< Scoff Vs Irvine: Helmets in Cave Diving

From: "Trey" <girvine@bellsouth.net>
To: <JDisler401@aol.com>, <scoff_cavedivinggroup@hotmail.com>,
Subject: RE: Helmets for cave diving. What's the deal?
Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2002 09:06:39 -0500
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Look, idiot, there is no excuse for doing things the way these guys do it. Helmet in the dry cave is one thing, the rest of what you are saying reflects that fact that you don't do jack shit, and don't know. Reinhard explores sump/dry stuff that you can't even understand the severity of, and he has no problem bringing g all the right gear and DIR at the same time. You guys keep on trying to tell us all why idiocy and the "every man for himself", "fuck your buddies", Star Wars Bar Scene mentality is such a noble thing. The fact is that no matter how well you try to articulate stupidity, it is still stupidity.

-- and

From: "Trey" <girvine@bellsouth.net>
To: <JDisler401@aol.com>, <girvine@bellsouth.net>,
   <scoff_cavedivinggroup@hotmail.com>, <techdiver@aquanaut.com>
Subject: RE: Helmets for cave diving. What's the deal?
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2002 08:10:13 -0500
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Jeff, I am sick of idiots. I am sick of the Brits with their nonsense. You just make it worse by spewing out sheer idiocy. Ask Reinhard how he got his sleeping bag into the sumps, you fucking moron, and stop wasting my time with bullshit. I don't care what you think is necessary for caving. Helmets are bullshit in diving, and there is very little reason to expect to need one in a horizontal cave situation.

Let's look at some of the really stupid things you and the Brits have said . The fact that you don't actually do any of this is funny because you come up with the same crap they do and they claim to be big shots at it. They even claim some "traverse record" which is a screaming joke since other than the 14+ thousand foot deep traverse that JJ and I did a few years ago, the previous "record" was held by Bill Gavin and Lamar English since 1987.
Now, the bullshit. For one thing, if you put a light on a helmet, the only way you can look at something is by turning your whole head to point at it. You can not just move your eyes like you can when you are holding the light by its goodman handle. There is no reason you can not climb or negotiate with a goodman handle. I made one with a strap when I went dry caving last. On the other hand, putting the light on your gear subjects it to getting hit, to falling off, to pulling the stupid helmet off, to tangling the cord, to making it impossible to negotiate any kind of problem while tied in to the light on you head, etc. Never mind looking like a complete moron.
Putting backup lights there, like the Brits do, is beyond the pale stupid. ( Then those morons generally leave them turned on, adding to the stupidity).
Cave diving is something I know a little more about than your or the cumulative Island of Great Britain, and I am quite certain of that as it gets proven to me by all of you every time you try to argue with me about it. DIR is the best system for doing this. We do all kinds of diving with it. The perversions and nonsense that the strokes come up with is not going to cut it , can not be rationally explained or justified, is the root of most accidents , and for them we have Rule Number One.
I don't care what kind of stupid things anyone else dopes, but don't expect me to do anything but laugh and call it stupid. Brett Gilliam has been doing extremely deep air dives for years , and so I guess by the logic of you and the Brits, this must be ok since he is still alive. Right?
Jeff, don't bother trying to tell me about anything underwater. I think you are a complete moron, and I don't want to hear it.

From: Scoff <scoff_cavedivinggroup@hotmail.com>
Date: Mon, 14 Jan 2002 39:25:00
To: techdiver@aquanaut.com
Well, where do I start???
Firstly, the article “Cave Diving in Britain” was written two years ago with a specific ‘target´ audience in mind ­ namely a number of ‘technical divers´ who were starting to take an interest in diving in caves in the UK. These divers were trained outside the UK often by people with no experience of diving in UK caves. The article was intended to educate people in the obstacles they faced, and the techniques developed by the Cave Diving Group of Great Britain for this particular type of diving over the last sixty-five years.
