On August 29, 2015 the dive crew of Ben Perkins, Bob Koch, Chris Hill, Konstantin Chartkov, Amanda Perkins, Diana Bentele, Vic Bentele, Alex Roberts, Dustin Ritter, Ken Grush, Stephanie Worrell, Zach Worrell, Brenda McMillen, and Trey McMillen acting as sherpas assembled at the entrance to Lewis cave at 7am. This trip was a follow up to a previous trip done by Ben and Dirk Bennett earlier in the month. Briefing and the route to the first sump (SP1) were uneventful, but laborious. We stopped about 100 feet before the start of SP1 to protect the water conditions and gear up. Divers divided in 2 buddy teams and the first team, which included the videographer, started the dive at about 10:20 am, second team followed in 5 min to allow for camera set up in DS2. This area greeted divers to a highly decorated section with a sandy bottom and banks of an underground stream passage. We transported our gear to a patch of dry area and took some time to look around and develop the strategy for trying to capture as much as we can on film. This was necessary because as soon as we started breathing, the room started filling with fog created by our breathing. This was expected as divers on the previous August 2nd expedition had encountered the same problem. At this point, anywhere we would look we saw cave formations. Ceiling was partially covered with white crystals that from the distance resembled layers of cotton. Speleothems hanging off the ceiling were predominantly white and were growing in all directions. When light was placed behind one of the bigger white stalactites, it would glow with a yellow light.
We enjoyed the view as much as we could until Bob notified us that he was done filming and we transported our cave diving gear across ~350’ of partially water filled passage and as before stopped well short of the opening of SP2. After a short break and preparing for our second dive of the day, I went in first. After a short but tight underwater passage we came out in a large room of Dry Section 3 (DS3). Moving as little as possible divers got out of the water so as not to destroy visibility for the following team. We placed our gear on a rocky bank and looked around. Although this was also a well decorated large room, the white crystals were not present. We waited for the other team and gave Bob the lead on moving forward with the camera while other 3 divers started surveying. After a short partially water filled crawl we ended up in yet another room and noted the sound of flowing water. To our right we noted a large break down that appeared “fresh” but after looking around we did not see the continuation of passage. To our left (where the sound of water was coming from) we saw a beautiful waterfall about 3 ft high. The passage above the waterfall continued but it looked low and rocks appeared “extra sharp” and would require an army crawl. To our right we noticed a dry passage which was leading up through yet another breakdown pile. We finished our survey for the day at the waterfall, and decided to take a peek at that passage. We finally were in the territory of “never seen before”.
When we squeezed through the breakdown it opened up into a parallel of the spring passage and terminated up a 25 ft clay hill with signs of surface water intrusion. One team moved up the waterfall passage and one along the newly discovered parallel passage. The waterfall passage was low with sharp rocks and parallel passage smoother but lower requiring belly crawling. The parallel tunnel had more open area to the one side but the vertical clearance was so low that it was impassable. Crawling forward the two passages connected and continued as one for ~100’. At that point the water was getting up within 4 inches of a very muddy ceiling making further progress impossible at this time. Further exploration will require a prolonged drought, or scuba gear, which would be very difficult to transport to the location. Furthest point of exploration is approximately 200 feet upstream of the waterfall.
After returning back to our gear at the inbound exit of Sump 2 we had been in the cave past the sumps for 6 hrs, and decided to head back to civilization. Cave exit was unremarkable, with a lot of help from the support crew. Support has exited previously and came back in to join up with us again. Everyone did a great job of keeping attitudes good despite it being the end of the day and everyone being tired. It was a great trip!
Note: Ben and Dirk’s first trip report into Lewis Cave on August 2nd can be found here.