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When you're learning to cave dive, one of the first things that you learn is that you may very well die in there.

Most of the training focuses on systems, skills repetition, and understanding and using redundant systems - folks getting into cave diving typically are already extremely experienced divers who if anything need only some minor skill tweaks - most cave instructors will not take on students who don't already have significant open water technical diving experience (multiple tanks, mixed gas, rebreathers, decompression, wreck, etc).

A running joke is that the lost line drill (where you're placed intentionally off of the guide line and have to find it without a mask/light/visibility) is the most punctual cave task you'll ever do - you have the rest of your life to get it right.

Here's a few good books on it (non-affiliate links):

Caverns Measureless to Man by Sheck Exley (the father of cave diving): https://www.amazon.com/Caverns-Measureless-Man-Sheck-Exley/d...

The Darkness Beckons by Martyn Farr: https://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Beckons-History-Development-...

Beyond the Deep by Bill Stone (the Tony Stark of cave diving): https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Deep-Deadly-Descent-Treacherou...

The Cenotes of the Riviera Maya by Steve Gerrard (patron saint / mapper of Yucatan caves): https://www.amazon.com/Cenotes-Riviera-Maya-2016/dp/16821340... This is more of a map and explanatory notes but gives great insight into the complexity of it. Currently there are 2 systems that almost all cenotes are part of in the Yucatan, and there's some really interesting work going on trying to link the two. Current work is going on at about 180m depth through a number of rooms at the back of "The Pit", and there are multi-day expeditions going on trying to find the linkage.

I would recommend this well written article: https://www.outsideonline.com/1922711/raising-dead

It's the story about the diver David Shaw and his attempt to recover the body of diver Deon Dreyer in one of the deepest sweetwater caves on earth. A bit of a read but well worth it.

This is not cave diving, though. It's a very deep sinkhole, but with a clear path to the surface. The risks in these dives are related to extreme depth, not to the overhead environment.

That said, it's a terrific article.

This American Life had an episode on this called No Man Left Behind :


I'll add one tiny point to your very well documented answer: another skill you learn for cave diving is to control your kick to avoid raising stilt.

This is particularly relevant since the stilt obscuring the cave is precisely what led to the incident described in this article. It's not clear it happened because the divers were careless or despite them, but I thought it would be worth pointing out to non divers that one of the many things you learn while studying for cave diving is how to occupy a lot less space while swimming than you're used to.

The article says that the stilt raised as they found each other abruptly, losing the guide as well.

I'd also like to add "The Last Dive" by Bernie Chowdury - https://www.amazon.com/Last-Dive-Father-Descent-Oceans/dp/00...

I have a bad book hoarding habit yet these one will probably never reach my house. :)

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