A Small Reminder of Joe Steffen

It’s a tiny thing… a small orange piece of plastic shaped like an arrowhead… but it carries a lot of meaning.

This past week, Erik Van Dorn, Jim Clark and I had an opportunity to place a line arrow on the vertical section at the junction of King’s Bypass and King’s Canyon in Jackson Blue Spring, Florida. It used to belong to Joe Steffen… a mate of ours who died while exploring the Bell Island Mine on February 4, 2007. He had personalized it and several others ready for laying new line a couple of days before his final dive. At some point in the confusion of his body recovery our attempts to revive him, and getting him to a medical facility, I ended up with a handful of them in my kit. I seriously cannot remember picking them up or being handed them, but they were in with my dive gear the following day.

I’ve placed those arrows in various spots over the past year and a half as a sort of memorial. As with each of the others, this last one has been put in a spot that is particularly beautiful and a little off the beaten track. The jump off the gold line for King’s Bypass and King’s Canyon is at about the 500 metre mark from the cave entrance (that’s approximately 1500 feet). The bypass itself is a low bedding plane, wide but less than two metres from ceiling to a very silty floor. After about thirty or thirty five metres of of that (100 feet), the line shoots straight up leading  into a vast fissure that looks like a classic steep-sided canyon… hence its name. It is a remarkable spot in a really stunning cave. Joe’s arrow is on that section of the line.

Joe was a popular member of the North American cave diving community and the hope is that from time to time, one of those friends will swim past one of his line arrows and say a silent thank you to someone or something for giving us a mate like Joe.

He left us all with lots of memories. I cannot go to a sushi restaurant without thinking about his habit of ordering at least one of everything on the menu. And he remains one of the few non-Japanese, non-Koreans I’ve met who shares my taste for Uni (which in case you did not know are sea urchin’s gonads… yep).

In any event, it was a pleasure knowing him and truly an honor to be able to remember him in this way.

Thanks for your time.


2 thoughts on “A Small Reminder of Joe Steffen

  1. Joe mentored me on Sushi the first time I met him at your Cleveland Trimix class, and was a treasured cave buddy also!

    Penny and I look forward to seeing his line arrow the next time we dive in JB.

    May he live forever in our memories!

  2. What a lovely blessing for you to pass on to all other cave divers!! I am Joe’s sister, yesterday marked the anniversary of his death, so I was looking through his FaceBook memorial, and found your own. I’m copying it to our mother, who still mourns for him; I know she will be most pleased that there are “Joe Markers” out there for others to follow and appreciate.

    You have demonstrated a remarkable kindness to our entire family. Thank you so very much for your gesture of carrying on Joe’s torch by laying his markers. I am inutterably grateful.

    I still, and always shall, feel connected to my brother. He saved my life, quite literally. I was 5 years old, he was 12; and in the 1960’s, considered capable enough to help watch over his younger siblings. We were at a local lake, summertime, swimming..over 200 other kids there as well. Joe held on to me as I attempted to swim to the swimming-area marker, and encouraged me that I did well, and would accomplish it on my own, soon. Then, he left to pursue 12-year old activities, and I decided I was ready to swim, on my own, to the rope-marker. I failed. I was, literally drowned. Out of the other 200+ swimmers in that tiny lake that day, Joe was playing frisbee with my older sister, went back to retrieve a catch, and bumped in to something he believed felt like a person. He lifted me, got me to the beach and I was revived.

    I do not intend to digress, I only want you to know that my brother’s heroics started at an early age, when he was merely 12 years old.

    And, there is no wonder that I miss him profoundly.

    Thank you for your indredible gesture to preserve Joe’s memory!


    Vicki Steffen

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