July 2021 – Newsletter

July 2021 – Newsletter – Michigan Underwater Divers

Next Meeting: Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Southwest Michigan Regional Airport, 1123 Territorial Rd, Benton Harbor, Mi.

Meeting starts at 7:30 p.m.

(3rd Tuesday of every month)

Standard Agenda –

Club President / Officer calls the meeting to order.

  1. Club Officer asks if there are any Visitors and ask them to introduce themselves.
  • Present Specific Club Information
  • Identify dive events upcoming or planned. (Dives & Road Trips) 
  • Identify & discuss diving-related news important to divers.
  • Present any Show & Tell that anyone would like to share – Please!
  • Attendees speak about current diving experiences or lessons learned from a dive near miss or not!
  • Open session.

In June we had our first in person MUD Club Meeting in over a year and a half and hopefully we can keep this trend going. We owe a great big “Thank You” to the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport Manager for allowing us the use of their lobby. The airport has lots of parking available, centrally located and easy to find. How can you not find an airport 😊?

At the last meeting we were requesting all member attendees to get with the secretary and review their on-file Membership form, club participation Waivers, and to update them, as necessary. After their review to date and initial they are now current and correct.

If you are unable to attend, as I know some of our distance challenged members are, you can either download the two forms from the club web site or if you need, the Secretary can email you a current member application form and waiver for you to complete and return.

At the last meeting we added Susan Devault as a new member and welcomed Lauren T. who is currently becoming scuba certified thru Wolfs Dive Shop in Benton Harbor.

The club appreciates Karen Mann’s enthusiasm and determination in getting us a tee shirt vendor, various designs to review and an estimated cost since the last meeting. Great Job Karren. 

With that in mind, a major item of business at this next meeting is to decide on which logo to have on out new Mud Club Tee shirts, who wants how many and what size. Please come prepared with that information. Current members who are not present and are interested in obtaining a 2021 club Tee shirt need to contact an officer with that request.

Jim Schulz is ramrodding the “Annual Mackinaw Shipwreck” dive week beginning July 30 thru August 8. So, anyone interested in participating, be it one day or all week, please contact Jim ASAP.  (jescholz@yahoo.com)

Items in limbo are the purchase of new AED batteries and fresh pads and it has still not been determined if there will be a Club Picnic based on COVID-19 concerns. It was suggested that it might just be a flash Mob Picnic.

We are still interested in any community, located on a body of water, that would be interested in sponsoring an Ecology Dive to let them know that the MUD Club is interested in working with them.

Do not forget that there will be a Mermaid Mega Fest 2021, August 20 thru 22 being held at Lake Arvesta Sports Complex, 06464 Arvesta Dr., South Haven, MI 4909.

Kevin Ailes may have additional information on lost buoys that was discussed at the last meeting.

And it would not be surprising if Mary Beth (Club President) had another end of meeting number guessing game and prize (or something similar).  Who know, you 2 could be a winner—

See you at the next Mud Club Meeting!

Comments – Questions – Concerns?  Write to                                         

Mary Beth Thar – President – mbthar@comcast.net     

Amy Ailes – V.P. – frogmom1972@gmail.com

Ted Tomaszcwski – Treasurer – cdandwb@outlook.com

Don McAlhany – Secretary / Newsletter / Club Site & FB Site Admindwmack2@comcast.net

Lessons for Life

Untrained and Unprepared | Lessons for Life

After they made their way past the narrow opening in the freshwater spring, the cave system opened in front of Cliff and Andrew. Cliff had been inside the cave several times, but it was the first time for Andrew. He was a little nervous, but excited about what he was seeing. They had lied to get where they were, but Andrew was happy they did. And he wanted to do it again. He made a promise to himself that he was going to return later with double tanks—the same as Cliff was carrying—so they could explore even deeper.

The Divers

Cliff and Andrew were good friends and frequent dive buddies. They met at their local dive shop and hit it off. Andrew was a 52-year-old male, a certified and experienced advanced open water diver. He was not a cave diver.

Cliff was a 42-year-old male and an experienced dive instructor. Cliff had trained Andrew in several specialty certifications, but he was neither a cave diver nor a cave diving instructor.

