Watched this while wrapping presents tonight. Compelling.
Short synposis as I know it's best practice not to put links with no context - film length documentary about the attempt to retrieve a body from 250m down in Bushman's Hole. Spoiler - though not really as it's obvious from the film title - it didn't go as planned.
Phew, cave diving eh. Not for me, but then I remember saying the same thing about trad! But really, no, not for me!
I don't know how people do it. I went on a bit of a binge the other week by watching The Rescue by Jimmy Chin (about the thai kids), and this one about a fella who fell down a hole while caving and it took them 54 hours to retrieve him (https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0014h4p/trapped-54-hours-underground)..
I have never been so sure of an activity I never ever want to do.
Will now give your link a watch, just to really cement it in my mind as something I never want to do.
Finished it. They needed to explain some more of what actually went wrong. He started breathing heavily, and died.. Okay, I am sure there's a reason for that which is specific to deep diving. It'd have been nice to know what that reason was. Just 1-2 minutes of explanation would have been useful. Almost none of the complicated diving techniques are explained well enough, imo. I still don't really understand why Don stopped his dive early. He just says a critical part of his equipment broke. Again, 30 seconds to explain the piece of equipment and what it did would have been nice.
They shove Don into what looks like a pressure chamber, and never once mention it, or why they're doing it, or how it got there, or how it helped.
It's just a poorly constructed documentary.
Anyways, its the absolute opposite of 'The Rescue'.. In that film, everyone is pretty much a reluctant hero. At one point, they all attempt to fly back with the kids still stuck in the caves because they think it's a lost cause. And then in the end, the reluctant heroes miraculously end up saving all 13 people.
In this film we have a guy that goes looking for glory, and dies failing to retrieve a cadaver..
Not really sure what I felt at the end of it, other than 'Well that was a dumb way to die. What a couple of total idiots..'
Was pretty surprised when they casually mention Dave had only been diving for 5 years. He's made out to be much more experienced at the start, but it seems he was an amateur who was way out of his depth.
Its more of a Divers film a bit like climbing films can be utterly boring for casual watchers.
Getting into partial pressures and decompression theory etc is a bit hard going for many divers.
Last Breath is a good film with a bit more explanation behind it.
This short clip shows one of the hazards of subsea work, and the cause of several accidents, don't get you fingers anywhere near that hole in the pipe
In the UK the Cave Diving Group have their own training regime and tests, as cave diving bears no relationship to open water diving. If a diving caver had passed the tests and regularly cave dived for five years they would be regarded as an expert. As far as I am aware in the UK there are no professional cave divers. Even the Thai rescue divers were not professional divers, but expert amateurs.
I think Martyn Farr would be classed a professional ie paid for it. I'm sure there are others but I'm out of date on the diving world
Yes, British cave divers have always been cavers first. That's always been CDG policy. I believe in the States and elsewhere cave diving was often taken up by open water divers with no prior caving record. I think it goes back to the fact that British cavers would be stopped by a sump and have to take up diving to explore further. Florida has enormous fresh water springs that don't involve actual dry caving to reach or explore and are much larger with clear visibility. I sometimes carried kit for cave divers pushing in the Dales and thought ' not for me '.
I remember reading this, and being struck by just how grim cave diving could be. But, as they say, there are peaks with dead bodies on them. I wonder what cave divers think about that.
Huh, fair cop. I guess I know more about it than I think I did as I didn't get that at all - I have recently reread Bernard Chowdury's "The Last Dive" which goes into detail about a lot of this stuff though - gas mixes, narcosis, decompression, dive computers. You are right though, they didn't explain a lot that would have made it much more accessible to the uninitiated.
They were self aware though about the inherent contradiction. The preplanning meeting in Dave's back yard where they say "If someone dies the priority is to get everyone else out safely, leave us there" when they were on a dive with the specific aim of retrieving a body. But like climbing the motivations for doing what they do are...complex.
How knowing what he knew about the risks Dave thought that home made body bag would work, makes me wonder.
Anyway youtube then went on to suggest this which got me through to the end of the wrapping and was much homelier, paddling, wading, festering in tiny tents to wait out the weather and comic Canadian accents to boot - "Alone Across the Arctic" youtube.com/watch?v=6U1-GeCFWJM&
>How knowing what he knew about the risks Dave thought that home made body bag would work, makes me wonder.
I did wonder why the plan wasn't just to hitch the body to a rope, and then get out of there (at least to the first stage of going back up) and yank on it.
Again, no doubt that was considered and then discarded. That decision process might have been interesting to hear.
Definitely felt like a diving film, made by divers, for divers. Maybe I'm being too harsh on it.
