Surviving the Depths: A Challenging Dive in Pearse Resurgence Cave

Incident LocationDiver Full Name
New Zealand, Pearse Resurgence CaveJohn

The Pearse Resurgence is a water-filled cave located in the remote Pearse Valley of New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park. The cave is known for its icy water temperatures and periods of high flow, and it is considered as one of the most challenging caves in Australia and New Zealand.

Beauty and Challenges of the Cave

Despite its dangers, the cave is also a site of incredible beauty, with its winding passages and hidden chambers waiting to be explored. Exploring the Pearse Resurgence cave is not for the faint of heart. The narrow passages and deep pools make it difficult to navigate. It’s a wet cave, which means that the floor is covered in water and the temperature is chilly.

You must be an experienced caver with the proper equipment and experience to tackle the Pearse Resurgence. One of the biggest challenges of this cave system is the amount of water flowing through it. The underground river can be powerful and unpredictable, making it a dangerous environment to be in. It’s also dark, which makes it hard to see what’s ahead.

Divers Ready for the Adventure

Despite the risks, the Pearse Resurgence is a true adventure and a once-in-a-lifetime experience. On March 14, 2007, Dave Apperley & Rick Stanton, two highly experienced divers, were joined by Craig Howell, John Atkinson, and Richard Harris at the Pearse Resurgence for a diving and exploration mission.

Together, they feel ready to tackle one of the most challenging cave systems in the world. Dave has spent a lot of time exploring the cave and has even set up a habitat, a portable life support system, at the beginning of the passage at 18 ft (5.5 m) for divers to decompress in comfort.

Mixed Gas Closed Circuit Rebreathers

All the divers, except for John Atkinson who was staying closer to the surface, were going to use mixed gas closed circuit rebreathers for their dives. Mixed gas closed circuit rebreathers are a type of diving equipment used by divers to extend the duration of their dives and increase their safety. Using a mixture of helium, oxygen, and nitrogen can help reduce the risk of oxygen toxicity in long dives.

Mixed gas closed circuit rebreathers allow for a much smaller gas consumption, so a diver can stay underwater for much longer than with open-circuit scuba gear. This group of divers is no stranger to danger and are more than ready to take on the challenges that the Pearse Resurgence will throw their way. After a grueling 24 hours of travel and minimal sleep, Craig, John, and Richard arrived at camp to join Dave and Rick, who had spent the last few days setting everything up.

John’s Dive and Disappearance

Eager to get started, John decided to take a dive before dinner to stage some tanks for the team. The purpose of staged tanks was to provide a back-up supply of gas for the team in case of an emergency. Divers carry these tanks with them and leave them at a predetermined point during the dive to ensure they have enough gas to safely complete the dive and exit the cave.

Though John had recently recovered from the flu, which had delayed his arrival at the Pearse Resurgence, he felt ready for the challenge. With two 12-liter (3.2 gal) side mounts, John followed the line into the Nightmare Crescent and down into the shaft, planning to stage the tanks at 108 ft (33 m). As he journeyed deeper into the cave, the stunning surroundings left him in awe. But at 70 ft (21.3 m), something changed. Suddenly, John didn’t feel well. He had no idea what was about to hit him.

As Dave and Rick made their descent into the dark, mysterious cave, they noticed something was off. Dave’s stage bottles were nowhere to be found. At first, they weren’t too concerned – after all, their dives weren’t supposed to be particularly deep or long.

But as they ventured deeper into the cave, they couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss. Where could those stage bottles be? Were they just misplaced, or was there something more sinister at play? Dave and Rick had an uneasy sensation as they swam through the winding tunnels, as if they were being observed, while they searched for any sign of the missing tanks. It was clear that this wasn’t going to be just another routine dive.

Meanwhile, Craig and Richard were still relaxing at camp when they started to get worried about John’s prolonged absence. John was already gone for 90 minutes now. But they were confident that Dave and Rick, who had recently entered the cave, would be able to help John if he was in danger.

