The Scuba GOAT Podcast

Stephen Fordyce - Sump diving and caving

August 29, 2022 Matt Waters / Stephen Fordyce Season 3 Episode 10
Stephen Fordyce - Sump diving and caving
The Scuba GOAT Podcast
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The Scuba GOAT Podcast
Stephen Fordyce - Sump diving and caving
Aug 29, 2022 Season 3 Episode 10
Matt Waters / Stephen Fordyce

Stephen Fordyce is sometimes described as a mad professor and I can't help thinking that there is some truth in that.  When it comes to listening to his explorations deep beneath the surface of the earth and then beneath the surface of the water therein.  Scuba diving is a relatively niche sport, and within it there are many more niche areas and I think Stephen has found the pinnacle of niche as a 'sump diver.'   Spending days lugging gear to remote locations, trekking into dry(ish) caves and creating base camps therein, to then explore kilometres of routes underwater certainly confirms that he's barking mad, but also justifies the recognition he rightly deserves as a fantastic explorer.

'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 and Niggly Caves (Tasmania), 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, setting a new record for the deepest (mostly dry) cave in Australia, as well as for several other significant Tasmanian push dives.

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. (OzTek biography 2022)

Joining me on the show today, Stephen chats about some of his adventures including that fantastic latest achievement conducted with 8 equally barking mad explorer buddies

Do you have feedback or an opinion to share with us? SMS us now.

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Show Notes Transcript

Stephen Fordyce is sometimes described as a mad professor and I can't help thinking that there is some truth in that.  When it comes to listening to his explorations deep beneath the surface of the earth and then beneath the surface of the water therein.  Scuba diving is a relatively niche sport, and within it there are many more niche areas and I think Stephen has found the pinnacle of niche as a 'sump diver.'   Spending days lugging gear to remote locations, trekking into dry(ish) caves and creating base camps therein, to then explore kilometres of routes underwater certainly confirms that he's barking mad, but also justifies the recognition he rightly deserves as a fantastic explorer.

'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 and Niggly Caves (Tasmania), 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, setting a new record for the deepest (mostly dry) cave in Australia, as well as for several other significant Tasmanian push dives.

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. (OzTek biography 2022)

Joining me on the show today, Stephen chats about some of his adventures including that fantastic latest achievement conducted with 8 equally barking mad explorer buddies

Do you have feedback or an opinion to share with us? SMS us now.

Support the Show.



SUPPORT - Have you enjoyed the episode? I would LOVE a 5-star review via your favourite streaming platform. It helps with promoting the show & increases its reach.

FEEDBACK - I love to get feedback and there are several ways available to you:

  1. Leave a comment
  2. Use the Contact Form on the website tabs up top
  3. Send me a DM via social media

PROSPECTIVE GUESTS - 🎙️ Do you want to appear on the show? Click on the "Guest Registration" link in the Navigation bar.

MUSIC (legend!): Forever Young by AudioCoffee | https://www.audiocoffee.net/

Matt Waters:

Hey, there dive buddies and welcome to the show. Now before we get on with this week's episode, I just want to share a quick story with you because I got a call a few weeks ago from my mate Martin at Scuba IQ."Hey, Matt, what are you up to in December? Do you fancy co hosting a trip with me?" Now of course, I played it cool. "Oh, yeah. Well might be interested mate." However, it doesn't take a genius to work out my answer when the trip he's talking about is in the Great Barrier Reef."I'm in!" So we're taking a maximum of 12 guests and we're visiting lots of hotspots, such as Steve's bommie, The Cod Hole, Lizard Island, and we may even be attempting the first floating Scuba GOAT podcast. So if you want to get involved, come along and have a lot of fun and some awesome diving. Follow the link in the show notes and grab your spot quick. Now on with the show. Hey, Steven, hey, what we should do is just introduce you to our listeners. And so I'll hand that bit over to you because I think you know yourself better than I know you.

Stephen Fordyce:

Well, thanks. So yeah, my name is Steven Fordyce generally known as Steve, but I'll answer to anything. I am 36. And I've done quite a bit of stuff in the diving and other spheres. I'm an engineer and but quite a hands on one. And I I've come into my little niche in the diving industry running my small business TFM engineering Australia. I do custom gas equipment and and things and I've been noted to tell to explain my customer base as the sort of people that have their own compressor. So yeah, there's there's a whole whole series of things around that.

Matt Waters:

I did have a look at TFM right, you got an impressive lineup an impressive catalogue there. I gotta say.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, thanks. So the idea was that it would be anything I kind of felt like at the time. My My professional background, I've got a degree in mechatronics engineering. And I've been I worked for about six years in industry actually designing product managing big industrial gas systems, liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen giant gas plants and smaller things. So yeah, we're a lot of people are coming into diving from a you know, a teaching background or an air background. I come in from a pure gases, engineering industrial background, which is kind of interesting. How

Matt Waters:

old are you? Because you look so frickin young to have done all this stuff.

