March 17

Renee hauls gear into the jungle for today’s dive

Mike searches the jungle.

Our loyal Muchachos (of the day…).

Team about to enter ‘Mud’ for today’s dive.

Renee shows how NOT to run a reel.

Team unloading tanks at the fill station.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sunday, 17 March 2003
All of the diving team had on green in honor of the day! Our morning started off with a fabulous breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon and toast prepared by our own Nat Robb. Yummy! After the usual morning chores that include obtaining Cortisol samples and loading the truck with tanks, we headed off to the jungle. Don Raphael’s dogs gave us a proper welcome and we proceeded to the site.

Last year at the end of the expedition, we were told of another Cenote behind Don Raphael’s ranch. It was reported to be very large (muy grande) and blue (azul). Team one, Mike and Renee, was escorted through the jungle by muchacho William to find what we hoped would be the “mother of all cenotes”. We followed William, who had no navigational tools, through the jungle with great trust. Mike did obtain a waypoint on the GPS at the beginning of the trek so we suppose there was a little doubt about the navigation process! William led us through the jungle on a survey trail, that seemed strangely familiar, and off of the trail at times. After 30 minutes of hiking in the humidity we intersected with another trail that was VERY familiar even to William. William, arriving first, said to us that we were headed for Cenote Camilo. “DRAT!” (well sort of) is what we exclaimed after confirming our position. We followed William back through the jungle via a different route. His sense of direction amazed us as there are no navigational markers in the jungle. We arrived back at Cenote Mud just in time to find George, Nat and Andy suited up in the Cenote preparing to submerge…

Team 2, George, Nat and Andy decided in the dive planning session last evening that they would go up Cindy’s Line and make the jump to the Low Silt Line into an area known as the Grand Canyon. The mission was to do some much needed line maintenance and see if passage exists beyond the currently surveyed line. As we made the jump from Cindy’s Line we realized that we were making much better time than we had made in past years due to operating from a closer cenote. On our way through the Grand Canyon we quickly realized that this was Nat’s first experience with halocline. We enjoyed watching him experiment with the way you can create waves within the water column and how it distorts ones vision. Once we reached the end of the Grand Canyon area the cave narrowed significantly and soon dropped to a deeper level and we were diving in pure salt water. The dive was turned to explore a line that was put in last year but has not yet been placed in the map. The decision was made to survey that line later this week due to air supply concerns. On the way out we marked several areas that look promising to explore as time allows. Upon completing our decompression we made our exit through the appropriately named Cenote Mud. The decaying leaves and other debris on the surface of Cenote Mud help make operating out of this cenote even more pleasurable. The team wishes that computers had a “scratch and sniff” feature so you could enjoy the entire experience with them!

After about 30 minutes of resting, drinking water and cortisol sampling, Mike and Renee prepared for the dive. Mike and Renee entered Mud Cenote with 3 air tanks and one oxygen tank to be used for decompression. The oxygen tank was placed on a rock in about 25 feet of water just at the base of the cenote. The mission for the dive was to explore in detail both sides of the passage until they had to turn the dive on thirds. The team progressed as planned down Cindy’s line. Initially, the flow is moving toward the cenote. After about 600 feet of passage the flow changes direction. In either case, the flow is mild, yet consistent. Very quickly, Renee and Mike began to find opportunities off to the right. One of them would “bird dog” or scout for possible going passage while the other helped illuminate. They did find such a passage. Just to the right and down from the main line was a line placed by the 2000 team. A jump was placed to that line and the exit side properly marked. Renee led the team into about a 65 foot passage filled with halocline and a bottom covered in a fine, white material. After about 300 feet the passage curved around to the right and back to the main line. So, they reeled back out and proceeded back down the main passage of Cindy’s Line. The line took them through the Death Star Room that was fabulous!! The ceiling is full of various formations including a giant column in the center of the room for which the room is named. (See the 1999 updates). There were also large stalactites and stalagmites covering the ceiling and floor. Beautiful sheets and mounds of calcite rafting were everywhere in the passage.

It is clear that very few divers have traversed this area. It was absolutely pristine!! We each thought of the first explorers as they ventured through there for the first time. Wow…what a privilege!! Several other passages were attempted, but they each “walled out” or ended. After about one hour and two gas switches into the dive Renee and Mike met team 2 on the main line. Renee and Mike saw the Sartek 10W HID lights from far away and they went into slealth mode to try and hide. Team 2 was very thankful that team 1 also had Sartek 10W HID lights and it is impossible to be in stealth mode with them on! The plan was foiled and each team continued with their dive plans. Mike and Renee did find another possible lead that was marked with an orange line arrow. They will investigate that further tomorrow. The team returned to their oxygen tank after 1 hour and 40 minutes where they began a 22 minute decompression stop. The team exited without event and performed a 5 minute surface decompression before exiting the water. It is also protocol that a 30 minute rest and hydration period is completed before hiking out of the jungle.

The cortisol samples are taken at various times. Morning, Pre-dive, Post dive and evening are the specific times during the day. Samples have to be obtained before brushing teeth and before meals or at least 30 minutes after eating. A short questionnaire is filled out along with each sample to indicate how the person is “feeling” at the time.

Expedition Team:
Andy Henderson
Nan Henderson
George McCulley
Therese McCulley
Renee Power
Nat Robb
Michael St.Germain
Thecia Taylor

Send questions or comments to the Trilobite.

Questions and Comments To the Trilobite

How’s it going?
David F Colvard

Dr. Colvard,
Things are going great. We have already enjoyed two fantastic days of exploration and we are looking forward to the next two weeks. The stress studies are going very well and the team has the daily protol operating like a "well oiled machine".

Nan & Andy,
Hope things are going well. Let us hear from you when you are not underwater.
Mom & Dad

Hi! We are having a blast–more later. Keep watching the webpage for updates.

Hi, My name is Amidat Oladipo. I go to Maitland Middle school. I am in Dr. Albrights science class. I just do though reading your Project Description. Some things that I would like to know about your expedition are, why is your main goal to "completely explore and provide a detailed map of the Sistema Camilo Cave system."Also if there is a specific reason why you are studying Mexico? In your description, you said that the population of Yucatan is heavily drawing water resources from the aquifer of the Yucatan Peninsula, without understanding how it’s affect is the local hydrology. You also said that you want to test the water quality to sample bacteria that has been observed in the system. What will happen if you do fined bacteria in the waters. Also how will it affect the sea life. Would you study to see if it has in any way affect them. (the sea life).
Thank You,
Amidat Oladipo

Thank you for writing in! The reason we want to explore and provide a detailed map of Sistema Camilo is to provide a framework for all research activities. For example, the flow meter we will be deploying will give information about the water flow, tidal influence, salinity, water temperature, etc. When exploring cave systems it is protocol for the explorers to survey all passages and provide a map of the system for use by other divers.

We have chosen Mexico simply because there are thousands of unexplored cenotes throughout the region.

There are no surface rivers on the Yucatan Peninsula so all of the drinking water is aquired from the underground aquifers. The information gathered from our water samples will be used to gain a better understanding of the water quality in the area. Water quality studies are very broad and we have no specific plan if bacteria is determined to be present. We don’t know exactly how impure water from this system could affect the sea life but this may be a subject for future research.
Explorers Mike, George and Renee

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