Like watching a Mellow climbing film, and complaining they're not explaining what an undercling or crimp is.
I'm puzzled with diving films, there's so many lovely films with great photography that showcase fish, wrecks, mines, caves or heroic difficulties overcome.
Especially YouTube the viewing stats are overwhelmed by "cave diving gone wrong" films. I'm baffled by this. For example the climbing equivalent would be mountaineering tragedies or solo climber fatal falls, which I'm sure must have some macabre following, but nothing like cave diving. Maybe some people watch them as a bit if variety to watching a diet of fatal climbing films?
There's so much great diving film out there of all types, does anyone else think it's odd that people watch these disaster diving ones?
Each to their own, I'm not criticising or on any moral high horse (maybe this Dave not coming back is thoughtful and well made, I'm not criticising it either). I'm just trying to make a puzzled observation that this a definite oddity for diving films, compared to say: climbing
I've not seen the film but would highly recommend the book.
I come from a technical (not cave but deep diving) background, so may be biased, but thought they went into a good amount of detail regarding the mechanics.
The pressure chamber is a recompression chambe and is used to simulate sending the diver back under water. Surfacing before all the nitrogen (from the air you breathe) has cleared from your system will result in a diving bend caused by tiny bubbles of gas, sending the diver back to depth whilst breathing or oxygen will force the gas bubbles to get smaller and give time for them to clear from the system. This is the only treatment for a diving bend, or DCI (decompression illness).
I know Martyn as we once spent a week working for a TV program together and he isn’t paid to cave dive, but he does sell images and write about it etc. It’s a bit of hair splitting; a guide is paid to climb, just as a commercial diver is paid to dive as a job, but for instance Bonnington is not and also he isn’t professionally qualified.
> I have never been so sure of an activity I never ever want to do.
> Will now give your link a watch, just to really cement it in my mind as something I never want to do.
I used to do a bit of caving (Mendips and Yorkshire) and quite enjoyed the extra confidence being a half decent climber (and being skinny back then) gave me. I didn't love sumps but I was surprised by how comparatively comfortable I was with it compared with a lots of climbers I caved with.
Later I did a bit diving too, and that was lovely as long as the water was clear (even better if it was warm). Diving into large sea caves with clear visibility is fine, but is not, by any stretch, cave diving. Then an odd thing happened. I did a couple of night dives and some in less than perfect visibility and found it really disorienting and frightening. In particular, it's really difficult to maintain neutral buoyancy - I found myself unexpectedly surfacing or being much deeper than I expected. I really didn't like it and it occurred to me then how terrifying it would be for that to happen in an enclosed space. Add to that the risk of snagging something or getting stuck somewhere for longer than was compatible with having enough air to get back and I knew that cave diving was never going to be for me!
That, plus the whole Deadman's Handshake business...
Thanks for the link to the youtube item.
I've read two of Adam Shoalts' books - "Alone Against the North" and "Beyond the Trees" (the second is his account of the long Arctic trek in the youtube link). He is certainly an 'interesting' guy and there's plenty of understated jeopardy in his accounts. If you are into kayaking and wilderness survival stories they'll suit your taste. Both books are classic lone adventurer fare and worth a read and are available from second hand websites as well as Amazon.
I wonder if you and I ever passed each other (in the Dales) down a cave, in Bernie's or a pub etc? We're the same age and I was an active caver from 16 to my mid-forties. I'm certainly of the same opinion regarding cave diving having seen it up close. So much so that I deliberately avoided open water diving just in case I was ever tempted to take it underground! I used to see the 'stars' of the day in places like the Hill Inn and they seemed like supermen to me as a youngster. A few years back I came across Oliver Statham's grave by accident in the churchyard at Cowgill near Dent. A very basic and moving memorial. Despite some near misses early in his cave diving career (especially the one in Boreham Cave) he took his own life at the tragically early age of 27. You can see the original 'Underground Eiger' film from 1978 on YouTube where he and Geoff Yeadon make the original Keld Head connection through the Dead Man's Handshake.
> Florida has enormous fresh water springs that don't involve actual dry caving to reach or explore and are much larger with clear visibility. I sometimes carried kit for cave divers pushing in the Dales and thought ' not for me '.
Indeed - last time I was in Florida, we were swimming* at Blue Spring State Park and a load of divers suddenly appeared out of a spring at the bottom of a pool.
* hoped to see manatee, but a bit out of season for them - we did see an alligator, though.
>were non swimmers
Wait a sec, they dive in caves but they couldn't swim in a swimming pool? That's pretty funny to me, but also kinda interesting. I've always been put off sea diving due to being a terrible swimmer.
This is news to me that you don't need to be able to swim, to be able to dive.