Stephen Fordyce:

Well, yeah, I get that. I'm, I just turned 36 I think 1986 That's when I was born. Okay, so I'll be turning 36 yesterday, actually. Something all the debut. I've just been lost track by now. But um, yeah. And apparently I've got a baby face, which seems to be it was a bit of a hindrance early on, trying to try to have credibility. But I've just about I got to a point in life where old enough to be taken seriously, and sort of like having a bit of a baby face.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, yeah. And how did you get into the diamond side of life?

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, well, I started off pretty, pretty young. I guess I was I was 20. And wondering about at Monash uni, and I saw the Scuba club. And I thought that looks cool. I'd already done quite a lot of other outdoor things with bushwalking club. So I've got a bit of a history of picking up an activity and taking it to some kind of logical extreme. So does

Matt Waters:

logic logical and extreme come in the same sentence I often? Or

Stephen Fordyce:

yeah, in my own head anyway. So back in 2007 ish. I rocked up to Monash open day, I saw the Scuba club, and I thought Yeah, that's cool. So I went up to them I said, Hey, guys, give me a pitch. And they talked about how you could rent gear really cheap and you could go off and they had their own boat and you could basically that that at that point that was when I realised that Scuba diving might actually be affordable for me at that point being a pretty poor tight Student Yeah, and one thing led to another and two years later I was the president running the club

Matt Waters:

literally at the deep end

Stephen Fordyce:

a little bit yeah, I got got a bit carried away did did my dividing water and various other things. And yeah, running running club suited me really well. I've always been a bit of a like to do things by and why and so the club was a really good way that I could do that. Now they had a boat and a bunch of uni kids running around with a boat and all that all the dive gear was was really amazing, fantastic thing to be part of. And I threw a huge amount of energy into that and making it really cool. And so I've got, like lifelong friends that we went through all sorts of trips and things and everything else. So I was a mad ocean diver for quite a few years. We took the quad bike, we drove around all over Australia. So I've done all sorts of weird and wonderful dives. As far as Perth we also we took the boat to Tassie, we took it up to northern New South Wales and lo Victoria. So yeah, it was it was a fantastic thing to do at uni when we we had time not not so much money. Yeah, we did some fantastic things.

Matt Waters:

How'd you manage to do all your study with all this mega travelling going on? Pretty impressive. Oh,

Stephen Fordyce:

they give you they give you so many so many breaks? And I also probably was guilty of the cramming technique a bit

Matt Waters:

yeah, for one fell on and whether they were in the sea within the during the ocean recreational But how on earth? Did you end up taking it into caves?

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, well, that's I am sort of probably best best known and most most keen on on my que diving and in fact, a specific niche of cave diving called called sub diving. I actually, I knew quite early on that cave diving was a thing that I wanted to do. I did my initial training with ocean divers in Bentley. And they have a big kind of standing in cave diving, I do a lot of courses. And some of the some of the instructors like Jane Barton, who was who was my instructor, and worked on. They operated out of the shop. And so even as I was doing my open water and Advanced Open Water, there were pictures on the wall of people cave diving. And there were people in the shop that cave dives. And, you know, some of the other instructors were around cave diving. So it actually seemed like a pretty natural progression for me. And I remember even quite early on when I've done 30 Odd dives and hadn't hadn't done my Advanced Open Water yet that I looked at it and I'm like, Yeah, that's I'm gonna do that cave diving. That makes sense. Whereas a lot of other people, I think, sort of come around to it a bit more slowly.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, I think so. I mean, I've tried. I think it's all extremely interesting. But I think I'm one of those divers that prefers the ocean. After I've tried a few, you know, feel a little dip through the sun 80s and stuff like that. It's all interesting, but it doesn't grab me as much as corals and fish I suppose it's it's each to their own. But you just mentioned that yours Your kind of flavour is pretty unique being that have some time in

Stephen Fordyce:

it some some diving is it's sort of a quantum leap. Much much the same as recreational diving to cave diving. It's it's probably a similar leap from cave diving to some diving. So to get to get into cave diving, obviously, there's there's quite a number of different courses in Australia that the typical path is through the cave divers association of Australia, the CDA, there's there's three levels and then the sort of experience building in between. There's a heap of good, good stuff to do at each level, typically about Gambia. So there's the crystal clear sinkholes, and it's sort of culminating up in the seven kilometres of maze tunnels in tank cave. And then the novel sort of comes in their own in the mid to high levels. And yeah, once you sort of achieve that advanced cave level, you there's there's a lot more things open to and I've done a bit of dry caving in at uni and dry caving is just sort of normal caving with sailing and squeezing and climbing and walking. And I sort of put that on hold while I while I became a mad diver. And I went yeah, I got a bit of exposure and then was lucky enough to get get in on some some trips. It were where we were combining diving and K I mean, and so that's essentially that's that's the the explanation of some diving is it's it's the combination of cave diving and dry caving to further the cave.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, so it's not I was just gone. No.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yes at some some diving, sub diving is an exploration tool. So generally it's where where we're not necessarily diving exactly for the fun of it, but we're diving to find or to access some more cave beyond the dive and because you need to be an accomplished caver and a pretty gnarly cave diver, that that really appealed to me because it was it was such a nice niche thing. And there were so few people doing it.

