Three historic cave connections, a hard-won kilometre of new underwater master cave, two Australian cave depth records and lots of underground shenanigans when the drawbridge was down between COVID lockdowns. Also a bonanza of dye tracing, "undress for success", and a new and miserable low in the effort to dive time ratio. Gritty expedition-style open circuit sump diving across several caves, but with plenty of jokes to lighten it up.
Better late than never, it's time for this to brave the public domain. GoPro footage (be warned, it's not pleasant), explanation, analysis and lessons from an incident which has implications for all divers, but especially rebreather divers.
Stephen Fordyce might sometimes be described as a mad professor (and has also been labelled "baby face" and "skinny runt") but has made his mark on the technical diving scene in Australia both with his diving exploits and technical innovation/invention.
A long-time adventurer (co-recipient of Australian Geographic's "Young Adventurer of the Year 2006") and a technical diver since 2009, a parallel passion for 'dry' caving has seen Stephen pursue cave exploration opportunities through sump diving - where access to the dive site is typically remote and involves many technical caving obstacles, and the dive itself is often tight, silty and generally not very glamorous.
Stephen has dived many caves around Australia and further afield - being a successful push diver at the pointy end of projects in Elk River Cave (Victoria), Growling Swallet, Niggly and Junee Caves (Tasmania), the extension of Cocklebiddy Cave on the Nullarbor (WA) and West Timor (Indonesia). This culminated in receiving the 2019 OZTek Emerging Explorer Award.
Since then, Stephen was the push diver in a large team effort which connected Growling Swallet and Niggly Cave (2019), setting a new record for the deepest (mostly dry) cave in Tasmania and Australia. Other push dives were carried out with no effort spared in Niggly Cave, Porcupine Pot, Growling Swallet and Sesame Cave. The depth record was broken again in July 2022 when he led a project to explore and ultimately connect the newly-discovered Delta Variant cave into the Growling Swallet/Niggly Cave system. After 6 months of distraction by this large vertical cave system, Stephen got back in the water for a dive to connect nearby Porcupine Pot with Gormenghast Cave in August 2022, through a section even he had previously written off as too desperate.
With a degree in Mechatronics Engineering and a professional background of designing industrial gas equipment, Stephen started TFM Engineering Australia, to combine his passions for 'making cool stuff' and technical diving, and now works full time designing and building technical diving equipment of all shapes and sizes.
Despite enduring the pandemic in the most locked-down city in the world (Melbourne), Stephen spent his lockdown time developing a system of water tracing equipment and much of the rest field-testing and exploring caves in Tasmania.