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Junee Resurgence - Apr 2006

PARTICIPANTS: Paul Garske, David Apperley, Samir Alhafith

“CAN’T YOU FIND ME A BIG CAVE THAT HAS BIG PASSAGE SO I CAN USE MY TWIN REBREATHER AND MY SCOOTER?

... AND, HAS GIN CLEAR WATER SO MY 50WATT HID LIGHT IS USEFUL?

….AND, HAS WARM WATER SO I CAN STAY IN FOR HOURS?”

…“I WANT A CAVE WHERE I CAN USE ALL MY TOYS DAVE!!”

This was Paul’s comments after he and I did a dive in Tasmania’s Junee Cave at Christmas. While we would all love to dive a new cave like Paul described above, we have to settle for what we have.

Junee, on a good day has about 3-4mtr visibility, a water temp of 6-8 degrees Celsius, a flow of about 10 metres/minute, and several sections where a back mounted cylinder diver needs to bury their chest in the sand to get through.

The trip report below is of our short trip at Easter to see if we could get more comfortable with these conditions and possibly reach the exploration point, reached by Tim Payne and David Doulette in 2004.

Thursday 13th – Friday 14th

We had planned our departure from Sydney and arrival at Maydena (central Tasmania) down to the minute. This was our first mistake. Had everything gone according to plan we would have arrived at our camp site around 10.00pm Friday night. This would have allowed a dive in Junee on Saturday. Unfortunately, due to extremely bad weather the previous week, the “Spirit of Tasmania” ferry was running approximately 5 hours behind schedule. We departed Sydney harbour under a fantastically clear sky and city lights at about 12.30pm. The 22 hour journey to Devonport would mean our arrival would be around 9.30pm the following night. For those who haven’t been on the Sydney to Tasmania ferry, it’s a great trip. All day Friday we watched the NSW coastline slowly slide behind while samir and I counted how many shipwrecks we were running over that we’d dived, and discussing how we would go about diving the undiscovered ones. Paul spent some of his time drawing up a new concept he had for a side mounted rebreather which was going to be incredibly streamlined. Probably the most spectacular sight of the voyage was watching a much defined weather front approach and pass over us as we crossed Bass Strait. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a long and defined cloud bank!!

Upon to our late arrival into Devonport we were faced with a 4hr drive to Maydena. There was brief discussion as to maybe staying in Devonport and travelling down Saturday morning, however this was quickly squashed as time was short due to Samir and Paul having to fly home Monday night.

We arrived Maydena in the early hrs of Saturday morning and set up camp quickly and finally hit the pillow around 3.30am.

Saturday 15th

Obviously a sluggish start today and I thought it quite amusing that once we were all up and fed, the comment from all of us the day before of ,“My dive gear’s ready, it’ll only take me 30 minutes to get it ready.” This could not have been further from the truth. Myself included, had underestimated the time involved in sorting out large amounts of gear that had been packed into our trailer and car like “sprats” in a sardine tin. We finally headed toward Junee at about 3.00p.m.

Paul was diving his Twin rebreather, Samir had his standard Inspiration, bailout cylinders and video camera, and I had my Mk4 side mount unit with appropriate bailout as well . Before beginning to lugs 3 trips each worth of gear to the beginning of the sump (which is about 150 metres into Junee Cave), we thought we should check out the water level. Upon approaching the entrance I was fairly convinced the level was significantly lower than our Christmas trip. This was encouraging as water flow would be lower too. The measuring device located just inside the cave read 270mm.

The next 1 hour or so was spent carrying all the equipment to the first sump, positioning it away from water level in case of pulse flooding (this rarely occurs when large amounts of rain has occurred in the Junee catchment). By this time it was around 5.30pm and discussions were had as to whether we dive tonight or put it off until tomorrow. Either way we looked at it we thought that Paul and Samir would only be able to do one dive before their departure on Monday so the decision was made to get a good nights sleep and start fresh tomorrow.

On our return to the camp we stopped in at “National Park” pub and found the locals very keen to have a chat. The first comment from one of them did sound a little intimidating however. “Oh shit, no-one else is here, I’ll have to talk to the bloody tourists” was the opening comment from one of them. Luckily we talked about the area and local cavers for the next few hours, leaving with contact details of locals, stories of Junee in flood, and our wallets still intact (they were trying to sell us the pub!!)

