by Jonah Gibbons
The National Speleological Society’s Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS) is bringing their international cave diving conference to Marianna, Florida this year and here is why you don’t want to miss it— The NSS-CDS regularly hosts conventions that include speakers, gear demonstrations, sharing of trip reports and exploration updates, swapping and trading of gear, workshops for skills and of course, raffles. But when it comes time for the annual international conference, they dive deeper to really put on a great event. While cave diving may not be a sport for everybody, there is much to learn from technical divers and their unique approach to diving. One of the speakers this year who will be talking about important aspects of dive medicine is one the most experienced and knowledgeable researchers on the topic in the world.
Dive medicine is a key aspect of safety that every diver should understand. At the international cave diving conference this year, Commander Joseph Dituri, an author and retired Navy Saturation Diving Officer, will be presenting valuable and often misinterpreted information on “the bends.” Commander Dituri spent almost 30 years in the Navy, he is the president of the International Board of Undersea Medicine, and he also volunteers his time as the CEO of the Association for Marine Exploration. It is very exciting to have such an accomplished contributor to the community of diving present at this event. At the Undersea Oxygen Clinic in Tampa, FL, Commander Dituri works with a highly knowledgeable team and provides the highest level of diver-specialized treatment.
When a diver has an accident and requires recompression therapy in a hyperbaric chamber, it is important that they receive treatment as soon as possible. The availability of facilities that have the equipment, staff and training to respond to SCUBA emergencies has always been a concern for every diver. While the Divers’ Alert Network is a crucial organization that helps divers find the closest treatment center, transportation to a suitable facility can sometimes be a logistical nightmare. The NSS-CDS has ongoing efforts to bring more hyperbaric chambers and training to Florida so that getting treatment is quicker and easier.
Cave diving is a very exciting and respectable hobby. Those who are trained and engage in diving in overhead environments are privileged to experience places and sites that few others will ever get to see. A natural community forms between these types of divers, because they are unique. They train differently, plan differently, dive differently and have different gear as well. The gear they use is specialized and designed to be especially durable and dependable. The community that developed around these unique characteristics is active.
The NSS-CDS is the core organization for cave divers and is rooted in conservation, exploration, and education. Every year they sponsor efforts to explore and maintain underwater caves. Because cave diving can be quite dangerous without knowledge and training, they also work to educate divers and non-divers. With credibility and a reputation for professionalism, they maintain landowner relations in order to keep dive sites open and accessible for those who are equipped and certified to visit. The organization’s headquarters are in Florida and after having a very successful winter workshop in Marianna, Florida last year, they decided to have the international conference there this year, May 18to 20.
Cave Adventurers, a one stop dive shop located in Marianna, is hosting the event. The owner Edd Sorensen is an outstanding educator and leader in the SCUBA diving community. He teaches and refines the skills of divers who travel from all over the world to train with him. One of the biggest attractions for visitors to Marianna is Merritt’s Mill Pond where his shop is located. With nearly a dozen named springs, this fairly shallow waterway is crystal-clear and picturesque. Jackson Blue is the magnitude-one, head spring that flows into the pond averaging around 77-million gallons per day. There are several spots on the pond that are great opportunities to dive and with special training, you can safely enter some of the large caverns or caves. Even with some of the past few storms and rain that have crossed the state, the Floridan Aquifer recovers and continues to attract divers from all over the world to the hundreds of springs in Florida that offer diving opportunities for all levels of certification.