Cave diving is perhaps the most dangerous type of exploration that humans have yet to pursue. Even more dangerous than exiting our own atmosphere and entering into space, is the exploration into inner Earth itself. Cave divers often experience extreme water temperatures, migraine-causing pressures, claustrophobic-inducing spaces, and toxic gases at the turn of a cave corner. And yet for those thrill seekers brave (and crazy) enough to put their trust in a single oxygenated tube and swim deep into the oceans' unknowns, the ecstasy of exploration is worth all the risk. That, and the scientific gains.
"It turns out that caves are repositories of amazing life forms, of species that we never knew existed before," says Jill Heinerth, a cave diver who delivered the TED talk in this video.
Most cave-adapted species are crustaceans, reports National Geographic in an article elaborating the Bahamas' unique cave systems. Many species, like the remipedes, are "living fossils"-live species closely resembling those preserved in the fossil record. Such species provide biologists, physicists, and geologists crucial information about the species evolution and Earth's geologic history, which can be used to predict patterns on our planet for future generations. For paleoclimatologists, cave diving supplies the clues that scientists need to understand our environments - both terrestrial and marine - more coherently as a ever-connected entity.