I mentioned to you in my last update that you would be hearing a lot more about outcomes of the Strategy weekend. Here is the first of several emails you will receive in the coming months. At the State Meetings this year, you requested that the National Committee look into the possibility of allowing Cave Divers entry into Tank Cave. This idea was subsequently discussed during the recent Strategy Weekend and it was felt that the idea was worthy of wider discussion by the membership.
To help with this discussion and further guide the National Committee in it’s thinking, a formal discussion thread has been set up on the forum for you to provide your thoughts on the idea. This thread will remain open for 6 weeks, during which time it will be monitored by the Committee.
To help you consider your position on this idea, it’s worth knowing what the minds of the National Committee. Our discussion centred around six questions:
1. Why would we want to let Cave Divers into Tank Cave?
2. Will the entry restriction be beyond our Cave Diver’s capabilities and training?
3. Will our Cave Diver’s skills levels be good enough not to cause damage to the cave?
4. What areas of Tank Cave would be permissible for Cave Divers?
5. How do we prevent divers from accessing areas that are beyond their level of training?
6. Would we be degrading or negating the need for Advanced Cave Training?
So let’s briefly have a look at each of these.
1. Why let Cave Divers into Tank Cave
Tank Cave cost around $360,000 for which less than one third of the membership have been getting the direct benefit. Ideally we need to find find ways in which more members can benefit from this investment. One such way is to allow more members to get access to the water. If this can be done safely and with due consideration of the cave’s conservation, then our investment has the potential of benefitting the majority of our membership, rather than the minority. Since the main tunnels are, by definition, Cave and not advanced cave, we need to ask ourselves why would we not multi-rate this cave as we have done in sites such as Pines and the Nullarbor.
2. Will the Entry Restriction be beyond the Capabilities of Cave Divers
The primary reason why Tank Cave has been kept restricted to Advanced Cave divers is the restriction at the entry. However, the limestone in Tank Cave is soft and the simple mechanical wearing of divers entering the exiting the cave over the past 30 years and with the drop in the water table, has seen this entrance widen significantly. So if we can now get two divers side by side into and out of the cave, what is our reason for continuing to restrict access to just the Advanced Cave divers?
3. Will the Skills of Cave Divers be Good Enough not to Cause Damage to the Cave
In considering this question, the National Committee asked itself:
- What would be the minimum post course cave dive experience required BEFORE applying to dive Tank Cave?
- Could we re-rate Nettlebed and Iddlebiddy to Cave level to give cave divers additional locations to gain more experience before entering Tank Cave?
- Should we increase the Cave Diver training requirements ?
- Do we need to validate the skills of our existing Cave Divers before approving access?
4. What areas of Tank Cave would be Permissible for Cave Divers?
It is thought that in the first instance, that A, B and C tunnel would be acceptable boundaries. Over time, we may be able to consider other sections of the cave.
5. How do we Prevent Cave Divers from Accessing Areas of Tank Cave that are Beyond the Level of Cave Diver Training?
The thinking of the National Committee is that all Cave Diver rated divers in Tank Cave would not dive without some form of supervision. One suggestion is that for the first two dives, the Cave Diver would be supervised dive by an Advanced Cave Diving Instructor. Following the first two dives, the thinking is that the Cave Diver would still need to be accompanied in order to ensure that they do not wonder off into sections of the cave they are not trained to handle, but the person accompanying them may not need to be an Advanced Cave Instructor. The who, their role and their liability will need to be teased out.
6. Would we be degrading or negating the need for Advanced Cave Training
The entire concept of allowing Cave Divers into Tank Cave, begs the question – why would members then want to go on and do their Advanced Cave Diver training?
To answer this question we asked ourselves, “what is it that we want the AC program to deliver?”
The AC program is the highest level of training offered to our members. For the training to continue to be relevant, we need to look at the sort of diving our AC divers do and seek training appropriate to those activities. Today, AC divers are regularly diving to Toad Hall, or engaged in stage side mount diving. They are using multiple scooters, moving tanks through restrictions, undertaking more advanced decompression dives and travelling globally to undertake this sort of diving. Perhaps, it is not Tank Cave that will keep the AC Course relevant, but the inclusion of optional training modules that will keep this training relevant to members.
I have no doubt that there are many more thoughts on the topic, all of which are equally valid. There is no black and white decision here and no decision has been made by the National Committee. So, your thoughts on this topic are quite important and I encourage you to join in on the discussion on the forum. I realise that there will be emotion and strong belief one way or the other, which you are entitled to state. But I do ask that you do so with respect and do respect other opinions if they differ from your own. The land is ours, the cave is ours and the decision is ours. So lets have a healthy discussion so that the National Committee can either take this idea forward or close it off.
You will find the thread www.cavedivers.com.au/forum/forumdisplay.php?56-Cave-Diving-in-Tank-Cave
May your drysuit remain wet on the outside.
John Vanderleest, National Director
On behalf of the National Committee