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    Dans Cave, Bahamas

    Cave Diving from the Bahamas
    (Runtime 14:31)

    July 2007

    Videographers: Marc Laukien, Brian Kakuk

    Dive Guide: Brian Kakuk
    Second Diver: Howard Packer
    Third Diver: Marc Laukien
    Editor: Marc Laukien






    from Perrone Ford on Vimeo.
    Last edited by Curt Bowen; 4th December 2008 at 14:04.

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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    You can find the trip report for this video here.

    Fantastic Voyage to Wrigley Field
    By Marc Laukien
    July 2007



    Brian didn’t exaggerate: the room is gigantic. Despite a breathtaking 300 feet of visibility, I cannot fathom where it ends. I feel like floating in space.

    Welcome to “Wrigley Field,” a huge cavern in Dan’s Cave, recently discovered by cave explorer Brian Kakuk. This is the last dive of the three best days of diving in my life: a 2,800 feet long and up to 145 feet deep dive that lasts for over three hours, including an hour of decompression. Fewer people have seen this room than men have walked the moon.

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is a trip report, so let’s step back and start from the beginning.

    I first read about Brian Kakuk’s “Bahamas Underground” in Advanced Diver Magazine just over a year ago. Bahamas Underground is located in Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island. Marsh Harbour is a small town of only 5,000 people, yet it is the third largest town in the Bahamas. I have been in Abaco several times for open water diving and family vacation. What I didn’t know was that Abaco has the finest cave diving on the planet. I had heard about the many blue holes on Andros and the Lucaya Caverns on Grand Bahama, but I never considered Abaco a cave diving destination.

    Marsh Harbour is a nine-hour boat ride away from where I live in Florida. There are also several flights leaving from various Florida airports to Marsh Harbour every day, but I prefer to take my boat. My 26-foot Glacier Bay power catamaran, customized for diving, is a small boat for such a long trip, but the ocean is very calm in July.

    I initially wanted to do this trip last year, but I had to cancel twice. The first time my boat was not ready, and the second time the weather turned bad and we couldn’t safely cross the Gulf Stream.

    A lot had changed since last year. First, I had transitioned from open circuit diving to rebreather diving. Second, my cave diving buddy from last year had to move back to Europe, and therefore couldn’t join me on this trip. Thankfully, my change to rebreather diving brought me many new dive buddies, among them Howard Packer (aka “ScubaDadMiami” on Rebreatherworld), who was excited at the opportunity to join me on this trip.

    Going by boat had the advantage that we could take a lot of gear with us: two Optima rebreathers, two 40cf deco and four 80cf bailout bottles, scrubber, an extra set of rebreather bottles, dive lights, video camera, dive suits, essential tools, and so on—my small boat was packed! I had already taken care of preparing the boat a few days before the trip (to check the engines, the boat electronics, and so on), so on the day of our departure, at 4am in the morning, all that was left to do was to store all our gear, and off we went… or so we thought.

    Well, we had made it about halfway across the Gulf Stream, as I suddenly heard my port engine roaring. The RPMs went through the roof, so I quickly shut down the engine. After some investigation (in the middle of the ocean), we found that, for no apparent reason whatsoever, we had spun the hub of my left engine’s prop. We had only one option left, to slowly go back to Florida—on a single engine. It took us one and a half hours to get halfway across the Gulf Stream, but nearly five hours to get home again. We were both extremely frustrated. Was this to be the end of our trip?

    But we didn’t give up so quickly. It was Sunday, with all repair shops closed, but we were lucky: my Glacier Bay dealer was in his office, and he had a spare prop in stock. So off we went up Route 95, picked up the prop, drove back to my place again, and pulled my boat up a muddy beach off the Intracoastal Waterway, where we exchanged the faulty prop.

    Since it was late, and we didn’t want to arrive in Marsh Harbour in the middle of the night, we decided to leave the next morning. This time, the ride was flawless, and we arrived tired but safely in Marsh Harbour. Having waited for a grumpy immigration officer for a while, and then carried all our gear into our hotel room, we were ready for an early dinner and a good night’s sleep.

    Brian picked us up the next morning. We first went to his shop, where he collected his Megladon rebreather. Brian’s dive shop is well equipped. He has a lot of gear available for rent, backmount rigs, sidemount rigs, and even a Megladon rebreather. Of course, he also has a well-maintained fill station, O2 tanks with booster, and everything else the technical diver needs.

    Brian is a very experienced diver and cave explorer. Besides guiding dives for “tourists” like us, he also does a lot of research work for the Bahamian government, and has worked for film productions such as “The Cave” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” He also taught Nitrox diving to Jessica Alba while being dive safety officer for the production of “Into the Blue”. On top of all this experience, Brian is also a very nice person, and a pleasure to dive with.

    After we left Brian’s shop, we went straight for our first dive in Dan’s Cave. Getting into the basin with dive gear is very easy, even without the permanent steps that you find at Florida caves. It didn’t take us long to gear up and to enter the cave.

    I have seen pictures of decorated caves before, but nothing prepared me for what I encountered after passing the halocline. I was completely in awe of the beauty of this cave. Never in my life had I seen anything like this. And it just kept getting better and better while Brian guided us deeper into the cave. The visibility was breathtaking (I didn’t even know that water was physically able to produce 300 feet of visibility), and there was no flow whatsoever. We saw thousands of stalagmites and stalactites, some as thin as a finger, others as thick as a giant sequoia tree. We saw large crystal formations in vibrant colors, and even the rock seemed to come in different variations, ranging from bright white and flat to red and spiky. The whole cave looked surreal, like from a fantasy movie. I truly had arrived in wonderland!

