The spring is located on the east bank of the Suwannee River north of Suwannee River State Park. Water flows strongly from a cavern opening in the limestone bank. Recent research suggests this site, which has an average output of 92 cubic feet per second (nearly 60 million gallons a day), is the outflow point of Falmouth Spring, a karst window several miles to the south.
Some believe this spring was named because of its high flow (the name would suggest so and since the line needs replacing quite often). However, it was originally named by Guy Bryant and Lee Sams after their second dive there. After surfacing, Guy said to Lee, "man, this place is a real line eater" (meaning that they had laid quite a bit of line in just two dives in this totally unexplored system). They both liked the name so they named it that. At the time the spring was owned by Bernice Warner. He did not have a name for it so Guy asked him if it was OK to name it Lineater. Warner had no problem with the name and said it was OK by him.
A few years ago, Lineater was renamed to Stevenson Spring in honor of Jim Stevenson, the chair of the Florida Springs Task Force and the state.
"As of Nov. 2016, a new push inside the upstream portion of Lineater began. "About 1300’ upstream from Bernice sink, it drops from 50 ft. to 180 ft. straight down. They call it The Pit".
On Sunday, November 20th, Karst Underwater Research divers, Jonathan Bernot and Charlie Roberson, explored and surveyed another 3,245’ at Lineater extending the end of the line to 15,632’ from Bernice Sink.
Although we had hoped to keep the overall dive time around 8-9 hours, we realized that this was going to be a 10 hour dive. Jon and I have been hitting it hard lately and we were both ready for a break. On top of that, Lineater is a particularly rigorous dive with extremely high flow, several small sections, and no habitat to get out of the 68 degree water. Diving Lineater has definitely made us appreciate some of the luxuries of diving Cathedral. Despite the difficulties of long dives at Lineater, we both wanted to hit it one more time before taking a break for the holidays.
On Friday, November 19th, Jon and Ted McCoy, staged two additional safeties at the pit, where the cave drops from 35 ffw to 130 ffw. While the first 2,300’ of Lineater are shallow, the upper section is also smaller with some of the highest flow of any cave system I’ve dove. Jon and Ted also staged a tow scooter and a third safety beyond the bedding plane restriction at the start of the deep section, which allowed us to start the dive towing only one scooter each, heater packs, and cave radio locator.
Arriving at the pit at around 11:00 on Sunday morning, we traded our heater packs for safeties and descended into the deep section. The visibility was the same 15-20’ but the flow seemed to be up, perhaps because we were towing more gear than on our last dive. After navigating the Z-bend restriction and the 200’ bedding plane, the cave opens up, small at first but eventually into large 20’ x 20’ passage.
Just past the bedding plane section, Jon picked up the tow scooter and I picked up the third safety to replace one that was pulled out by Brett B Hemphill and Matt Vinzant on the last dive. The high pressure spool o-ring had failed and needed to be replaced. A simple fix but a real hassle on a bottle 4,750’ into this cave.
At ~7,250 we stopped to check the safety and place the cave radio transmitter. On the last dive, Brett and Matt had placed the ferrite core transmitter but we had been unable to locate it on the surface. In retrospect, the ferrite core, which is easier to carry than the 22" ring transmitter, was the wrong tool for the job. The ferrite core is a much weaker transmitter and the cave depth in combination with any survey error made it impossible to locate.
On the way out to the end of the line we placed one safety along with one that Brett and Matt had placed at ~9,000’ and the second at their end of the line at 12,387’. They had also placed one at 11,000’ giving us a total of six safeties in the deep section.
I tied in and dumped my 1,200’ LM reel, which was packed with more than 1,700’ of #18. As my reel ended in large going passage I realized we were approaching our turn time for a 10 hour dive. I also noticed the cave was getting deeper with most of our exploration around 170-175 ffw. Jon noted the time as I made a point of showing him twice. He obviously understood since he tied in with his 1,200’ LM reel and proceeded to dump it at full speed in large canyon shaped passage. He dumped the entire reel in 12 minutes putting us only a few minutes over our turn. We knew it was going to be a 10+ hour dive but this made it well worth it.
The survey and ride out were uneventful as we tried to balance good time with scooter efficiency. We picked up the ferrite core transmitter but left all the safeties in place, which along with the strong flow made our exit much quicker than the trip in.
About 3.5 hours after arriving back at the pit, we cleared our 20 ffw stop and began the slow exit to Bernice Sink, where we finished our 10 ffw stop. Jon and I surfaced around 20:30 to be greeted by Kristi Bernot and Brett B Hemphill, who helped us drag all our gear out of the water. Their help was greatly appreciated after such a long and arduous dive.
Thanks to Kristi Bernot, Brett B Hemphill, and Ted McCoy for setup and support.
Thanks to Andy Pitkin, Faith Ortins at DUI, Joel Clark and Corey Mearns at Light Monkey, and the Bernots at Cave Country Dive Shop for their materiel support."