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Pulse of the Planet is a weekday radio show that "provides its listeners with a two-minute sound portrait of Planet Earth, tracking the rhythms of nature, culture and science worldwide and blending interviews and extraordinary natural sound."
Program #2581
January 2002
Caves: Diving  

ambiance: Cave diving ambiance, bubbles

Around the world, in places as far flung as Bermuda, Australia, the Galapagos Islands, deep inside the earth you can find ancient caves filled with salt water. For scientists in search of unknown life, exploring the inky darkness of these underwater chambers can be a challenging and rewarding experience. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"The problem in cave diving is that we have a solid rock roof over our head at all times. In open water diving if anything fails with your equipment you simply ascend to the surface. In a cave this isn't possible. The only way out of the cave, is typically the way we entered the cave."

Dr. Tom Iliffe is a professor of Marine Biology at Texas A&M University. He's also a cave diving instructor. It's dangerous business, and redundancy is the rule. Each diver must carry extra backup lights and air tanks. As the students slip into the water, they clip themselves to a safety line that leads back to the entrance of the cave.

"Often times we find enormous rooms or huge tunnels, bigger than the biggest subway tunnel. Water is essentially air clear, and how far we see is limited only by the brightness of our lights. We get a deep blue color, an incredible blue color that permeates the cave. We see magnificent stalactites and stalagmites that have been preserved for tens of thousands of years underwater. We see animals, tiny animals, forms of life that no human has ever seen before. There's an excitement, a thrill in this diving, that is literally indescribable."

The student divers will use only one third of their air supply before they head back, to the cave entrance.

First broadcast on 21-JAN-02

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