Dispatch from the Field- A Story from Below

The water level was low and the sump passageway was reported to have several feet of air at the entrance. It was decided to see how far down the sump passage we could go.

I hung out with the FSU Cave Club for a few years in the mid-80’s but never became a true Caver. This trip intrigued me though and I hauled my mask and dive light all the way back in there. As Juancho says and the link below shows, there is much crawling in Climax to get to the main passages and rooms. Three hours into it and we were ready to go sumping. Mostly, the water was chest high and there was 2 – 4’ of air above that. There were several spots where the roof and the water briefly met but hold your breath and take two steps and the passageway air is there again.

At one point, I noticed a submerged 3’ rounded hole on the side wall indicating another passage. I stuck my dive light in and could see it opened up. “Hold on” I said, “I’m going to poke my head in here for a peek a loo”. So I handed my helmet to Larry and donned my mask and breathed deep and went under. I could immediately see the passage ballooned out into a room that was about as big as a large mini-mart. Of course the water was crystal clear and it was an awesome site. I swam out into the middle of the room and gawked with my mouth shut at the stalactites and stalagmites (don’t ask me which is which). Back in those days, I could hold my breath across the Apalachicola bridge and halfway back.

It was time to breathe again so I turned around to swim back but to my dismay all I could see was a 20’ x 20’ cloud of silt and my destination was a 3’ opening somewhere behind it. I realized then that if I died, I friggin deserved it and if I lived, it was going to be at least two semesters before I did anything that stupid again. With about 5 seconds of air left in my lungs I figured I had one shot so I swam toward the middle with my arms outstretched. About 8’ into the silt cloud my hand collided with Mr. Cerro’s outstretched hand and he yanked me through the hole and up to air.

I had lived to drink another beer but no more stupid cave snorkeling forays for me. No sir, it was going to be asinine mountaineering moves or a car wreck before I danced with the Devil!


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