March 19

Nat & Renee put on their cylinders in Mud Cenote.

Mike gives Renee a little field first aid.

Empty reel = happy cave exploriers!

Nan & Theresa in the field to help haul tanks.

Nat in his DiveRite sidemount rig

Dive, dive, dive…

Wednesday, 19 March 2003
This morning we had yet another outstanding breakfast this time by Mike. He prepared ham and cheese omelets. Yummy! This proved to be helpful as the jungle seemed to be a bit hotter today and the team needed their energy.

Team one, Mike and Renee, entered the system at Mud Cenote. They cruised down Cindy’s Line with 4 tanks hoping to have adequate gas for the exploration plans. All along Cindy’s Line there were lots of Isopods and Amphipods. They seemed to be dancing through the water column as the team passed by. After making the jump over to the Low Silt Line and staging a tank (used 1/3 of the gas from our first bottle) the survey process began to tie into yesterday’s work. They surveyed from the jump up to the next survey station then back to the area they explored the day before. One of the missions for today was to reroute the line to a better location due to reduced visibility in the halocline. That line ended in a small room that was very white, and crunchy limestone in the halocline. After surveying that line Renee and Mike investigated another passage discovered yesterday off of that same line (adding about 250 feet of additional line). Again, that passage ended in a small white area. After surveying, the team gathered the staged tank and proceeded to the Cat House.

Upon reaching the oxygen tanks, the decompression obligation was 101 minutes. The time was reduced to 24 minutes breathing oxygen and using a gas switchable computer. Oxygen is used for the decompression because it helps to eliminate nitrogen out of the body more efficiently. Since the maximum operating depth for pure oxygen (with a 1.6 partial pressure) is 20 feet, the oxygen tanks are staged at that depth. After 24 minutes the team prepared to exit the cave (having spent over 190 minutes in the water). Just before heading up to the cenote, Renee decided to engage in some creative speleology and slightly enlarge the route with her head. Dr. Mike cleaned up the blood (with clean water, not Mud Cenote water!) and treated the injury with betadine….the team declared she would probably live. Perhaps she should use Karl’s gumball helmet (see past updates)!

Team two (aka "Team Cue ball") was again Andy, George and Nat. Their mission of the day was to deploy the current meter and to swim to the end of the first left off the Grand Canyon line (see map) to determine if there was any going passage. Andy swam the current meter 1800’ into the cave and deployed it at the junction of the passage leading to the Grand Canyon and the passage leading to cenote Mud. After the current meter was successfully deployed the team continued to the end of the line, using the first 1/3 of 2 tanks and they were 45 minutes into the dive. The end of the line was found to quickly wall out; however, 50 feet back from the end a going passage was found. The team laid 500′ of new line into this passage and surveyed it back out. The end of the additional line was left in a domed room that looked very promising for continued exploration. You will hear more about this area in future updates for sure!

Therese and Nan trekked into the jungle today to experience the Cenote firsthand. The jungle is dense, hot, humid, full of bugs and makes you sweat profusely. It is also very beautiful. The prettiest thing we saw was a fuchsia dragonfly with iridescent wings that we later heard was carnivorous. We realize now just how dedicated and somewhat loco the dive team is about cave diving. We have never been so hot dressed in shorts and t-shirts, and it was difficult to watch them dress in layers of neoprene. Once we watched them descend into the “chocolate” water of Mud Cenote, the muchachos quickly escorted us back to our air-conditioned car, and we made a beeline to nearest grocery for ice cream. Upon returning to Villas DeRosa, we had another fabulous lunch followed by another gorgeous reef dive. During our ocean dives this week, we have seen a nurse shark, a reticulated eel, a turtle, a porcupine fish, a scorpion fish, many large scrawled file fish, and a multitude of other critters. The coral seems to be quite healthy, and there is a plethora of elkhorn coral. In between all of our other adventures we have had a wonderful time relaxing on the beach, working on our melanomas, reading and napping. Life is rough on the Mayan Riviera. Next we are off the visit the ruins at Tulum, and Nan has a Cenote dive planned.

Science Note: Each dive team member carries at least one gas switchable computer with an additional computer as a backup (or a watch and a set of dive tables as a backup). In addition to the computers required for dive operations, the entire dive team carries an additional computer (called a “Sensus”) which is used to gather information for DANs (Divers Alert Network) Project Dive Exploration (commonly referred to as “PDE”). The purpose of PDE is to establish a unique database of dive profiles from real dives to compile information on the behavior and health of divers. The collected data will be a resource for diving safety research including the study of dive styles, decompression practices, and the effects of individual characteristics such as age, sex, weight, and medical history. The ultimate goal of PDE is to make our dives safer, more pleasant, and as efficient as possible.