A Desperate Struggle

As it turned out, things had started to go very wrong for John after he passed the 70 ft (21.2 m) mark. His vision began to blur and water was streaming down his mask. He grabbed the guideline to stop his descent and quickly detached one of the extra tanks, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong. He needed to get out of there immediately. But as he tried to ascend, the whole shaft began to twist and spin violently. Vertigo had taken hold of him and he had little control over his movements. He was in deep trouble. He had the guideline in one hand and couldn’t tell which way was up or down.

He felt himself being flung against the side of the shaft by vertigo. Grit and sand came away from the walls, and there was absolutely no visibility. It was as though something had taken a hold of him and was throwing him around the cave, and that same thing was pressing blackness just behind his vision. He was absolutely terrified that he would pass out.

Trapped in Darkness: John’s Terrifying Ordeal in the Air Chamber

He had managed not to lose the guideline and somehow found himself on top of it. He then tried to swim out of the cave, but realized he was going the wrong way. He came to another line junction and could see that the ripple of the surface reflections wasn’t too far off. He decided to swim towards those ripples, and he finally surfaced in what he immediately discovered was an air chamber. At this point, he became trapped in the air chamber. It was a disaster.

John took a minute to assess himself and quickly realized that if he dived again, he would die. The vertigo had complete control over John, rendering him helpless. He had no idea which way his head was facing and definitely didn’t know how to get out. He was almost hallucinating at this point.

But he managed to calm down a bit and started looking around, even though he still couldn’t see and the vertigo was still in full swing. He was floating in 44°F (6°C) water and was certain he was going to die. Suddenly, things got even worse when John had a full-blown panic attack in the water. He felt like the neck of his dry suit was too tight and strangling him, so he started tearing at it.

John knew he had to make a decision: either be rescued or risk death. In a moment of determination, he swam towards the surface. As he blindly wandered through the darkness, he felt something sharp and used it to pull himself out of the water. When he finally emerged, he took a deep breath and wrote on his dive slate that he would wait for Dave to find him.

After about 40 minutes of sitting in the pitch black, John decided to remove his suit. The neck seal was choking him and making it hard to breathe. It was almost impossible for him to get it off because the zipper was jammed and broken. John was frantically looking around the cave for any sort of light, but all he could see was pure blackness.

It was horrifying to be in that situation, and his breathing was starting to pick up. He thought of lowering the light on a search reel to attract attention, but he wanted to save the batteries. All of a sudden, a bright blue glow outlined the water underneath him. He grabbed his helmet, turned on the most powerful light, and put it under the water, waving it around and flashing the beam. He realized to his horror that the glow faded away and disappeared into the black.

This was only devastating and made John angry that he was so close to having the other divers find him. After about 20 minutes, another glow appeared. He flashed his light and the glow faded away. John was about to rest his eyes and give up when the water around him started to light up with a vibrant blue. It had to be Dave with his bloody grey camera light.

Once again, a massive burst of determination hit John. Because he knew that if he did not try to attract the attention of the divers, they would not see him on their descent and he would never be rescued. He got on his gear as quickly as he could and dropped down the line, with his vision narrowing. He had one hand sliding on the dive line and the other on the wall to keep his balance.

He could see Dave’s helmet lights now and then the outline of his yellow rebreather. He couldn’t tell if Dave saw him or not, even after waving his light around like crazy. He was so dizzy and the vertigo was so extreme at this point, John didn’t want to leave the wall and swim to him.

But after about another minute, Dave actually came up and swam to him and surfaced in the chamber. After a couple of minutes, John was hit by the vertigo again and, right when Dave was trying to speak to him, he couldn’t speak at all. He needed to take a few minutes and take some deep breaths.