Matt Waters:

It is very, very niches and I was, I'm just, I'm looking off camera at the moment, I'm trying to find it the YouTube footage that you had up of a cold pot belly or something like that. There's plenty. There was a cave that you've you've done two and a half, three, three minutes or whatever, just following through to try and find the end of a cave.

Stephen Fordyce:

There's been a few, a few, quite a few different projects I've been involved with. Grayling, Swalot, and niggly cave was a big project in Tasmania. And we ended up connecting these two caves via a dive. And so that was a fantastic it's a fantastic example of some diving where we've got these two caves, they takes about six hours to get to the water either side. And the two caves are linked by 700 metres of flooded tunnel with a maximum depth about 25 metres but average depth about probably about eight. Yeah. So connecting those those two together was a massive team effort. With southern Tasmania and Kevin is down in Hobart each dive there'd be six or so people, and everyone would put in a 12 ish hour day for that on one diver to go and do a sort of two hour now. nally push dive at the end.

Matt Waters:

And what the what's the what's the clarity? Like when you're when you're in there? I mean, everyone, everyone would assume that it's it's, you know, much the same as it was in Lantian caves and coffee brown murky water and can't see anything?

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, you get, you get a brief period on the way in have crystal clear or fairly clear water. But as soon as you touch anything, which you try not to. But as soon as your bubbles touch anything, the you tend to get a cascade of silt off the ceiling. So a lot of the time you actually kind of look ahead, take a mental picture, and then the silt rains down. And that's sort of it for a while, and then you swim back into the clear water. So yeah, when you push diving, like that, where it's undisturbed, it's a real mental focus game. Which is, which is really cool. It's one of the things that I really like about it. Maybe not the time, but in an overall sense of, of achieving something something amazing.

Matt Waters:

And it's certainly an amazing, and how do you, you know, just gotten into the finer details of it because you're descending? I say 25 metres to eight metres on average. In coffee, how do you find your way through the merch to find the the end goal that you're looking for? Is it literally fingertip and if you come to a dead end, turn around, come back out and go another way?

Stephen Fordyce:

Oh, well, that's there's actually a really big emphasis on on being able to see. And so if if it's understood, then you can see you just got to swim fast enough to stay ahead of the silk cloud. Which is actually it's okay, if you're swimming with the current coming towards you, then that's less of a deal. If you're doing a downstream sump, then you stop and the, the silt cloud goes ahead of you. That's that's obviously a bit harder. And so you've got to keep moving faster. But making setting the conditions for the best, the best possible diet outcome is actually a key part of planning. So a good example is sesame cave, which is taken up probably probably a lot more than than the the energy I budgeted for. I've done two quite awful push dives in there over the last two years for not much cave but the firt the first one I did completely blind. So getting to the cave. It's a nasty series of wrinkles in the water and walking walking in the mud. And it was completely coffee and so it took the best part of half an hour to feel my way along about about 40 metres. And I was quite worried about how long it would take to get out. So I was very conservative. couldn't read my gauges the whole time. So I had to sort of kind of guess how much gas there was left. Which that was that was quite unpleasant. And it took me two minutes to get out. And I thought, you know, well, it's, if that's the difference, it'd be much better would be much better being able to see where the big bit was. So, yeah, I actually went back and we camped in the cave, specifically, so we can let the water clear overnight. And that created a whole huge series of logistics. But um, I can sort of honestly say that the dive is probably finished now. It's the the diligence has been done. It didn't it didn't go sadly. But um, yeah, we threw everything at it. And did it did it properly, which is a big part of my satisfaction.

Matt Waters:

Yeah. And, you know, the logistics and the teamwork involved in this must be satisfying within itself. Even if you got a you know, relatively dull lending to the dive.

Stephen Fordyce:

It is and it's actually quite fun being a supporting person, or I think so anyway, I've probably done most of the, the push diver role of rate of light in the last few years, but um, I have been a support quite a lot more fun because there's, there's no pressure and everything else. But um, yeah, it's a great atmosphere. And I try and plan, plan a lot for these things, and plan it down into the finer details like having a stove, sometimes even having music so we can chill out and collecting all the little one percenters to maximise the chance of success. And have fun because, yes, when you're holding a bag of someone else's dive get out of the cave at midnight. It doesn't seem like much fun.

