7 of the Most Dangerous Underwater Caves

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It takes a brave soul to strap on a pair of flippers and leap into the watery unknown. And it take a much braver soul to explore some of the cavers lurking below. Cave diving is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Here are the 7 Most Dangerous Underwater Caves:

7. Devil’s Cave, Florida

Photo by Eric Beach

A submerged labyrinth 50 miles from Gainesville, Florida, Devil’s Caves is an intricate system of tunnels and caverns with very pleasant sounding names like “Little Devil”, “Devil’s Eye” and “Devil’s Ear”.  This popular site is known for its warm waters and incredible rock formations… as well as it’s swirling underwater vortexes that can knock even experienced divers off their game and cause confusion and paranoia deep inside the arteries of the cave.  Devil’s Cave is stunning and unpredictable, a display of the raw power of nature and has been responsible for condemning a few unlucky to their watery deaths.

6. Jacob’s Well, Texas

Jacob’s Well might look like your run-off the mill swimming hole, but our pick for number six shows that first impressions can be deceiving!  Under the surface, Jacob’s Well opens up to chambers upon chambers, each a little bit trickier and narrower than the last.

Underwater claustrophobia aside, the tiny caves and passageways are lined with silt.  When kicked up, the debris clouds the water and makes escape difficult, and sometimes even futile. Divers who find themselves, trapped in the murk tend to panic, swallowing up gasps of precious air as they frantically try to flee the caves.  Often, it’s in vain. Jacob’s Well has claimed the lives of eight souls.

5. Blue Hole, Belize

Belize’s Blue Hole may just be the most photogenic and gorgeous sinkhole on the planet.  It punctures the Carribean seabed in a perfectly round, 124-meter deep hole, crammed with exotic marine life and coral formations, ripe for the exploring, and is a draw for divers around the world.  The only problem is that this deep paradise has become a nightmare for unlucky divers who descend too quickly and find themselves in the maddening grasp of Nitrogen Narcosis, the scourge of divers and the cause of many fatalities. 

Since the walls of the Blue Hole are solid for 30 meters, novice (and even experienced) divers can accidentally go too far, to the point of no return. Nitrogen Narcosis comes with a host of terrifying symptoms, like hallucinations, anxiety and a feeling of extreme intoxication.  When you need to keep your wits about you and make life-or-death decisions, a strong bout of Nitrogen Narcosis can- and does- finish off thrill-seekers and divers.

4. Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole,  Florida

For our number four pick, we head back to the Sunshine State of Florida and check out Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole, a whopping 315 meter deep dive site, where explorers can come face to face with our old nemesis, Nitrogen Narcosis, again.  The deeper a dive, the more likely that Nitrogen Narcosis will set it, so some divers use a blend of different gases called “trimix” to offset the effects. There is no sure-fire way to stave off the murderous underwater sickness though, as Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole proves.

Even experienced divers have been sentenced to the depths here. The problem is the sheer extent of the dive. A slight distraction could cause divers to forget to check their air consumption and by the time they realize they’re at a critical level, it’s far too late.

3. Cenote Esqueleto, “The Temple of Doom”, Mexico

What’s in a name?  Well, when it’s a snarl of sunken tunnels affectionately referred to as “The Temple of Doom”, there’s a lot.  Labyrinthine doesn’t begin to cover it. Divers are strongly advised to keep out of the cavern’s maze of inky passageways, sticking only to the well-lit areas to avoid getting lost and perishing in the dark, alone, as has been the fate of so many visitors to the “Temple of Doom”. 

Divers get lost and are never seen again in the forgotten tunnels. The sheer intricacy of “The Temple of Doom’s” system of chambers makes exploring here a hard no for novices and a strict proceed with caution for experts. If you try your hand at our number three pick for most dangerous underwater -caves, stick to the sunlit spots.  You’ll thank us.

2. Shaft Sinkhole, Australia 

Coming in at number two is arguably the most treacherous cave diving site in the world.  Australia’s Shaft Sinkhole has the trifecta of terrifying cave challenges wrapped up into one scary dive that many adventurers never return from.  The sinkhole is deep, tempting Nitrogen Narcosis to grab some unlucky victims. It’s also full of silt and debris- causing a murky slurry to fill the minuscule passageways and make for poor navigation. 

Finally, the Shaft Sinkhole is full of undersized openings, including the famous entrance to the cave system, where divers must actually remove their equipment to squeeze in. This cave is not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart, but for those brave enough to traverse her depths the payoff is huge.  The Shaft Sinkhole is full of incredible rock formations and otherworldly natural elements. Just make sure you have enough air to pinch yourself back through the tiny entrance. Getting lost or running out of air is the number one cause of death in these caverns.

1. Egypt’s Blue Hole, Egypt

What could edge out the Shaft Sinkhole for the top spot on our list?  How about a place called “Diver’s Cemetery”, where 150 thrill-seekers have perished?  Egypt’s Blue Hole is the most lethal dive site in the world. Yuri Lipski, who met his fate at the bottom of the hole, accidentally filmed his own death.  The video is difficult to watch, especially because Yuri’s face is beaming at the beginning in blissful ignorance of what lies ahead. By the end, he’s deep in the clutches of Nitrogen Narcosis, confused and alone in the Blue Hole.

What makes “Diver’s Cemetery” so savage?  Its dominant feature is an arch and tunnel that connects to the sea, 56 meters below the surface.  56 meters deep- almost twice the recommended depth for scuba diving- and creates the perfect conditions for Nitrogen Narcosis to set in and torment the diver until they succumb to the depths.  Many divers, like Yuri, miss the arch completely and get lost in a narcosis induced fever dream of anxiety and ghostly hallucinations. Missing the arch means near certain death, making “Diver’s Cemetary” the spot where you get one shot to diving glory and bragging rights… but run the risk of becoming another sad statistic.

From the balmy, salt water depths of Belizes’ beautiful Blue Hole, to Mexico’s murky “Temple of Doom” and Florida’s freshwater Eagle’s Nest Sinkhole, the world is full of incredible sunken caves and caverns to explore.  But remember, it’s a whole other world down there where one false move will mean the difference between getting out alive or perishing below.

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