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

OK, now this old mother needs help…….what the heck is a halocline? And why does it distort vision? Hope you had a great day. East wind is howling here, ocean is oily, surf is crashing….front coming in.
Love, Nat’s Mom

Hello again Mom. Glad that you are enjoying the updates. A halocline is where the layer fresh and salt water in a cave system meet. The fresh water on top is perfectly clear as is the salt water below. Between the two is a mixture of the two which is cloudy. It creates a smokey, wavey effect sort of like heat coming off a hot road in the summer. Our cave lights make really interesting patterns on the cave walls when you move them in and out of the halocline. When you head is in it, it is very dificult to see anything. Everything is very blury and visibility is limited to about 6 inches.
Stay warm and out of the ocean!
Love Nat 🙂

Hi Daddy,
I love you and I miss you VERY MUCH! I can’t wait till you get home. I wish you were coming home today. When you get home I am going to kiss and hug you. I made a picture for you.

I love you very much and miss you! Thanks for making me a picture, I look forward to hanging it in my office with all of the other nice things that you have made for me. Please save lots of kisses and hugs for me….I will be home very soon.
Love ya!
Daddy xoxxoxoxxxoxxoxxxxxx

Hey Nat! I guess you never got this e-mail. The daily updates are great – how exciting! It makes me want to start a serious weightlifting routine….. 🙂

The Message:
Nat, we miss you here in Grand Cayman! I’m glad the website is up. You were so busy before you left that I never found out what you were going to do for two weeks in the jungles of Mexico. Nandy – hello! Best of luck to all of you. I hope all goes well and you accomplish all your goals for the expedition. You’ll be in our thoughts and prayers. Be safe!

Hi Claire,
Nice to hear that I am missed on the rock (Grand Cayman). I miss you guys as well. I will be back sooner that I want… Good luck on the weight lifting program!
– Nat
PS: Andy says HEY!!

Hey Everybody
The expedition is looking good. Wish I was there. Wanted to see if any of you were interested in participating on the July Abalone project off of the CA coast. George has already signed up. I included the dive plan for the project so you can see what it is all about.
Take care and dive safe
Tim Gallagher

Nice to hear from you. I will pole the team about the project and let you know what they say. Please send the dive plan to us here and we will review it. If I can talk my boss into giving me the time off, I am very interested! Me, too! (Renee)
Nat (and the team)

Hi Nat,
Are you sure Mike is administering first aid to Renee, and is not trying to shave her head? It seems to be catching. Glad to hear you’re laying fresh line – it must be an amazing thrill to explore the unknown. Are most of the passages wide or do you have to contend with many restrictions? I recall all the Cenote photos I’ve seen tend to show large open passages or rooms. I note you’re side-mounting – is this for comfort or because of the restrictions?
Best wishes for another fun day,

Hi Steve. We do have a copy of G.I. Jane with us… but Renee is not joining "Team Cue-ball" at this point. Laying line is a blast. We are hoping to do more! The cave system consists of both large rooms and small restrictions. Some of the areas are bedding planes and could not be accessed wearing back mount tanks. Also, the majority of the room are so highly decorated, that a diver in back mount tanks would likely cause substantial damage to the virgin cave bumping into things overhead. The entry is also a bit tight, especially when wearing 5 tanks! Look at the first days update and see the size of the hole we are squeezing through. Hope we can get you down here soon to see for yourself!
Nat 🙂

You guys are kicking butt! I can’t believe you guys brought up the PICO!!!!

TNT and Amy,
We’re trying to kick butt and thanks!! We kicked more butt today and tomorrow isn’t looking so bad either!! = D For those of you playing the home game, Terrence (TNT) loves the pico here! We think of him every time we have some which is DAILY!! Hope you like the pico pic!
Bye for now!

Mike: Hope all is going well. Saw the Stress info on the site. Did you not receive my updated bio for the web page? Just visited the site and looked around. How is the collection going? Problems? Keep me posted.

Dr. Skalko,
Everything is going great and we are definitely in a routine with the cortisol samples. The information that I posted on the web is the only information that I received from you. Keep following the progress and I look forward to meeting with you upon my return.

Hi Guys,
I am not sure how much you know about what is going on so here are the highlights from today – hope I got it to you in time for Thursday. On the Raleigh home front – RAIN RAIN and more RAIN. We have not seen the sun but for a few minutes on Sunday – it has now been well over a week! Nan PLEASE bring some sun back for me!!!!!

Thanks for the update, we have been following the developments on CNN. Nan will do her best to bring back some good weather! Everything is going well and everyone is having a good time! I love and miss you very much……..xoxoxoxoxoxxxxxooooxx

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