Matt Waters:

Why the hell am I doing this for him? Yeah. Oh,

Stephen Fordyce:

my. I mean, it's meant to be for the good of everyone. And it's definitely the team shares all the glory that there's certainly a lot of seats on the push diver shoulders.

Matt Waters:

But it does. I mean, just going to refer to refer to was a couple of weekends ago now when you did the found the deepest cave in Australia. Congratulations to you and the team.

Stephen Fordyce:

Thanks. Yeah, yeah, that was that was a pretty cool thing. It wasn't wasn't diving related. So it was just a dry series, a series of shafts. We've so we have sailed down 350 Odd metres. And we found we connected to these deep caves together and set the set a new record for Australia's deepest dry cave. So it was a bit of a diversion sort of took a lot of the energy for the last six or eight months. But it was a fantastic team exercise when we managed to get nine people involved in the connection trip, eight of whom went all the way through in one cave and out the other. So it was a fantastic. It's just fantastic experience to do and share with with all those people.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, I must have made those videos that are out there. I've been snickered and flicking through them all. And there seems to be a lot of fun and joviality going on. While I'm watching it and watching tiny people squeezed through tiny little holes. And all I can think of is I'd need a jackhammer and a hammer and chisel just to get get halfway through this stuff is remarkable.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, well, the small stuff in the music, I mean, the musical stuff, we sort of do it. We don't really do it because we like it. We do it because there's something worth it on the other side. Yeah. So there's, there's a bit of I mean, when you're starting out with caving and diving, sometimes you'll do stuff just for the sake of it or for training. But it's one of the things I like about the exploration concept is that you don't have to do things the hard way. Because, you know, we get to do things the easy way. And we make them as easy as we can and it's still really hard. So that's that's also pretty satisfying.

Matt Waters:

Don't homeschool I can imagine so. Was it what was the actual depth of it? Because was it 404 101 metres or something like that?

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, for 401 is the figure. It's actually the new entrance is very close to the previous highest entrance it's, it's within 15 metres in 3d space, but it's four metres higher. So we know we know that it's definitely four metres higher than the previous the previous deepest cave was actually made in three years ago when when I did that very well supported dive in in niggly Cove to connect it to growling spot. And I probably should should point out for everyone that the deepest cave in the world is 2200 metres. But that was kind of New Zealand's over 1000 Our 400 metres a bit piddly by world standards, but it's important to us. And yeah, we had a bit of fun naming. We named the cove Delta variant. And we gave it a whole COVID team. There's all sorts of silliness around that. But I

Matt Waters:

did notice there's a lot of Disney about it as well.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, they did a Disney Princesses theme for when we split up into different teams to make on the connection through some, yes, as we were saying before, the silliness is important. And sometimes it's a case of faking it till you make it. Pretend pretend you're having fun, and everyone actually kind of believes they're having fun.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, and that can revel in that fun when you're at the proverbial 19th hole of the golf course. So at the end of the day,

Stephen Fordyce:

yeah, some some of these things are the farm is derived afterwards.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, yeah. Hey, I wanted to ask you about that. The kako buddy cave expedition. Because that looks, I'm just looking in your in your catalogue, there is a photo there with all the all the DPS and all the equipment. It looks like it was an amazing setup. How long did that one take to put together?