Of course the Cave Diving Group has had some incidents ­ some seventeen members suffering fatalities in the UK during those sixty-five years. But each time we have learned something from the mistakes that were made, and revised our equipment/ techniques to try and ensure no more deaths occur. The article in question tried to explain the ways in which we sought to minimise risk, in our own particular environment. I happen to believe that giving a reasoned (and reasonable) explanation to most sensible people will have more influence than shouting, bullying and insulting them.
The article was intended very much to restrict its advice to UK cave diving, an area where we consider we have some expertise.
If you read the article carefully you will see that it states:
“Many divers have come across the ‘Hogarthian´/ ‘Doing It Right´ philosophies promoted by the WKPP, GUE, etc…. No argument ­ these principles are perfect for the large, deep, easy-access springs, and the open-water sites they dive. The value of the techniques and gear configuration is reflected in the amazing explorations they have carried out with few accidents. As the old saying goes: the proof of the pudding (is in the eating)….”
In other words, we have tremendous admiration and respect for your achievements ­ all of which have only been possible due to the abilities of the divers involved and the way you conduct your dives. Yes, you do make it look easy, but that is the hallmark of experts.
I´m puzzled as to how anyone can consider this to be “bad-mouthing” the WKPP.
With respect to your views on British cave-diving, you ask us to tell you about it so you can have a bigger laugh.
First, you ask if limestone is different, the water is different, etc. etc. in the UK.
Well, yes, George, it is! Any caver who knows anything about speleology will tell you that no two areas have identical limestone (either structurally or chemically) and that different materials carried by the water in a region will affect how a cave is formed. Thus there are no identical caves. True some areas will have caves with similar physical characteristics, because the conditions leading to the formation of caves will be similar. Thus in Wales they have long, gently sloping systems, on Mendip they have shorter, steeply sloping caves, and in Yorkshire they have horizontal systems with linking vertical shafts.
The typical characteristics of underwater caves in the UK is that they are small in passage cross-section, with water containing heavy organic & sedimentary contamination, usually with a temperature between forty and forty-three degrees Fahrenheit (five to eight degrees Celsius) and relatively shallow (rarely deeper than 100 feet).
But then, I presume you know all that, and you must have dived in our caves in order for you to be able to tell us what we should and shouldn´t be doing.
You also ask what we (the Brits) have done for the sport of cave diving. Good question. Except for, in 1963, extending the world´s deepest cave ­ France´s Gouffre Berger (-3680 feet). Oh, and in Britain in 1978, Kingsdale Master Cave/ Keld Head ­ the then world´s longest through dive (of 5990 feet), and again in 1991 the world record traverse from King Pot to Keld Head (10,150 feet), apart from these we have done very little, but at least they show what has been achieved in spite of our “stroke” gear & techniques….
Of course, these cannot compare with the internationally renowned achievements of (amongst others) Hassenmeyer, Exley, Isler, Gomes, and, of course, you & JJ.
Nevertheless, British divers persevere in our own squalid little caves….and of course, what could we expect to achieve in Wakulla?? That´s a bit like asking Manchester United to play in the Superbowl.
But let´s just go back to what I wrote about ­ diving in caves in the UK.
Every single foot of underwater cave passage in Britain has been explored by cavers who learned to dive. As a caver, I can understand why solo diving is an anathema to everyone from a diving background, as all diver training agencies promote buddy diving as the only way to do it ­ the panacea for all underwater problems.
Your phrase “every man for himself” is an emotive expression suggesting selfish motives. In truth, anyone claiming to dive as a “buddy” who then abandons them would fulfil description perfectly.
But we do not claim to dive as a “buddy”, we dive solo and therefore have no-one to abandon!
