Fragile Springs

Devil's Ear


Tracy Niesent makes her way into Devils Ear at Ginnie Springs in High Springs, FL on Thursday July 18, 2013. The tannic Santa Fe River water mixing with the clear spring water makes a dramatic scene at midday. 

The descent into Devil’s Ear is one of Florida’s most special dives. The shaft of the ear is the entrance to an extensive  cave system but even if you are only cavern certified and can’t go but to the sign of death, it’s worth the trip.

My dive buddy Joe Wallace and me met with cave diver and underwater photographer Gene Page IV and his caving partner Tracy Niesent. Gene came to help me set up strobes in the cavern for pictures that would be used in Ocala Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun’s print and online project Fragile Springs. On this dive the river was very high because we had lots of rain last summer. As we swam out the spring run we ran into a tarp that had been stretched across the entrance to the run, presumably to keep the tannic water out of the nearby Devils Eye. As we slipped over the tarp, and got out into the river we found the dive buoy was in the middle of the tannic. Usually, it’s a little cloudy there but you can see down into the ear from the surface. That day, it was a total mess.

I figured there was no hope of getting a good shot of the beautiful mixing of the spring and river water on this trip. From the surface the spring looked totally blown out. I knew the water in the cavern would be clear so we could at least make those pictures with multiple strobes. I made my way down to the log to wait and wrapped my legs around it to wait for Gene and Tracy’s ascent. As I looked up, I was greeted with most beautiful scene I had ever seen there. While on the surface it looked a mess, in the clear flow mixed with the river water in these ever changing blood red clouds, it was the best I have seen it.