May 17 and 18, I had the pleasure of attending the first TekDive USA in Miami, Florida.
Billed as “An Epic Tek Diving Event” (I’m not entirely sure when “technical” went to “tech” then to “tec” then to tek”, but apparently it did, I’ll still be shortening “technical” to “tech” for the purposes of this article), it was a weekend filled with amazing speakers from around the world who are doing absolutely amazing exploration in the tech diving world.
One big disappointment was that throughout the weekend there were four speakers in each time slot, making it very difficult to determine which session would be the best to attend.
I started the day with a little trauma…
Dual Sensor Failure – Lessons Learned presented by Dave Conlin, Chief, Submerged Resource Center, National Park Service
This was an amazing story about having two of his sensors fail in his closed circuit rebreather (CCR), leading to central nervous system (CNS) O2 toxicity, leading to a seizure at 120 feet. Due to proper training, his dive buddy was able to get him to the surface where the predetermined emergency plan was carried out, getting Dave Conlin to the proper medical care with no long-term residual effects.
The big lesson I learned: when it’s time to enter the CCR world, know your maintenance schedule, know your unit, know your checklists, and abort the dive should anything be out of place.
Next up was something a bit more relevant to my interests:
Phantom Cave Team presented by Curt Bowen, Brett Hemphill, Andrew Pitkin, Becky Kagan Schott, Corey Mearns, and Joel Clark
The session summary describes it best:
Deep in the west Texas desert lies Phantom Springs Cave. Exploration divers there hit a record depth of 462 ffw / 140.8 m, making it the deepest underwater cave system in the United States! The team also set up sediment traps, collected water quality data, surveyed over 8,000 feet of the cave, and shot hours of high definition video and still photos topside and underwater.
We heard stories of lugging the gear over rough terrain to get to the area, the issues of low to no visibility on exit, having a diver propulsion vehicle (DPV or scooter) implode at the max depth, plus unique species to the surface pond. As a relatively new cave diver, this looks like an amazing dive. Unfortunately for the general diving public, this site is on federal land and is only accessible with the proper permits.
Next up, wrecks!
Antikythera Wreck presented by Phil Short
Possibly the home to one of the earliest computers (we’re still waiting on another expedition to be sure), the Antikythera Wreck off the Greek island of Antikythera is an amazing find. Using modern sidescan sonar combined with both open circuit and closed circuit divers, the goal was to map the entire circumference of the island from 20′ to 200′ depths, specifically looking for wrecks and other archaeological artifacts.
Mars The Magnificent presented by Richard Lundgren
Richard Lundgren is crazy in a good way. He’s been mapping the wrecks in the Baltic on the search for the wreck of the Mars for the past 20 years. The Mars was lost in battle nearly 450 years ago, however due to the depth and cold temperature, the wreck is still surprisingly well preserved. Mars was a Swedish unrated Warship of three deck levels and was discovered in 75m of water in the Baltic Sea between the Swedish islands of Oland and Gotland.
DCS In Remote Locations presented by Simon Mitchell
While I had considered some of my dives in Oregon’s Fall Creek to be a remote location, Simon Mitchell used an even better example: wreck diving destination Bikini Atoll with a 24 hour evacuation time in the case of major medical emergencies. Perhaps most interesting from this talk was the discussion of “light DCS” and in-water recompression. I’m not a scientist (nor do I play one on TV), so just check out those two links from Rubicon Foundation for all the nitty-gritty, it’s very interesting and worthwhile information for all divers.
Saturday evening, I attended the awards gala. Yes, I sat at a table with some tech diving famous people, but the real highlight was being present for the presentation of a check for $10,000 from Light Monkey to Rubicon Foundation. Gene Hobbs at Rubicon does incredibly valuable work from a scientific and medical perspective of diving and it was great to see such support from the community via the purchase of pink helmets from Light Monkey.
Baltic Wreck Search presented by Richard Lundgren
Having been so impressed with Richard Lundgren’s passion and years of dedication in searching for the Mars, I started Sunday by attending his presentation discussing all of the other wrecks he discovered while searching for the Mars. The sheer number of wrecks in this area is simply astounding.
How To Recover A Space Engine presented by Evan Kovacs
I’ve done wrecks, caves, and some technical diving, but this is an unique event. In 2013, an expedition was formed to attempt to recover the F-1 rocket engines used to launch Apollo 11 into space, thus placing humans on the moon (if you believe the conspiracy 😉 ). Based on the pictures and stories alone, when this documentary comes out, make sure you see it.
Getting Started In CCR Diving presented by Jill Heinerth, Mark Powell & Mike Fowler
Since many people in the US still appear to be hesitant in moving to closed circuit rebreathers (CCR), frequently citing safety issues, I felt it was important to attend this event. Just like with traditional open circuit SCUBA diving, if you get good training, understand your equipment, and know when to call a dive, CCR’s are incredibly safe, give longer, more comfortable bottom time, and expand your opportunities for diving.
Molnar Janos Cave presented by Janne Suhonen & Antti Apunen
Yes, I have a thing for caves. This cave system runs under Budapest and is yet another beautiful system. This presentation was given by the photographers for Divers of the Dark, so much of the talk focused on the storyboarding and staging for photography in a cave where the walls crumbled at even the slightest touch and exits were always in zero visibility.
J2 Project presented by Phil Short
For those who have seen Sanctum, this cave system in southern Mexico has a similar series of wet and dry passages that explorers know eventually make their way out, now the issue is to find the way. Days of preparation, remote locations, and amazing wet and dry caves make this a future documentary worth checking out.
A special thank you to Gene Hobbs from Rubicon Foundation for being the only other person live tweeting any of the seminars. He was volunteering for the event and was helping out in one of the seminar rooms, and some times we had some overlap, but he did a great job with joining me in making sure the event was properly covered live on social media.
If you’d like to go back through our tweets to see what may not have made it into this summary, here’s the feed from Twitter: