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mannyotr
Posts: 14
March 24, 2012
3:38pm
Over the years I have raced through some of Florida's most beautiful areas. Many of you have heard about my adventure races. And you have no doubt heard about the wildlife I encounter. Snakes, spiders, deer, gators. Thanks to my adventure racing mentor, Jason, I have always been comfortable with the wildlife I've encountered while in some remote area of Florida.

Except once...

In one race a few years ago, while racing the 18-Hour "Howl at the Moon" adventure race (with my good friend Scott Sikora, Greg Trainor and Ralph Miller) I experienced the scariest moment I've ever had while racing. To this day nothing has topped it.

Sometime at around 2:00AM we found ourselves together with two other teams. One team, lucky for us, was our good friends of Team Nature Calls (Jason, Lori, Jim and Erica). I do not recall the other team. It was 12 of us all together, and we had just started a paddling section in the Myakka River.

The water level of the river was very low that year and paddling was tough. Then, in the pitch darkness, we approached "Deep Hole". Deep hole is a sink hole in the middle of the river. It is known for its abundance of wildlife, especially the alligators. As we approached Deep Hole the water level was so low that we were actually walking besides our canoes, pulling them. Then we started seeing all the eyes. The hundreds of red eyes looking at us from the water ahead of us. The closer we got to Deep Hole the deeper the water got. Finally we were able to get back in our canoes. We started paddling across Deep Hole. Gators were everywhere. Jumping, swimming, moving. It was surreal and quite scary at the same time. It's probably a good thing it was pitch dark and we couldn't really see the number of gators around us. Deep Hole is only about 300 feet across, so it wasn't long before we were on the other side and the water level dropped again. Once again we were forced to get out of our canoes, with the hundreds of gators now right behind us. The entire experience lasted no more than 10 minutes. But it was a very scary 10 minutes. The scariest of my adventure racing career.

Over the years I have told that story to many people, but I often wonder how many of them believe me, or think I am exaggerating.

Now, a team of scientist have been exploring Deep Hole and have made several videos about it (see them all below)...

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Thought you all might be interested in a small project I participated in at a site in Myakka Lake located on the Myakka River in Sarasota County.

The site is known as Deep Hole, a sinkhole which was not well known as to the depth and configuration and was hypothesized as potentially being of archaeological significance due to the proximity of Warm Mineral Springs, and Little Salt Springs. These are two of the most important paleontological sites in North America which pushed back the verifiable date of human occupation in North America to 10,000 - 12,000 years before present.

We made the dive into Deep Hole on Wednesday.

The description below starts with a comment made by a coworker who knew I was taking a day off to dive Deep Hole. At the end are some links for video put together by Curt Bowen the other diver for the project.

We do not yet have any video compiled for Wednesday.

We did have a shark cage but the alligators were not a problem.

Cheers,

Jim

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I made it back. No close encounters, at least no encounters I could see, no major discoveries, but now we know the answer to how deep is Deep Hole.

The alligator reference relates to a sinkhole in Lower Myakka Lake known as Deep Hole. I was part of an all volunteer team investigating the configuration and extent of the hole to see if it is in any way similar to Warm Mineral Springs or Little Salt Springs and if there are any similarities to submarine sinks / springs in the Gulf. Curt Bowen and myself were the exploration divers. Only one or two people are known to have made bounce dives (up and down) in the hole many years ago. There has been a lot of speculation as to the extent and possible contents of the hole.

The hole habitat is an incredibly rich wildlife area, alligators, wild pigs, white pelicans, black vultures, many other birds and very high densities of freshwater mussels. Very high primary production in water column and periphyton on the shallow sand around the hole.

Because of the very low water levels in the river and lake fish and alligators become concentrated in the hole. The Park rangers counted 120 alligators. The diameter of the pond is about 300 ft. The hole in the bottom is about 100 feet in diameter at about the 30 foot level. There is a vertical limestone wall that drops to 40-45 feet where the ceiling cuts back and slopes to the bottom approximately 100 feet in horizontal distance from the opening. Imagine an upside down funnel. Maximum depth we could find was 131 ft.

Visibility was poor throughout, about 2 feet, very soft bottom with many dead fish and mysterious pock holes possibly from H2S gas production. Water was anoxic starting at about 30 feet. Temperature was about 57-61 degrees below the thermocline.

No additional caves, or significant ledges were found. The ledges at Warm Mineral and Little Salt springs produced the most concentrated ancient human artifacts. The Deep Hole site may have paleontological significance but likely the material is buried under 100 feet or more of sediment or possibly in the sediment surrounding the sink.

We did have a shark cage on site for our extended decompression stop at 30 feet. We then swam to the surface. The alligators did not seem to mind our presence, some were curious and would swim near the work area to observe.

Anyone interested in seeing some very nice video shot and edited by Curt Bowen should go to these links which show Deep Hole.

Jim


Deep Hole 2012 Expedition (ADM Promo)
http://vimeo.com/35780894

Deep Hole Exploration - Video Document
http://vimeo.com/36109172

Myakka River State Park - Deep Hole Expedition
http://vimeo.com/36625596

Gators R Inquisitive - Myakka River State Park
http://vimeo.com/37855714

Myakka River State Park - Deep Hole 3D Sonar Image
http://vimeo.com/38199663

[Last edited by mannyotr, 03/24/2012 3:43pm]
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BadCompass
Posts: 5
March 31, 2012
1:17am
Many thanks for sharing. We now feel better about doing this race. Knowing you got through them in the dark at 2am makes us we feel better about dealing with them during the day. The extra links helped too. From them we don't appear to be on the menu.
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