I remember years ago (probably 1984?) when Messrs Exley & Fulghum had their problems in Atlantida, and just got out sharing gas. There was discussion in the CDG Newsletter about this. Vital seconds were lost because one of the divers thought the leak was coming from the other diver. We agreed that a solo diver would have known it was his own leak ­ partly because with side-mounted tanks he would have seen it, and partly it couldn´t have been anyone else´s leak ­ and would have closed the tap down straight away, thereby saving a lot of gas. Assuming ‘thirds´ rules were properly maintained, he would have had enough gas of his own to have got out, and perhaps could have manually operated the faulty tap/ tank to use some of that gas besides. Instead, both Messrs Exley & Fulghum did the perfect buddy thing, and made it out ­ but only just…
Again I have to say that if the passage is so restricted, and visibility so poor that a diver behind can see the tips of my fins, how is he going to know I have problem? Perhaps by kicking him in the face. And where is he going to put his long hose regulator to help me???
But, hey, in the article we were not promoting solo diving, or suggesting it should be used anywhere else but here ­ we were just explaining why we did it our way.
Throughout the article we were at pains to point out that what is right for one dive may not be right for the next ­ horses for courses, as they say -so every diver should consider what is right for the dive he is about to do. His equipment choices should be decided upon after he has thought it all through carefully. He should not do it the way someone tells him to do it, without understanding why first. And we are the first to take on a dive only what is absolutely necessary.
So to everyone else in the world, I will still say look at DIR ­ diving safe and simple is the best way. Consider how DIR is applied, and how it works for the dive in question. And I will apply that philosophy in deciding what I need for my dives.
So, going back to the question that started all this ­ helmets, what´s the deal?
Every caver knows the value of a helmet. Sorry, George, but the main purpose of wearing a helmet down a cave is not to protect you against falling rocks. It is to carry your light on to leave your hands free to climb, crawls, etc, and to stop you banging your head when the roof gets low. It may also help if you fall off while climbing.
So is it really so hard to understand, why these cavers like to wear helmets underwater for the same reasons? ­ to protect their heads when the roof gets low & to leave their hands free.
Again your assertion that bashing your head equates with having zero technique or diving ability shows you to have no understanding of our caves. How do you avoid coming in contact with a roof in a passage which is so small divers have to wear oversuits to stop their drysuit zips getting filed away on the roof? Haven´t you ever explored any low passages (i.e. 18 inches or less) over there???
I wear a helmet because my skull isn´t as thick as some people´s must be. I put lights on my helmet so that there is light where my face is pointing. Sure, in some conditions, I will hand hold a light. But as we nearly always have to hold onto guidelines with one hand in the poor visibility over here, I prefer to suffer backscatter than risk tangling a handheld on the line. And as for blinding someone with my lights? Well, I don´t face them directly when I look at them ­ that´s why eyes are designed to move from side to side! And if I wanted to blind them, I could just as easily do it with a thoughtless move of my hand held light, couldn´t I?
So finally ­ helmets, what is the deal?
Simon, please think about it for yourself, and consider the caves you are diving in. Don´t compromise your safety for anyone. If the caves are big, clear and you are unlikely to be anywhere near the roof, keep it simple and keep gear to a minimum. If on the other hand you find yourself in an eighteen inch high passage with sharp flakes in the roof…..
Dive safely & live long.
Best Regards


From: Scoff <scoff_cavedivinggroup@hotmail.com>
Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2002 49:33:00
To: techdiver@aquanaut.com
I assume George´s message is aimed at me as well as you… So here's my reply.
>Look, idiot, there is no excuse for doing things the way these guys do it. Helmet in the dry cave is one >thing, the rest of what you are saying reflects that fact that you don't do jack shit, and don't know.
I have not ‘made excuses´ for wearing a helmet, I have ‘given reasons´ why WE wear them.
Okay, everyone, as you are sat there at your desk, make a fist with one of your hands. Now put your elbow on your desk top with your fist up in the air. The distance between the flat of your knuckles and your desktop is slightly more than the height of some of the passages we have explored.
