BY DR. ROBERT MILLOTT
The past ten years of the ARPP activity on the Aucilla River well demonstrates that with proper planning and attention to detail, a potentially hazardous environment can be studied in detail safely. Thus, in a river with limited visibility, moving current, entangling tree limbs, multiple hooked trot lines, sinkholes, suction dredges, and a fascinating bottom scene, we see a wide variety of divers from across the U.S. (see "The Class of'95") with experience in many different sub-aquatic activities provide year after year of productive research into the early history of man and beast.
The Diving Science and Safety Program (DSSP) has worked closely with the Aucilla River Prehistory Project for several years. The general concern of the DSSP is for the safety of the participants. This has been evidenced by the careful planning and pre-dive contacts between the project and the DSSP. Each season prior to the actual diving, Joe Latvis and Dr. Webb have presented the requirements of the DSSP to all prospective ARPP applicants. In addition, they have written into their dive plan a solid basis for emergency response, and with careful planning established a minimal risk procedure for the dives. The concern for safety has even included simulated accident scenarios, one of which caused the chief scientist a major insect infestation with attendant discomfort.
The DSSP locker attempts to provide equipment to supplement that of the ARRP and its many divers. The Dive Officer completes check out dives and establishes scientific diver status for new volunteers. During the 1995 year, the Dive Officer made several trips to the Aucilla for check out dives, thus saving out-of-state divers the need to travel to the Gainesville area for such a challenge. During the last year, 17 new ARPP volunteer divers were certified to the university's research diver status. Several of these came from long distances and were necessarily given aquatic skills evaluations on-site. The remainder of their paperwork had been submitted earlier.
Diving conditions at the Aucilla River sites in l995 were better than in the recent past, and the project established its own historical record in terms of the amount of bottom time accomplished. DSSP operational diving statistical summaries for 1995 reveal that the Aucilla River Prehistory Project logged 557 dives in accumulating 794.6 hours of bottom time; all without a single dive-related accident. Congratulations are due everyone involved in these landmark achievements.