For some pictures and a bit more irreverant look at the trip, check out the in-depth dive reports (use  Back to return to the index):

3rd June 2000
6th June 2000
7th June 2000
8th June 2000

Hi All,

just got back from France where I've spent the last sixteen or so days cave
diving. I thought I'd share with everyone a bit of info on what we got up

Divers were me (Stuart Morrison), Shona Linton and Andrew Ericson from
Britain, and French divers Jerome Meynie, Fred Pinna and Yannick (Ya-Ya).

Day one began with an easy dive at the Font de la Truffe, a tiny and
extremely beautiful spring by the roadside. It's restricted entrance has
been dug out wider than I've ever seen it and the first two sumps at least
have been re-lined by the Swiss with heavy blue line which should hold up
better to the floods.

Next day the access at Landenouse was looking very difficult so we found the
Lantouy instead. Floods had washed out the line down to -22m and visibility
was particularly bad.

Next day was a swim to the Salle de Lavaur in the Fontaine de St George. Vis
was reasonable, there was plenty of fish in the sump pool. Some French
divers later reported to us that the gravel entrance slope has been
dangerously mobile and a collapse had recently blocked the entrance while
there were divers in the cave. The only other exit is 18km away in the
Gouffre de Padirac show caves.

With Fred & Yannick we returned to Landenouse, 1245m in length and a
terminal depth of -88m, pushed by Frederic Badier. We set up a surface
supplied O2 system on 20m of hose into the cave mouth, rigged access via
electron ladder and jury rigged some SRT kit to get the tanks in and out.
Kitting up took place floating on the surface. As I used a typically
Floridian rig it was heavier than the French gear and putting it on took an
interesting ten minutes struggling underwater. That's what the long hose is

Visibility was probably the best in the area and the huge galleries ate up
light making me wish I had used a 100W lamp instead of 50W. I swam just
beyond my previous limit and turned it as the last dive had racked up a huge
deco penalty. Because of the extremely low water level, this time I had no
stops at all. Ya-ya turned around the same point and Fred, his first dive in
the cave, finned up to the 800m mark.

Later in the day we headed to the Ressel to check out conditions as we had
agreed to help out with Rick Stanton & Jason Mallinson's push there. Amongst
the divers already there were French Federation president Claude Toulomdjian
and German DIR diver Reinhard Buchaly who was setting up for a rival push.
Andy, who had just arrived, did his first cave dive in France ever there. At
10pm everyone finally got out the water and vainly sought somewhere in
Gramat still selling food.

Later in the week Yannick did his first trimix dive in St Sauveur which had
perfect conditions, little flow and spectacular vis. Along with other
members of the group, he descended to -74m. Apart from a problem with one
deco bottle the dive went without incident.
I returned to the Ressel for a poke around. It was like seeing an old
friend. Visibility was only 5m, but it was good enough to convince me to
spend the rest of my time here. While everyone returned to St Sauveur, I
went back to the Ressel and used two 12l stage bottles to take me to around
600m without even touching the gas on my back. Afterwards Fred and I swam
four 20l bottles to 350m/-21m depth to be used on Rick & Jason's push.

Night-time storms threatened the next day's dives at St Sauveur. An early
reccy showed that visibility was still air clear and the water levels had
risen only slightly. When we arrived, DIR-UK were swirling around the basin
on scooters, other English divers were tumbling all over the place. The cave
was resurging strongly and no-one, even the scootering divers, could get in.
On a point of national pride, Fred took some climbing rope, put on his fins,
put out his cigarette and finned into the cave mouth like he had been
greased. He tied off the rope and did some underwater rappelling out. I
tried, clawed my way in and retreated once I saw Fred was OK.

Next hurdle is how to get a diver, four stage bottles and an Aquazepp
through the restriction. We used shunts, ascenders and various karabiners to
SRT our way in. Once inside the flow was so strong all I could do was hang
from a shunt. I checked my isolator and realised it had been rolled closed
by the rock, I opened it and watched my gauge drop to 30bar, so once more I
retreated. Once past the restriction, the bottom divers were able to make
decent progress.

For some relief I returned to Trou Madame, a large dry cave at the head of a
gorge. It is a difficult one to get to, involving scrambling over boulders
and up a stream bed. Then 30m of crawling over gravel in the cave leads to
the sump. I was stupid enough to drag twin 12l's + two 12l stages up there.
I used a wetsuit because of the terrain. The vis was very clear (once past
the group of trainees) and I swam through lovely galleries to where the cave
deepens and its nature changes completely at around 800m. This was my first
time in this part of the cave, but cold was starting to bite so I turned and
swam back. The return journey was very long and cold. In the closer reaches
of the cave distance markers start to reappear and happily I watched 120m,
110m, 90m, ...20m, 10m tick past until I realised I had miscounted the sumps
and still had 300m of sump one to go as well. Half-dreaming, I watched the
huge water swirls in the floor drift past until the giant ribs of the mouth
appeared. I vastly overestimated the amount of gas needed, using one 12l
stage (not using the back gas and only a few bar from the second stage
bottle) and I think I could have gotten very close to the end of the system
with what I carried.

I found some caves around the Moulin de Pescalerie and explored them but
despite their proximity to the river and such a large resurgence none of
them contained sumps.

Next day I returned to the Ressel. Abigail and Helen were staging gas for
Rick & Jason's push so I helped to rig the telecoms system in the
decompression habitat and installed the cabling along the river bank, made
the more difficult as the land owner does not allow access for divers so
everything must be done from the water. Once in place, Murphy lent a hand
and made sure the cable end was a couple of metres short of the habitat, so
we had to do it all again.

The surprise news was that Reinhard Buchaly had given up on his own push in
the same cave after problems with his Halcyon rebreather and I returned from
the cave to find him packing up. Ironically, the conditions were improving

Rick & Jason's push was still on and they were still setting up more and
more equipment. Helen and Abigail were their main donkeys; Fred, the human
scooter, swam Jason's 'Zepp up to 600m on fin power alone and the next day
Jerome staged their dry tubes at 900m for the camp beyond sump one.

I made a 750-800m scooter run into the Ressel by way of a goodbye and
retired for some beers in the local café. I left the next evening and as I
had a 1500km drive ahead of me I made a couple of easy dives in the Truffe
to the end of sump 2 and the mud passage in sump 1. I reached the south of
England around the time Rick & Jason started the push. News is that Rick &
Jason exited the cave finally on the following Monday and the hard work of
removing all the equipment from the cave begins.

That's it for now, time to start planning my next expedition.