The Wet Mules have just completed the 2012 expedition to the Pearse River Resurgence near Mt Arthur in the South Island of New Zealand. The six Mules (David Bardi, Craig Challen, John Dalla-Zuanna, Richard “Harry” Harris, Ken Smith and Sandy Varin), were accompanied by diving physician and support Dr Karen Richardson for the 17 day trip.
Both primary objectives of the trip were accomplished. With the assistance of Nelson Speleological Group’s Andrew Smith and Dawn Wood, dye tracing from the Spillway in Nettlebed Cave again confirmed the connection between the two sites. Unfortunately, the dye appeared to be coming from the main passage deeper than 120m, so any hopes of making a shallow connection were lost.
Hence attention shifted back to pushing the deep section of the cave, and once the four habitats were installed at 7, 16, 28 and 38m, and gas was staged in the cave, build-up dives commenced.
On Thursday 12th January Dave and Sandy dived to 180m and completed an extraordinary 7 hour all in-water decompression.
The following day Richard Harris pushed past the end of Craig’s 2011 line at 194m, and laid 70m of line in large passage to a maximum depth of 207m. A total run time of 10½ hours was spent in comfort thanks to the habitats and the surface supplied suit-heating systems.
After two days of rain the resurgence flooded, delaying diving for a day. The final push dive by Craig Challen began on Sunday 15th January as the water levels subsided. Tying off to the end of Harry’s line, he scootered on a short distance only to meet another steep descent. Craig made a final tie off at 221m and returned to the surface after a total dive time of 17 hours. The passage continues beyond, heading deeper.
Ken, JDZ and Craig made tape measure surveys of several areas including the Nightmare Crescent and Big Room area at 120m.