Briland Blue Hole Project
May 2 - May 10, 1998
5/2/98 - Set-up dive- Arrived at the island around noon and met up with Tom and Janine. They had just arrived hours earlier - rough crossing. Tom and I went out to set the mooring ball on the hole. Tom drug me around for 15-20 minutes before we spotted the opening. I dropped down and tied off the ball and then helped Tom tie off the boat and we went down for a look. Saw a big grouper on the ledge by the entrance and a big spider star-fish (12-18" diameter) underneath the big rock on that same ledge. Several huge lobster were in holes outside near the entrance and we spent a few minute harassing them. Top
5/3/98 - First Exploration Dive - The plan is to scooter to the end of the cave, set a safety bottle, and take a look at the other side of the restriction. We tie off and pop through the restriction. The passage opens up some and starts sloping up into another room. We come up in a room the size of the thirds room with potential passage both right and left . We cross the room and go by a huge tilted slab (The Tilt-Table Room). Depth is around 120 feet and passage is going deeper to the right and there is a slope to the left going into a potential lead. We go right and tie off to a ledge on the right side of the passage. The passage here looks more like Florida limestone cave. This new room has less life than we have seen previously. There were some small sea fans near the restriction, but the rest is clean. The OMS timer does not work on this dive, display EO1 the whole time. We see a huge crab under the rock where the grouper was yesterday with claws the size of my hands. Top
5/4/98 - Survey Dive - Tom and I scooter back to the restriction with a single-stage to start surveying yesterdayís find. Surveyed 409 feet including the new line this trip . We tie off and start down the new passage through low, 2-5 foot high and 20-40 foot wide passage with lots of fragile looking limestone projections. We pass an alcove to the left with 3-4 foot tall white mounds (The Ant Hills). The bottom of the passage had small sand mounds 10-15 inches in diameter and 1-2 inches high, similar to a sand boil but with no boil. Tom says there may be some creature living in them. We had a barracuda keeping us company during deco.
5/5/98 - Further Exploration - Dive started with seeing a six foot nurse shark at Vista Corner. Apparently Tom didnít see it until the last minute, I was watching and wondering if Tom was going to ram the shark, but he avoided it at the last minute. The shark cruised between us and back under a ledge. We did a stage/scooter to the restriction and swam to the end. We tied off and went maybe 100 feet and found formations on a slab to the right at 140 feet of depth. They are 2-3 feet tall and very eroded, brown in color. More white sand mounds are in the passage and it continues low. Passage still going and trending to the left. It looks like breakdown and a slope up just beyond where we stopped. We surveyed 210 feet as we laid line on this dive. There was a large red shrimp at the restriction and a couple of large amber jack cruising the area at deco.
5/6/98 - Set Up and Exploration - Tom and I took double stages back to the restriction in preparation for Fridayís exploration dive. We dropped our first stage and scooters before the restriction and carried the second thru the restriction, not breathing it, and dropped it at the top of the slope in the tilt-table room. We then split up, as planned, to explore the side leads in this room to see if any continued. Tom was exploring the right and left leads where we dropped the bottles, which I thought were most promising. I went to Tilt-Table Rock and began checking the low lead to the left. There was a wide crack that sloped up through a lot of breakdown. I got up against the wall and the crack appeared to continue up through a couple of boulders. I thought it was going to end in a breakdown choke, but it kept going up and got wider and taller as I went. My heart is going at this point as I realized that this was big, going cave. It turned into another huge room, probably as large as the Boulder Fields and a depth of 95 feet. I saw a blind cave fish in this area swimming head down in the middle of the passage. This room is covered in breakdown and lots of white sand is sifting in thru cracks in the walls and ceiling. I went down a slope to about 130 feet, tied off and began surveying back. The flow is just starting to turn so I try to swim quickly, plus, I know Tom is probably wondering where I am at since I took more time than I intended. I get back and see that Tom has Tís on both sides where he was exploring, but I didnít see Tom. I go on thru the restriction and Tom is waiting there and we pick up stages and scooters and exit the cave. Altogether, we added 465 feet to the cave today!
5/7/98 - Photo Trip - We used this dive to take photos and document the formations we found. We strapped two strobes to the front of my scooter and Tom strapped his camera to his chest. I had to turn the strobes off when we got inside because my light was setting them off. The shark wasnít there today, too bad!! We went back to the restriction and dropped the scooters and swam to the lower tunnel and made photos of the formations and ant-hills. We shot several photos of tilt-table rock and then exited. I saw a couple cave fish, both in Boulders to God. One was at the end by the restriction to Room of Thirds, the other along the left wall going out. Top
5/8/98 - Oceanside Exploration - Today we planned an easy dive to give us a break, particularly since we plan a long dive tomorrow. We decide to look in the Oceanside lead to see if we can find anything. We swim back into the tunnel and find a passage to the left going in that start off low with breakdown and silt floor. It opens up and ends in a small room with a crack running perpendicular to it. It appears that the passage may continue up through a breakdown pile. I weenied and thought it didnít look promising, but it may continue. We checked the rest of that side for more leads, but found none. Top
5/9/98 - Final Exploration Dive - Double stage to the end of the line to continue the exploration. We drop first stage at the restriction and scooter thru the restriction on side-mount tanks. We pick up the second stage on the other side and continue to scooter to the end of the line. The restrictions on the slope pose some problems, but Tom saw a way around that is much easier than my original line. We dropped our scooters at the end and stage bottles and begin exploring/surveying. We dropped back down to the 140 foot range and saw more formations, the area is low and very wide and very similar to the end of the line on the right. After plotting survey, these two appear to be heading towards each other. We saw some large "formations" that could be very large speleothems that have been badly eroded. This is something to check on next trip. On the way out, I swam to the left of the old end of the line and there is a huge room continuing! To the left is a canyon and a series of ledges with white sand cascading down the ledges. It looks just like a waterfall coming into the room! The entire area has a lot of sand coming in thru cracks in the floor and ceiling. The exit was uneventful, we pulled the safety bottles from the cave so I had two stages and the safety, as well as my sidemounts, to carry. Tom spotted an octopus at the entrance that was directly underneath me. He was a beautiful creature with and iridescent blue/green color. He would switch colors back and forth that made his body appear to ripple. He was trying to intimidate us and was standing on his tentacles trying to look big, but when we didnít retreat, he went and hid under a rock. Top>