On a hot August night, Ben McDaniel attempted the adventure of a lifetime. He slipped beneath the clear waters of Vortex Spring, with one goal in mind: to make a name for himself in the extreme world of cave diving. He was never seen again. Was it an accident? A well planned hoax? Or something more sinister? This investigative documentary explores the mysterious disappearance of Ben McDaniel.
Scuba diver Ben McDaniel entered the deep, dark, underwater cave at Vortex Springs, and has never been seen again. His family believes his body is still somewhere in the small recesses at the very back of the cave system, but the world’s top cave divers have spent months searching and have found no sign of him.
Investigative journalist Robert McClellan walks the audience through this remarkable mystery of a young man who seems to have vanished into thin air. As the recovery dives unfolded, Ben’s disappearance played out in real time on Facebook, Twitter, and Internet diving forums. McClellan became intrigued with this perplexing puzzle. Ben McDaniel was recently divorced, lost his house and construction business, and his 22 year-old brother Paul, died suddenly. He owed the IRS money, and failed at several real estate investment schemes. Ben moved to his family’s condo in Florida, where he dreamed of reinventing himself as a macho scuba instructor. Knowing that Ben lied about his diving certifications, and broke locks to gain access to a popular, dangerous underwater cave system, the scuba diving world lit up with theories of foul play and hoaxes.
With breathtaking underwater diving sequences, shot by acclaimed cave diver Jill Heinerth, the mystery of Ben McDaniel’s disappearance is explored from every angle. Was it an accident? Foul play? Hoax? Ben’s Vortex sheds light on each theory.
September 29, 2012 With heavy hearts, we are sad to report of the death of Xavier Fleuranceau, the masterful composer of much of the music in Ben’s Vortex (pictured left with friends). Xavier was a dear friend and brilliant creative soul. He made the world a better place with his musical talents and diving expertise. He will be greatly missed. He is survived by his son Layne who is a talented creative young man in his own right. He made his father very proud.
"All I can say is WOW, best documentary I have seen in a LONG time!!"− Tim Waldo
"A great and intriguing piece of work!"− Michael Menduno, Tech Diving Publishing Pioneer
"It's SOO good! Absolutely a must-see!"− Megan Cook, Our World Underwater Scholar
"JUST finished watching it! FANTASTIC Job Robert and Jill!!! I strongly suggest ordering yours today! Don't think you could possibly regret buying it! The Soundtrack is fantastic!"− Mark H. Easter
"Great, informational, non biased, very orderly composition, and great filming as well. Thank you both for your time putting this together."− Britt Clark
"Just finished screening the Jill Heinerth documentary Ben's Vortex in our theater tonight with some fellow ATL divers. We must have paused it at least five times for a spirited discussion. Great job Jill and Robert. You should be proud of this film."− Dee Shaw
"The story is compelling and left me with both a fascination for cave diving and a healthy dose of respect for the rules that surround this dangerous, but exhilarating sport."− Diveshark
"It kept me on my toes throughout as far as all the conflicting conclusions from Ben's family, police and the dive community. As a cave diver, seeing Jill Heinerth's remarkable footage and understanding the challenges surrounding it, I think this is simply some of the best UW footage I've seen to date. "− Carlos Fonseca