A diver entering a pitch black cave is silhouetted by sunlight filtering through the depths above.

A diver entering a pitch black cave is silhouetted by sunlight filtering through the depths above. Click image for larger view and image credit.

Bermuda Deep Water Caves 2011: Dives of Discovery

June 7 – 27, 2011

Tom Iliffe
Principal Investigator
Director, Marine Biospeleology Lab
Texas A&M University

Sea level has fluctuated more than 100 m (328 ft.) up and down over the course of the Ice Ages. We are currently in a period of high sea level, with the potential for sea level to go even higher in response to the Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming. However, we know relatively little about the opposite extremes of climate and sea level at the height of the last Ice Age. In order to learn more about climate and sea level fluctuations, we are conducting a multi-tiered project to examine the character of the shelf edge in Bermuda from 60 – 200 m (197 – 656 ft.) depths to find records of sea level low stands. This project has involved multibeam sonar mapping of the vertical cliffs on the platform edge, ROV dives to examine particular points on interest, and now mixed gas, closed circuit rebreather dives to make first hand geological and biological collections and observations. In particular, we will examine deep cave structures and wave cut notches that were formed when sea level was at its lowest point. Our team will consist of a small team of the world’s foremost technical and scientific divers, using state of the art diving equipment, striving to solve puzzles that have until now evaded direct observation.

You can access the Ocean Explorer Bermuda Deep Water Caves 2011 News Feed here: NOAA RSS 2.0 Feed

Updates & Logs
Click images or links below for detailed mission logs and updates.

June 27 June 27 Log The Iliffe dive team has returned a remarkable and unique collection of animals from Bermuda’s deep reefs that will significantly expand the collection at the Bermuda Natural History Museum.

June 26 June 26 Log This dive represents the deepest manned exploration of Bermuda. ROVs, bathyspheres and subs have combed these depths before, but our first hand look will offer details never before available to scientists.

June 22 June 22 Log Successful scientific diving projects require specialized equipment and thorough planning. A key component is the expert safety divers.

June 21 June 21 Log Following the discovery of an ancient fossil reef off the South Shore of Bermuda, a return trip to the site was planned to recover coral samples in an effort to date the age of this reef.

June 19 June 19 Log Using equipment that looks more like a space suit than scuba gear, we plunged to 444 feet on the Challenger seamount and brought back biological samples and geologic treasures for scientists to examine.

June 18 June 18 Log Our team is really working like a well-oiled machine now. We selected a site on the south side of the island to avoid the choppy seas.

June 17 June 17 Log A strong, northwesterly wind forced our team to move to the southern end of the Bermuda today in the hope that we might find sea conditions suitable to conduct a 300+ foot dive on the edge of the Bermuda platform.

June 16 June 16 Log As my dive team and I were drifting down to the target area, I could not help but wonder, how did I get here? My brain quickly kicked in — reminding me that daydreaming has its time and place.

June 15 June 15 Log Surveying caves is done by taking measurements, either by laying out a pre-measured line through the passages, or by laying out a fiberglass measuring tape, which is more accurate.

June 14 June 14 Log Our second dive was conducted in Deep Blue Cave in Walsingham Forest. The cavern is filled with interesting life.

June 13 June 13 Log It takes a tremendous amount of diving expertise to safely conduct the type of diving we are involved in, but it also takes a high level of creativity and awareness.

June 11 June 11 Log Our team arrived safely in Bermuda, each with numerous bags and boxes of diving equipment and other luggage.



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