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, copy, that's probably probably one of the pinnacles of my my cave diving experience. So for those those that don't know, Coco, btw cave is on the Nullarbor. It's about It's got about six and a half kilometres of linear passage. So at the furthest point, you're six and a half kilometres of diving from the entrance. At one stage, it was the longest underwater cave in the world. And most of it is big enough. No, you drive a truck through easily, and there's bits of it, you can fly a plane through, it's just so big and spectacular. And it's also got several several dry chambers, which actually make the logistics really painful. So a couple of years ago, pre COVID, we, myself, Ryan couch kowski, Lisa Rogers, who, yeah, we go way back on different projects. We, we wanted to push the end. So that's that's, you know, the thing you do in in cave exploration is you're trying to go a bit further than than previous people have. Building on the work, of course. So yeah, to do that, we, we would probably over overdid it a bit. But it was that that same concept I've talked about earlier of maximising your chances when you're actually there. So working working back from that, you can get to the end in one day, it takes maybe 16 to 20 hours. So pretty massive, and you're out there at the pointy end, knowing that you've you've got to reserve a whole lot of energy for that, that return. And when you're trying to solve the, you know, complex logic puzzle underwater, trying to read the cave, see what's happening where know where to look, because remembering you've got that couple of seconds before the visibility ceases. So yeah, so we said, All right, well, let's if we're going to achieve being in the best state of mind, we're going to camp in the cave as close as we can. And we're going to repeat the dive. So we actually we camped in the cave as close as we could get. We camped in Toad Hall, which is about three and a half kilometres in, we can't be there for four nights. And that meant we could do multiple dives out to the end. So we would do about a, about a six hour dive in the final section from our camp. And that mean, we could we could be fresh, we knew that it was only you know, only two hours diving to get back from the end to our camp. And we also we did a little things like we took in a projector. And so each night at our camp, we watched Indiana Jones project on the wall, it's the sound was terrible, but um, there was a really, really cool thing to do, just to chill out and get ourselves in the mood. Now we had good sleep we took in because we had to take our own water. We didn't sort of have to worry too much about you know, other things so we could take drinks and food and you know, we cooked up cooked up good things. And yeah, and and so we also had a huge mountain of stuff. And unfortunately that meant that we spent think we're on site For about 12 days, and we basically spent all except three days of wonderful diving in the middle, shifting about 500 kilos of gear from one place to another. Sometimes it was underwater, and we clipped it all together into a sled and we towed along with with scooters, dpbs DVDs, and then we'd have to pull it apart, carry it over a rock pile, put it back together in the water again, and then tell it through the next section. So I'm not entirely sure I've got another one of those in me. super glad that we did it. And the photos of the sled leisurely is took some fantastic photos of tying this this behemoth and it's been made into memes on the internet. And it's really cool.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, it looks it looks fantastic. It really does. And we're an adventure. What's, what's next?

Stephen Fordyce:

Ah, well, at the moment, it's, I mean, it's been pretty weird with with COVID. So the Nullarbor has been sort of off the table for me, it's Tuesday, it's over and, you know, 30 hours driving, it's a big, big commitment. And I've been, I tend to get focused on a project and I've been very focused on on stuff in Tassie at the moment. So there's there's a particular caving system cave system under mount Field National Park, and there's what's called the journey foreign time. People might be familiar with the Junee cave resurgence. It's got a little Park Reserve around it. Yeah, and so that's, that's a, the deepest caves in Australia, quite cold there seven degrees. And there's also a lot of undisturbed stumps. And so I've been going there for quite a while, and being not too far away. I've I've spent quite a lot of time there. In between Melbourne lockdowns and COVID things. It's also close enough that I can I can fly there for a weekend without being too horrendous. So I've got a list of list of SOPs I've been working through and diving had some some great successes. And there's there's a few left a few things to wrap up. But it's it's really good. High quality exploration, you find stuff, you know, nobody's ever been there. And you get to name it, which is, strangely, one of the things I quite like is, is naming things.

Matt Waters:

Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's certainly unique. What does it actually can you express the feeling of, you know, dive in through somewhere that no one's been or seen ever before.

Stephen Fordyce:

I'd like to give it lots of, you know, wonderful, airy terms, but honestly, it's, it's usually just a bit scary and alone. A lot of the wall, maybe not it's controlled, controlled fear. That's a useful thing. But um, yeah, it's perhaps absorbing is a good word. Because you've got so much going on. So much focus, that there isn't there isn't sort of too much time for thinking. Thinking about philosophies and stuff. So yeah, perhaps a lot of the satisfaction is afterwards when you're back and safe and everything. Yeah,

Matt Waters:

I suppose the mental come down is quite, quite big, as well as your focus, like you say, you just mentioned focus, there must be extremely onpoint. While you're doing this, and then afterwards, maybe tiring?

Stephen Fordyce:

A little bit. But um, yeah, obviously, you've got to get yourself out. So. And it's surprising, there's very little sympathy when everyone's been sitting around shivering for a couple of hours. It's seven degrees in there. And a lot of the time you get quite quite wet, just getting to the dive site. So yeah, it's you come back and right. We're going out to change. He got hot drink. Don't get any. Let's go. Yeah, yeah. But um, it's certainly a relief to get back. I probably should mention, I've alluded to two solo diving, which is a bit of a contentious topic. And actually something that I would recommend, most people don't do. Obviously, it's got a sort of implications. Suffice to say that I consider it a tool. It's a tool for a job and a fairly specialised tool for specialised job. Practically speaking, with some diving, a lot of the time you just can't get gear for two people to the water and probably more importantly, if it's you I want to be tight. And then low visibility, which is, you know, a fairly safe bet. It's actually safer not to have somebody else getting in the way. Yeah. And of course, we plan and train and mentally prepare for for self sufficiency. So there's a whole series of things around it. That before anyone sort of puts me up on a cross or anything.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, there's always armchair warriors. And there's there's going to be cavers out there that clearly know a lot more about the business than I do. However, I think you hit the nail on the head there, because even for recreational diver like myself, it just makes common sense that if you've got two people in tandem, and you're going through squeezes that have never been seen before, then your visibility is gonna go to dogshit. And that possibly can be an issue just in itself, let alone having someone that gets in your way as well.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, yeah, it's, um, it's definitely, it's definitely not for everyone. In fact, it's quite interesting to see. See, see the reaction of people when you sort of tell them what you do. And it's not that so recreational divers, they're probably worse than the general public, because the general public sort of doesn't have the fear of knowledge. Whereas recreational divers, they sort of go oh, well, you know, that's it. They they really feel it. That allows extra things that you're doing while you're underwater. So yeah, get get a few strange looks, looks from them. And and also the cave is actually because they understand the caving side of things. They sort of go home. Now you're going to do all this, and then you're going to dive as well. So I'm sort of sort of become a bit of a pariah. And in both worlds, it certainly makes me very tolerant of other people's weaknesses.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, yeah. Well, I think you've got an aptly named T shirt though. Introverts?