After taking the regulator out of his mouth, he told Dave that he messed up and that he was sorry for getting stuck down there. Dave was so happy to see John that he didn’t even care about the fact that John got lost and it was a mistake, even if it was a deadly one. Dave took his rebreather out and said, “To hell with that apology. How much gas have you got?” John took a look and blurted out, “170 in each.” “Oh, you’ve got shitloads,” said Dave.

John wasn’t concerned about the amount of gas that he had. He was more concerned about the fact that he might lose consciousness. The vertigo was still extremely intense. If Dave hadn’t been with him, there is no way he would have made it.

John then realized that if he attempted to get out by himself before Dave, he would have surely drowned. Despite still feeling the effects of vertigo, John was able to make it out of the cave safely thanks to Dave’s expertise. The team was relieved and happy to see John, who had gone through a difficult and traumatic experience. The cave is known for being hard on equipment and pushing divers to their limits, so reaching this point was a major achievement, especially for Dave who has faced the challenges of the cave numerous times. Dave and Rick continued to push the cave over the next few days. The dive team.

began to surpass Dave’s previous exploration, making their way to the back of the big room and beyond. The goal was to find further explanation for the past few trips that had been made. It’s great to see that the cave continues to be explored and studied, and that new information is being discovered.

Each year, the explorers have been able to go deeper into the cave system and discover new passages and chambers. In 2008, the explorers reached a depth of 597 ft (182 m), which is already quite impressive. But they didn’t stop there, in 2011, they went further and reached a depth of 636 ft (194 m).

In 2012, exploratory dives took them to 725 ft (221 m), and in 2016, they managed to reach 751 ft (229 m). Recently in 2020, they reached a depth of 803 ft (245 m) using Seacraft scooters, a remarkable achievement. It’s clear that the explorers have been making steady progress in their exploration of the Pearse Resurgence cave, and that they continue to push the boundaries of what is possible.

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What is the Pearse Resurgence cave in New Zealand?

The Pearse Resurgence is a water-filled cave located in the remote Pearse Valley of New Zealand’s Kahurangi National Park. It is known for its icy water temperatures, periods of high flow, and challenging passages. Considered one of the most challenging caves in Australia and New Zealand, it offers a unique and beautiful exploration experience.

What challenges are associated with diving in the Pearse Resurgence cave?

Diving in the Pearse Resurgence cave presents several challenges. The narrow passages and deep pools make navigation difficult. The cave is characterized by high water flow, which can be powerful and unpredictable. It is a dark environment, limiting visibility and making it hard to see what lies ahead. Additionally, the water temperatures are chilly, requiring appropriate gear and experience to withstand the conditions.

Who are the divers in the Pearse Resurgence cave incident?

In the incident mentioned, the divers involved were Dave Apperley, Rick Stanton, Craig Howell, John Atkinson, and Richard Harris. Dave, Rick, and Craig were experienced divers who had traveled to the cave for a diving and exploration mission. John, the diver who encountered difficulties, decided to stage tanks for the team before dinner.

What is a mixed gas closed circuit rebreather, and why were the divers using it?

A mixed gas closed circuit rebreather is a type of diving equipment that allows divers to extend their dive duration and increase safety. It involves using a mixture of helium, oxygen, and nitrogen to reduce the risk of oxygen toxicity during long dives. The divers, except for John Atkinson, planned to use these rebreathers to enhance their diving experience and safety in the challenging cave environment.

What happened to John during his dive in the Pearse Resurgence cave?

During his dive, John experienced difficulties after passing the 70 ft (21.2 m) mark. He felt unwell, and vertigo set in, making it challenging to control his movements. He managed to find himself in an air chamber but became trapped and faced a terrifying ordeal. He struggled with the vertigo, panic attacks, and a broken suit zipper, leading to moments of desperation. Eventually, with the help of Dave, John was rescued and brought safely out of the cave.

Patrick Broin
Patrik, a seasoned cave diver, shares his first-hand experiences and expert insights on the treacherous world of cave diving accidents.
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