By Curt Bowen

Excerpt from ADM issue 8 - 2002

Ten thousand years ago giant ice sheets covered most of North America. At that time, Florida had a climate more like North Carolina, unlike the subtropical climate it has today. The vegetation consisted of large grassy plains and thick forests of oak and hickory trees. A variety of animals including Wooly Elephants, Giant Ground Sloths, North American Camels, Saber-Toothed Cats, and many other species, roamed throughout Florida.

It is believed that water sources in the Warm Mineral Springs area were few and far between due to the porous limestone rock layers below the surface, which kept most of the water movement underground. At that time, oceans were 70 to 90 feet shallower due to the large amounts of water trapped in the giant sheets of ice. This theory can be proven by studying the flowstone formations found in Warm Mineral Springs, which are believed to have opened to the surface as early as thirty thousand years ago. Hundreds of flowstones were formed around the sink's upper lip at 20 feet with a few formations located as deep as 70 feet. Because flowstones can only form in a dry chamber over thousands of years, these patterns indicate that the oceans must have been considerably lower than they are today. The western coast of Florida extended miles to the west and south, doubling Florida's present size.

Today, Warm Mineral Springs is considered a health spa, visited by thousands of elderly people seeking the warm soothing mineral waters believed to be helpful in healing many ailments. Fifty years ago, William Royal, the first diver to ever venture below the surface, discovered extinct animal bones, stalactite formations, and human remains. The archaeological world initially dismissed his findings as a farce because, according to fossil records, it was believed that man arrived in Florida no earlier than seven thousand years ago. For the last forty years, several archaeological projects have been conducted in and around Warm Mineral Springs resulting in many outstanding discoveries. The most astonishing was the discovery of a ten thousand year old human skull still containing brain matter.

The human remains discovered in Warm Mineral Springs were carbon dated back to ten thousand years ago. This finding changed the theory about the time of Homosapien movement across North America to four thousand years earlier than previously believed. These early American Indians hunted, scavenged, and followed along the banks of rivers, lakes, streams, and springs across America. These Indians finally made it to the Florida peninsula and eventually encountered the unique site of Warm Mineral Springs.
When the Indians arrived, Warm Mineral Springs was a giant pit surrounded by a huge forest. This giant pit dropped quickly from the surrounding forest vegetation. Water trickled down the walls and into the pit below. This is revealed today by the water channels sculpted into the walls at depths from 40 to 55 feet. At 32 feet, the walls undercut themselves making a natural shelter from the outside elements. These early Paleo Indians must have considered Warm Mineral Springs a sacred place because they buried their dead along the walls at 35 feet. Human remains and primitive tools dating from three to ten thousand years old have been excavated from the sink and the surrounding lands over the last forty years.

Geologically, Warm Mineral Springs is a solution hole descending into one of the deepest Florida aquifers. The water flowing from this spring is anaerobic (low in oxygen) and is believed to have been trapped underground for over thirty thousand years at depths exceeding 7000 feet. Under these great pressures, the water is geothermally heated to 97º degrees Fahrenheit and flows from several small caves located on the northern wall at depths from 195 to 210 feet. As the water rises towards the surface, it mixes with cooler water from colder vents. When it reaches the surface, the temperature drops to 85º degrees Fahrenheit. Eight million gallons of water a day flow down a natural run on the surface and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.
Videotographer Rusty Farst completes a video survey of the flow stone formations located at 20 to 70 feet. Artist rendition of the contents and shape of Warm Mineral Springs as it looks today. Cartographer Curt Bowen clips the survey reel into the center line at the 40 foot anchor point.. William Royal displays human remains discovered in Warm Mineral Springs carbon dating back over 10,000 years.
Diving Warm Mineral

Noticeably unique during the descent is the amount of bacteria covering every inch of the sink. Dropping to 20 feet, we place our oxygen cylinders on the pre-made PVC decompression rack, which is attached to the wall from 10 down to 40 feet. Just off the deco rack is a down line that takes us under the 70-foot lip where we attach our nitrox 50 percent for decompression from the 70 to 30 foot stops. Descending, we follow the wall as it undercuts sharply down into the darkness. At a depth of 175 feet, we hit a reverse thermocline and the water temperature instantly goes from 84 to 97 degrees, with the visibility increasing to over 80 feet. Reaching the bottom at 205 feet, hot water can be seen flowing from several small vents along the walls.

Turning to the right, we quickly come upon the main cave system connected to the sink. Most of the water flows from this system. The entrance to the cave is just large enough to squeeze though with a set of doubles. Extreme caution must be taken to not disturb the thick silt on the floor. There the small cave makes a sharp turn to the left. After 150 feet of back-to-belly passage, the cave opens into a room where multiple smaller vents flow. This room is 25 feet long, 10 feet tall, and 10 feet wide with white chalky walls and a maximum depth of 223 feet.