Last Day Blues

Sartek Industries, Inc

A diver returns from the inky blackness…

The 2006 team (Karl not pictured…but missed)

Formation in the Capitol Room

Blind cave fish

Giguere gets geared

Day six of the 2006 expedition and we had the luxury of two air conditioned vans for transportation. Mike and Bob offered refrescos (cold sodas) to the “chicken men” (the men at the chicken plant) and thanked them for allowing us to use the limestone well road which led to the cenote trail. The day was brief, with quick dives to tidy and finish surveying goals. After dropping equipment off and bidding farewell to team muchacho they gathered Thecia and it was off for a late lunch at Casa Cenote – an annual tradition.

Renee and Bob entered Cenote Camilo for the last time this year. The mission today was to swim a circuit (a loop) up the Capitol Line onto Blind Cave Fish Line and over to the Low Silt Line – cutting some T’ to jumps and marking the areas for easier navigation. It was eerily quiet, serene and clear in the cave, as they were the only team diving from that location today. Just inside the passage, the “cave gods” again made their presence known, giving back Renee’s map of the system that was lost a few days earlier. Bob found it in the ceiling of the passage. To him, it felt like all the previous confusion in this downstream section of the cave was forgiven for the moment…or was it? They continued on to the second T of the system and swam up the Capitol Line. This section was crystal clear and a short way into the passage, the cave revealed great beauty. It was filled with columns of white limestone and really lived up to its name. They found the Little Cave Line just inside the room. This line leads up to a cenote discovered on a previous expedition. From inside the cave, light from the surface could be seen, but the original ‘explorers’ found that access was almost impossible. This suggests that exit via this cenote should only be used in an emergency situation and not as part of a planned route. They continued on through a restriction that dropped them 6 feet out of the Capitol Room and into the low bedding plane that was so familiar in this section of the cave. A short swim led them right to the jump at Blind Cave Fish Line. Renee placed a locator cookie on the line so future divers could identify it and then they continued down the Blind Cave Fish Line, past Carl’s Line and onto the Low Silt T. Here Renee placed cookies on both the Low Silt Line and the Blind Cave Fish Line identifying both lines. They left the T, since the determination for “main line” hasn’t been made yet, meaning for the time being both will remain a main route. They then began the short swim back towards the Capitol Line to complete the circuit. Along the way, Renee paused to take some pictures of some blind cave fish and some amphipods…then momentarily turned to swim up the Capitol Line, thinking it was still the Low Silt Line. She immediately noticed that the terrain had changed, and then spotted a line marker that she had already referenced on her way in – indicating her temporary aberration and she instantly turned around. This was a great lesson how easy it can be to make a mistake in this environment, but it is how you deal with this error that prevents further problems. Staying focused on basic cave diving skills is essential, particularly when other tasks can distract from this. They finished their maintenance of the main line, and final dive objective, by altering a T into a ‘jump’ for one of the minor paths in the cave and proceeded to the entrance for a quick safety stop after an hour underwater. Upon exiting they were happy to have had success this week and take with them a lot of respect for the complexity of cave systems and the positive outcomes of effective cave training. Until next time, may Cenote Camilo sleep well.

Andy and Rhiannon were also busy with housekeeping tasks. After Andy’s big dive of yesterday, he was keen to have a more ‘local’ dive so they each had only 2 bottles of air. This made for a much more streamlined profile and an easier swim. Andy is the main cartographer for the group and wanted to check the survey in one of the main passages of cave. This was the connection between the two Cenotes the expedition team had been diving from all week –  Cenotes Carri’s Loft and Camilo. As usual, they divided the work between them, with Rhiannon taking all the azimuths at each survey station (this is where the line is tied to a cave formation – fixing the position and keeping the line taut – which tends to result in a change of line angle) and Andy calculating the distances between the stations (by counting the knots on the line each spaced 10 feet apart), and estimating the distances between the floor and ceiling, and the left and right walls. Andy carried the survey slate and wrote all the data down, and Rhiannon communicated the azimuth data using conventional cave diving hand signals. The passage they were surveying was quite tortuous in places and therefore had many changes of angles. This made for frequent survey stations and rather more work than anticipated but the resulting map will be accurate and detailed. Once they reached Cenote Camilo, they turned to retrace their steps and came out. Andy’s easy’ dive was still 90 minutes long, but seemed very short to him after yesterday. All in all, they felt it was a good end to what had been a very productive week. They looked forward to lunch at Casa Cenote!

Mike and Sandy geared up with three bottles (the right and left bottles of the typical sidemount rig plus one stage bottle). Their goal was to collect the remaining survey on the passage to the north of the Halocline Room and attempt to connect the passage to the Denial Line. On the way in, they saw a blind cave fish in the cavern. They tied in at the H.H. Lemley Room and swam across the room, tying off at the line in the newly discovered Rafters passage. Mike lead up to the area they had surveyed yesterday and Sandra took the lead. She quickly found the un-surveyed passage (now called the Rafters’ Peak at Halocline Hall) to the north and they followed this, collecting survey as they went. When they found the end of the line, Sandy squeezed through a restriction into a jumbled breakdown room with a few decorations. She handed the reel to Mike, who attempted to find his way through another restriction. However, having reached a third of their air supply and finding the visibility reduced to almost zero by the activities in the silty room, they reeled out and headed back to the line connecting the Rafters’ Peak to The Rafters passage and surveyed out. On the way back to the jump into the H.H. Lemley Room, they checked leads to the north, two of which ‘walled out’ (came to a dead end). On the way out to Cenote Carri’s Loft, Mike re-routed the line through the cavern zone to make navigation and passage easier. They then shared the last remaining bottle of decompression oxygen with Andy and Rhiannon, and exited the system after 133 minutes.

The team headed back to the Villas to freshen up and collect their non-diving member of the team (Thecia) and headed for Casa Cenote. This is a fabulous beachside restaurant with unrivalled nachos and views. They took photos and headed back to the Villas for a last update of the map, now nearly 32000 feet total length – the team had added over 4000 feet during this 2006 expedition – an excellent accomplishment and a wonderful experience for all!! Now it is time to pack and take their chances with Customs with stinky clothing, insect bites and gear that is less than shiny and new – and fantastic memories and big smiles.

The Cambrian Foundation would like to thank Sartek Industries, Inc. for lighting the way on this expedition. Sartek have been a supporter of The Cambrian Foundation for several years and we are once again we are proud to call you a sponsor and we are grateful for your continued support.

Team Members:

Bob Giguere
Andy Pitkin
Michael Poucher
Sandy Poucher
Renee Power
Rhiannon Raggatt
Kris Shannon
Karl Shreeves
Thecia Taylor

Questions and Comments for the Trilobite:

Hey all!

As I sit in Orlando and read of your adventures, I cannot help but envy you! While you enjoy the beauty of the deep, we sit here in the humidity smelling smoke from the fires burning along 95.

The experiences you are sharing are absolutely incredible. I am grateful for my mid-day break when I read your daily updates.

I must add, like a few others have already said, the scorpion freaked me out! Makes my hyperactive Australian Shephard look like a saint!

I’m enjoying the daily journals and the pictures your posting along the way. My favorite is “Cenote Camilo Cavern” It’s beautiful!

Stay safe and have fun!
Diana

Hey Diana,

Good to hear from you. We’ve been having a wonderful time and making tremendous progress every day. As I write this, we are packing to come home and it’s a little somber around here as we feel like we’ve only just begun. But I’m sure we’ll be back next year to continue the story of this system.

See you soon,

Bob

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