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MOTIERS CAVE - 2010

 

New year, new explorations: the programmes carnet is all written and we are already at the end of January. It's time to start, unravelling not only the "Arianne’s thread" but also the strong thread of my hope to accomplish with respectable results my beloved explorations.
In these days I feel physically good even if I have to improve my muscular tone therefore, apart from the shortage of funds, I can make it.
My first target this year, is the Motiers' caves siphon that has been waiting since September 2008, when I reached -125m to 456m from the siphon entrance and where, pushed by enthusiasm, I left cylinders in the grotto's mud, ready to be re-used in the next exploration; it's a pity that some physical problems and the lack of time, prevented me to go back there in short-term.

 

Monday 25th January 2010
My friend Mose shows up at 8:00 a.m. at my home where the equipment and the speleo-bags are ready. After we had some pasta cooked by Bea, we head for french Swiss. It was 1:00 p.m. when we left my home, it's 6:30 p.m. when we get to Motiers, having encountered a few problems: for many kilometres all around us it's covered by snow. It's quite chilly, after all we are at 840mt sea-level.

We are 30 minutes late and our swiss friends sheltered theirselfs in a cafè-restaurant close to the cave entrance: they are a small team made by Grégoire André, Isabelle Chouquet, Jean-Claude Page, Kwenani Bolanz and Patrick Deriaz, heroically ready to help us to bring the equipment to the siphon.

The works done lately in the cave to improve the progression, make incredibly easier our way to the siphon: you don't get trapped in the annoying mud called “bourbier”, walking on rungs of ladders nailed horizontally to the walls.

Crossed a small bridge framed by a threatening iced waterfall and brought inside all the bags in about 20 minutes progression, we set the nozzles and the floatings on the cylinders that meanwhile got rusty in some points, we arrange the rest of the equipment and go back towards the exit. It's 9:00 p.m. and we are in time to have a very good fondue in the near cafè-restaurant until, overstuffed, we make our way to Patrick's home that is unfortunately about 100km away.

 

Tuesday 26th January 2010
Breakfast, underwetsuit inside a bag, start to the cave where José Lambelet, the cameraman Pascal Bourquin, the Suisse Romande television, the photographer Perret Guillaume and a journalist from L’Express, Alexandre Bardet are waiting for us. After the interviews and a some external photos, we leave the photographer and the journalist and begin our progression into the cave, our speed is adapted to Pascal's shooting rhythm. At last here there is the hall, already full up by our equipment and now, with our presence, liven up by our noises and lights. We start immediately to prepare the rebreaters, Megalodon for Mosè and hybrid Copis-Megalodon for me; then the camera is set on the new diving suit Isotta and finally we get ready being on a sort of rug to protect us from the mud. Some more questions and it's time now to start the scuba diving: put the rebreathers on, Mosè precedes me going towards the water but, just before getting to the pool, he slips and sadly one of his socks gets torn. The access is not easy at all and the mud doesn't help to be steady so that I myself slip, luckily without consequences. The water level is lower then usual and, thanks to the topography done during the last explorations, we know that we can surpass without any problem the end of the first siphon.

For Mosè the hole in the sock is not enough, hole partially tighten by a rubber band, now his wetsuit's exhaust valve is playing up. Therefore, loaded of his equipment, Mosè gets trapped inside his wetsuit now too much swollen to be managed. So for today he has to give up the diving and the shooting. Instead I start and go to position the cylinders at different depth: at -6mt a 10lt oxygen tank, at -36mt a 10lt nitrox 36%O2-36%He cylinder, at -70mt 2 20lt cylinders containing a mixture of 13%O2-75%He and one 10%O2-80%He that will be needed in the deep progression; I will take with me in case of emergency, during the return, a 12lt cylinder containing a mixture of 20%O2-70%He. Visibility is lower than the last time, in the whole cave there are at the most 4mt, while the water temperature is about the same, +7°C.

After 55 minutes, when I re-emerge, Pascal asks me if I can make a shoot underwater with Mosè's camera, so I go down again to a ten metres depth shooting some walls and making close ups in a now muddy water.

Mosè is sorry about things went but, in a so muddy cave everything is possible and it's all part of the game. After the usual 100km toward Patrick's home, comforted by Daniela in our bodies and minds with a Raclette dinner and an excellent wine, we fall in a lethargic sleep in our bed.

Trasmission on Switzerland Television TSR (in french) [Click here]

 

Thursday 28th January 2010
While I prepare the radial filter for the explorative dive and with the others i put wetsuits and underwetsuits in the bags, outside the snowflakes are happily falling down, so when we go out, we tread on 5cm of fresh snow.

Apparently the weather doesn't seem optimum but at least there is not the polar temperature announced by the swiss weather forecast.

The closed because an accident motorway forces us to make a little diversion on a state highway. Result: we are late on our schedule.

At the usual café-restaurant we meet Josè, Jean Claude Lalou and another cameraman, Thierry. At midday we leave the daylight for the compact darkness of the cave and quickly reach our siphon where the Copis and the Megalodon are waiting for us on a comfortable natural platform.