Sunday 16th

Better start to the day and we entered the cave at approx 10.00am. Having all the gear at sump one was a bonus. Anyone who’s done cold water diving will realize the tedious process of putting on all your equipment. I think from start to finish it takes me about 20 minutes!! Once geared up I said to the guys that I was going to float around in the entrance pond for 5 minutes and if everyone was in order with the side-mount rebreather then I would meet them in the air chamber, aptly named “For your eyes only”. The first sump is approximately 200 metres long with a maximum depth of 18 metres. My dive through this sump was a total contrast to the first dive I’d had at Christmas. I ambled along, having plenty of time to get a good look at it, noticing plenty of areas that I’d never seen before. The first dive I’d had was on my twin rebreather, and due to its bulk and the higher current flow at Christmas, I had one of “those” dives where you feel it’s just a continual battle. My back mounted 7ltrs and side-mount rebreather made any awkward spot, not seem like one.

I exited the sump into “For your eyes only” about 27 minutes later. After stashing my gear in a safe spot, I thought I’d lug one of my bailout cylinders up to the second sump (I also love that chamber and wanted to have another look at it quickly).

Previously I had read from either Stephan Eberhard or Tim Payne’s reports that tearing drysuits in this cave was a very strange reality. I had ripped my seal at Christmas upon exiting the cave so knew very well the jaggedness and sharpness of this rock. I kept telling myself all the way through this chamber to be careful, tread carefully, don’t jump, watch where you put your arms etc etc. To explain the walking area of the chamber. A fast flowing river runs through the floor and this is the only place where a person can walk. It varies in depth from 2 feet up to about 6 feet. When in the shallow sections you have to tread carefully on razor sharp jagged rocks while dealing with very high flow. When in the deeper sections it becomes quite difficult to make headway against the flow due to loss of footing.

So, on my return, still being as careful as I could, I stepped into a hole I wasn’t ready for. Instantly expletives started flowing form my mouth, I knew exactly what had happened as I felt my right foot being to feel the 8 degree water. I couldn’t believe it!! I thought “Bugger me!, next time I won’t try to be careful and I’ll probably have more luck”.

So I wandered back down to sump one and waited for the others to arrive.

Being productive I thought I’d use this time to make the lads a cup of soup for their arrival. We’d taken in a dry tube with energy bars, small cooker and soup. Luckily I’d wrapped the lighter and matches in a snap lock bag as the “not so dry Tube” was “not so dry”. Oh well, I’d only used it once before in Cocklebiddy about three years ago and hadn’t checked it since.

Paul and Samir arrived and we warmed up with the soup as Samir told us of his dive through Sump 1.

I get the impression he thought about dumping the camera as it’s bulk and the fact it took two hands to drive made his dive a bit like my first, “a continual battle”.

I decided there was not much point me diving sump two today due to the fact that at this point every 3 or 4 thought was how I could keep my leaking foot out of that cold water. Samir decided he’d sit this one out due to the effort he’d had getting through sump one. It must be mentioned that while some may think this “soft” and that the diver should “harden up”, I personally commend those decisions people make just because “everything’s not right”. It’s easy to forget when getting caught up in the hype of a “new” (to us) cave that we were actually there to “have fun!”

Paul was happy to have a quick look at the second sump on his own so Samir and I helped him carry some gear to the other end of the chamber (we tried not to be too much help however J).

I found a nice little area to lie down up at sump two and thaw out my foot. Samir helped Paul gear up and soon enough we watched his lights disappear into the gloom.

About 40mins later he returned. He’d had a dive to 40 metrs on his fairly bulky Twin loop. I was surprised at this as I was under the impression there was a low bit at 30 metres. Probably the biggest disappointment was that it had taken him 26 minutes to get to this point. We had generously been given a copy of Dave and Tim’s dive from their computer previously and noted they had taken about 16 mins to get to the deepest point of the sump. Our bailout plans had been based around this. These guys must’ve really had their shit together. Familiarity with the cave set up dives and good technique must have enabled them to do this.

We began the slow plod back to sump one, Samir videoing the 3-4 metre long straws and 5 metre shawls that made this air chamber so beautiful.

