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WaterRat
07-30-2007, 12:40
Jablonski and McKinlay made the connection over the weekend between Wakulla Springs and the Leon Sinks system. They added about 1200 feet of line before finding the end of the line from the opposite side. I haven't seen the full report yet but it is pretty exciting stuff. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the link.

http://www.gue.com/Expeditions/WKPP/index.html

Ron

cummings66
07-30-2007, 16:10
Interesting, I wonder if they intend someday on trying to do it entirely one way now that they've got lines laid. It'd be the biggest dive to date!

Out of idle curiosity, is George Irvine still diving? Last I heard he went back to the family business.

WaterRat
07-30-2007, 23:04
From the stuff I've read they will probably do a full traverse. Probably need to for the record books and just to say they did it. Also I know there are probably a lot of other leads to follow off the main tunnel still. Ultimately they would like to find the connection to the gulf.

Yep, George is not cave diving right now and devoting time to the family business. If you read the dive reports he's not out of the loop. Apparently he talks to JJ quite a bit about the planning and outcomes. I'm sure he has to stay pretty close in the loop since he does all the scooter builds.

I would love to go out there and help them lug tanks and gear around just to listen to the stories. For the record I don't know any of these guys, I just follow the exploration. I did e-mail George a few times for questions on DIR and fitness. He was always real helpful.

Ron

WaterRat
08-01-2007, 00:08
Here is the link to the video of the connection.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0nNXAB6_kE

Ron

WaterRat
08-01-2007, 00:13
Cross Posting from the DecoStop

Here is Casey McKinlay's post to the team about the dive:

The long awaited physical connection between the Wakulla Springs and Leon
Sinks cave systems was established Saturday, July 28 at 12:20pm.
Approximately 11,200ft downstream of Turner Sink Jarrod and I entered a
massive room with floor to ceiling relief of 120ft+ and wall to wall
distance in excess of 100ft. The floor was 300ft+ and the line was
positioned on the left side of the room. I held the line while Jarrod
scouted a large opening on the right wall behind a large silt bank. A few
minutes later he returned and with a calm sort of confidence indicated it
looked reasonable for perhaps the first of several attempts to locate the
incoming R-Tunnel from Wakulla. The map indicated it was in this general
vicinity somewhere but what would it look like? Would it be passable? All
good questions with nothing taken for granted after the last 450 minute
excursion to the end of the line where the cave shut down. I switched on the
video camera and 50wt light as Jarrod tied in and headed for the dark spot
on the wall. The tunnel looked reasonable and quickly turned left around a
corner and into another massive room with openings right and left. Too many
options in my opinion as both anxiety and anticipation began to build.

With a fresh stage plugged in and 2 extras clipped off we were committed to
spending as much time as necessary to find the way. We made another left
into a medium sized room that did not look good as I held back to look at
the large, dark opening to the right. Too many left turns already. I was
concerned we would end up intersecting the Turner line in some sort of loop.
Jarrod backed up and went right into another massive room and the tunnel
began to take shape. We took another right as Jarrod wrapped on a huge rock
center conduit and continued on. This was good, keep making right turns.
It was difficult to check the compass on my left arm because holding the
camera steady with the scooter took both hands. I started thinking out loud
that the line was here somewhere. Perhaps over the next rise or around the
next corner? Where was it, the anticipation was killing me. It would be
tied off on the right wall at a corner with a large rock outcropping and it
could not be much farther unless the survey was totally off.

As we rounded the next corner and looked at the right wall I saw something that did not
look natural hanging down from a rock outcropping. It was a loop of line.
If there was a blue arrow on the other side of that rock with "Wakulla
Springs" on it we had done it. The arrow was right where we had left it a
month earlier on the 600min, 24,000ft ride from the Wakulla entrance. After
17 years the WKPP had finally connected Wakulla Springs to Leon Sinks. The
team would be pleased. I could feel the pressure that had been building
over the years begin to release. It was a good day for the WKPP.