Mosè's Copis rebreather is ready while my Megalodon has to be accomplished with filter and head calibrated before use in water.

The piglet trim, that with the new lighter  Lithium batteries turned positive, needs to be adjusted but luckily in the cave there are leads already used by Jean Jacques Bolanz that can help us. After try and try we get a so good result that I feel more than happy, as at last the trim is perfectly neutral.

Now I have to get ready therefore I wear my wetsuit, answer a few questions made by an interviewer and sit down on a stone and wait for Mosè that, for room's reasons, has to get ready after me. He is quite fast and anyway, where I am, I cannot sweat.

Mosè gets into the water and prepares himself to shoot my descent viewed from the surface, going to reach a clear zone meanwhile I hook myself to a 15lt cylinder charged with 50%O2-20%He to bring at -21mt, a 12lt cylinder to leave at -70 charged with a mixture of 20%O2-70%He and a battery that will power my electric jacket. Piglet hooked, I am going to go down in the deep when I see Mosè that waves me to make an about-turn. When we emerge, he informs me that one of his watertight gloves and part of his underwetsuit has been flooded. He sorts out the problem and after a couple of minutes we start again. It's 3.15 p.m. and luckily I haven't lost my concentration; is not the first time that I have to re-enter just after a false start and, as anyone springs up for a start in a race knows, it isn't a nice situation since you loose concentration and get nervous. Inside this cave of Motiers' fall I have te advantage that the first siphon to pass through is in shallow water and time needed to pass it will be used to get the maximum concentration. We are at -5mt and the camera lamps are so powerful that blind me. The solution is, like I did other times, to avoid to look at them going forward without seeing much. Overtaken the first bottleneck and a second one, I go first. In order to go slowly, i don't use the piglet and I let Mose to follow me shooting but, being also an explorative dive, I cannot respect too much his needs.

From the deaden lights I reckon that Mose is far, I turn and see him at about 10mt from me: the powerful lamps allow me to see him even from this distance. Mose is far but I don't have to worry about him since he is also self-sufficient having with him two emergency cylinders and doesn't signal anything. Therefore I carry on: I am at base of the well and start to go towards the surface where there are still 1,5mt of water to overtake the neck, enough to move forward without any problems. Above me air has replaced water: compared to the last exploration, the level is 4mt lower. Mosè is not behind me any longer. I quickly go into the narrow tunnel to a -21mt depth where I leave the 15lt cylinder and then, at -36mt I leave the battery and go to reach the 20lt cylinders at -70mt. I leave the 12lt, take the two 20lt and understand that I am wasting precious time at an important depth. The choice to bring the cylinders at this depth has been made because of the need to manage everything on my own in two dives, not because it is practical.

Never mind, I manage to do everything: I go down in the well and then, with the piglet that maybe is too quick for this morphology, I pass through the tunnel trying not to clash. When I reach the point where I tied the thread one and half year ago that today, because the different water level,  is less deep, only -121mt, I stop to join the new tread of the lifeline unwinder. Here we start with a new part. The tunnel looks like is going up where the clay rules; visibility is poor and I prefer to give up the mechanic propeller and carry on with my flippers: I will be slower but I will be able to see the tunnel better and to roil less. I unwind the thread without any problem and the tunnel, that first goes up for a couple of metres, goes down again; I put some anchorage just to keep the thread in the right position and I enjoy the dimensions of 2mt by 2mt. 21 minutes have passed and maybe I can carry on for 5 minutes more: I can feel the cold water on my hands, because I have 6mm neoprene not watertight 3-fingers gloves.  When I get into a lounge at -124mt, I can see above me a chimney meanwhile ahead there is a slope. The time available is going to expire because, with this kind of thermal insulation, I cannot stay in decompression for long and also visibility does not give many chances. Since going up through the chimney would cause a clay fall, I'll leave it for the next time and now I go down. I find in front of me a bottleneck, caused by a big stone, I get closer and overtake it without too much effort and I go down a few more metres. I believe that for today is enough but, while I was choosing an anchorage to fix the end of the thread, the prepared knot slips away. Being necessary not to waste more time, because I imagine the very poor visibility when we return, I leave the thread dangling on the anchorage and carefully I start my return. I was right: in some points you can is only for about 10cm but I trust the thread I am following and so I don't slow down.

The piglet light that now I see makes me happy, I am nearly there: I get it, hook it to myself and go towards the first decompression stage at -91. 33' went by. Meanwhile I am waiting to desaturate some gained gas, I make a few counts: -134m is the maximum depth reached read on a computer, while on a second computer, the Galileo, the depth read is -138. The "Ariadne's thread" confirms 65mt of new exploration therefore the total of flooded tunnels is of 521mt, of which 170mt progression beyond -100.

