Friday, December 17, 2010

New deep underwater cave discovered in Gort

Discovering a new cave

After an eventful aborted dive in Polltoophill I decided to poke around a bit in the Kiltartan parish. During a recce trip in the area of Ballylee River Sinks a new, previously unknown, active only in wet weather sink was discovered. Located only a few hundred metres to the SW from the Hammer Sink South ( main sink of the Ballylee River - no access, blocked by boulders, mud and dead trees) in a dense woodland, it was hoped to give an access to the Balylle conduit further downstream.

Pollindre, fot. Frank Griga
First dive in the new sink. Weather was much drier and the sink was static at the surface. I descended the pot with 7l and 3l sidemounted, 45m of line, wetsuit and fins configuration. I couldn't resist and went down immediately. -4m was easily reached although there were some big tree branches and wood planks all over the sink. To that point the walls felt solid. From there on I could feel by touch (with my fins) that the way down was through some narrow gap between boulders. It felt quite stable so I carefully wriggled through and after only a short constricted section it opened up into something much bigger and quite vertical.
I kept descending in a near zero vis The dive was meant as a quick recce and so I brought just one bottom timer/depth gauge with me. Ill luck had it that it failed during the dive so I didn't know exactly what depth I was. But I had only 45m of line with me and I knew it wouldn't take me deeper than -30m. I laid all the line and at the end the gradient of the slope eased and an indicative current could be felt/seen. Return uneventful.

I was so intrigued by the new Pollnaindre cave that I decided to dive it again before going back to Dublin. This time I brought 12l and 7l , rigged sidemounted and more line. I found the end of my line at -23m and from there I continued to 130m from the entrance and depth of -37m. After initial northward trend the cave turned west and then south west, pretty much as expected, towards Kiltartan. On the way out I spent some time around the squeeze through the boulder choke and I found a bypass that seemed big enough to be passed comfortably with Megalodon. Excellent.

Third dive in Pollindre, fot. Frank Griga
I brought my Meg and three Alu80 and I had no problem whatsoever to get through the bypass I found on the previous dive. I'm not going to reveal the content of my diluent cylinder in order to avoid the community ostracism, enough to say it was rather unorthodox.
Route finding was rather difficult, after a steady southward trend the cave turned very sharply to north east and than continued north, away from ANY known resurgences! That was intriguing and exciting! All together I had an excellent dive exploring the new cave to 350m from the entrance and to -63m of depth. Runtime 3h

With Frank's help I managed to avoid a set up dive and went in straight away with all the cylinders on. All was going well, the cave still continued north when around -73m of depth and 500m in I got confused . I thought the cave turned sharply south so I started laying the line in this direction despite the obvious signs I was going back to the exit : lack of the flow, disturbed vis...I really dont understand why did I continue(my diluent was strong enough). Anyway, I laid around 70m of line back towards the exit and as it soon turned out, perfectly parallel to the line I laid on my way in...:))
Runtime 4h

Descent to the water, fot. Frank Griga
I spent a day and half on setting a camp in the woods by Pollindre, preparing Megalodon and eight cylinders to secure the dive and dropping them into the pot.  I got into the water at 8pm. The point where I got wrong last time was appallingly obvious: the line was turning sharply at almost 160 degree, I must have simply turned around and started laying the line back to the exit... idiot... The downstream continuation was actually so obvious that I almost got it wrong again in sheer disbelief of its easiness. I tied in with a new reel and marked the proper exit line with a cloth peg. Although the cave has a steady north trend it certainly does not go in a straight line: I kept getting wedged in the numerous undercuts present on both sides of the passage. Getting out and back on the track was taking some time and after few incidents like that I had to slow down the pace ( I mostly kept to left hand side wall) and 'feel' the wall with my right hand and fin (the vis there is constant 0.5m). After 250m of progress, at -80m of depth I had a major route finding problem but I persevered and after some lengthy fumbling around I found the continuation. Eventually I finished off the second reel having laid 350m of line in total on  76-81m of depth. I checked my bottom timer: 1h33m. I left -73m at 40min and I still had to go back all the way through 80s...I'm gonna pay for that I remember I thought. Eventually I got out of the water after 5h20min, at 1.30am, tired and unwell, with my left arm thoroughly soaked and an annoying discomfort in a left ear building up through most of the ascent (well, ok I was diving with a cold). I rested on  a surface for 15min, staying on the loop, left all the cylinders in the water and rebreather just on the edge, climbed out of the pothole, de-kitted and laid down in the tent breathing emergency 02. I woke up in the morning with no pains or discomforts but I cancelled the scheduled dive with Jim in Moran's Cave anyway and kept resting. EOL is 850m in at -81.5m. Runtime 5h20min.

After a setup dive a day before (the dive was secured with 9 tanks: 2x7l, 1x5.7l, 4x11l and 2x12l) the cave continued for another 150m between 79-82m of depth until the passage became big ( a chamber?) and I have lost the way on. Despite several attempts I kept making loops to my own line. The lack of flow was extremely frustrating. There was nothing I could do and after 30 min  I gave up and turned the dive. On the way out I surveyed 200m of the cave , from -45m to the surface which I reached at 3am after 6h.

I tried to come back there in the end of October but the cave was already in flood. Since then the water levels dropped but last weekend , during the dive in Polldeelin water temperature was 4 degrees and the same must have been in Pollindre. The exploration will be continued next year. EOL around 1km.

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