So, George, if you can offer advice, based on experience, how to dive a passage like this in a DIR way, I am all ears. I have learned a great deal from you and your team over the years, and like many others I am grateful for the time and trouble you take to explain what you do, and why you do it the way that you do. I really would be stupid if I chose to ignore any constructive advice on this. And if YOU personally don´t have any experience of diving in 18inch high passages, I would still be glad to hear from someone in the WKPP or GUE who has.
>Reinhard explores sump/dry stuff that you can't even understand the severity of, and he has no problem >bringing g all the right gear and DIR at the same time.
Firstly, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Reinhard´s achievements ­ especially his push with Michael in the Doux de Coly. When I met Reinhard in 1997 & 1998, he always indicated to me that he was relatively inexperienced when it came to ‘dry´ caving (but perhaps he was just being modest), & I assumed that it was this lack of caving experience which was partly responsible for him & Sandro missing the way on in the dry passages at the end of the first sump in the Emergence de Ressel. I don´t know if Reinhard took a helmet with him when he tagged along with Rick Stanton & Jason Mallinson ­ but they (as dry cavers of some repute) certainly wore them, as most sensible folk would. I know of two British cavers who have taken falls beyond a sump & broken bones, etc. yet still got themselves out of the cave. Had they not been wearing helmets, I suspect the outcomes may have been different.
Of course, Reinhard has been to 15,000 feet plus in the Doux de Coly, and I haven´t, so I wouldn´t claim to truly understand the severity of such a dive. Nor would I make any such ridiculous claims in respect of the amazing dives that you do. I ain´t been there, so I can´t comment. (“It is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and prove it”)
But I HAVE been in some very small, jagged, silty British sumps, and pushed them ­ I believe safely ­ and so I think I can comment on those, and explain the techniques & equipment configuration we use. If people listen, think about & hopefully understand the reasons we give, they can choose whether or not to adopt any aspects on offer.
>You guys keep on trying to tell us all why idiocy and the "every man for himself", "fuck your buddies", >Star Wars Bar Scene mentality is such a noble thing
When I dive, I have two independent gas supplies which will always contain gas on one side sufficient to get me out if the other regulator/ tank goes down. As yet I have never run out of gas & not got out of the sump. What´s more I don´t have a buddy with me to put at risk either, if I screw up. I even fulfil your ‘Rule One´ ­ I never dive with unsafe divers <g>.
But seriously, I do not PROMOTE solo-diving (either as a noble thing or anything else). I just try to explain to people who think it is dangerous that it isn´t as dangerous as it at first appears, and the reasons why.
>The fact is that no matter how well you try to articulate stupidity, it is still stupidity.
And just because one person considers something to be stupid does not necessarily make it so…
Best regards,


From: Scoff <scoff_cavedivinggroup@hotmail.com>
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 45:09:00
To: techdiver@aquanaut.com
George, I owe you an apology!
Please forgive me for being so stupid.
I read your last posts, and was about to put pen to paper…
While trying to maintain a typically British stiff upper lip & formal politeness, I was intending to point out the following:
(a) I understood that the traverse record of Bill Gavin & Lamar English (with Bill Main & Parker Turner ?) from Sullivan to Cheryl Sink in 1988 was a distance of 2591metres (8486 ft), but that a traverse between King Pot & Keld Head by Geoff Yeadon & Geoff Crossley (following some fine exploration diving by this pair and John Cordingley, Russell Carter & Rupert Skorupka ­ assisted by others) was a distance of 3100 metres (10,152 ft). This dive was done in August 1991, and thus became the then current record. As you rightly pointed out, the Big Dismal to Cheryl Sink dive of 4167 metres (13,647 ft) in 1999 by you & JJ & T Cole, then superseded this to take over the record. If I was mistaken here (my “screaming joke” as you so eloquently described it), I apologise.
(b) Changing tack slightly, I´m sure that I read somewhere the following comments:
“Nearly all styles of gear configuration allow the average diver to access a cave.”
