WEEKI WACHEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Deep underground, near Weeki Wachee Springs, is an underwater world that few humans have ever seen.
It’s an area that has now been explored and mapped by cave divers Brett Hemphill and Dr. Andy Pitkin.
“Searching and exploring the unknown, that’s really what cave diving for explorers is all about,” said Hemphill.
Pitkin, Hemphill, and their support team use sophisticated equipment and years of experience to enter the underwater world.
They also use a variety of technology to make a surface to a subsurface map of the area.
“Currently we’ve mapped nearly 20,000 feet of underground passage between Weeki Wachee and Little Spring, it’s actually known as Twin D spring,” said Hemphill.
Incredibly, some of the areas they’ve mapped include huge underwater rooms that are directly under U.S. 19.
“Some of the areas that go under US 19 have passage large enough to fly a jet down. A lot of people can’t fathom that. In between those passages, there’s a large room, there are some smaller areas. The passages that do go under US 19, historically have been there since US 19’s been built, so there is no need to worry and most of those passages, even the ceiling of those passages are over 200 feet deep,” said Hemphill.
Their work is highly technical and dangerous, but they are always working toward safety.
“We finish a dive and we go, wow, how can we go further? How can we go deeper and-and do it safely? Because that’s the most important thing to me and the team that we work with,” said Hemphill.
Pitkin uses his experience and photography skills to document their trips.
“You have to understand the cave and know what the cave look like to be able to plan to shoot the best bits. Our best videos have been with divers who are pretty competent videographers themselves and understand what will look good and they are thinking about that while they are diving,” said Pitkin.
The images he’s captured are hauntingly beautiful, but Pitkin says they constantly have safety in mind, even while exploring areas most people would avoid.
“I think if I had to pick one reason why we do it, and I think I speak for most members of the group, that sensation of being a true explorer and venturing where nobody has ever been before is the fuel that really drives our desire to do this kind of diving,” said Pitkin.