It was more about pulling yourself through a flooded cave passage using a guide rope than ‘diving’ as such…so you just needed to have a reasonable breath holding ability. Not massively difficult but you had to be fairly confident in a cave environment and losing the line wasn’t an option.
This dive was in a cave, but in this case all the difficulty and hazard is associated with the depth. 250m is extreme by any measure.
Holiday scuba is 20m. Experienced recreational scuba is 30m. 'Technical' mixed-gas scuba on deep wrecks in the UK is 30-70m. Individual very deep dives using mixed-gas rebreathers that take a lot of planning and project teams could be in the 90-120m range. Things like the Lusitania off Ireland or the Britannic in the Adriatic. There are a handful of divers in the UK operating at this level.
On very deep dives, every part of the mixed-gas, breathing mixture has the potential to kill you.
Oxygen, humans normally breathe a partial pressure of 0.21bar (21% of atmospheric pressure). It becomes toxic above 1.4-1.6bar and hypoxic below 0.21bar. Hence you can't breathe normal air below about 60m. At 250m, you'd need to get the 02 in the breathing gas somewhere between 1% & 5%. A mix that would be fatal shallow or on the surface.
Nitrogen causes narcosis (confusion / stupor) at depth. This needs replacing with Helium, which is more inert in this sense.
Both helium & nitrogen become dissolved in all body tissues at depth. Helium in particular is a small molecule and diffuses quickly and easily. It dissolves in fat, brain, nerves, cartilage, bones, everywhere. The ascent from depth must be carried out in a very controlled way and using a whole range of different gases to flush or this dissolved gas out before it forms bubbles in bad places. (Decompression sickness / the bends).
It is quite surprising to consider Dave Shaw was doing a working dive to 250m after only 5 years & 333 dives.
A typical diver progression from open water scuba diving into cave diving training seen in Florida / Mexico would start in the 200+ dives range. Similar, or more dives, for technical mixed gas diving. The better instructors in both disciplines would have thousands of dives under their belt.
UK CDG cave divers approach diving from a different direction with different techniques (solo and streamlined kit for cave access), but would again be doing hundreds of smaller dives before starting mixed gas or extended range diving.
Anyway, if you want to understand why people cave dive for the sake of it (rather than passing sumps as is the norm in the uk) you could check-out these videos :
Reading this thread reminds me of Rob Parker who was instrumental in the setting up of one of the earliest indoor climbing walls in the UK - Undercover Rock in Bristol.
He was also one of the leading cave divers in the world and tragically lost his life whilst doing so.
Googled it and it was 25 years ago. Blimey, time flies...
You're making me want to get back into the water....
Never done cave diving but was comfortable in the 60-65m range, our deepest dive being to 70m. Diving open circuit we just couldn't carry enough gas to get anywhere near our qualification depth of 100m.
Our passion was wrecks, nothing quite like exploring a site that has never been dived before. Obviously different hazards to caves, but same issue of being unable to surface and having to deal with any problems whilst underwater.
Can still see my instructor telling us in an seriousness that with technical service it's not if you get bent but when, those words rang especially loud when after a 52m dive on air whilst on holiday I developed course signs of a bend. Five sessions in a recompression chamber before I was allowed to fly home - thank goodness I was fully insured!
> Thanks for the link to the youtube item.
> I've read two of Adam Shoalts' books - "Alone Against the North" and "Beyond the Trees" (the second is his account of the long Arctic trek in the youtube link). He is certainly an 'interesting' guy and there's plenty of understated jeopardy in his accounts. If you are into kayaking and wilderness survival stories they'll suit your taste. Both books are classic lone adventurer fare and worth a read and are available from second hand websites as well as Amazon.
Aha, glad someone found this. He seemed like a very capable and likeable chap. I particularly enjoyed the bit in the link where he gave a pep talk to his equipment about coping with the disappointment of having to wait for the ice to break up to cross one of the rivers (Mackenzie?) - solo expeditions!
> I wonder if you and I ever passed each other (in the Dales) down a cave, in Bernie's or a pub etc? We're the same age and I was an active caver from 16 to my mid-forties. I'm certainly of the same opinion regarding cave diving having seen it up close. So much so that I deliberately avoided open water diving just in case I was ever tempted to take it underground! I used to see the 'stars' of the day in places like the Hill Inn and they seemed like supermen to me as a youngster. A few years back I came across Oliver Statham's grave by accident in the churchyard at Cowgill near Dent. A very basic and moving memorial. Despite some near misses early in his cave diving career (especially the one in Boreham Cave) he took his own life at the tragically early age of 27. You can see the original 'Underground Eiger' film from 1978 on YouTube where he and Geoff Yeadon make the original Keld Head connection through the Dead Man's Handshake.
