Until recently, “the bottom” of a Missouri spring was thought to be at 224 feet deep.
Then, in July, the KISS Rebreathers dive team “made history” at Roaring River State Park. The KISS Rebreathers — that stands for ‘keep it super simple’ — is filming and mapping the Roaring River Spring.
Last month, the team of scuba divers continued their exploration into the abyss, where nobody had ever been. And they brought back video, entitled “Roaring River The Abyss,” which was published to YouTube on Monday. The video is part of a series of mini documentaries published by the team.
“Exploration is awesome. Exploration is like visiting a cathedral,” said Mike Young, lead exploratory diver. “You get to go somewhere where nobody has ever been. And I’ve been places that nobody will ever get to go again. It’s neat to be able to do that and to document it and bring back video and photos of these places.”
The video starts from 344 feet high, illustrating exactly just how deep 344 feet underwater is. But as you continue to watch, you’ll find yourself alongside the divers as they explore the cave.
Then, once the divers reached about 240 to 250 feet deep, they ran down a canyon until both sides met, where they were then able to continue downward.
“The visibility down deep was phenomenal,” Young said. “ ... so it’s kind of neat to be able to see the cave in a new perspective with all of this water clarity.”
The divers made it down to 344 feet, and they dropped a drop weight down to 365 feet.
“And I can see it easily,” Young said. “Plus, I could see another 20 to 30 feet past that and it’s still dropping down.”
Chief underwater photographer Randall Purdy wants to be sure others are aware that they take every safety precaution possible, according to the Springfield News Leader. They keep at least 15 extra scuba tanks along the cave “just in case.”
Jon Lillestolen, project cartographer, echoed that statement in the team’s video.
“Cave diving is not like a thrill-seeking sport like skydiving,” he said. “It’s more like the pilot flying the plane. It’s more about control and having layers of safety so that we maintain that control.”
And while they did have to modify the dive due to an equipment issue, Purdy said they achieved all the objectives they set out to do.
“Today’s dive was as fantastic as it could have been,” he said in the video.
KISS Rebreathers plan to continue exploring the “absolutely massive” underwater cave system as long as their permits are approved, the News Leader reported.
“Every place is different, and you never know what you’re going to encounter,” Young said, according to the newspaper. “That makes the exploration process longer and drawn out, and that’s why it’s taking us months and months to do because we go in, we explore a little, we see what we encounter and we come back out and we make a plan for how we can go a little farther next time.”
Roaring River State Park, located in the southwest Ozark hills, is considered “one of Missouri’s most popular state parks,” according to its website.
“Past dive teams from 1979 and 1999 were limited due to traditional scuba equipment and could descend only 224 feet into the spring before they were stopped by a narrow constriction,” Missouri Department of Natural Resources said in a news release. “The KISS dive team has made history by not only squeezing past the restriction, but also mapping and filming hundreds of feet beyond what was once considered the ‘bottom’ of the spring.”