Extreme Cave Diving with a Purpose

National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee Kenny Broad has been on hundreds of dives where the visibility is so bad he can’t see his own gauges in front of his face. He is an environmental anthropologist who explores inland underwater caves. It is an extreme working environment where one wrong move can be fatal.

Broad and his team, in collaboration with the National Museum of the Bahamas, began the Blue Holes Project to explore groundwater and submarine caves in the Bahamas. They collect data to help with issues like water management, preserving fossils, and climate change.

“It’s like going in a time machine, because we can find out about the ancient past,” Broad says. “We can take geologic samples, for example, and then study them and try to understand how climate change occurs, so how the ice ages occurred in the past. That allows us to improve the models of future climate, and our understanding of not just what’s going on with global warming, but the larger record of global climate change.”

As exciting as they sound, exploration dives are not pleasure dives. “It’s a pretty good challenge to go into an underwater cave and come out alive,” Broad says. “[Exploration dives] are much higher risk, because you’re not just going in and out—you’re trying to take samples, and pictures, and data.”

Along with multitasking in a challenging environment, the team members know they will probably not be able to see each other or where they are going on their way out. “Imagine turning the lights off in your house,” Broad says, “and putting a blanket over your head and then trying to find your way out.”

In cave diving you have to find your way back out the same way you enter, so there are some golden rules. The —> Read More