It is difficult to put into perspective the amount of effort it took over
the past 17 years as an official project to accomplish this goal. In
addition to the WKPP, there were many well know explorers going back another
50 years that have helped piece together the mystery of Leon Sinks and
Wakulla Springs. There also existed some amount of skepticism as to whether
it was even possible to connect these systems. Would the cave shut down?
Would the cave come shallow? Was there a sinkhole somewhere? Would the
cave ever clear to allow exploration? Would we have the team and
capabilities to support the effort? In the end, it came down to a favorable
weather pattern, a great team, good data and a willingness to push hard and
accept the abuse from brutal exposure after brutal exposure. What is most
notable to me this season and last was the process by which we targeted this
section of cave, used the data, effectively dealt with each setback and
continued to push onward. Had we not decided to push into Wakulla in
September of 2006 when conditions were horrible we may never have confirmed
clear water in A-Tunnel past the O intersection. Having that piece of
information resulted in the second dive which confirmed the loop and
isolated an area of interest around 7,000ft. The importance of survey data
and using the data to further narrow down areas of interest was the primary
reason behind the decision to return to Turner this month as opposed to
another brutal and riskier push from the Wakulla side. Good data, good
people, good plan, good decisions and the rest, well, WKPP cave diving
history.

There are so many people to recognize that I am not sure where to start.
The team extends beyond the official WKPP roster including support at home,
Halcyon production staff, GUE staff, Florida DEP, Todd Kincaid and his team
at Hazlett-Kincaid, Gene Hobbs, Dr. David Doolette, Tallahassee
Hyperbarics, Wakulla Park Staff, Dale S., Extreme Exposure staff, Anthony
Rue and the video team, Corey Smith, David Rhea and the photo teams, Mark
Garland for coming back strong, John Rose for sticking it out, Sankey,
Gavin, English, Turner, Scarabin, Irvine and last but not least my dive
partner Jarrod Jablonski. It is difficult to explain at times but we both
suffer from an inability to know when enough is enough. Fortunately that is
exactly what is needed to explore in the WKP.

WaterRat
08-01-2007, 00:14
...and here is JJ's note to the Quest list about the dive:

Thanks to you all for your kind support and sincere interest.

The connection brings closure to this chapter for the WKPP- an endeavor
started about 20 years ago by the earliest members of the team. Over these
years I have had the honor to explore these remarkable caves with some of
the most talented explorers on the planet. People ranging from Bill Gavin
and Bill Main to Lamar English and Sheck Exley. I spent many long hours with
George Irvine and Brent Scarabin who sacrificed many hours and dollars to
see this connection realized. Special recognition should go to Casey
Mckinlay for his unwavering focus in directing this remarkable team and for
putting up with me on these long dives. Of perhaps greater importance are
the dozens of selfless WKPP team members that support these monumental
dives. I doubt anyone not involved in the project can appreciate the sort of
sacrifice these people bring to the team, donating many thousands of hours
and dollars to this effort. There is no question that this accomplishment is
a team accomplishment - in my opinion this is a team of the very finest
individuals ever assembled.

This effort has been made possible by so many individuals it would take
pages to recognize them all. Some are able to invest the time and money to
support the team personally while others support with donations; still
others show their support with the many kind words I have received over the
last few days. Regardless of the form of support I want everyone to know
that my heartfelt appreciation goes to all those that support the project
and its ongoing efforts. This connection is a noteworthy accomplishment on
behalf of hundreds of hard working people over more than two decades.
Increasing public awareness of the intimate connection among dozens of
surface streams, sinkholes and cave systems is vital toward the protection
of these critical resources. Together with the extensive research conducted
by GUE VP/Science director Todd Kincaid and facilitated by GUE/WKPP these
dives and this celebrated connection have far reaching implications for
environmental protection here and abroad.

Regarding the next chapter in these explorations, we will soon turn our
sights upon an even more monumental task- an effort to connect these caves
to the coastal systems to the south. If this is possible it will be with the
amazing dedication of our remarkable team. I have been honored to be present
for so much of this exploration and I hope be around for the remaining
adventures to come. Thanks to all of you for your amazing support.

Sincerely,

Jarrod Jablonski
President Global Underwater Explorers www.gue.com