Divers out of NSA Panama City Dive Vortex Springs - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Divers out of NSA Panama City Dive Vortex Springs

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Spring training has a different meaning for students out of the Naval Dive School in Panama City. Rather than bats and ball parks, it's some of the states most pristine natural springs, dive gear, and a lot of umbilical cord.

"It was pretty dark, but the flashlights helped pretty well," said Private Kelly Florida, an Army Diver at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center.

Florida is ironically from Texas. Vortex Spring is his first spring dive.

"It's definitely different than the pool," he said.

"It's way different than the pool," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Craig Claudio. "The pool is nice and comfy."

Just about everyone agrees the change in venue gets the blood flowing, which is much needed when waters at the spring drop to 52 degrees.

"It gets us away from the school house and let's us see a totally different thing," said Claudio. "It's nice."

"It gets the students out away from the stressful environment of being at the school," said Sergeant 1st Class Brian Knoop. "It's kind of like going on a field trip."

Most students will be attached to a mobile dive unit after graduation.The trip to Northern Walton county provides a first hand look at their future work environment.

"We are using these expedient systems and showing that we can just load up on the back of the truck and hit the water then get out of here immediately afterwards," said Claudio.

Once in the water, the rocky bottom of Vortex Spring brings with it some challenges for divers. Ones they typically aren't used to seeing.

"They are walking in they are having to traverse down cliff walls they're having to go down into the caves tend each other in," said Claudio.

"As soon as you get down there is a platform and a drop off," said Staff Sergeant Humberto Santiago, an Army Dive Instructor. "Then it goes into the cave."

But, more so than anything else, there is one crystal clear reason divers love diving Vortex Springs.

"You can actually see things instead of all the turbidity and some of the water that we get in the St. Andrews Bay," said Knoop.

"Well, they say it's gin clear water down there," said Ensign Max Johnson, a Navy Dive Student. "So, I'm excited to check it out."

The waters at Vortex Springs are usually around 68 degrees. The Ponce de Leon spring opens their doors twice a year to the Navy Dive School for training.

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