Two Good Leads
Wednesday, September 20, 2000 –
Our day began a little prettier than most. The rain and clouds seem to be leaving us, and the sun woke us up to a spectacular scene. We then got into our usual routine – breakfast, dressing, gathering our equipment and load the truck. We had 3 sets of doubles and 25 single cylinders for our final day of trying to push the system. We are following two major leads, one upstream and the other downstream. Terrence, Kyle and Karl headed downstream, Tony, Mark and Grant headed upstream, and Renee and George were upstream doing a little cleanup while still scouting for other leads.
Again, as usual, when we arrive at the trail, we unload the truck and stage the cylinders and equipment in a small clearing next to the trail. We have to climb over a water main that is about 3 feet off the ground to get to this area. Then the trek begins. After multiple trips by all, the team rests a bit and attempts to rehydrate before gearing up and starting the dives. All of the teams have entered the water by about 1100. The longest dive today was the downstream team’s at 2 hours 22 minutes with 24 minutes of decompression. Most of the divers were using EAN32 today to limit their decompression obligation since the maximum depth has been about 78 feet (Yesterday, Kyle and Terrence had to do over 60 minutes of decompression because they used air rather than nitrox).
On the upstream side, the team put in and surveyed almost 900 feet of new passage. It goes down into the halocline (a density interface created by a lens between the fresh water on top and the salt water underneath), through some small passages and into an extremely large room. Mark decided to name the area at the end of this passage after his wife, Angela. Tony was impressed with the grand scale of the room and named it after his grandfather, HH Lemley.
On the downstream side, the team was not going to run out of line today – they carried 6 reels between them. However, because of what they found, they did not need to use much. After picking up where they left off yesterday, they ran out 220 feet on an upward slope. They started to see black silt, then wood debris and then a faint glow of light. They had found another opening! The excitement level was high. The opening is small, only large enough for one diver with cylinders at a time. We will attempt to find this new little cenote through the jungle tomorrow. Again, as things draw to a close, it amazes at how this system keeps growing. In all, the team has surveyed 11,111 feet of passage. WOW!
Send questions or comments to the trilobite.
Questions and Comments To the Trilobite
Hey “T” are you staying dry??? I am. Things are going good here…just doing what we do best….You should feel bad for not asking me to come with, I think Nanc and I would of had fun..Be nice to have a baby in the jungle….right….Well, be safe and don’t let the bugs get you too bad…..C,ya when we C,ya
Rick & Nancy
Between the rain, humidity and sweat, we couldn’t stay dry even if we weren’t diving. And, are we diving! As for the bugs, after you’ve been biten by as many mosquitoes as I have, you stop feeling more bites. They can only draw so much blood, right? I guess you get used to it . . . NOT!
Sorry about the e-mail transmission. I’ve had a problem getting the USGS figure into a jpeg format and it did not transmit. However the map is now done. I’ll put the updated dive sites on it before sending it to Cindy tomorrow. Now questions. Does the halocline have a depth variation corresponding to a tidal cycle or is it at the same depth throughout the cave system? How thick is the fresh water lens and how thick is the saltwater below the halocline. Is there a change in visibility at the interface like there was in the Belize Blue Hole? Do you smell hydrogen sulfide in the salt water or the fresh water. Is it possible to measure the pH of the water or take a water sample in the fresh and salt water. We can get it analyzed at the USGS by Gene Shinn in St. Petersburg when you return. Take the water on the last day and keep it cool if possible. Have you measured the temperature of the fresh and salt water? Does this change over time. So many questions and so little time Sorry but your work is fascinating. Have you made contact with Sam Smith at the Centro Ecologico de Akumal. He analyzed water for the Grupo de Exploracion Ox Bel Ha.
One last one. How far from the coast is the spring and how far from the hotel. Have you taken a GPS position for the Hotel. It would be helpful if you took some GPS locations of other sites that can be tied into a regional map.
How far are you from the area Sam Meacham mapped at Ox Bel Ha? It is interesting that your chambers trend north-south which is perpendicular to the east-west trend of Ox Bel Ha. Is there a regional slope that is to the north toward the beach? What seems to be the controlling factor in controlling the direction of the cave system – is it geology? Are there bedding or joint patterns that could be controlling trends? Have you seen any fossils or molds of fossils in the bedrock exposures? Is there a marked change in the porosity of the bedrock at the salt/fresh water interface? Is there a buildup of calcium carbonate at the interface where stalagmites and stalactites penetrate the salt/fresh water interface. Or do the spleothems all reside above the interface and not go below into the salt water.
Looking forward to you answers. Great reporting keep up the great work
Best to all
Whoa! I had to catch my breath. OK, the halocline seems to be consistently at about 70 feet and the deepest we have been is 80 feet. Obviously, as you swim through the interface, the visibility is destroyed because of the mixing of the two waters, but there isn’t any evidence of a hydrogen sulfide layer. From talking to the local divers, the temperatures remain constant throughout the year and our minimum temperature reading in the fresh water has been 76 degrees. We have taken several GPS readings and can get you that data later. The area does not have any major regional sloping that I am aware of – the geology must be the controlling factor. In the fresh water zone, the walls tend to be stained slightly by tanin, and in the salt water zone, the walls are white. Some of the columns and stalagmites exist in both the fresh and salt water; however, I’m not sure about a build up of calcium carbonate. I hope this helps. We’ll stay in touch.
Yup, this is a wet September in England. Wish I could be there getting some with y’all (laying line that is), but it’ll just have to wait. What’s this about another trip to Belize? Let me know the dates (if you want me there, that is). Seriously though, that’s good work you’re doing. Look forward to seeing the map. Is Vaca Ha the closest explored system? I know there’s a couple of potential leads in there, but they’re not fun. Is it the same kind of cave morphology?
Fetchez la vache…
On the dates for Belize, we are negotiating them now. We are hoping for June or September. We’ll definitely let you know when we do. There are a couple of cenotes, Mud and Calavera, between us and Vaca Ha or Toucha Ha; but, there aren’t any published surveys of them. The large passage through Cindy’s Passage is similar to Carwash or Vaca Ha, only larger.
Hey Grant and Co. it looks like you are having a great expedition…I look forward to hearing more about. All the best from the jungles and caverns of Los Angeles,
Sara, be prepared. Grant will talk until your ears fall off, he is so excited about this system.
To you all that is… Seems as though Y’all are having quite the adventure in exploring some virgin territory…. I’d be interested to find out more about how the trip went, what kind of gear you all were using and in what configurations. Karl – I’ll be sure to try to “pick your brain” for some pointers and guidance in equipment and techniques / tactics when next we meet. Good luck to you all….
Guy Collins, Garden Grove, California
We are oviously using open circuit scuba; however, we have some divers in doubles with stages and others diving sidemount with additional stages. We thought we might need the sidemount, but as it has turned out, most of the passage is so huge that we could be carrying tanker trucks with us! OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration – we wouldn’t be able to get the truck through the first part to where we could carry it.