Devil's Bath 

September 2008

 

This is the trip Aaron and I have been dreaming about for years. I have known for a long time Vancouver Island was endowed with many cave systems, some of them underwater. We needed the experience and training to safely attempt this mission but after logging a significant number of Mexican, and Thai cave dives, not to mention many overhead wreck dives we felt ready to tackle some rugged Canadian caves. The next challenge was having the patience to wait until the run-off levels were low enough to reduce the flow to divable levels (more about this later).
We arrived at Port Hardy and camped out in a camper lent to us by a friend of a friend. Our good nights sleep was broken by the sound of a bear shaking the camper while sorting through a garbage can that was left in front of it. We were to be guided by our friend in Port Hardy but he did not return from what was to be a short boat run we assumed he was called into work so after asking around town we obtained directions to Devilís Bath.

Northern Vancouver Island contains large areas of limestone deposits forming what is known as a karst plain . This limestone is dissolved by carbonic acid, which comes from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and over many thousands of years holes and tunnels form in the limestone. Many of these tunnels act as conduit for underground rivers. When the ceiling of one of these tunnels collapse a pond or sinkhole is formed. In Mexico they are called cenotes and the sinkhole or cenote at Devilís Bath is very reminiscent of Mexican cenotes except for all the logs floating in it.

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Image Our original plan called for one dive at Devilís Bath and a second at another interesting location but after making the two treks up and down this steep bank with our gear we decided this one location would do for now.





The inside of the sink consists of an almost round limestone basin with a sheer cliff on one side and a dense forest steep slop on the other. When learning to dive caves our instructor taught us to read a cenote by looking for leaves and debris to identify the siphon side and the clear water identifies the spring. We found the siphon choked with giant logs and many snags and underwater branches. We started on that side moving counter clockwise around the basin. There is a huge mound of silt in the middle of the pond, presumably deposited there from logging operations upstream.
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Aaron located an existing line leading to a tunnel on the siphon side. After tying off his own line we followed it down to the tunnel. The opening was choked with logs that couldnít quite make it through the opening and although we feel we could have made it through with some effort we decided not to attempt that passage at this time. We swam around the mound in the middle and came to the limestone cliff side. This soon revealed another long forgotten cave line which led to a dark passage. We did our own tie-off and headed into zee inky darkness. Now we were seeing formations and rock structure more familiar to us.


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We had not gone too far into the cave entrance when the narrow part of the tunnel caused the water velocity to increase to an almost unswimable level. We could see the cave going deeper down and guess if we had proceeded further it would have opened up which would reduce the flow but we decided not to go any further this dive.
Further to the left we found yet another entrance, which had an existing line tied in. We followed it a short distance. The line had parted about 100ft into the cave so we turned the dive and headed back to the entrance. By this time we had spent about 2 hrs exploring this area and it was time to leave the water.
Upon surfacing Aaron did his best impression of a Mexican cave instructorÖ
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We made the long haul back up the bank and were amazed at how muddy and dirty all our gear and we had become.
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They say a mother forgets the pain of childbirth upon seeing their new baby and we certainly will be going back as soon as the memory of the rugged exit and entry fade. We are hoping by mid September to revisit this area to dive this system as well as a couple of marks I have been told about by local cavers.

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