Phantom Springs Cave, once considered the 14th deepest underwater cave in the U.S., now has a new title: The deepest underwater cave in the U.S., thanks to Tom Iliffe, professor of marine biology, one of the world’s most experienced cave diving scientists.
Phantom Springs is located in Jeff Davis county Texas.
The Phantom Springs Cave consists of several natural springs that flow
throughout a system of caves. The cave extends to unknown depths, but
Iliffe and his team were able to dive 462 feet without finding the end.
Phantom Springs Cave Expedition 2013 from Liquid Productions, LLC on Vimeo.
In a press release Iliffe stated:
“There’s really no telling how deep it is or how far
the cave goes. This is also one of the longest underwater cave systems
in the country.”
The team noted that the water in the cave was considerably warmer than
expected during the dive. Iliffe believes that this warmer water is
evidence that the Phantom Springs Cave runs incredibly deep.
“The cave water is significantly warmer than what would normally be
expected for this area, thus suggesting this geothermally warmed water
almost certainly originates from deep below the Earth’s surface.”
The team plans to return to the cave for another expedition; however,
unique features of the cave pose a variety of problems for the team.
The cave has two ends that can be explored. One end has deep sections
requiring the need to prepare for deep water dives, while the other end
contains narrow passage ways and high currents requiring divers to
fight the strong waters on the trip back.
Furthermore, the cave is owned and preserved by the U.S. Bureau of
Reclamation, which only issues two permits at any given time. Both of
these permits are reserved until 2014; forcing the Iliffe team to delay
any expedition until a permit is issued to them.
With a better idea of the depths the team may have to deal with,
certain precautions are being planned for the next expedition. According
to a team report, “logistical planning will require inclusion of
bailout rebreathers and a possible decompression habitat placed 6,000+
feet into the cave.”
In this day and age of GPS positioning and satellite surveillance, it
is often naively believed that there is nothing left to explore on the
planet. However, expeditions such as Iliffe’s prove that when it comes
to exploring our own planet, humans have only barely scratched the
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