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High School Student, Rebekah Higgs (left), diving a flooded Abaco cave with instructor Brian Kakuk. Photo: Jill Heinerth.

A New Generation, A New Bahamian Explorer

By Brian Kakuk and Michelle Brooks

When most Bahamian high school students sign up for their obligated two-week work experience programs, students often search out positions as doctors’ office assistants, helping with family businesses, or some sort of work within the tourism industry. But one Forest Heights Academy Student had other ideas.

Raised on the water, with the support of her father, Tim Higgs, Rebekah Higgs is one of the more adventurous Bahamians of her generation. Rebekah has spent much of her life on or under the water. She chose to spend her work-study time at Bahamas Underground.

Rebekah Higgs (center) with the National Geographic Crew in Abaco. Photo: Brian Kakuk.

Rebekah’s 2 week work experience program kept her busy tending to clients, drawing cave maps and of course hauling scuba tanks. She also worked to become certified in both Cavern Diving and Introduction to Cave Diving. These two courses are the first two levels of training required to safely enter blue holes and underwater caves.

Cave diving is unlike reef diving. Cavern diving is when the trained diver can swim a short distance into the cave without losing sight of the entrance. The second level of training is the Introduction to Cave Diver course that allows Rebekah to penetrate further into the cave, away from the natural light, with very strict guidelines enforced.

To apply for these courses, Rebekah had to prove herself to be an experienced scuba diver and be very comfortable underwater. She clearly met the criteria.

Her instructor, Brian Kakuk says, “Swimming into an underwater cave without the proper training and equipment is like Russian roulette. You may get away with it once or twice, but eventually, the cave will get you. With proper training and equipment, we teach the diver self-reliance, self-control, and self-rescue, making them a safer and all-around better diver.”

Brain Kakuk usually reserves these courses for divers over the age of 21 even though industry standards for age are lower. Rebekah was an exception. After graduating from her Introduction to Cave Diver Course, Rebekah joined a team of explorers, scientists and technical experts at the National Geographic Mapping Project that was held here in South Abaco last December.

As Rebekah’s cave diving instructor, Kakuk hopes that bringing her into the caves with the National Geographic team will help her to realize just how important these places are to Bahamian culture, science and tourism. “I hope that Rebekah and other young Bahamians will someday play a role in our continued efforts to protect these extremely unique and fragile places. We hope that we can literally pass the torch on to these future explorers and scientists.”

Congratulations to Miss Higgs for a job well done. The Bahamas Underground wishes her a lifetime of adventure and safe diving in our Bahamas.

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