Cave diving is one of the most challenging and potentially dangerous kinds of diving and presents many diving hazards. Cave diving is a form of penetration diving, meaning that in an emergency a diver cannot ascend directly to the surface due to the cave`s ceilings, and instead may have to swim horizontally. The underwater navigation through the cave system may be difficult and exit routes may be at considerable distance, requiring the diver to have sufficient breathing gas to make the journey, resulting in potential deep diving risks.
Visibility can be low, or non-existent. While a less-intensive kind of diving called cavern diving does not take divers beyond the outermost part of the cave reached by natural light, true cave diving can involve penetrations of many thousands of feet, well beyond the reach of sunlight. The level of darkness experienced creates an environment impossible to see in without an artificial form of light. Caves often contain sand, mud, clay, silt, or other sediment that can further reduce underwater visibility in seconds when stirred up.
Caves can carry strong water currents. Most caves emerge on the surface as either springs or siphons. Springs have out flowing currents, where water is coming up out of the Earth and flowing out across the land`s surface. Siphons have inflowing currents where, for example, an above-ground river is going underground. Some caves are complex and have some tunnels with out flowing currents, and other tunnels with inflowing currents. If currents are not properly managed, they can cause serious problems for the diver.
Cave diving is perceived as one of the more dangerous sports in the world. This perception is arguable because the vast majority of divers who have lost their lives in caves have either not undergone specialized training or have had inadequate equipment for the environment. Many cave divers have suggested that cave diving is in fact statistically much safer than recreational diving due to the much larger barriers imposed by experience, training, and equipment cost.
There is no reliable worldwide database listing all cave diving fatalities. Such fractional statistics as are available, however, suggest that very few divers have ever died while following accepted protocols and while using equipment configurations recognized as acceptable by the cave diving community. In the very rare cases of exceptions to this rule there have always been unusual circumstances.
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