July was another incredible month filled with great people and outstanding diving. July 1st found me wrapping up my cavern and intro cave diving certifications with Jill Heinerth in High Springs, FL. I had met Jill at Beneath the Sea in New Jersey, but upon my arrival in High Springs, Wes Skiles arranged for me to join one of Jill’s rebreather cave courses (on open circuit) for the first few days in order to start my cave training. Jill was a terrific instructor, and I was totally hypnotized by the beauty of Florida’s karst systems. Once I had completed my certification, Wes invited me to accompany some of his divers on a project near Tallahassee. Wes’ business partner Pete Butts took me along with Tom Morris and Mark Long to Mariana, FL to collect data and water samples from several springs and caves in Merritt’s Pond. Pete, Tom and Mark also brought me along on a project in Silver Springs, a cave system that is usually illegal to dive in. Since we were working on a contract for the state we were given special permission to dive into Silver Spring to measure the output of the spring. Historically the spring has averaged 500 million gallons per day, making it the largest spring in North America by output volume.
Between working on projects with the boys from Karst Environmental I spent several weeks shooting pictures, surfing, diving, and exploring the springs of Florida with Wes and his family. They were incredibly hospitable and it was difficult for me to leave them behind.
The Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City was my next stop after leaving High Springs. I met up with JR Hott, who took me on a terrific full-day tour of the EDU. We began by observing a series of dives that were being conducted in the Navy’s wet chamber for dive table evaluation. I had a chance to see all of the chambers and facilities on the base, meet divers and scientists, and get an inside look at some of the work that’s going on at the EDU. I also got to visit Mike Ward at Dive Lab, an R&D facility that’s associated with Kirby Morgan and develops specialized equipment for military and special warfare divers. Mike and one of the other Dive Lab employees, Rocky, gave me a personalized tour that culminated in the opportunity to test dive a prototype Kirby Morgan MK 77 surface supplied diving helmet. It was my first hands-on introduction to surface supplied diving.
After visiting Panama City, I was on my way back up to North Carolina to visit DAN in Durham. I had a chance to meet back up with my friends Eric, Donna, Bryan, Ken, Dan and Betty, as well as go through a number of DAN instructor courses. I also met up with Kim Malkoski, the Boston Rover Scalli Scholar. Both of us had volunteered to participate in a flying after diving at the Duke University hyperbaric chambers. The PI for the study was Dr. Neal Pollock, who has been examining the risks associated with flying after hyperbaric exposures. It was a great way to see how physiological research concerning diving is being conducted today. Eric, Donna and Dan and Betty Orr were all very gracious hosts and opened their homes to me during my time in Durham. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them again at DEMA.
I ended my month with a few days at home, unpacking and recovering from my trip through the southeast US and preparing to leave for Europe. Only August first I’ll begin my trip to Europe with a course in København!