    Our second dive of the day lead us to another section of Dan’s Cave that was very different. It reminded me of an oversized version of Ginnie’s or Jackson Blue, with occasional stalagmites and stalactites and crystal formations. Also, there were fossils everywhere we looked. We completed a circuit with a maximum depth of 140 feet in a little bit over an hour. Dan’s Cave truly has many different faces!

    For the next day, I wanted to do a sea cave—my first. We had to start later because ocean caves are strongly influenced by tides. The water was much warmer than in the inland caves, so I only took a 3mm wetsuit. We waded for about 100 feet, and then swam another 100 feet, which brought us right on top of Broken Reel Cave. Broken Reel was a much tighter cave, and very silty, too. In some of the restrictions, visibility approached zero. However, it usually takes only a few minutes for visibility to clear up again because of the tidal flow and because the silt is quite coarse. We started our dive a little bit too late, so we had to fight the tidal flow twice, on our way in, and on our way out again.

    Ocean caves are very different from inland caves. Marine life is everywhere: lobsters (hundreds), crabs, fish, and all kinds of other critters. Reef gloves are a must because the rock is sharp and covered with sponges. Broken Reel Cave is not nearly as beautiful as Dan’s Cave, but it is very different from all the inland caves I’ve seen, which made the dive a wonderful experience.

    Our second dive of the day was dedicated to taking video in Dan’s Cave. We took the same passages as during our first dive. At the time of this writing, I am editing the video, and will soon make it available for download. Stay tuned!

    This brings me to our last day of diving, again in Dan’s Cave. Brian tells us that he just recently has discovered a huge room that he named “Wrigley Field”. Wrigley Field is 2,800 feet from the cave entrance, at depths up to 145 feet. This makes it Howard’s and my longest and most challenging cave dive ever. We plan the dive thoroughly: Brian draws the approximate dive profile from his memory, and I punch the numbers into V-Planner to calculate our bailout plan. We take two 80cf bailout bottles each, one of which we drop about halfway to our destination. We also stage two 100% O2 and one 70% O2 bottle near the entrance.

    While long, the swim to Wrigley Field is everything but boring. The cave just keeps getting better and better the farther we go. The columns grow to the height of multi-story buildings. A few times, I think that we have reached Wrigley Field already because the rooms are so large, but Brian keeps going. There are more, larger rooms to come.

    Finally we are there. My light cannot penetrate to the walls. Only after swimming around for ten minutes do I start to grasp how large this room really is. This is truly the crowning dive of the most wonderful dive trip I ever made. During the hour of decompression at the end of the dive, the only thought in my mind is when I can come back again for more.

    Our three days of diving are over way too fast, and after a good dinner with Brian and some of his fellow explorers, it’s time to say goodbye. We are heading home the next day but, in our minds, we are still at Wrigley Field.
    Last edited by Curt Bowen; 4th December 2008 at 15:55.

  3. #3
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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    nice video and trip report....

    I'm headed to Abaco tomorrow for some caving with Brian. I've known Brian for about ten years now...world class diver & colleague, and he doesnt hesitate to share his knowledge and experience. Anyone that wants a unique cave experience...Bahamas is it. Deep fractures, nicely decorated, fossils, lots of undiscovered passageway - and entire caves. Previously I've worked in the Exumas with marginal support, but As far as I know, Bahamas Underground is really the only place set up in the region that is dedicated for technical cave diving.

    will post some photo/video when I return.
    Last edited by OceanOpportunity; 4th December 2008 at 18:59.

  4. #4

    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    Nice video and trip report. I lived down there for a short while but want to get back for some vacation fun cave dive time.

    Bobby

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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    My God it's beautiful.

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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    Thanks for the great video and trip report Marc.

    So I guess this cave was formed dry and the sea levels rose and flooded it after the ice age, like the Yucatan, right? Have you dived any of the Yucatan caves and if so, in what ways are they different?

    What was the water temp in the freshwater sections? -Andy

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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    Quote Originally Posted by silent running  View Original Post
    Thanks for the great video and trip report Marc.

    So I guess this cave was formed dry and the sea levels rose and flooded it after the ice age, like the Yucatan, right? Have you dived any of the Yucatan caves and if so, in what ways are they different?

    What was the water temp in the freshwater sections? -Andy
    Yes, all of the decorated caves used to be dry caves (otherwise stalagmites and stalactites could not have formed). The freshwater layer is only about 30' or so, after that, it's all saltwater. The temperature was about 76F if I remember correctly. There is virtually no flow, and the viz is in the 300' range (yes, that's not a typo).

    I never dove the Yucatan caves, unfortunately. The nice thing about Abaco (for me) is that I can reach it by boat.

    This is really a rather old trip report, that Curt reposted here. For more details, have a look at the original thread.

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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    Quote Originally Posted by MarcLaukien  View Original Post
    Yes, all of the decorated caves used to be dry caves (otherwise stalagmites and stalactites could not have formed). The freshwater layer is only about 30' or so, after that, it's all saltwater. The temperature was about 76F if I remember correctly. There is virtually no flow, and the viz is in the 300' range (yes, that's not a typo).

    I never dove the Yucatan caves, unfortunately. The nice thing about Abaco (for me) is that I can reach it by boat.

    This is really a rather old trip report, that Curt reposted here. For more details, have a look at the original thread.

    Thanks for the info Marc, the water temp is about the same as the Yucatan caves, too.

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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    What an UNREAL and utterly beautiful cave, thanks for sharing.

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    Re: Dans Cave, Bahamas

    Curt, Marc...

    MINDBLOWING - ;)

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