Bermuda Deep Water Caves 2011: Dives of Discovery

Dives of Discovery

By Tom Iliffe, Principal Investigator Director - Marine Biospeleology Lab Texas A&M University
June 7 – 27, 2011

Sea level has fluctuated more than 100 meters (328 feet) up and down over the course of the Ice Ages. We are currently in a period of high sea level, with the potential for sea level to go even higher in response to the Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming. However, we know relatively little about the opposite extremes of climate and sea level at the height of the last Ice Age. In order to learn more about climate and sea level fluctuations, we are conducting a multi-tiered project to examine the character of the shelf edge in Bermuda from 60 – 200 m (197 – 656 ft.) depths to find records of sea level low stands. This project has involved multibeam sonar mapping of the vertical cliffs on the platform edge, ROV dives to examine particular points on interest, and now mixed gas, closed circuit rebreather dives to make first hand geological and biological collections and observations. In particular, we will examine deep cave structures and wave cut notches that were formed when sea level was at its lowest point. Our team will consist of a small team of the world’s foremost technical and scientific divers, using state of the art diving equipment, striving to solve puzzles that have until now evaded direct observation.

Mission Overview

The goal of the “Bermuda Deep Water Caves 2011: Dives of Discovery” expedition was to explore and characterize the upper edge of the Bermuda Platform and an adjacent mid-ocean seamount to confirm the existence of deep-water (60-200 meter/197-656 foot depth) caves. The initial two phases of this project were conducted in 2009.

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Video Highlights

Natural Bridge Cave

Watch as Paul Heinerth, Jill Heinerth, and Brian Kakuk prepare their equipment and dive on Natural Bridge Cave. The team encountered a large manta ray during their decompression.

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Bermuda Shelf Edge

Join the Iliffe dive team as they explore the Bermuda shelf edge to confirm the existence of once dry now submerged deep-water caves and collect unique biology.

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Project Overview and Safety

While working to prepare their gear, members of the Bermuda Deep Water Caves dive team provide an overview of the project and the safety concerns involved.

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