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May 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 31, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Most Dangerous Inland America Dive Sites?

from the May, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Fed by the Trinity Aquifer, which pushes up its water through the well and spills it into nearby Cypress Creek, Jacob's Well is a spring in Hays County, Texas, an hour or so southwest of Austin, near the towns of Wimberley and Dripping Springs.

Its cool water has lured locals and visitors for hundreds of years, and, for almost that long, Jacob's Well has drawn the adventurous, too. Daredevils leap from a nearby outcropping into the slim opening that is, by at least one estimate, only about 13 feet wide. Free divers probe the well, sometimes as deep as 100 feet, maneuvering into narrow openings that lead into underwater caves. Scuba divers make forays into what the Jacob's Well Exploration Project calls a "challenging, unforgiving environment." It can be a deadly.

Diego Adame, a 21-year-old from San Antonio, lost a fin free diving the caves deep in the well last July and had to cut away his weight belt to make it back to the surface before he drowned.

"For a split second," he told the San Antonio Express-News, "I thought of death and dying that day."

At least eight people have died at Jacob's Well, which has prompted some people to call it one of the most dangerous diving spots in the world. Two young Texas men were caught in one of the caves and drowned in 1979. One diver's remains were only flushed out of the well in 1981. The other's remains were not recovered until 2000.

Writer Louie Bond tells some of the well's story on the website www.visitwimberley.com, in an article called, "The Fatal Allure of Jacob's Well." He describes at least four caves deep in the well, some with openings so narrow that divers have to remove their tanks to get through. Bond also notes the recovery of one of the well's victims in 2000, made by a diver from the San Marcos Area Recovery Team:

"You couldn't tell up from down, left from right," Kathy Misiaszek said. "You couldn't see your gauges. You were scraping the bottom and banging your tanks on the top. You had nothing to fall back on except your training. We were rather relieved to get out."

The beauty of the place belies the danger beneath, but even up top, Jacob's Well can be dangerous. In August, temperatures routinely hover around 97 degrees or higher during the heat of the day. If you're looking for relief, a quick dip in Jacob's Well will do the job. If adventure is what you're after, it's better to stay cool-headed.

Meanwhile, in New Mexico in late March, a diver died after getting trapped in an underwater labyrinth of tunnels in the Blue Hole, a popular swimming hole near Santa Rosa. 43-year-old Shane Thompson, a cave diver with rescue and recovery experience, was part of a two-man buddy team making an excursion on behalf of the ADM Exploration Foundation. They got rare access to the site, sealed to the public since it claimed the lives of two Oklahoma trainee divers in 1976.

Thompson was participating in a two-year-long project to map out the maze of caverns and make them more accessible when he lost sight of his buddy at 194 feet deep, became disoriented, and was unable to find his way out. Presumably, they were not using a cave line, although newspaper reports mention a cord of some sort that came loose.

Thompson's buddy, Mike Young, is reported to have said to city officials, "The word that was given to me that day was these are the most dangerous caves they've ever dived anywhere."

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