The others were ready to go a bit before me so I said I’d see them on the other side. I was organizing what gear I would leave here for my dive on Tuesday (I was staying on in Tassie until Thursday.)

I geared up and began my dive about 10 minutes after they’d left. As I descended to about 3 metres my usually technique is to look at the electronics display of my rebreather. I noticed the readings incredibly erratic. Instantly I knew something was not right. Upon closer inspection I could see a fairly substantial amount of water in my electronics housing. Then I noticed the sheathing that housed the electronics cabling had broken right at the cable gland. Having an electronics flood in a rebreather is not the end of the world. I could exit the cave on open circuit, however utilizing the rebreather is the most efficient option. Semi Closed operation is possible where I could exit using about 1/3 less gas than if I was open circuit. I decided this was not ideal. I wanted to dive for the rest of the trip with this gas so didn’t want to use it unless I absolutely had to. The other option was one which I have practiced many times over the years on the various other units I’ve owned. That is, to drive the unit manually, adding enough O2 not to become hypoxic yet not too much as to become hyperoxic. By practice and repetition, a diver can become aware of how often they need to add O2 throughout the dive. I chose this option as I was confident in my practice and also the dive was short and not too deep.

All went according to plan, however no matter how much you’ve practiced something, when you need to do it for real the adrenalin still flows. After a quick 17minute dive out I exited feeling very happy that the “theory and practice” had saved me from unnecessarily wasting gas.

We lugged Paul and samir’s gear out that night and by the time we arrived back at the car it had been a 12hr day underground.

A good day had by all.

Monday 17th

The morning revolved around Paul and Samir packing and drying their gear, as they were flying out that evening. I spent the morning repairing the tear in my drysuit and then repairing the broken electronics hose. It’s a wonderful thing, fresh water, it doesn’t ruin your electronics like salt does.J Due to the fact we had to leave for Hobart around 4.00pm, we decided to have a look at another resurgence in the area, called Lawrence Rivulet. Tim and Stephan had given us instructions on how to get there but for those who have ever spent any time in large forestry areas you’d know that even the best topographical is not close to being accurate. We drove about 5 km past where we should have turned off, before realizing. Finally we found where we should be. Very considerate for them to put names of roads on the maps, however some sort of signpost on the roads would also help too!! The area was fairly dense rain forest, a very picturesque setting indeed. We quickly found a reasonable size stream only 50 odd metres from the road and followed it upstream to find the source of the water. The stream appeared to flow out of and incredible tangle of fallen trees with small areas you could squeeze past. This was definitely the spot. I was really excited about this. Significant water flow was emerging and coupled with the memory of Stephan’s article which mentioned the source of this underground stream was 3.5 km away!! This cave had big potential.

Time was short and soon enough we were back in the car and heading for Hobart to drop off the lads.

Tuesday18th

Another dive in Junee was in store for me today. I arrived at the cave about 9.30 am and had a quick journey to sump one. Only having to carry my side mount and drysuit meant only one trip in.

Sump one dive once again was very enjoyable. I stopped on occasion to have a good look at how the line was laid and certain sections that needed to be passed in certain ways to allow no hassle. As mentioned to us in previous reports the line in this sump is laid to avoid rubbing and breakage from flow. It has withstood the test of time as it is the same line that I followed when I first dived Junee in 1996. I also noted to myself that, as the text books say, “There is no substitute for familiarity”. Regardless of the fact that line was already in this cave I still felt that I’d needed 2 or 3 dives to be totally comfortable with it. Poor vis, jagged twisting passage and reasonable flow mean most people who dive this site should take the time to get comfortable with it.

My dive times through the first sump showed that too. I found this dive that even though I felt I’d taken my time, I completed this sump in 23mins. The dive at Christmas had taken me 40!

Once in the air chamber I began the slow process of carrying my gear to sump 2. It only took 2 trips as I’d staged a bottle up there the previous dive.

Gearing up for the sump two dive took just about as long as sump one, trying to put on dry gloves with latex seals on one’s own is a test of one’s patience!!

Sump 2 stays fairly flat for the first 50mtrs or so and it takes a while before you start to gain any depth quickly. I found going against the current a bit more difficult in this sump for some reason. It appears bigger than sump one so flow should have been less. I also felt underweighted on this dive (probably more due to the flow than anything else) I managed to get to 30 metres in 15mins and felt I needed a rest. Sitting and contemplating whether I should go on I decided to turn around. I realized that I wouldn’t be doing any big push or depth today, being in the cave on my own and also due to the unfamiliarity of this sump. Probably getting “soft” in my old age. J Anyway, the cave wasn’t going anywhere…. Only getting bigger!

