Into the depths

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Chiefland couple strives to protect Florida’s natural resources

By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Like a trail of bread crumbs leading the way back home is the life line that few go in without.  Lights off, and it’s so dark that even the animals that flit about have long ago lost the use of eyes or pigment in skin. The walls, at times, close in tight like a stone coffin. It’s cold, and the air is always in short supply.
For most people, the idea of strapping some clunky gear to their bodies and swimming through the depths of Florida’s watery caverns holds little appeal. Some, prone to claustrophobia, might even equate it to a waking nightmare. But it’s fair to say that Chiefland’s Mark and Annette Long are not most people.
“I had to promise my parents I’d never go into an underwater cave,” Mark Long says about his early days of diving. “That didn’t last long.”
He took his first SCUBA course when he was 13, inspired by snorkeling in places like Manatee Springs and by watching the popular 60s TV show “Sea Hunt,” an underwater adventure series with actor Lloyd Bridges playing the role of an ex-Navy frogman. Long was only 21 when got cave certified.

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