Stephen Fordyce:

Oh, yeah. It actually it actually says, introverts unite, a separate in your own homes. I am, I am a well, well known introvert that I do right with talking to people as well. The pandemic was, I was reasonably well suited to that.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, I didn't mind it, to be honest. Couple of years of not been out and busy and around all over the place. I quite enjoyed the first six to eight months, to be honest.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I feel very lucky to be able to say that I do. I did. Okay, through a lot of people struggle. Very bad.

Matt Waters:

Yeah. My missus were climbing a wall. Wanted to get out and go all over the place. Yeah. And we, and when we got put in touch by by Sue was on the podcast last week. And you're gonna be down at the Haas tech dive show in October.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yes. And I did it. I did actually in preparation. And as a good thing to do. I listened to Sue's podcasts yesterday. Yeah, it was great. It was actually really interesting to find out about someone in a bit more detail than you normally get. Yeah, so it's really good. And yeah, I'll definitely I'll be hosting. I have a bit of a regular. And I was luckily lucky enough to be awarded the Emerging Explorer last last

Matt Waters:

saltstick. Congratulations.

Stephen Fordyce:

Thank you very much. Yeah, so that was that was pretty cool. I mean, obviously, it's a big deal. Definitely in the technical community technical diving community, but I just genuinely diving. It's, it's really cool. Yeah, so I wouldn't miss it. And I'll be I'll be talking about I'll be doing two presentations. Yeah, one, which is about general stuff I've been doing since the last little stick. There's quite a bit of it. So I'll just sort of go here and there everywhere. And then the other the other one, it'll come out on the programme.

Matt Waters:

So you do know where you're placed in the programme. You know, if you're talking on a Saturday or Sunday or both?

Stephen Fordyce:

I'm not sure. I don't. I don't think it's coming out yet. I think had a few things happening. But yeah, I'll definitely be in there at some point.

Matt Waters:

I think they do it as a bit of a secret. So you can't plan which day you're gonna go. general public, I want to, I want to go see Steven Ford. I want to see I'm not sure.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah. It's I just, it's fantastic that I always go and have trouble figuring out what to see. So many different people with so many different passions. And, you know, I don't necessarily have have scope to go and do all of the stuff, you know, direct diving and other things. It's not sort of my my, something that I do but it's really cool seeing people that do it and I also people that record it as well. So I'm quite, quite passionate about properly recording and documenting what you're doing. So one of the things with a push dive is that it's not over, when you turn around, you do all the all the problem solving and finding the way on and laying the line as you go in. And then when you turn around and come out, you've got to actually survey and map the line on your way back. So every time the line changes directions, we record depth, compass bearing and the distance from the previous previous one. We use a put knots in our guideline and are able to do that. And then we can plot that later to see where the key is going. So it's

Matt Waters:

just just thinking on and doing all that and doing it by knots in lines, but what about the 3d photography stuff that might occur and bottom line projects and that do on racks? Would that not work inside? Some of the shops that you go?

Stephen Fordyce:

In? Probably probably would. But it's sort of make it a whole lot more complicated than it needs to be. It's actually not that big of a deal to do the survey. Once once you get the practice and have the mindset for it. And I think the photogrammetry stuff needs good visibility and plenty of plenty of photos. Yeah. I daresay one day that they'll they'll be able to take a GoPro shaky GoPro footage and turn it into a full 3d map. But um, my understanding is that's a bit of a way away yet.