The Dive

Conditions were good at the freshwater spring system where Cliff and Andrew planned to dive. It had not rained much lately, so the water was clear, and the flow out of the springs was minimal. They watched several teams of certified cave divers gear up and make their way into the system before they donned their own dive gear and headed for the water. The dive location had strict rules about diving. If you did not hold a cave diving certification or were not training with a certified cave diving instructor, you were not allowed to enter the caves and you were not allowed to bring a dive light into the facility with you. You were only allowed to use the lake area outside of the spring for open water dives.

Cliff and Andrew signed forms agreeing that they would only dive as open-water divers, even though they had lights hidden in their gear bags and did plan to dive inside the caves. They had both been to the dive park several times, and Cliff was well-known to the staff as an instructor, so no one checked their gear to make sure they were telling the truth. Cliff and Andrew knew exactly what they were doing.

When it came time to get in the water, they did their best not to be noticed. Cliff led Andrew into the water as if they were planning to make a training dive in the open areas. When Cliff was sure there was no one to see them, he led Andrew to an opening to the cave system and quickly swam inside. They did not secure lines outside the cave system entrance.

The Accident

There is no way to know exactly what happened to Cliff and Andrew inside the cave system. Neither man made it out alive to explain. Nearing the end of the day, staff at the facility realized Cliff and Andrew’s empty gear bags were still in a grassy area on a tarp where they had left them. The staff initiated a search of the open-water areas and asked every diver who was still around if they had seen the two men. No one had.

The next day, a recovery team found their bodies 120 feet inside the cave. They were in a small offshoot of the main system.

Andrew was out of air and had drowned. Cliff was wearing twin tanks. An examination of his gear found the manifold between the cylinders closed, which indicated there was either no predive check or it was not conducted properly. One tank was empty, but the other was full. All Cliff would have had to do was open the valve or switch to his other regulator, which was supplied by the full tank.

The two men were found next to a permanent guideline in the cave, but there was no directional attachment to the line that would have shown the divers which way they needed to swim to reach the exit. They were lost and could not guess which direction led back to the entrance and safety.


Diving can be an exclusive club—we get to see places and things the average person can only see on television. Cave diving leads to beautiful places that are even more exclusive than the typical dive site. Only a small percentage of divers will ever visit underwater cave systems. But without the proper training, experience and equipment, cave diving can be exceedingly dangerous and even deadly.

It does not happen often—mainly because of the security precautions put in place due to fatalities—but occasionally untrained divers will decide to enter cave systems for a look around and end up getting in trouble. Imagine being lost inside a cave system, not having any idea how to get back outside into open water and watching your air supply slowly drop to zero. That is what happened to Cliff and Andrew.

Their last minutes were likely filled with panic, fear and regret. One probably ran out of air first, leaving his buddy behind. One man had to watch his friend and dive buddy lose consciousness, knowing that would happen to him next. The overriding tragedy of this incident is that two people died because they knowingly and willfully disregarded well-established safety practices and dived well beyond what they were trained for.

Just as the basic rules for diving are there to keep you safe, there are rules for cave diving. They begin with additional training that includes how to run a line inside a cave, how many lights you should carry and special rules for how much breathing gas you carry and when you should turn and head back to the surface. Many cave diving sites allow recreational divers to use areas outside of the cave as an open-water destination, especially for training. But to do so, you must agree that you will not venture inside the caves. You are not allowed to bring dive lights with you, to further discourage you from entering the cave system.

As the Grim Reaper sign posted at the entrance to many caves says, “Prevent Your Death: Go No Farther. There’s nothing in this cave worth dying for.”

In Cliff and Andrew’s case, they ignored all that and paid the ultimate price. They literally watched their lives end as their gauges dropped to zero.

Do not follow in their fin kicks.

Lessons for Life

  • Do not dive beyond your training. This is true in any environment, but doubly so in overhead environments like caves, shipwrecks or any other place you cannot make a direct ascent to the surface safely.
  • The rules of cave diving have been learned at the cost of people’s lives. Do not ignore or disregard them.
  • Do not be overconfident. Extensive open water experience—even being an instructor—does not make you an expert in overhead environments, especially caves.

Deception spells doom for divers who enter a cave system.

By Eric Douglas February 1, 2021

REMEMBER: There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence.

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