“Cave diving is one of the few pursuits that offers the
opportunity to go somewhere and discover things
nobody has seen before. Once you’ve experienced
it, the thrill of discovery never leaves you. It’s hard
to explain the excitement I feel when I see a hole in
the ground with outflowing water—I have to know
where that water comes from and where it goes.
“I belong to an informal group of cave divers
called the Wet Mules. There are about six of us who
have dived together for the past 15 years. During
an expedition, we are often on site camping for a
couple of weeks. You want to share that experience
with like-minded people you trust and with whom
you can have a good time.
“Cocklebiddy Cave is located on the Nullarbor
Plain and, at one stage, was the longest known
underwater cave in the world. We went there in
2008 and managed to extend the exploration of
the cave by another 120 metres. That was pretty
exciting—it was the first big thing on my resumé.
“We have also had multiple expeditions to the
Pearse Resurgence in New Zealand. It’s the deepest
dive in Australasia and in 2012, I set a depth
record of 220 metres. Not that I went out to break
any records—it was simply a matter of wanting to
explore a world-class site and making the most of it.
“A dive of that depth takes 17 hours and is
only possible with the use of rebreathers. Of that
17 hours, half an hour was spent at the bottom
followed by 16-and-a-half hours of decompression.
There was a lot of time to think about life.
“The next big thing for us is China. There are a lot
of caves to be explored and cave diving is not a well
developed activity in that country. One of our team
has been over to reconnoitre and we are all going
over soon to have a look and bag some sites.
“When I’m going for a dive, it doesn’t have to be
a big site. Often you can dive in caves that have
been well explored and find another little passage
off to the side. That can be just as exciting as the
really big expeditions. My favourite dive is always
the one I’ve just completed.”
Interview: Frank Leggett
The thrill of discovery has led
Dr Craig Challen of Vetwest
Animal Hospital in Clarkson, WA,
to become one of Australia’s
leading technical cave divers
5/02/2015 2:50 pm