Matt Waters:

I suppose. Just add to the equipment that you're taking them with you as well. Isn't

Stephen Fordyce:

that to everything's because everything's carried such a long way. It gets it gets fairly carefully cold.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, that's understandable. Yeah, so austere Umrah. I almost had my I'm really looking forward towards tech. The last one I went to was in. I think it was 2018 When I first visited Australia, and I was pleasantly surprised. So I'm looking forward to this one as well. And I'm going for the full two days doing the decompression party afterwards as well. Oh, yeah.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, definitely. That's I mean, that's that's probably the best place for mixing mixing with people. And it's, I mean, all sticks really cool because it's the one to one event where you get everyone. You know, the Western Australians come over in New Zealand has come over Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Iran, everyone sort of generally makes the effort. Other stuff like the you know, the cave diver symposium in Mount Gambia. Obviously, you get the cave divers, but you don't get the wreck divers. You don't necessarily get the West Australians. Yeah, so I'll take I mean, it's the spot if you want to want to bail someone out or catch up or ask a question or ever have a quiet word to someone.

Matt Waters:

I'm gonna be wandering around with a camera and a microphone, and I'm just gonna be asking a million questions. Ah, yeah, yeah. And anyone who doesn't want to be on camera tough.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, well, I heard on the on Sue's podcast that they're they're recording them all. All the presentations this year? Yeah, yeah. So um, yeah, that's cool. I'm gonna have to watch what I say though.

Matt Waters:

I could never have me on stage. That's way too much. And you've got nothing coming up this year? What about with TFM?

Stephen Fordyce:

Ah, yeah. To see odds and ends. I've got a few more Tassie trips planned. And I did say, Hold. I'll spend a couple of weeks over January in Tassie been been doing that the last few years. And it's really good to get a good a good a good go at it. Now. The it's quite it's quite hard, obviously. So if you go for a weekend or even a long weekend, you really only get one one solid day. And then you're too rich to do much else. Yeah, we'll we'll do a half day or a moderate day. But the big big coding projects quite quite one day and then you need a rest date. Last Last January, we did discover a new a new section at the end of Niggli code. And this is Sophie Sophie, the cat's friend of introverts. Yes, at the end of England cave, we've been hitting it for sort of five or six years. It's a spectacular cave. It's got two kilometres of railway tunnel right at the bottom, it's 300 metres below the entrance. And we're just it we know it goes we know it's got another five kilometres before it comes out the journey resurgence. And it should be it should be just as big, but there's big rock pile at the end. And you know it's 40 metres high and it's got all sorts little squirrely bits going around it. So we've been sort of systematically getting in there and try to map the little bits and push separate leads. Probably Probably a lot of people have come and gone. There's there's a few of us still kind of keeping ticking along. And last January, we found we found a sump and it's named the Biohazard sump. It's really not very pleasant. It's not a very pleasant area. Yeah, but it could be it could be something really cool. So it's probably going to be the most remote sump dive I've done in Tassie. And we're definitely will spend three nights underground to make that happen. Why is

Matt Waters:

it called What's it called the biocide? Biohazard? Some

Stephen Fordyce:

it's actually sometimes you gotta be careful with your naming history. But this one is because Gemma, one of the discoveries cut her finger on a rock. And yeah, we there was, we saw the droplets of blood before we saw the car. And someone said, Well, it's a bit of a biohazard. So either naming, yeah, the naming is part of the fun. Because I went through a phase of naming a whole section after Game of Thrones characters. There's a there's a chamber called the Business Class lounge. Yes. I've managed to score business class flight to Tassie that that trip and I was quite miffed that Hobart didn't have a business class lounge. So I gave them one. Just got it. You just gotta go. I don't think. No, I'm the I'm the only visitor. So um, yeah. And then if you go past the business class lounge, you,

Matt Waters:

you get to the chairman's lounge.

Stephen Fordyce:

No, no, you're fine. You climb the corporate ladder, which is a particularly awful slippery climb. And as you get a bit further, you you hit the glass ceiling, which is at the end. Unfortunately, I couldn't get I couldn't get past there. I tried very hard. But I'm a bit further back down in Boston in messed it up now a bit bit further in the business class lounge. There's a horrible little hole, and it's it with a puddle in it. And if you crawl in backwards with one tank off, that's how you get into this sump. And then you sort of turn around and go on. And that's that's the lateral higher sump. Because once you pass that you surface into a nice, nice, big streamline passage called boss land. Nice. Yeah. Yeah. That after that, the theme, the theme changed and it got to be a got less good. Eventually, that ends in the bean chicken Haven. Ah, yes. Yeah.

Matt Waters:

The video I saw on YouTube in chicken. Oh, yeah. Yeah,

Stephen Fordyce:

yeah, that was a whole. The theme song of that trip was was the Ibis song, that song about birds by Bondi hipsters? It's quite amusing. It's also got some terrible language. That that was we tend to have theme songs for the for the trips, especially a longer camping trip like that. So it's a bit weird, but I'd like to think it helps with morale and helps distract people. So I'll pick a song and I'll generally just generally play it a lot. The idea is to get it stuck in people's heads. So they think about that, rather than how difficult the caving is.

