Karst Odyssey 2011 Update

By Renato Raseta

2011 marks another successful year for the Karst Odyssey project. This year exploration in Bastasica cave continued with the same drive and determination. The logistical challenge for 2011 was to install an adequate and secure habitat at Bastasica cave the 6m depth to allow two RB divers to decompress in relative comfort and re-hydrate and re-energize with ease. It was our long standing project partner, the diving club BUK who took the ownership of the habitat installation. The BUK member and a local GUE diver Dusan Milosevic came up with the habitat design. The design allowed for the flexibility to move the habitat up and down in the water column to allow for any water level variations. The habitat was also portable in nature meaning that we could easily remove the habitat from its steel shell and transport it to another location. After meeting in Banja Luka with the team on the 17th July we departed to Drvar on the 18th July. The plan was to continue the exploration of the cave and to shoot some underwater footage. After 5 days of exploration and video shoots, Bastasica cave finally revealed its secret. 800m from the source the cave started to rise from 60m to surface, uncovering a large air filled chamber. Exploration divers surfaced in a chamber with a spectacular 30m high dome and 15m high cliff with a waterfall. It became very apparent that climbing over a smooth limestone cliff to continue the exploration will not be possible at this stage. The alternative options of looking at the survey and potential existence of sinkholes that will connect into this system needed to be considered first. The remaining few days the team continued to shoot underwater and surface video with a view of making another video documenting this magnificent karst object, surrounding villages, its people and rich history of the region. During our project we were fortunate enough to have a visit from the Drvar mayor. She was intrigued and puzzled by our activities, however, she soon realised the importance of our work and wanted to learn more. Hopefully her familiarity with the project's objective will make next year's access permit application somewhat easier process.

In the second week the team visited Bunica cave in the Mostar region that was last visited by the project back in 2003. This cave often suffers from poor visibility and it was also a site of high military activity during the 90s civil conflict. The site is infrequently visited, however, the area did receive an extensive mine clearance and it is diligently sign posted. We drove as far as we could near the river Bunica, some 500m from the source. This slow flowing river was to be our equipment ferrying highway for the duration of our exploration effort. This cave was explored by the local cave divers from the Neretva club and we received some survey data from them. Like most caves in this region this one started going deep relatively quickly, the mouth of the cave was visible from 42m depth. Our team was greeted with 5-6m visibility which seems to have shown some improvements deeper we ventured. Bunica was explored to 318m distance at 97m depth. The cave is showing signs of going shallower and it will be a focus of our 2012 project.

After the project the first GUE Cave 1 class was held in Bosnia and we take this opportunity to welcome to the project Brane Radjevic as a GUE C1 diver who has been supporting the project for number of years as a surface support. We again extend our gratitude to both Banja Luka diving club BUK and the adventure club Neretva from Mostar, for their continual support. A special thanks goes to GUE diver Dusan Milosevic for his ingenious habitat design.

Project Divers:
Dusan Milosevic
Brane Radjevic
Bob Cooper
Andrea Marassich
Renato Raseta
Christophe Le Maillot
Hugh Reid
Emir Memic
Fred Devos

Visiting Project Divers:
JP Bresser
Matej Simonic

See a video from the project here: http://www.facebook.com/v/10150400203588625

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