VORTEX

[linked to the article: The Return to the Hinatuan Enchanted River Head Spring]

I paused to let Doc and Lou creep up beside me and we all looked together at what our lights showed us.  The mouth of the cave was almost filled up to the ceiling with sand! Only a tiny fraction of the previous passages remained, and from there the water was spewing out in a torrential flood.

Aside from the tidal change that was responsible for the spring’s intensity, the now constricted passages created channeling effects which increased the pressure of the exiting water.

Doc looked at me and gestured, “What do we do?”—I showed him a small clearance near the right side wall which was reachable after going 4 meters/ 13 feet down a steep sandy slope. I knew that once we get into the expansive Mayor’s Chamber, the flow’s pressure will ease up.

Doc signaled OK and I then slowly slid down face first to the slope. I crawled against the water flow at first and then as I neared the entrance where the ceiling was closest to the bottom, I felt a sudden surge of downward movement and a feeling that I was being sucked into the chamber!

I reached out my left arm to the ceiling to slow down my descent and I quickly repositioned myself sideways since the passage was only large enough to fit a person lengthwise. [It was only pretty much later after the dive that I realized that the higher water velocity as it flowed around my body and my tanks created a turbulent flow behind me resulting in a vortex that pushed and gave the feeling of being pulled into the dark and deep recesses of the Mayor’s Chamber.]

Battle scars!

Battle scars!

Fluid dynamics and Reynolds Number aside, all I felt at that moment was that it is best to exercise prudence and to dive the cave when the conditions are more desirable. I signaled Doc and Lou to turn-around and I started to move back up to join them.

Lou was in the position to be the first man out.  As he shifted his body slightly vertical to turn around in the overhead, confined area the strength of the water caught him full frontal and plastered him on the ceiling with his Inspiration CCR case scrapping hard against the rough surface. Lou was now blocking our exit path! Doc gave him a push to turn him around, which helped a bit—to Doc’s advantage as it opened a space big enough for Doc to slide out to open water.

I could see Lou struggling to get back in a more horizontal position but his big frame coupled with the bulky rebreather was giving him a challenge in the strong water flow. I maneuvered close to him and I gave his rebreather a hard shove—with my foot! He came loose and off we went out to sunlight and virtual ceilings (20 minutes total deco).

That was it for the day and while we blended our gas for the next day we discussed how we might be able to get past the sandy obstacle. Doc suggested we bucket-brigade the sand out of the area, Lou seconded the motion and I went to ask Ferdinand for some plastic buckets.

The next day, we started early back to the area to commence on our new dive objective—clear the cave entrance of the sand using buckets! Long story made short, the cave spat us out and we drifted back up to the shallows holding empty buckets and with firm resolve that we will be back someday to complete the survey.

Click to the next page: DISCOVERIES

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