Keeping going back, at -70 I recover also the 12lt cylinder as I don't want to leave anything in the cave: tomorrow I have to be at home, ready for my students at the Saturday trimix course. After 50', reaching the battery, I feel relieved at the thought that I will feel the warmth of the electric jacket inside the wetsuit. Mose lights up above me, reaches me and points out his reb on the back: I check and the only thing that comes up into my mind is the oxygen supply that was unhooked and that I fix again. The good Mose is trying to shoot even if the visibility unfortunately is reducing to 50cm. Mose's lights disapper with him, while I slowly wave with bright signals and Mose appears again. Visibility is too poor for filming  so I start to download the rèlè 20lt cylinders. As soon as I finish the operation, I realize I am going up and after one metre, I am against the ceiling.  I don't know why, the rèlè cylinders are almost neutral in the water. But I understand everything looking at the snaplink to which I hooked a 15lt cylinder and a battery with a cord. It was alone with a piece of cord dangling in the water. I have been punished by my laziness, for not having changed a cord that stayed for one year in a humid ambient getting rotten. The cord got broken and because of my laziness it was hooked just to one of the two snaplinks, it fell down to the bottom. Mose settles the cylinders and I go down to search. Being lucky, I find everything 6mt under myself, I gather the stuff and go back to decompression stage: this time I use elastic bands and two snaplinks to fasten it.

Peaceful in the silence, I perceive the gurgling coming from Mose that is still in my company, he gives a look and waves me a leak on the oxygen joint. Thinking about it, I remember that just before leaving, I changed the whip and, to finish the modification, I disassembled everything and I must have forgotten to block the nut that keeps the Swagelok on the whip. Once more I have a demonstration that is better to start a job and finish it immediately instead of charging the cylinders at the same time, listening to my neighbour. Anyway at the moment I have enough oxygen to do again the same dive and make the electronic reb work but I prefer the silence and I carry on manually.

Decompression almost over, I go up to a -1m and I go down again at -24 before facing the last 80mt tunnel to get to the end of the siphon. After 2h30' I re-emerge in the lounge where my partners of adventure announce a surprise: a very pretty blonde siren looks at me and smiles: she is a local radio journalist, entered to interview me.

The room is crowded as many enthusiastic guys, after work, come here to give a hand to transport the equipment. I thank you all!  Didier Schurch, Grégoire André, Jean-Claude Lalou, José Lambelet, Marc Genoux, Marilise e Philippe L’Eplatenier.

Outside the cave, in the dark, I break the torrent ice and crouch in the pool of water to clean the wetsuit from the mud.

At 9.30 p.m. in the café, we get warm drinking something in company, then we go for dinner at Cristiane's, J.Jacques’ wife, where we warm also our hearts.

The same night we leave for home, that we reach after 5 tiring hours driving at 6 a.m. We will rest just to retrieve the energy to download and clean the equipment: on the ground will stay the swiss mud remains.

 

[Trasmission on ARCHINFO.CH (in french)]    [Article on RTN (in french)]

Friday 29th January 2010

[Trasmission on ARCHINFO.CH (in french)]

 

This is the New Profile of the Cave:        [Click here]

 

         
     
 
Partially frozen waterfall
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
Bourbier at the end of job
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
     
 
Not only pictures but also drills, hammers and wrenches
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
The static line is placed and then we can start
Photo: Patrick Deriaz 

 

 
     
 
Siphon level a week before our arrival
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
We choose the speleo-bags in a "democratic" way
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
     
 
The rocket man
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
Iced stalagmite at the cave entrance
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
     
 
A bottlelneck Copis-sized
Photo: Gigi Casati

 

 
Even climbing is confortable with a ladder
Photo: Gigi Casati

 

 
     
 
Making the equipment ready
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
A videocamera in the beauty-farm
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
     
 
Moses opened the way through the water, now closes the case
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
Last touch
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
     
 
For Moses it is the coolest moment of the day
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
Interview before scuba diving
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
     
 
The end of the first dive
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
We settle our rebreathers before leaving the cave
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
     
 
Getting fresh before the evening
Photo: Patrick Deriaz

 

 
Where is the water?
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
     
 
Getting the "piglet" neutral
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
Some mud
Photo: Marc Genoux 
 
     
 
Jean-Claude at the cookers
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
"Aglia, fra vaglia, fattura che non quaglia..."
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
     
 
Oops, they were only watching the cave topography
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
At least our feet are dry
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
     
 
I feel more relaxed
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
Here we are on the siphon border
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
     
 
Moses and the semi-watertight gloves
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
It' my turn
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
     
 
A last effort
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
It's better in the water
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
     
 
The borealis siren
Photo: Marc Genoux

 

 
Underneath the ice the is some water
Photo: Gregoire André

 

 
     
 
Who is in the night? It's her, the borealis siren
Photo: Gregoire André

 

 
After this treat, equipments will feel younger
Photo: Gigi Casati

 

 
     
 
Moses, what expression do you have?
Photo: Gigi Casati

 

 
Below here there is your Megalodon
Photo: Gigi Casati

 

 
     
 
Look up on the left, it's your new Predator!
Photo: Gigi Casati

 

 
Judging from the pictures it looks like only you are working ;-)
Photo: Gigi Casati

 

 

 

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