Matt Waters:

I tend to I had a habit years ago, where if I was leading dives, I just start whistling on the deck because we're as we're gearing up and the amount of people by the end of a say a liveaboard would would comment that they'd have the Star Wars children going through their head or Wizard of Oz or something like that throughout the entire diving they couldn't get rid of it.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, yeah.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, but now that that been checking video, I like that one. It's it kind of it kind of shows that, that that some dive in and then coming out the other side and the way it just all opens up.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, that was a fantastic day, actually. After I sort of given up on the the business class lounge, you know, it was It wasn't really worth the effort and the sort of the cost of negotiating everyone into carrying carrying will dive you down. That is actually on the trip where we connected. Grayling, Scotland legally together. So I had all the full dive gear kit down there. And I realised that I could probably probably go back and have another look at the business class lounge. So yeah, having having that second look. ended up breaking through and going into I ended up doing a really long day. I think I got go back at midnight, back to camp in the cave. Found a whole lot of really cool stuff. Just really sad that it it didn't go it ended in rockfall that I couldn't find a way through.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, it was a sizable that's the one that's on the video, right. The rockfall?

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

Matt Waters:

It's pretty, it's pretty big.

Stephen Fordyce:

Possibly. Yeah, my favourite part of that trip was, as I was, I came back to camp and everyone was asleep. I started singing the bird song about the irises. And I actually managed to insert myself into one of the guys dream. So he started having a weird dream about irises and me and caving things. And yes, and then he woke up really confused as like as I walked in.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, that's marvellous. I got lucky. Right, I think we're going to have to scoot in a second. We parked out the front. And we're the delays that we had at the start, I'm gonna end up getting a bloody big ticket. TFM let's have a little bit more about TFM. Because let's plug your businessman.

Stephen Fordyce:

Oh, yeah, yeah, Shameless, Shameless plug. TV engineering is the small business that I, I pivoted to, when, when the real world got a bit too annoying. I was doing more and more project management big, big annoying things with bureaucracy and paperwork, rather than actually making cool stuff. To engineering is a vessel that I can use to pursue all sorts of different things. So I design electronics or build gas systems. aftermarket stuff for compressors, bits and pieces. It's kind of whatever I want it to be. I do have a big, a big catalogue feel confined with all sorts of diving holdings. And I do bespoke things as well, which is a bit of fun. 250

Matt Waters:

pages catalogue is pretty impressive.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, it is. Unfortunately, it's quite out of date. It's 2017. And I haven't had a chance to, to redo it, because it's, it's such a big job and aren't a bit of a perfectionist. But it does does the job for now.

Matt Waters:

Yeah. Yeah. And there's there's quite a few products in here that you've designed.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, not not everything. Some stuff is specialist buy and sell. But um, yeah, I like to think I've at least added value to most things. And some of them, some of them I've developed from scratch.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, yeah. Just having a look at the boosters. Looks pretty swish.

Stephen Fordyce:

Yep. Yeah. Two poses and kits and things. I'm probably more more focused on not being tied to any particular brands. Yeah. It's sort of easier. That's a good good niche that I a little niche that I feel.

Matt Waters:

Yeah. Well, I think there's a lot in this just going through there's a lot in this catalogue that operators will want pieces that they can't find anywhere. I reckon it's gonna be in this catalogue. Quite frankly. Yes.

Stephen Fordyce:

That's the only Yes. obscure little things that are that are hard to find. Which I've I've had trouble finding as well.

Matt Waters:

Yeah, yeah. Okay, I think we'll wrap it up there. And I'll autograph before we get to a parking fine at the front. Where can people find details? TFM and yourself, and all the good stuff that you'd have in?

Stephen Fordyce:

Yeah, probably Facebook's the best one. You'll find TFM engineering Australia, search for that. Or Steven Fordyce, you'll figure out how to spell some somehow. thing somewhere. Yeah, hit me up. The ordering for to them is genuinely by sending an email. I kind of like the old fashioned way of connecting with people and, you know, managing, made suggestions, everything else. But yeah, you can find me all sorts of places

Matt Waters:

nowadays. And we can we can put links in the show notes. And maybe we have a chat later and I'll chuck a link up on our website or something via as well. Fantastic. Yeah. Happy days. Man. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you. And I look forward to meeting you in person in October and maybe having a beer on a Sunday evening as

Stephen Fordyce:

well. Yesterday.

Matt Waters:

I'll see if I can put a T shirt together with an introvert sign on it. Okay. Yeah, very good. Awesome sauce. Thanks, Steven. And once again, congratulations on on your achievements and big congratulations to the team as well.

Stephen Fordyce:

Fantastic. Thanks, man. It's great. Great to talk.

Matt Waters:

Pleasure, mate. Thanks for listening everybody. Bye for now. podcast for the inquisitive diver