LOCATION: (lat. 28°24'29.2" N., long. 82°40'19.2" W.)
The Jewel is location in the old Belcher Limerock Mine in Hudson, West of Old Dixie Hwy, just South of the canal to Fillmans Bayou. The opening is located in the corner of a small peninsula that juts out from the north side of the pit
The Jewel is a submerged sink, it's rim is at a depth of 45ft. Draglines working the mine, scraped the ceiling off a large dome sometime in the late 80's, creating a kidney shaped opening. I stumbled into it during a night dive with a couple of friends. We hadn't been certified long and thought that the pit would be a safe place for newbies like us to get some experience, after all, the pit's are only 30 or 40ft deep right? After exploring the sides of the pit we decided to do a bottom check and fate had us right over the opening, down we went until the gauges showed 80ft, the water was cloudy and temp dropped about 10 degrees so we bailed out. Looking back, I can only thank God that we came straight up, if we had went off to the side 10 ft in either direction we would have hit our heads on the ceiling and probably scared ourselves to death.
In the following weeks I bought Shecks "blueprint for survival" and returned several times to begin running lines in the massive cavern(many times alone), my buddies wanted no part of this type of diving but I was already hooked, my fascination of dry caves would surely extend underwater. Over the next few months I got my full cave certification and met Chris Stone who was more than eager to help me exploit the secrets of the sinkhole, which he called the "Jewel of the Suncoast". We dove the Jewel 2 or 3 times a week and Chris eventually pushed through a crack into the "Stone Room", an equally huge chamber, but because of the depths we were unable to survey it properly.
During deco around the pit, we constantly stumbled on stolen cars that had been run off the cliffs. That type of activity, coupled with the drowning of a child and a murder finally prompted the county to close the site. The Jewel has now become another entry in a long list of "sneak dives". Visibility fluctuates daily but one can expect poor visibility between 20' and 100' with sunlight penetrating this layer only under optimum conditions. Vis below 220ft in the Stone Room is always gin clear. The extreme depths and guaranteed siltout of a long restriction at a depth of 200ft make this an exceptionally advanced dive; know your limits!
We descended on the downline to the rim of the sink and followed the west edge to the start of the permanent line at 50ft. Sunlight managed to penetrate the cloudy water on this day, but not for long as we made our way to the bottom of the cavern and the end of this line at 150ft. Where floor meets wall there is a horizontal crack that continues downward at the same angle as the mound. After attaching the gap reel and stashing our travel tanks we crawled into the crack to the start of the second permanent line. The first 20 to 30ft of this line goes through an area of clay floor with a ceiling height less than 3ft ,ensuring a siltout for the return trip. At 200ft the passage turns due west and opens up enough for normal travel, a smaller diameter line is T 'ed off to the right at this point and runs parallel at a lower depth (240ft). We continued along the "high" line for about 50ft into the "Stone Room". Visibility was excellent in this huge domed chamber, I had touched the ceiling on a previous dive and it topped out around 160ft.Today I remained at 245ft while my partner Chris Stone retrieved his reel, left from a previous dive to the bottom at 315ft. The combination of his light at the bottom and mine shining from above, thoroughly lit up the sharp slope of the west side and made me feel like I was sitting in the nosebleed section of a huge underground stadium.
PS: I have hit this site many times since and have never had as good a view of this huge room and it's boxcar sized chunks of breakdown. Some dives just get burnt into your mind.