I did most of my caving from 1983 to early 90s (especially 86-89 while we were based in Bristol). I remember hearing about Oliver Statham's chillingly technically perfect suicide, and heard Martyn Farr's lecture on Dead Man's Handshake (can't remember whether that was at Birmingham or Bristol).
Some of my experiences with University club expeditions persuaded me that caving could be dangerous enough, without involving diving. I remember one trip down Simpson's Pot and out through the Valley Entrance, which should have been pretty simple - except this was in February following a big melt of snow and the streamway was rapidly filling with water. I remember people falling off ladders, having catch people jumping into the stream so they didn't immediately get washed away and fighting to get people up the ladder at the Valley entrance without them being swept on to the Great Beyond...
I did a few mad things like abbing into GG Main on a climbing figure of 8 (it is quite a long way, isn't it?) but eventually we fell in with people who actually knew what they were doing in Bristol and it became a regular midweek evening activity when it was too dark to climb. Swildon's was a favourite, but esoterica like Lionel's Hole could be quite memorable too (so muddy, and no running water to clean anything... like the map, or headlamps).
I miss those optimistic midweek trips where we would set off for a quick round trip down Swildon's before a pint in the Queen Vic, only to end up in some epic involving being on the wrong side of the Black Hole, with the rope on the other, or having an inch of airspace (as long as no-one else got into the pool at the end) on the Long Wet round trip. Rarely got a pint, often ended up in a mixed group of naked people on Priddy Green at 3 in the morning. Happy days!
I can relate to all of that! My few Mendip forays were always during Easter weekends and always under the influence of cider. Did some fantastic trips including the horrible little duck in Stoke Lane Slocker (it was worth it though). Some years ago I came across an abandoned farmhouse not too far away from where Oliver Statham died. There were signs that a caver/diver had once lived or stayed there (wetsuit, old divers weights, an old caving poster mouldering away on the floor). It was very poignant, if not bordering on the eerie.
> Indeed - last time I was in Florida, we were swimming* at Blue Spring State Park and a load of divers suddenly appeared out of a spring at the bottom of a pool.
> * hoped to see manatee, but a bit out of season for them - we did see an alligator, though.
Not normally seen in Yorkshire sumps! I do recall examples of inflatable toys being left in sump airbells though.
Even in sea water, what actual "swimming" do you do? sure you need to be able to kick your legs as a fin kick (most basic) that's not "swimming". Actually learning to *Not* swim with arms is a beginner skill
In theory they make someone swim 20 lengths in a pool before they'll accept them, but I'm not sure if any PADI course abroad has ever done that? Many training schools abroad have no access to a pool.
I'm not saying not being a competent swimmer is helpful, especially if you need to rescue others, but for something basic like PADI scuba diver on holiday with an instructor guiding, someone could enjoy some lovely holiday diving and never actually swim particularly well.
My one trip down Swildons was in winter and we emerged in the dark to fresh snow, sopping wet of course. Where were the car keys? In the drystone wall! Sadly the drystone wall was under a layer of snow and identifying the right nook was non-trivial. In the Hunters after I spent some time inside the fireplace trying to warm up.
> Wait a sec, they dive in caves but they couldn't swim in a swimming pool? That's pretty funny to me, but also kinda interesting. I've always been put off sea diving due to being a terrible swimmer.
I had a period where I did a lot of sea kayaking including some fairly long crossings and serious passages, and around the same time did a PADI intro in an indoor facility (near Munich for anyone who knows it) and I could barely swim a breadth of a pool at the time.
Swimming didn't seem high on the radar at the time, unless it was the ability to swim for many miles in a rough sea.
The book about Bushman's Hole is called Diving into Darkness: A True Story of Death and Survival. It's brilliant and tells you all about the technical aspects of diving to 250m - gas mixes, decompression etc etc.
Quite incredible. And a bit scary. And I used to cave a bit…
> Anyway, if you want to understand why people cave dive for the sake of it
As someone who's spent too much time watching Mr Ballen videos on youtube, I second the idea that cave diving is the absolute bottom of my list of things to ever do. Just below caving, and deep sea diving.
Knowing said underground passage, said Drystone wall, and said pub well, I found this a wonderful anecdote
Glad it made you smile.
Edited to add - thread juxto "Lost keys - Stanage Area", I wonder if they have checked the drystone wall?
Research carried out by surveyor Alan Dawson, owner of the Grahams hill list, suggests that Ordnance Survey maps - and the hundreds of guidebooks and websites that rely on them - list the wrong summit height for 'over half' the mountains...