A Sea is Made of Drops

Thinking about the academics of a cave class.


Not just the portion of the class where you’re stuck in a room listening to someone talk at you. About the subjects that don’t directly relate to the practices of the dive, that inform the dives and contextualize them, but are simply information of academic interest.


I always worry, you see, about presenting the right amount of information on topics that will capture people’s imagination. And it’s different for everyone, so every class is just a little different. I mean, what did you like? What did you wish you had heard more about? Or less about? What portion of the non-practical discussion of the sport excites you?


History of the sport. Landowner relations. Accident analysis. Physiology. Conservation roles and efforts. Cartography.


Geology.


That’s the one I definitely like best. The enduring cycle of creation and destruction that water plays against stone. The exploration of precisely what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The humbling, awe-inspiring times manifest in the genesis of such spelaean finery. How things like soda straws or calcite rafts or rim wall pools or goethite form.


And I get frustrated. Because I could talk about it all day. But one eye stays on the clock, because I only allow myself about 1/2 an hour. And I talk about it for longer than many instructors do.


Because there is already SOOOOOOO much information being presented in a class, much of it literally more life and death than how wet rocks happen, and it’s important that in the information overload students have the capacity to retain the shit that’s actually going to keep them safe and alive.


Any of the academic topics above could be explored for hours and hours. As people find their own interests and different paths through the sport they can wind up dedicating their entire dive careers to this or that facet. For some people it may even be part of a professional lifelong pursuit. But it all starts with a single, dense classroom session.


It is crazy that, for a class that is supposed to be one of the most rigorous and high-level training curricula in all of diving, in many ways it is still awfully superficial by necessity.

A 20 foot stalactite is formed one calcium saturated drop of water at a time. From all the material available only a few molecules left behind are woven into the crystal lattice that takes untold ages to be shaped into what it might one day become.


I suppose classes are kinda like that. Present what information we can. A drop at a time. Hope enough of the material sticks. And turns into something beautiful.




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