Exploring the underworld of Palau

palau_cave_small
Photo by Zoltan Takcas

 

Abess Center Director and Exploration Science faculty member Dr. Kenny Broad ventured into a submerged overhead environment (a cave) with Barrington Irving on the island nation of Palau.   This involved a cave dive that gave Barrington a taste of this unique form of scuba diving and what it is like to descend into an underwater cave.  Barrington highlighted some of the risks involved with working in this type of overhead environment.

1. No GPS, charts, or maps, are available. You have to know how to exit the cave.

2. Monitor your diving gases. Only use a little going into the cave, a little coming out, and save A LOT for emergencies. Sounds easy, but this rule can be forgotten due to the beauty of the mysterious caves and your increased breathing getting in and out of tight spaces.

3. Be careful with hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous layer of gas found in some caves that can be absorbed through the pores of your skin. This layer also feels warmer and is very dangerous to breathe in.

4. Be careful of whirlpools. They are like underwater tornadoes that can suck you into tunnels. This is how trash in the ocean as big as tractor tires gets sucked into the tunnels!

5. Caves are a world of pitch-black darkness, so a flashlight is a must. In some cases, your flashlight may not be powerful enough to see more than 5-10 feet. You must bring at least three underwater lights per person.

6. MOST IMPORTANTLY – even if you know how to scuba dive, NEVER go into an underwater cave without the proper training and equipment!!!! 

The dive was part of a multi-stop mini expedition Barrington is undertaking by flying along the Ring of Fire region of the western Pacific.  His journey started his flight in the United States and has ventured as far as southeast Australia.   His expedition is called the Flying Classroom and is being used to motivate children to get involved with exploration and expand their curiosity about their world by pursuing careers in STEM fields.

Barrington is an accomplished pilot who at one time held the record for the youngest person and first African-American to fly solo around the world.