Underwater Cave Diving

Environmental anthropologist Kenny Broad and his team go underwater and underground to explore caves. “When things go great in cave diving, there's nothing more spectacular in the world,” Broad says. “Then I get to the surface and I get to think about the problem of what did we learn, and how can it help us deal with water management, with climate change, with preserving fossils? All the things that matter for day-to-day life on the surface.”

Broad’s colleagues range from geologists to astrobiologists studying rare forms of life called extremophiles. The submerged caves “in some ways, are like time capsules,” Broad says, “because you're looking at ancient fossils that are well-preserved because of the hydrogen sulfide layer that uses up all the oxygen. You're also getting these microbes that are some of the earliest forms of life.”

It's also like going in a time machine to learn about the ancient past. The divers “can take geologic samples, for example, and then study them and try to understand how climate change occurs—so how the ice ages occurred in the past—and that allows us to improve the models of future climate and our understanding of not just what's going on with global warming, but [also] the larger record of global climate change.”

Broad says that for him, the experience of cave diving isn't what people expect. “Adrenaline is your enemy underwater. It’s about calmness and keeping your heart rate down and your breath rate down.” He has to stay focused when there are multiple tasks and scientific objectives. “The bottom line is I love the experience of being in underwater caves, and now I've grown to love the entire process of doing science related to underwater caves, so it's not just about exploration for exploration's sake.”

Kenny Broad is a National Geographic Expeditions Council grantee. Read more about his work here

Watch more from the web series Best Job Ever here.

PRODUCER: Carolyn Barnwell
EDITOR: Brent Levenson
SERIES PRODUCERS: Chris Mattle and Jennifer Shoemaker
GRAPHICS: Chris Mattle