GUE Cave Survey

Course Outcomes

GUE’s Underwater Cave Survey Course is designed to introduce experienced cave divers to the important skill of surveying underwater caves. Among the course’s intended outcomes are: introducing divers to the basic principles of underwater cave survey, the implementation of a defined team approach to underwater survey data collection, preparing an experienced cave diver to assist productively in a coordinated cave project, and introducing divers to cartography methods.


Applicants for GUE’s Underwater Cave Survey Course must: 


  1. Submit a completed registration form, a medical history, and a liability release to GUE Headquarters. 
  2. Be physically and mentally fit. 
  3. Hold insurance that will cover diving emergencies, such as hyperbaric treatment (e.g., DAN Master-level insurance or equivalent). 
  4. Be a nonsmoker. 
  5. Obtain a physician’s prior written authorization for the use of prescription drugs, except for birth control, or for any prior medical condition that may pose a risk while diving. 
  6. Be a minimum of 18 years of age.
  7. Be GUE Cave Diver 2 certified. 
  8. Have a minimum of 25 dives beyond Cave Diver 2 certification. 
  9. Have a minimum of 200 dives beyond open-water certification.

Course Content

The GUE Underwater Cave Survey course is normally conducted over five days, requires ten diving hours, and involves a minimum of 40 hours of instruction. This includes 10 hours of academics, land exercises, and in-water work. 

Underwater Cave Survey Course Specific Training Standards


  1. Student-to-instructor ratio is not to exceed 4:1 during land drill or surface exercises, and cannot exceed 2:1 during any in-water training.
  2. Maximum depth of 100 feet (30 meters).
  3. Maximum use of 1/3rd of gas supply for cave penetration. 
  4. Minimum 150 cubic feet (3950 liters) of gas to begin a Cave 2 level dive.
  5. All survey tasks must be completed before reaching penetration gas limits; at no time should gas supplies be less than 60 cubic feet (1700 liters) of reserve gas.
  6. No scooter diving will be allowed unless students are GUE DPV Cave qualified.

Required Training Materials

GUE training materials will be distributed by the instructor at onset of the class.

Academic Topics


  1. Introduction
  2. Course overview
  3. Reasons to survey
  4. Survey priorities
  5. Equipment
  6. Data collection
  7. The “stick map”
  8. Data archiving
  9. Data manipulation and plotting
  10. Expanding the frame
  11. Sketching underwater details
  12. Cartography
  13. Overview of workflow
  14. GUE and underwater cave survey

Land Drills and Surface Topics


  1. Handling survey equipment 
  2. Basic line survey
  3. Division of team responsibilities
  4. Measurements and estimates
  5. Communication
  6. Recording data
  7. Extremity data collection
  8. Survey line installation
  9. Sidewall and interior sketching
  10. Post survey archiving
  11. Data manipulation and plotting
  12. Cartography and map production

Required Dive Skills and Drills


  1. Demonstrate proficiency in safe diving techniques; this includes pre-dive preparations, in-water activity, and post-dive assessment. 
  2. Demonstrate awareness of team member location and concern for safety, responding quickly to visual indications, and dive partner needs. 
  3. Demonstrate a safe and responsible demeanor throughout all training. 
  4. Demonstrate proficiency in all aspects of Cave 2 diving under survey conditions. These include but are not limited to guideline installation and retrieval, underwater communication, decompression, stability and trim, complex navigation, propulsion, stage and decompression bottle management, stress management under load, and gas management.
  5. Demonstrate basic proficiency managing a GUE equipment configuration. 
  6. Demonstrate safe ascent and descent procedures. 
  7. Must be able to swim at least 500 yards (450 meters) in under fourteen minutes without stopping. This test should be conducted in a swimsuit and, where necessary, appropriate thermal protection.
  8. Must be able to swim a distance of at least 20 yards (18 meters) on a breath hold.
  9. Demonstrate proficiency in effectively performing all tasks associated with a team survey.
  10. Demonstrate proficiency in the use of survey equipment.
  11. Effectively take measurements and estimates.
  12. Demonstrate consistent, clear, and concise underwater data recording.
  13. Demonstrate clear and effective underwater communication.


Equipment Requirements


GUE base configuration as outlined in Appendix A, plus:

  1. GUE double tank configuration.
  2. One spool with 150ft/45m of line per diver.
  3. One reserve mask.
  4. One primary reel per team, with a minimum of 300ft/90m of line.
  5. One exploration reel per team capable of holding a minimum of 800ft/240m of knotted line.
  6. One primary light.
  7. Two back-up (reserve) lights. 
  8. At least twelve line markers, of which at least six should be directional (line arrows) and six non-directional.
  9. Survey package: Each student must have a survey compass, prepared underwater survey notes, spare pencils, and a prepared 3ft/1m measuring string.
  10. One “open reel” design fiberglass tape per team measuring between 100 and 150 feet (30 to 50 meters) per team.
  11. One handheld underwater sonar per team.
  12. Divers breathing helium mixtures and utilizing a dry suit must have a separate (from the back gas) dry suit inflation source, such as an argon/air cylinder. Divers may not inflate the dry suit from the back gas.


Explore GUE Standards

Note: Prior to the commencement of class, students should consult with a GUE representative to verify equipment requirements. Whether or not a piece of equipment fulfills GUE’s equipment requirement remains at the discretion of GUE and its instructor representatives. Participants are responsible for providing all equipment or for making provisions to secure the use of necessary equipment before the start of the course. In general, it is better for the student to learn while using his or her own equipment. However, students should exercise caution before purchasing new equipment to avoid acquiring substandard equipment. Please contact a GUE representative prior to making any purchases. Information about recommended equipment can be obtained from the equipment considerations section of GUE’s website.