Woodville Karst Plain Project

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The Woodville Karst Plain Project or WKPP, is a project and organization that maps the underwater cave systems underlying the Woodville Karst Plain. This plain is a 450-square-mile (1,200 km2) area that runs from Tallahassee, Florida, U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico and includes numerous first magnitude springs, including Wakulla Springs, and the Leon Sinks Cave System, the longest underwater cave in the United States.[1][2][3] The project grew out of a cave diving research and exploration group established in 1985 and incorporated in 1990 (by Bill Gavin and Bill Main, later joined by Parker Turner, Lamar English and Bill McFaden, at the time the chairman of the NACD Exploration and Survey Committee).

WKPP is the only organization currently allowed to dive some of these caves – which are all on State, Federal, or private land – due to the extreme nature of the systems and the discipline required to safely explore them, although these caves were explored extensively prior to the establishment of the WKPP. This is a controversial issue, as many people think these caves should be open to the public or, at the least, to other qualified cave diving groups and individuals. Recently, during 2007, one state-owned entrance of the Leon Sinks cave system has been reopened to other qualified cave divers.

WKPP divers hold every distance record in underwater cave diving. WKPP director Casey McKinlay and his regular dive buddy, Jarrod Jablonski hold the world's record for the greatest distance from air in a cave dive - 23,810 feet (7,260 m) each way.

The data gathered by WKPP divers has allowed planners a better definition of what to expect from the underground aquifer system and how best to handle issues relating to such things as surface water runoff and other nonpoint source pollution issues.[4] WKPP mapping has resulted in the State of Florida and the U.S. Department of Agriculture establishing a "greenway" surrounding the Leon Sinks cave system and a "protection zone" for Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, as well as numerous improvements in water management district operations, DOT road-building, and development planning.

DIR diving[edit]

The WKPP is notable for its part in the development of cave diving techniques and team diving protocols, the DIR method of scuba diving (which is the basis for the teaching methodology of Global Underwater Explorers) and the use of the Halcyon PVR-BASC and RB80 rebreathers. DIR, an acronym for Doing It Right, is a holistic approach to scuba diving. According to the DIR approach fundamental skills, teamwork, environmental awareness, and the use of highly optimized and streamlined equipment configuration are the primary fundamentals of diving. DIR proponents argue that through these essential elements, safety is improved by standardizing equipment configuration and procedures for preventing and dealing with emergencies, and out-of-air emergencies in particular.[5]

In 1999, Wakulla 2 Project member Henry Kendall (a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and a diving expert) died while diving at the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park, Florida.[6][7] At the time, he was testing an experimental rebreather.

Current research[edit]

On May 20, 2007, divers set off from Turner Sink to try to find a connection but were unable to when the cave became impassable after 3 miles (4.8 km).[8] On July 28, 2007, divers explored 1,220 feet (370 m) of new passage before discovering an exploration line from Wakulla Springs. On December 15, 2007, WKPP divers Casey McKinlay and Jarrod Jablonski completed a traverse from Turner Sink to Wakulla Springs, covering a distance of nearly 36,000 feet (11 km).[1] This traverse took approximately 7 hours, followed by 14 hours of decompression.[4]

Current projects include exploring, surveying, and mapping of the Wakulla-Leon Sinks Cave system, as well as coordinating between private, state, and federal agencies to help protect the flooded caves of the Woodville Karst Plain.

In 2011, the Florida House of Representatives adopted "A resolution recognizing the Woodville Karst Plain Project for its outstanding contributions to the State of Florida through scientific research and its dedication and tireless efforts to promote the protection of the state's precious natural water resources" (HR9053).[9]


  1. ^ a b Kernagis DN, McKinlay C, Kincaid TR (2008). "Dive Logistics of the Turner to Wakulla Cave Traverse". In: Brueggeman P, Pollock NW, eds. Diving for Science 2008. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences 27th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL: AAUS;. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  2. ^ Handwerk, Brian (December 17, 2007). "Divers Break Record for Longest Cave Passage". National Geographic News. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  3. ^ Bob Gulden; Jim Coke (May 13, 2013). "World longest underwater caves". Geo2 Committee on Long and Deep Caves. National Speleological Society (NSS). Retrieved June 12, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Valencia, Jorge (April 19, 2013). "Swimming The Sinkholes". NPR: The Story. Retrieved 2013-02-27. 
  5. ^ Jablonski, Jarrod (2006). "DIR Philosophy". Doing it Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving. Global Underwater Explorers. p. 54. ISBN 0-9713267-0-3. 
  6. ^ Sales, Robert J (1999-02-16). "MIT Nobelist Henry Kendall dies at 72 while scuba diving in Florida lake". MIT News Office. Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  7. ^ Kakuk, Brian J (1999). "The Wakulla 2 Project: Cutting Edge Diving Technology for Science and Exploration". In: Hamilton RW, Pence DF, Kesling DE, eds. Assessment and Feasibility of Technical Diving Operations for Scientific Exploration. American Academy of Underwater Sciences. Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  8. ^ Pulver, Dinah Voyles (August 1, 2007). "Underwater cave systems proves longest in N. America". News-Journal Corporation. Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  9. ^ Florida House of Representatives. "House Resolution 9053". Retrieved 2011-04-06. 

External links[edit]