Day five of the 2006 expedition, we arrive at the dive site after having given the “gate keeper” and his workers some cold beverages. The muchachos imitate the bird calls and make jokes while we gear up. Working with the muchachos we carried first Andy and Renee’s tanks to Carri’s Loft for the push dive.
First in were Renee and Andy. With five cylinders each they headed back upstream to pick up where they left off on Tuesday. Helpfully, Mike and Sandy had placed their sixth cylinder in the cave at a T in the Tres Amigos area. They dropped their first stage cylinder just before going up through the narrow crack into The Loft at the end of the Halocline Room. Thirds had not been reached but it is a little tricky getting five cylinders through the opening into The Loft. Swimming along at a nice pace, they reached Tres Amigos, dropped a cylinder, picked the previously staged one up and turned left at the T into the upstream passage discovered last year. After another half an hour they reached the end of the line in “The Palace” with going passage ahead. Andy tied on and spun off with Renee close behind. The cave is still dark at this point winding around through bedding planes and breakdown piles with formations here and there. Then…WOW! Suddenly they found themselves in a stunningly beautiful room surrounded by gorgeous, white, ornate speleothems. They thought it rivaled parts of Sac Actun (“white cave” in Mayan) and Na Hoch Na Chich (“giant bird house” in Mayan). Renee stopped to take some photos and they were off again. Again, the newly traveled passage changed into what resembled a little version of the Grand Canyon passage in the north of the cave, so they named it the “Little Grand Canyon passage”. On entering an ornately decorated room with discolored speleothems (“The House of Wax”) Renee and Andy turned the dive on thirds and surveyed out followed by the long haul out. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” Back at The Halocline Room they picked up their sixth cylinder and more swimming continued. Renee and Andy were very weary, both physically and mentally, when they finally reached Carri’s Loft and began the tedious decompression hang. After a total dive time of five hours and two minutes they surfaced happy to find the warm sun still shining and the insects still biting.
Mike, Bob and Sandy entered next and due to the small size of Carri’s Loft, the team had to enter in stages. Mike entered first followed by Bob and Sandy. Bob mentioned something about wanting to lose some weight before entering here again. They felt our way down the slope into the cavern and Mike was lighting the way at the T through all of the silt stirred up by our gearing up in the entrance. Mike indicated that we should stay high in the passage of the Halocline Room so that he could demonstrate the halocline effect. Bob shined his light at Mike’s tanks to see the wake as he passed through the zone where the fresh water and salt water mix. For a moment, Bob expected Mike to magically disappear on the other side of the Looking Glass much like Alice in Wonderland, but fortunately he surfaced to the fresh water above the halocline in time for us to drop our first stage. The next highlight of the dive was swimming up through a restriction and into The Loft. Mike cut the tie-in from the Loft into the Rafters to tidy the line, and then we swam back into the Halocline Room to drop the second stage and retrieve the stage we dropped earlier. Mike tied a gap to the main line and headed straight up at a disconcerting angle, then disappeared into the ceiling. Debris was raining from the exhaust bubbles and all we could see was his light. They popped through and saw a room one-tenth the size of the Halocline Room. This was large enough to swim through and paralleled the main room below. This was fascinating, as was peering through the holes in the floor seeing the passage below. It was similar to moving through the attic of a grand hall or ballroom. The next highlight was Mike tying off at the end of the line and handing the exploration reel to Bob, who for the first time was able to swim into a passage that no one had ever been through. Bob had a great rush of excitement, swimming rapidly for about 50 feet, feeling like the king of the world, the Grand Poobah, a great explorer … until he noticed another line not far away. He then felt sort of sad. All of those emotions came in such a short period of time. He and Mike then continued to a split with beautiful columns like bars on jail cell, preventing them from forging ahead. On their return, they noticed a yellow line marker that is actually in the H.H. Lemley Room. This new passage intersects this room at the ceiling. In The Rafters, Mike tied off taking a northerly bearing through another passage with Bob on his heels and Sandy following attempting to survey in. They reached turnaround on their breathing gas and Sandy led them through the now zero visibility back into The Rafters then through a hole in the floor and back into the Halocline Room. At thirty feet Mike noticed a blind cavefish and excitedly showed Sandy, when the fish disappeared just before Bob had a chance to catch a glimpse. The fish reappeared right at Sandy’s hand and she got Bob’s attention so that he could see the unusual white fish. During decompression they were visited only briefly by the old blind catfish, and exited. Later the team provided support for Andy and Renee. As bottles came up at Carri’s loft Kris and the muchachos sorted out the pressures and what tanks could remain in the jungle for Friday’s dives. After the first 2 rounds of 3 bottles came up the muchachos began carrying bottles out an astounding speed taking the impressive load of two bottles a piece!!!
While waiting for Andy and Renee to return from their dive, Sandy asked the muchachos about Jaime, their friendly waiter from last year. Roberto explained that Jaime is now a cook working in Tulum. Two nice air conditioned vans awaited the team and they headed for the Villas happy and heady and pleased with the day’s accomplishments. The tourists being driven around in jungle buggies seen on the drive back seem to have had an equally interesting day, but all the team were aware that they have seen a part of Mexico that very few people are privileged to experience. They then start to plan tomorrow’s dives, ensuring that there is sufficient time for dinner at Casa Cenote (a team tradition).
Questions and Comments for the Trilobite:
Hola, Cambrian Foundation Team!
This is Shane Newcombe and several other students here from good ole Fuqua School in Southside, Virginia. We want to extend a special hello to Renee, Bob, Karl, and Thecia (sorry to hear you missed your connecting flight)! Hope everything is going well for each of you! We have missed seeing each of you! Andrew, Michael, and Sandra, it was nice meeting and working with you all last year, and hope things are going well for you all as well! Rhiannon and Kris, we have not had the pleasure of meeting you all, but we would like to wish each of you good luck in the expedition this year.
From reading the project entries, it seems that things are going well with the research and dives. Also, from the photos, looks like the hurricanes definitely left their mark on the land for a while. We also were saddened to learn about Don Rafael’s death. The underground/water photo taken in Cenote Camilo was beautiful. Which one of you took it and which one of you is pictured in it? Also, the bone found along the dive, is it human, possibly Mayan, or is it an animal bone? Well, it is almost time for class to start, we just wanted to drop you guys a note and say “hola”. Good luck in your work, be safe, and have fun!
Thanks for checking in with us! The photo of Bob in Cenote Camilo was taken by Renee. We don’t know about the bone for sure. Looks like part of a long bone, possibly a femur. We wish you guys were here with us…it’s not the same.
Carri and I are enjoying the updates and wish you much success. As you know, I have a very vested interest in the new areas beyond Carri’s Loft and look forward to hearing about the gobs and gobs of line that you will leave in that area of the operation!
Best wishes and safe diving,
Mike St. Germain
Yes, I have to say I think about our dives there every time I swim through that area. Your hunch was right. I think we may be onto something!! I wish you could see what is beyond there. Maybe you could come back and join the team again in the future so you can share the experience. I miss you and Carri being here. Take care!