I quite agree - but some configurations are better than others for certain types of cave. That´s all we are saying here.
“Equipment choice like most things is a cost vs. benefit analysis in which one must weigh the potential risk against the perceived benefit. The difficult part and in fact the thing that really defines a safe and effective diver is their ability to accurately evaluate the benefit while candidly weighing the acceptable risk.”
Again I quite agree ­ but this means you must always keep an open mind.
“Manifolds are, in general, the best method to manage your air supply. The only exceptions are, in my opinion, solo diving and side mount. If you are not pursuing either of these options then you should not configure as if you are. I caution you to be wary both about using independent valves and about diving with those that dive independent. It requires great care and superior gas management capabilities to effectively monitor independent cylinders and experience has shown that most people are not capable of proper management.”
Once again I would broadly agree with that statement. What I find interesting is the perception that ‘it requires superior gas management capabilities´ to dive side mount & solo. Interestingly, none of the deaths using side mounts/ solo diving, in British cave diving has been a result of careless gas management (although, in fairness, one or two are believed to have been a result of ‘exploration fever´ leading to deliberately exceeding the ‘thirds rule´). Perhaps gas management is a basic skill which we acquire at an early stage, because from the outset we learn to dive side mount & solo, and realise how important a skill it is.
All three of these comments appeared in a well-reasoned, well written and persuasive article on Hogarthian rigging by JJ. What the article does NOT do is dismiss solo & side mount diving out of hand.

(c) In response to your comment “The most important aspect of the dive light is the signaling capability”, I was about to respond : “So lighting up the cave & line is a less important aspect then, is it??
But then when I read again your posts, especially the bits saying
“There is very little reason to expect to need one (a helmet) in a horizontal cave situation.” and “There is no reason you can not climb or negotiate (a cave?) with a goodman handle. I made one with a strap when I went dry caving last.” That´s when the penny finally dropped ­ because no-one who had ever been in a cave (unless it was Santa´s Grotto) would say such a thing.
Re-reading it all, I realised…..it´s all a joke! You little tinker, George! You´ve been trying to wind us up, haven´t you. You suckered me in with a jibe at the Brits, and then used your sharp wit to amuse everyone.
And I was stupid enough to fall for it!
I must say, I was almost getting to the point where I thought you were being a touch arrogant, a little insulting, and (dare I say it?) rather foolish yourself. And now I realise it was all a pretence, it is me that feels rather stupid.
To make amends therefore, I will try to emulate your sense of humour and style of wit, to say:
“I can understand now why an idiot like you doesn´t need a helmet ­ it´s ‘cos your skull´s so thick. Sure you dive underwater a long way to great depths - but then so do whales, and look at the size of their brains compared to their bodies. So what gives you the right to pontificate on everything. What do you know about British cave diving, you moron? Have you ever been here? No, of course not ­ because our caves are too hard for the likes of you. And if you think you can dive as good as us, bring your gear and your Florid ass over here, and we´ll see! In the meantime, I am not prepared to waste any more of my time arguing with anyone as ill-informed as you!”
There, how did I do? Perhaps I should have thrown in a few more *@$-£ or &%~# phrases?
Still I hope everyone appreciates the joke & has had a laugh. Good.
But, on a serious note, we in the CDG always welcome to our shores ALL cave divers - whatever gear configuration or philosophy they choose ­ or what country they come from. We will always try to arrange a cave dive for you in an appropriate cave for your abilities and wishes. We will always take the time & trouble to show you what we do and why we do it that way. Just let us know you are coming, and hope that the weather is kind to you.
I would also welcome from someone (anyone?) more information on the DIR approach to side mount & solo diving . I believe there is always room for improvement in everything. Nothing/ nobody in this world is perfect.
I am now leaving this argument to others.
Best Regards
Cave Diving Group of Great Britain.
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