Students Dive into the Jungle

Andrew readies for the dive

Dive operations

Team photo at Cenote Camilo

Jungle jaunt to Cenote Camilo

Divers debrief

Pizza tree rash

We woke up entirely too early, 5:30 AM! We met on the beach at 6:00 AM for morning exercises. We had some difficulty carrying Boz in a canoe but when the whole group got together it was easier to carry Woody. Then we showered and got dressed and met at the pool around 8:00 AM for breakfast. Then we packed up and left to visit Don Raphael’s cenotes. First we helped Renee, Andrew, Karl, Bob, Sandra, and Mike get their gear ready for their dives. After they all submerged into Cenote Muchachos, we headed for Cenote Camilo. Terrance showed and explained to us the dangers of the pizza tree. The sap from a pizza tree causes your skin to breakout in sores and rashes that resemble a pizza. It made us fearful to touch any tree in the entire jungle. We also made a few stops along the way to see a few sample cenotes. Most of them were smaller and muddier than the one the divers were in. Cenote Raphael had a dock overlooking it.

It was a long hard hike to Cenote Camilo. We had to watch out for, and warn the others of, solution tubes and loose rocks. When we arrived we ate lunch and swam in the cenote. Some of us jumped off of the overhang into the cenote. Then we hiked back to the van and headed back to Cenote Muchachos to help the divers out of the cenote. After their dives, the divers returned to the cenote to “rinse out their suits.” Ha ha. We collected and recorded data on the pressure of the tanks and carried their equipment back.

This has been a great learning experience. It has taught us how to work as a team as well as challenging ourselves. We discovered that it would be a lot harder and more hands-on than we expected; the divers were relying on us.

Michael and Sandra Poucher had a wonderful dive. After the assistance of our helpful students, handing us tanks and waiting patiently for us to gear up, we descended through the small entrance into a gorgeous light blue chamber decorated with columns and other speleothems. The decorations continued through the system, alternating between the brightest white and black with every shade of orange in between. We traveled up the Grand Canyon line and checked a side passage, laying just over 200 feet of line and making a connection between the Grand Canyon and a previously unsurveyed line. We noticed many interesting side passages, amphipods and the annoying tiny basin fish that follow divers into the system for an easy meal. As we entered the Grand Canyon passage, Mike noticed a happy amphipod swimming in his home when tragically, a cruel basin fish made a quick meal of him. We try to cover our lights so that the fish don’t follow us into the cave, but we suspect they sense the pressure of the divers passing through the water column, and hitch a ride in the slipstream.

Karl & Bob had an equally interesting orientation dive. Bob had been in the system briefly last year, but returned this year in sidemount gear to better integrate with the team. After the first 30 feet drop in low visibility the cave welcomed us with wonder and beauty, much as Alice entered Wonderland. After we re-secured an inadvertently illuminated back-up light on Karl’s rig, we settled into a smooth swim, following the same passages that Michael & Sandra encountered. We ultimately weaved our way into the Grand Canyon passage. Since we were only on 3 bottles of gas we turned the dive and easily returned for a leisurely 15 minutes of deco. The previously annoying basin fish have now become our entertainment, hanging around to make sure that we were only temporary visitors in their space. We exited with smiles, excitement and anticipation of even more discovery in Sistemo Camilo throughout the week.

Renee and Andrew had a long dive. They took five tanks and swam up to the end of the Grand Canyon line. On the way they checked out all the exploration possibilities that Terrence and Andrew had identified on previous dives. The potential leads mostly consisted of areas to the north-east of the line but when investigated these turned out to be low rooms with no water flow whose floors undulated like miniature sand dunes, although rather than being made of sand they were made of hard brown rock. The Grand Canyon line ends in a large area of breakdown which seems to be completely impassable. Despite a huge effort, Renee and Andrew just could not find any way around it. The possibilities to the south of the main line just looped back, so they did not leave any line in there. Reluctantly, having reached ‘thirds’, they turned for home and on the way back checked the ‘Look Down’ line, but it was a dead end. They made it back to Cenote Muchachos after nearly three hours of bottom time and over two hours of decompression on air to do, mercifully shortened to 50 minutes by breathing 100% oxygen at 20 feet.

The entire team returned back to Villas DeRosa and prepared for the next day’s activities. The Fuqua students participated in an cave diving equipment lecture presented by Terrence. Reels were loaded with fresh line, tanks were rigged, and a post dive briefing conducted. On Monday the existing trails will be properly cleared with machetes to prepare for a possible shift to work out of Cenote Camilo.

Team Members

  • Bethany Barton
  • John Boswell
  • Breanne Bryant
  • Doug Chapman
  • KO Donkor
  • Woody Dunkum
  • Taryn Eggleston
  • Amy Giannotti
  • Bob Giguere
  • Jessica Langlois
  • Hope Morton
  • Mr. Shane Newcombe
  • Josh Owen
  • Andrew Pitkin
  • Renee Power
  • Michael Poucher
  • Sandra Poucher
  • Cara Robertson
  • Catesby Saunders
  • Karl Shreeves
  • Spongebob Squarepants
  • Thecia Taylor
  • Ms. Stephanie Trovato
  • Terrence Tysall
  • Linda Wooddell
Send Questions or Comments to the Trilobite

Renee, Terrence, and Karl,

Looks like your having a great time and getting in some really good diving. Enjoy, as it is truly one of the most exciting cave systems around (and a great great project)! Just wanted to say hi and wish you the best. Do me a favor if you get a chance: From Carri’s loft (once you get down to the main line) take a right and go all the way to the end of the line (believe it’s called the Lemely line). Just before the end of the line there should be a marker indicating passage to the right. The passage to the right will run into a flowstone pattern not too far off of the mainline. Then, the cave has a tight but passable passage that looks like it goes up into a cavern area (I truly believe there is a cenote there). Please confirm for me (Renee and I found the area two years ago).

Regards and enjoy,
Mike St.Germain

Hey Mike! Thanks for following along on the updates. If we’re down that way we will reinvestigate that area for sure. That may happen soon depending on what happens on Monday’s dives. Stay tuned!
Renee, Karl, Terrence

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