My return trip with the flow was just as uncomfortable as going in. I made a mental not to self to wear more weight for this dive as doing any sort of decompression would have been a pain in the butt!.

Exited sump two, comfortable with knowing I’d had a fair look at the beginning sections and a lot more prepared for a bigger dive next time.

Transporting gear back to sump one was uneventful, however I made sure I stopped on numerous occasions to soak up the environment I was in. This chamber is indescribable to those who haven’t been there. The thousands of straws that decorate this ceiling reflect light to look like a dripping chandelier. (Maybe I just like straws, I dunno)

Exiting sump one with twin back mount 7L’s , a side-mount rebreather, a 9L stage, a 400mmx 150mm dry tube, tarps and cave bags took me just 11mins!!! Exiting this cave was getting easier and easier.

Still not out of the cave I made 4 trips to bring my gear and the remaining tarps, etc back to the car. I did not the water level on the measuring device at the cave entrance as I had forgotten to look on the way in. I read 320mm! The water level had risen 50mm and may have explained why I felt uncomfortable in the second sump. In say that however, it should be noted that this level would still not be considered high so setting myself up to dive in these conditions was the way forward.

Wednesday 19th

A relaxing day this morning as I mucked around at the campsite setting up some side mount 7L’s for a quick dive in Lawrence rivulet.

Arrived at the resurgence and quickly geared up next to the stream. Entry to this dive is in a tiny pool and then a quick submerged duck under a large fallen tree. I then found myself in a small pool with a roof made up of fallen logs etc. Easy to stand up in and work out where the dive started. I stuck my head underwater and noticed flow coming from a hole in the left hand wall. It had a large mound of mud piled in one corner and I thought I could squeeze thru this hole however decide to sit and dig out the mud to make life easier on the return. After about two minutes of digging I thought this mustn’t be the way. This mud had been there for years and others had dived this site and there was not sign of it being disturbed before. I surfaced, turned around, and literally 3 feet away was the obvious entrance to the cave ( D#ck Head!). It was a small squeeze between rock and another fallen log which typically had a small projection (old tree limb) sticking out in about the worst possible spot. (Another mental not to self: take bush saw and spend ½ a minute cutting it off). I went in feet first after tying off on another tree limb (the old line must’ve blown out). After much wriggling and grunting I popped into the below little room then proceeded to my left through another small duck under. The flow here was really strong. I continually had to hold one hand over my spare reg to stop it free flowing (I ended up turning the tank off) and keep my head tilted away from the flow to stop my primary reg free flowing. Adding to this I had to continually hold on to something to stop myself being blown backwards, this cave was living up to it’s Tasmanian reputation. At the next tie off point I could see good solid line laid by previous divers and decided to tie off and follow this to possibly enjoy a bit of the dive! J Moving slowly down a wide flattener it continued for possibly 20 metres where I decided to check my gas. I’d used a third of my only 3/4 full tanks (my second tank had lost a fair bit in free flows.)

Once again I thought I’d had enough. Better preparation in trips to come would allow me a much better look at this site as well. Returning, I secured my little bit of initial line run, in the hope that it would remain there thru the flooding season (it was 7mm poly propylene). A very quick exit through the first restriction was had and I had to ensure I lined myself up right to avoid being slammed into the cave wall. Exiting past that bloody log and into the entrance pond was a saga as I got hung up on the projection. (Definitely bringing that bush saw!!)

Dekitted, very excited about this cave. Surely one would think with this much flow; there must be some reasonable passage to be found. This cave has been dived to approx 17 metres depth and a restriction has been encountered. How small I’m not sure, however I’ll definitely be having a look.

Thursday 20th

Unfortunately pack up day today, I have a ferry to catch to Melbourne to catch up on a wreck diving trip out of southern NSW.

My ten hour trip across Bass Strait was perfect for me to start making lists of changes to the side mount (which I was very happy with its performance mind you) and various other subtle changes to my gear and planning to make the next trip a bit productive.

 

Images from the Trip

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