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Aug 28, 2007
Florida - News: Divers break record while exploring underwater caves

Divers break record while exploring underwater caves

Tuesday, August 28, 2007
HERNANDO COUNTY (Bay News 9) -- Imagine getting to see part of the earth that has never been seen by human eyes before or see a cave the size of Raymond James Stadium.
That's what divers exploring the caves in Hernando County got to see last month.

This is an update to a story Bay News 9 has been following since this past summer.

Cave explorer Brett Hemphill caught the record-breaking exploration on video.

Hemphill is part of an exploration team for a non-profit organization called, Karst Underwater Research.

While exploring Weeki Wachee Springs, Hemphill said they discovered it's the deepest naturally formed spring in the United States.

"It was humbling," Hemphill said. "That's the only word I can use."

In making the discovery, Hemphill also set the record breaking dive mark, 403 feet below the surface.

But he said it was a team effort.

"We had to have 25 people in order to get me in the water safely, get all the gases and the underwater propulsion devices and then to get us out," said Hemphill.

The cave diving team has also mapped out about 7,000 feet of underwater caves that all connect to the Weeki Wachee spring and Hemphill said some of the caves are huge.

"Some of the passages are big enough to fly a jumbo jet down. I felt like a fly on the back of a blue whale," Hemphill said. "When you turn the corner and there is a passage the size of Raymond James Stadium and you're there with a reel and you're like, you just never feel prepared."

The dive team said there is still a lot to be mapped out and explored, but for now, they're taking a break and gearing up for another expedition in hopes of setting an even deeper record.

"At the end of the line right now there is a tiny little mermaid hanging there," Hemphill said. "Our hopes are to continue to push the little mermaid further and further back into the cave."

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