down, cave divers don't use any weight besides that of their tanks and equipment. When it comes to air tanks, cave divers use double cylinders (scuba divers use single cylinders) filled with breathing gas. The choice of knives and other equipment is also different in that cave divers prefer as little equipment as possible to lessen the likelihood of reducing their visibility by accidentally stirring up sediment.

Getting started

If you're considering getting started in cave diving, enroll in some form of specialized training. Cave diving is dangerous. It's different in many ways from normal scuba diving. While scuba diving does carry inherent risks, cave diving has a unique set of potential dangers. It's not a sport to take lightly. Once you have been properly trained, there are many popular cave diving communities such as Northern and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Heed the proper safety precautions and you could have the experience of a lifetime.

Cave diving equipment