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Underwater Wakulla- November 23, 2017

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Emerald Sink is clear! By GREGG STANTON

Emerald Sink is clear! Decades ago I was trained in the skills of a cave diver by Parker Turner at Emerald Sink and many other sites within 100 miles of Wakulla County. Our routine was to meet at a local gas station and get Gatorade drinks to hydrate before the dive, then drive up to the sink to inspect it for options. There were no steps down its steep slope, or fancy driveway into the site. But back then our area had a drought, which translated into much better diving conditions once in the water. Emerald Sink got its name from the rays of sunshine that penetrated this deep shaft at midday. During droughts, the water would clear up. As a diver enters the open water within the sinkhole, these rays of sunshine would illuminate the area resulting in an emerald blue condition. Such a sight was welcomed at the end of a returning dive. We would swim 1,000 feet upstream to the Dark Abyss, an area that dropped to 200 feet in depth, turn around and return as an afternoon stroll in our underground park. Because of its proximity to Tallahassee, Emerald Sink became a favorite swimming hole for our Florida State University and the University of Florida Dive Programs to conduct training check out dives in the open water. Many hundreds of students have started their diving careers at Emerald Sink. We never placed a training platform here as the shaft drops precipitously to 60 feet. Such a shallow platform was installed at Clear Cut and West Hole (privately owned). Today both Emerald and Clear Cut sites are regulated by the Wakulla State Forest, using an iron ranger to accept very reasonable entrance fees. This arrangement has become an excellent management mechanism. A decade ago, the local diving community came together to build a set of steps down the steep slope at Emerald Sink. Erosion was causing damage to the slope, and was dangerous if a person slipped especially with heavy tanks on his or her back! We contributed manpower, funds and materials to encourage construction of a facility that would withstand the rigors of flooding and time. So far so good! The Park built a better road and parking area, even adding a picnic table for good measure. I only wish they had left the portable toilet that was once offered. Decades ago, many of us would stop off at Emerald Sink to get our weekly exercise, by swimming at 70 feet depth under New Light Church Road to Twin Cave to the north and back as a nice hour dive. A more ambitious dive would be to swim at depths down to 160 feet depth to Clear Cut, across the Crawfordville Highway. If we had all day, we could swim southward along a shallow series of sinkholes towards Wakulla Springs, exiting at Promise and Go-Between Sinks. Opening Emerald Sink to the public has been a wonderful step for the local diving community. And now, with a stretch of dry weather, the reduced runoff from Tallahassee rain has made Emerald Sink and all of the Leon Sinks conduits clear again. Spread the word!