What exactly makes cave diving so risky, even if you have experience or are with a guide?



What exactly makes cave diving so risky, even if you have experience or are with a guide?

In: Other

It’s dark, confined, and easy to get stuck or lost. If an emergency situation were to happen, rescue may be very difficult or even impossible.

Diving a cave is swimming through a series of complex tunnels, in pitch black (other than whatever light sources you bring) , on a timer (your air tanks).

It’s easy to get lost because it looks different when you’re coming back the other direction. The size of the tunnels can become small, making it easy to get stuck or damage your gear. If you get lost /have an emergency and run out of air, there’s no popping to the surface. You’re toast.

Cave divers sometimes trail a long spool of cord behind them, as a way to find their way back out.

Easy to get turned around. Lots fine silt that will cloud the water and reduce visibility to zero.


Most people are mentioning the issues of visibility, but there’s a more pressing concern; air.

If you’re diving in the open ocean, and you scrape a rock or something that damages your air delivery system, you just surface and you’re fine.

If you’re diving in a cave, surrounded by solid rock, and something damages your air delivery system, you’re basically dead.

The main risk is that there is ***zero*** room for error.

Watch the movie [Sanctum](https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0881320/) and it’ll show/explain all the potential dangers described in the comments

It takes as long to get back out as it took to get in. So if there are any problems you are hours from surfacing instead of open water where you go directly “up” and that’s the surface within some seconds.

Deep diving is similarly dangerous as cave diving as far as “time to surface” goes since you can’t shoot directly to the surface as that would cause nitrogen bubbles in your blood (on top of whatever emergency you already have). Deeper (as in vertical depth from sea level) caves could have this same issue requiring a few minutes hanging out at various stepped depths. THen you have to choose if your issue is more critical than having the bends which is at least terribly painful if not deadly itself.

Every part of your gear is mechanical. Mechanical devices occasionally fail. Malfunctioning regulator, leaking hose or fittings. Failing to manage air in tank. Plus risks of getting lost in the network of caves.

If you have an equipment malfunction during a regular dive, an emergency ascent is still an option (with its own risks) and soon you’ll be on the surface. In a cave that isn’t an option.

You’re going into an enclosed space underwater. What more do you need to know?

You can’t see clearly and, well, you’ve managed to put yourself in a big dark hole in the ground that stinks of bat poop

This description is the only thing you need to hear to not go cave diving. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=or92IMcLoIc

Read the book “Agaisnt All Odds” about the Thailand cave rescue of the kids soccer team. Such a good book and gives a real insight into the dangers of cave diving

If you want a good narrative about why it’s an awful idea even if you are trained and equipped you should read “The Luminous Dead” by Caitlin Starling. 10 kinds of nope on both caving and cave diving.

Cave diving is a type of overhead diving environment. Typical Recreational diving relies on the diver being able, in an emergency situation, of surfacing directly…. ( in an emergency, the now required safety stop for any dive can be skipped) Overhead diving of any sort would prevent this. Plus the potential loss of visibility, either because of a power failure, or suspended ultra-fine particles completely obliterating visibility. You have to know what you are doing!

Professional extended diving and some recreational diving situations rely on an expensive and complicated series of decompression stops, and support people and equipment with all emergency contingencies arranged for. For each type of overhead environment, there are a special set of skills needed and specific certifications are required. Ways to kick flippers,breathing and re breathers for minimal disturbance, Ropes, cords, and techniques to be trained In…navigation and really mental ability.

In a cave system, it is naturally completely dark, and a long difficult way to the surface. Been awhile, but I believe that overhead environments of any sort, wrecks, caves, etc. have by far, the highest mortality risk in diving. In fact the vast majority of injuries… regular diving has quite an impressive safety record when the basic rules are followed.

recommend listening to Donald Cerrone’s story on Joe Rogan podcast, good depiction of the panic a loss of visibility can cause.

Had a coworker that did this. He and his buddy went through a small hole into a large chamber, they explored for a while and when they were ready to leave they turned back the way they came from and there were five nearly identical holes. Which one had they entered through.

Many things, but one of the biggest is you don’t have as easy of an out. In general, in Scuba you have all of these plans and backups in case of an emergency, but for recreational scuba, if all else fails in a no decompression dive, you just swim to the surface. Lose your buddy, can’t find your backup reg, just panic for whatever reason….surface. If you are following the rules times/depths, you will be fine. You may not be able to dive the rest of the day, but you won’t die. If you are half a mile in a cave, get lost, tangled, disoriented, you can’t just hit the stop button and surface like you can on most recreational dives.

Basically it’s dark as hell like pitch black dark, the water is cloudy from all the disturbed particulates in it that were stirred up by you or someone else and a large majority of these caves are very tight and narrow which can lead to you getting stuck or turned around and to top it off if you or someone else gets lost or trapped there’s usually no way to mount a search and rescue op because of the aforementioned conditions and people not being willing to risk so many lives to save one. Basically if the worst case scenario happens you or whoever is boned and that cave will become your tomb.

Confined spaces are easy to get turned around in.

Undisturbed bodies of water have huge layers of silt on the bottom that get stirred up and prevent seeing ANYTHING around you.

Lower threshold for claustrophobia and panic when you’re suited up for diving.

Combine all three and you have a recipe for disaster. People have been known to even rip off their dive masks and lose their respirator because it gets so bad, even in open water if you go too close to the bottom.

It’s tough to imagine unless you’ve been diving, but when I was doing my open water test for scuba certification part of the testing was navigating using only our wrist compasses to find the dive instructors. We were in a shallow section of the lake, about 6-7 feet deep, but one instructor sat still in a spot while the others swam around and stirred up the bottom. They had those of us getting certified try to find him using predetermined headings from around the lake and swam around blind for probably 20 minutes. It didn’t count for our certification, they just wanted us to see how easily you can get turned around and lost when you can’t see at all. It’s spooky.