Scuba diving in a cave is much different from open water and cavern diving. While you have access to natural light with these types of diving, caves can get pretty dark. This is why you need the right equipment and experience to successfully explore caves as a diver. Even though most people dive for recreational purposes, cave diving is more technical. It is popularly done for research expeditions, although some people view it as a sport.
In fact, if you are a recreational diver who has no experience in cave diving whatsoever, you shouldn’t assume that diving in a cave will just be as smooth as open water diving. Moreover, whereas you might be quite familiar with the safety protocol employed in your typical diving endeavors, cave diving is a whole different ball game. If you don’t invest your time in learning how to do it right, the chances are that you may be handing yourself a death sentence.
On the other hand, scuba diving in a cave is an experience like no other. Some divers have described it as the closest feeling they will ever get to being in outer space. Deep underwater caves have a lot to offer. You get to see rare sea plantations and creatures that many people will never see. This why cave diving is appealing.
If you intend to dive in a cave at any stage of your life, you should know that as much as it is interesting and thrilling, it is also extremely risky.
So, why is it dangerous to scuba dive in a cave?
It is a form of penetration diving
In most diving emergencies you can at least swim vertically as you try to find safety. But what if there is a cave ceiling preventing you from doing so? Swimming vertically is no longer a viable option. You need to find an opening that leads out of the cave. This is quite challenging, especially when you are panicked and can barely think straight.
There are myriad challenges that arise when you are submerged underwater and in grave danger. First of all, the exit of the cave may be quite a distance from where you are held up. Secondly, your oxygen tank may run out, depending on how much time has elapsed since you got into the water.
While you may enjoy good visibility with both open water diving and cavern diving, caves get quite dark and creepy. The visibility in underwater caves varies between low to non-existent. In addition, you may experience some good degree of natural light in some parts of the cave whereas you have to contend with utter darkness in some. Imagine being thousands of feet under and you have to navigate without a glimmer of natural light at times.
In such circumstances, artificial lighting is essential. If anything was to happen to the lighting, you would be in grim danger. Moreover, there are other elements in underwater caves that can interfere with your visibility even when you have the right gear and lighting equipment. Some of these elements include sand, silt, mud and other forms of sediment. These can jeopardize visibility, especially when you really need it to navigate a treacherous area.
When silt is accidentally stirred up, you are likely to be in a precarious situation as a diver. Open water diving gives you a lot of options to evade the silt and proceed. However, these options are limited in a cave, making it more dangerous.
Source: Cave diving strong current
It is normal to encounter currents in large water bodies. This is a necessary evil for anyone who surfs, swims or scuba dives. It is also something that most people underestimate. Nevertheless, water currents are a force of nature to be reckoned with. From a physical perspective, water currents are eminently demanding. If you ever have to contend with these forces, rest assured you will feel completely helpless.
What makes it worse for a diver is that it’s difficult to estimate both the speed and the impact of the current. In addition, currents are known to accelerate the rate at which you use air while in water. If you are caught by a strong current while exploring an underwater cave, you will be cornered. The current works against any effort you put towards saving yourself, leaving you with no choice but to succumb.
Facing the wrath of water currents is one of the most unpleasant experiences you can ever come across when scuba diving in a cave. A current that is about 1 knot can result in a flooded mask, taking away your visibility. If it’s stronger than that, you can be swept away and driven to wherever it leads you. Let’s say you survive that, you will need to regain your desired position. If you are stranded and have to find your way, time will be ticking and your air will diminish drastically. This can, in turn, reduce your chances of ever finding safety alive.
This is another somewhat overlooked danger of scuba diving in a cave. Nevertheless, it is a real danger. Getting lost anywhere is a thrilling adventure, especially if you can easily ask for help and find your back. People get lost all the time while exploring new countries, towns, cities and so on. However, if you get lost while in a cave underwater, it wouldn’t even equate to your worst nightmare.
Instead, you would be struggling to find your way out with limited resources in terms of air. More so, you are likely to panic.
Scuba diving in a cave is also regarded as a dangerous adventure as it’s easy to accidentally get trapped between rocks. This occurs mostly when you tread on unfamiliar grounds. No matter how experienced a diver is, unfortunate things happen due to the complexity of underwater caves. There is always that possibility of swimming through the opening of a cave and never coming back.
The air supply is a delicate aspect of cave diving. Different people use varying levels of air. You also don’t want to go into a cave too heavy. Since this is an intense activity, especially when navigating complex caves, you can be under immense stress. It is therefore difficult predicting just how much air you will need and in case you get that wrong, there is the danger of drowning hovering over your shoulder.
The other air supply element that comes into play is the mixture of gases. The partial pressure of a gas is a factor that affects various types of scuba diving, and cave diving is no exception. Excess oxygen, as well as nitrogen, makes the situation even more sensitive for divers. If you add other underlying factors such as extremely cold water and the nature of your movement, which may drain your energy physically, the risk becomes even greater.
Normally, there are safety protocols that are used in scuba diving. Although there are communication methods used to communicate emergencies by scuba divers, the rescue process itself can be complicated. For example, it may prove difficult to find someone who has been trapped in a cave and probably lost lighting as well as communication.
In addition, there are not many well-trained rescuers for saving scuba divers who find themselves in precarious situations when scuba diving in caves. In some cases, experts have to be flown across states and countries for a rescue mission. This could take hours and the rescue mission itself could stretch to several days.
If you compare this to ordinary scenarios which involve simple rescue procedures in swimming, scuba diving in caves easily occupies a top spot as the most dangerous sport.
Cave diving and safety
Regardless of the dangers associated with scuba diving in caves, nothing has ever deterred the curiosity of men to explore the universe. This is why treasures have been discovered in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Additionally, research is an important aspect of cave diving. This is however not the only reasons why people turn into scuba diving enthusiasts.
There you go- the above answers the question- “why is it dangerous to scuba dive in a cave?” But since it is a fun activity with lots to offer, enthusiasts can scuba dive into the most dangerous caves just for the fun of it. In short, people are not about to cease doing it. This is why there are extensive safety measures put in place for diving in caves.
It is said that most cave diving fatalities are as a result of not complying with all the set-out safety measures coupled with a lack of proper training and experience. While there are not enough statistics to ascertain this, any cave diver would understand the risk involved.
Despite the numerous safety measures for cave diving, divers should stay within their own limits. This means that one should dive as far as their training allows. If you follow these great rules, you probably will never have to fight for your dear life deep in an underwater cave.
The beauty in cave diving is out of this world. Those who have done it successfully are always craving for more. The only way to experience it is to actually do it. Now that you know of all the possible dangers, you can make an informed decision of whether to do it or not.