The NSS Cave Diving Section is the largest cave diving organization in the United States with members in almost every state. While section members are very active in diving springs in Florida, they also dive mines and sumps in the northern states, conduct high altitude sump diving in the West, perform motorized and stage diving in the South, dive sea caves in the Northeast, survey Bahama Blue Holes, and conduct studies of various caves and springs in Mexico, and the Caribbean.
The section is also active in the development of underwater rescue equipment, and sponsors a comprehensive cave diver and instructor training program. It also holds national technology transfer seminars twice a year and publishes Underwater Speleology.
Founded in 1941, The National Speleological Society (NSS) joins together thousands of individuals dedicated to the safe study, exploration, and conservation of caves. As a non-profit organization affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the NSS promotes a variety of scientific, educational, and conservation projects – including grants and scholarships to professional and student biologists, geologists, hydrologists, and archaeologists for cave-related research; purchase of cave properties for the public trust; conservation studies, clean-ups, and restorations; a nationwide rescue-and-recovery network; and a multitude of publications concerning all aspects of cave science, exploration, survey, cartography, photography, and physical techniques.
The first cave-diving information ever published in the United States was in a 1947 NSS Bulletin. In 1948, NSS divers were responsible for the first cave dives in the United States using scuba. In 1953, the Florida Speleological Society (a local NSS sub-section or Grotto) conducted the first cave-diver training course complete with written standards. In 1968 an NSS member authored the first American manual on cave diving. By 1973, in response to a growing need to address the particular needs of cave divers, the NSS formed the Cave Diving Section (NSS-CDS). In 1983 the Cave Diving Section was independently incorporated and in 1987 was granted official non-profit tax-exempt status as a scientific and educational organization.
The NSS-CDS has the largest cavern, and cave-diving training program in the world, and is a leader in setting standards for the rest of the cave-diving community. The NSS-CDS was the first to institute the concept of the cavern-diving training, and has certified more than 6000 Cavern and Cave Divers. In addition, the NSS-CDS has a comprehensive instructor training program.
The NSS Cave Diving Section has also trained more than 500 Cave Diving Rescue/Recovery Specialists. In cooperation with the National Association for Search and Recovery (NASAR), the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) , the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and the International Underwater Cave Rescue and Recovery (IUCRR), these Cave Diving Rescue/Recovery Specialists are made available to law-enforcement agencies that are affected by underwater-cave-related rescues and recoveries. The team of cave divers is available 24 hours a day. The NSS-CDS has performed numerous rescues and recoveries throughout the United States and at the request of several foreign governments.
The NSS-CDS has installed numerous safety/warning signs at some of the more popular underwater caves in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands. These signs are available for installation in underwater caverns where a risk is perceived. Interested persons are invited to contact the NSS-CDS for more information. The Cave Diving Section, in voluntary cooperation with national, state, county, and private parks, has also developed a “No-Light” rule for open-water divers. This policy, aimed at locations which contain a cavern or cave, prohibits open-water divers from carrying a dive light while diving these waters. The plan has proven very successful, as divers without lights are naturally limited by lack of daylight in their penetration of underwater caverns.
Within the caving community, the NSS-CDS is most renowned for its exploration, survey, cartography, photography, and cinematography of underwater caves. Some of the surveyed systems are more than seven miles in overall length. The Cave Diving Section has also funded scientific studies to examine life forms unique to underwater caves.
The Cave Diving Section has an active publications program, including a quarterly newsletter, Underwater Speleology, and conducts annual Safety Workshops for the exchange of current information on exploration, scientific discoveries, conservation, equipment innovation, and safety techniques. These are held over the Memorial Day weekend. The NSS-CDS has members in almost every state in the Union, and in many foreign countries. Membership is open to any interested individual.
For more historical information on the NSS and the Cave Diving Section, please refer to Chapter 19, A History of Cave Diving and the NSS-CDS, NSS Cave Diving Manual, edited by Joe Prosser and H.V. Grey.
Kelly Jessop and Forrest Wilson with Jeff Loflin
MARIANNA, FL 2008