Another beautiful day in paradise as the team headed for the Cenotes. Once at the site, Mike, Bob and Sandra walked back down the limestone road. One of the muchachos had explained that the water pipe pulls water from six different cenotes. Really, he meant pozos (wells). While he had indicated that they were slim holes, Sandy understood this to perhaps be something similar to Vaca Ha, a solution tube through which gear and divers are lowered in order to obtain entrance to a beautiful cave system. Sandy was being overambitious, as the water is actually pulled from pozos, man-made wells, rather than sky-blue sun-kissed cenotes. However, the walk was nice. Again, the muchachos proved to be invaluable, carrying 26 tanks into the jungle two at a time. Some of the team had fashioned shoulder straps (or tank slings) to make carrying the tanks less of a hassle. The muchachos used the slings, placing the padding against their foreheads and marching quickly along the treacherous rocky jungle trail. While the trail measures out at .6 of a mile, the terrain is inconsistent, primarily craggy hard limestone and a variety of holes, some filled and some opening into solution tubes a dozen feet deep.
Bob & Rhiannon went back into Cenote Camilo today with a mission of surveying from the Black Forest Line… past Carla’s Line… and back to the tie in at the Low Silt Line. This being Rhiannon’s first dive into this section of the cave, she was struck by the darkness and “spookiness” of this silty cave. We easily found our way past the previously confusing 3 T’s and headed up the Blind Cave Fish Line. (A T is an intersection of 2 or more lines that are connected. A commonly used practice is to mark the exit side of the T with a personal marker or pin. When the diver returns to this T he will know which line to travel to exit the cave.) It was dark but it really opened up into low ceiling, wide room with plenty of columns. There didn’t seem to be much life in this dark cave. We found Carla’s line, which had a nice cutback into a short jump and then dropped our first bottle. We continued on and decided not to drop our second stage bottle as it appeared we were 40 feet from the next tie in…however the line took a sharp right with no apparent jump indicator…so we continued on…the room remained low and wide until the line disappeared into the ceiling. As Bob approached the line there was a skinny incline of about 25 feet…the terrain had completely changed…it was as if we had walked out of the plains and into the mountains as the line continued to twist, turn and gyrate through beautiful formations. We stopped and Rhiannon produced her cave map. We determined that we had traveled too far for the Black Forest line and we decided to turn the dive and attempt a survey on the way out. After several station waypoints, we quickly realized that a re-survey would take more time than we had air for, so we discontinued the survey and began the swim out. After exiting the “mountains,” Rhiannon was able to find the jump to Black Forest Line, giving us the bearings we were looking for. We finished with a leisurely swim back to Cenote Camilo for 7 minutes of deco on oxygen (the wonder gas). Can’t wait to talk to the “veterans” to sort the trail we blazed today.
Mike and Sandy headed back to the new area. We were visited by a kamikaze isopod that dived from the ceiling in the Halocline Room and scooted down through the halocline toward the floor. We dropped our first stages just before the line straight up through a restriction to The Loft. (When 1/3 of a cylinder is breathed, the diver indicates he is switching to another cylinder. When all the divers have switched the used cylinders, or bottles, are dropped. They are clipped to the line where they can be easily retrieved.) We made note of Andy and Renee’s stages dropped just past the restriction. We headed back up our line, dropping our second stages further than yesterday. Mike had a suspicion about a particular lead and we tied off a spool of line and headed into the void. Charging ahead and around, we found another line. The line had a blank line arrow. Sandy was convinced this was Andy’s new line and wondered why he didn’t put his initials and the year on the arrow. Actually, this was Sandy and Mike’s line (Sandy and Mike had neglected to write their initials and the year on the arrows). Unabashed, Sandy collected azimuths and depths while Mike collected distances and sidewall measurements. We swam back around and up another line and found Andy and Renee’s stages tucked off to the left. Mike tried a potential lead past a duck-under that quickly turned the visibility in the passage to zero. As the flow was slight in this area, the silt quickly dissipated and we continued heading back out, checking leads as we swam. One lead to the left passed through gorgeous rooms decorated with soda straws and columns, stalagmites (cave formations coming up from the bottom) and stalactites (cave formations coming down from the ceiling). We raced ahead, trending North and attempting to follow the flow, which was noticeable. The passage resembled typical dry cave passages, tubular and winding, with thin and elegant formations. Unfortunately, we ended up right back on our line again, but were happy to have checked the lead and again surveyed on our return.
Andy and Renee clipped on 5 bottles and departed upstream. When at last they had made their way to the end of the existing upstream line they had a full bottle with which to explore. Renee tied on and ran the reel while Andy swam slightly ahead (“bird-dogging”) looking for going passage. They wound around through some low passage skirting the edge of a large breakdown area then up into some larger dark passage similar to what they had seen nearer the cave entrance. Renee’s reel finally ran out and Andy tied on with a full one. Their journey continued onward peering out into the darkness looking for going passage. Ultimately they ended up in a beautiful room that was whiter than the prior passages and full of speleothems (general term for cave formations) such as rimstone dams, flowstone and draperies. They tied the line off at a convenient point, Renee took some photographs, and then they turned around to survey the cave passage they had just explored. Eventually, after a long swim of over half a mile, they arrived back at Carri’s Loft to do their decompression during which a catfish attacked Renee, or so she claims. Nevertheless after 3 hours and 40 minutes Andy and Renee emerged from the system more or less unscathed.
We bid farewell to Karl today who needed to head home for personal reasons. Thank you Karl for joining us and being an important member of the team. We hope you made it home safely.
Questions and Comments for the Trilobite:
Good Morning Bob,
Hey it’s Jan Romano & I am at school.
So you saw the longest scorpion in the Western Hemisphere. YUCK! Diane wants to know how long it was & what the exploration is this year. She is standing beside me and we are in the process of trying to unblock this site for the students. Have a great day. Keep us informed of your progress.
Great to hear from you guys…hope you’re enjoying the updates. We’ve had a few problems getting to the internet here in Mexico, but you should still be getting them everyday. If there’s a will there’s a way!
Don’t like scorpions? They make great pets…ask Chelsea…If you or the other students have any specific questions about life in the caves, geology in the caves, chemistry in the caves, etc. Please encourage the questions. There are many here who would love to share their knowledge.
This year we are continuing to explore new passages that were left unexplored last year. That stuff is left to the veterans for now, so I’ve spent a lot of time in some of the areas that need to be re-surveyed and cleaned up. There are a lot of lines back in these caves and it could be very easy for a diver to get lost. We are trying to make it safer and to clarify our mapping of the system…making it easier to navigate the “dark” river. It’s a lot of fun…today I had my longest dive ever at 2 hours…
Say hi to all…should have great stories and pictures when I get back.
Hi Bob and Gang,
I’m enjoying the trip right along with you. I’m there in spirit and really,
really wish I was diving there. I look forward to the daily updates and
pictures. That was one nasty looking scorpion! Be safe! I’ll be checking
in every morning at work so you may not have recognized my email address.
I’m excited about this, this is really cool. Talk to you soon; again, be
The jungle is a long hike, but the weather has cooperated so far. We have sherpas/muchachos to help lug the tanks this year (30/day), so that’s helped quite a lot. Tell Chelsea we’ve had a steady stream of frogs & fish spending time with us in the cave or the cavern during decompression.
Keep checking in. Talk to you soon…Karl asked about you…