In May 1979 cave explorer Sheck Exley wrote a 46 page booklet that would have a profound effect on cave diving safety. The booklet was called "Basic Cave Diving: A Blueprint for Survival".
The proceeds of 'Blueprint' were donated to the cave diving section of the National Spelological Society for "use in safety education for cave divers."
The booklet had ten chapters that covered various topics including the guideline, air supply planning, panic, lights, emergency procedures and physiological emergencies.
Since it was published Blueprint has certainly saved lives.
One of the most notable I can think of is Lamar Hires of DIve Rite. When I interviewed him in 2015 he said he never forgot the day when Wes Skiles handed him a copy of Sheck Exley’s booklet and said, "Read it. I’ll give it to you, if you read it.”
This event occurred just a few months after Blueprint had been printed in 1979. Hires told me that reading Blueprint was a revelation because he learned that one could actually die going into overhead environments.
At the back of the booklet is Exley’s Blueprint for Survival. Ten recommendations for safe cave diving that are as relevant today as the day that Sheck wrote them.
1) Always use a single, continuous guideline from the entrance of the cave throughout the dive.
2) Always use the ‘third rule’ in planning your air supply.
3) Avoid deep diving in caves.
4) Avoid panic by building up experience slowly and being prepared for emergencies.
5) Always use at least three lights per diver.
6) Always carry the safest possible scuba.
7) Avoid stirring up the silt.
8) Practice emergency procedures with your partner before going diving, and review them often.
9) Always carry the equipment necessary for handling emergencies, and review them often.
10) Never permit overconfidence to allow you to rationalise violating safety procedures.
Available for all
It has just been announced that the NSS-CDS has made Sheck Exley's 'Basic Cave Diving: A Blueprint for Survival' available for free to download.
It is not the prettiest publication that you will ever read, but if you cave dive and you take notice of Exley's Blueprint, it will certainly help keep you alive.