Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Cave Diving: Panic is not an Option

A terrific cave diving article over at the Portland Press Herald about Maine dentist and cave diver Stephen Klinker, who trained under the expert supervision of Larry Green.

Stephen Klinker could have died several times while diving in dark, constricted underwater caves.

There was the time when both of his calves cramped up and he could no longer propel himself. He inflated a flotation device until it carried him up, where he could grab the cave's ceiling and work his calves until his legs could function.

Or the time he got tangled in rope, flipped upside down and his arm sank into quicksand-like silt and mud. Knowing he would be sucked in deeper with the slightest movement, he sent a distress signal and remained completely limp until his instructor could help free him.

Despite the close calls -- and, in a way, because of them -- Klinker relishes the challenge of cave diving. "Panic is not an option," he said. "This is a mind-over-matter situation."

Klinker, 54, lives in Norridgewock and owns Cornerstone Dental in Waterville. He is married and has four sons. He received his cave diving certification from one of the world's experts on Jan. 16, after completing the last of two required "perfect" cave dives.

Cave diving is a relatively recent phenomenon, becoming popular only within the last two decades. It is in the public spotlight with this weekend's release of "Sanctum," an action-thriller movie from executive producer James Cameron.

The film, based on the experiences of the film's writer, is about how a storm traps a team of cave divers underground.

The renowned cave diver who instructed Klinker, Larry Green, was an informal adviser to the makers of "Sanctum." Green literally has written a manual on cave diving.

Speaking this week from the outskirts of Gainesville, Fla., Green said he's not sure why cave diving has become so popular.

He noted that it can be a deadly endeavor for divers who don't train properly or use enough caution. Even so, he said it is actually "a very safe sport."

"It's that mental and physical responsibility; it's up to me and nobody else," Green said.

"Even though it's an adverse environment, the activity itself is one where you should be in control of the variables that affect your well being -- more so than any other activity."

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