Florida is a state known for its ecological wonders and is a prime destination for outdoor adventurers and explorers. In addition to a long coastline, cypress forests and swampy Everglades, the Sunshine State is home to the most sinkholes of any state in the nation. according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science. These naturally occurring craters are destinations for many extreme divers looking for new aquatic locales to explore.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, sinkholes are created when underground water dissolves the subterranean rock (most commonly limestone) and causes the ground above it to collapse or "sink," which creates a large freshwater crater in the ground. The collapse can be sudden, and is often caused by fluctuations in the water table. Many of the lakes and ponds in Florida are a direct result of a sinkhole collapse.
Sinkholes themselves can be quite deep, and the water is generally clear and fresh, presenting a great opportunity for divers. Depending on the sinkhole, there can be an entire network of connected underground caves. These naturally formed caves can vary in size, and many are unexplored, so it's important to have cave diving experience.
Diving in enclosed spaces such as sinkholes and caves can be a more complicated and dangerous undertaking than traditional scuba diving, because it's easy to become disoriented and trapped in the expansive underground caverns and run out of oxygen. The website "Cavediving.com" recommends becoming certified as a cave diver and only using dive equipment specially made for cave diving. It's also important to use several sources of light while diving (even in the daytime) and always running a continuous guideline back to the entrance of the cavern, so you don't become lost in the maze.
According to "Divespots.com," the north central area of Florida has over 30 diveable springs and sinkholes, and there are numerous others throughout the state. Often, the sinkholes are located on private property, so divers must gain permission from the landowner before accessing the dive site. Many of these sinkholes are located quite far from population centers, so it's imperative that you "dive smart," follow all safety rules and go with a diving partner whenever possible, as there may not be any people nearby to help in the event of an emergency.
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