Team Fuqua Laying Line!!

Meg and Megan performing water quality testing.

Brian explores Aktun Chen.

Students looking up through a cave opening.

A formation named “Helms Deep” by the students.

Woody and Shane help divers prepare to dive.

Amy Giannotti

This morning we started out again with a light workout on the beach. The entire team was gathered and divided into two vans and each went to complete their missions.

Team Fuqua
Once again, it was an incredible day filled with excitement and adventure! Today, our group was divided into three teams. First, there was a team that ventured out into the jungle. This team included Amy, Bob, Mrs. Bounds, Meg Barkley, Jeremy Wyatt, and Meagan Jones. After walking 2 kilometers into the jungle, the team took water samples out of a variety of cenotes (including: Dry Cave, Carri’s Loft, and Cenote Camilo). The students then tested the levels of PH, salinity, nitrogen, and dissolved oxygen. This was a great learning experience for all of the students. After testing the water, the team went for a refreshing swim in Cenote Camilo. They then journeyed back out of the jungle. When they met up with the second team, they also tested three other cenotes (Cenote Muchacho, Cenote Mud, and Cenote Calavera).

The second team began exploring an uncharted dry cave at Aktun Chen. This was a day to be remembered. As mentioned in a previous update, the owner of the park, Lorenzo, offered this unmapped cave for us to learn survey. This team consisted of Brian Mackintosh, John Boswell, Josh Owen, and Terrence. The Cave adventure started with our arrival to the park where the cave is located. But as soon as we where about to get started, we realized that we had forgotten to bring our spools of line that we used to mark our way in and out of the cave. After a quick run back to the base, we proceeded to enter the darkened cave. As a regular surveying team would we went all the way to the end of the cave, and then worked our way out. The rock formations and other speleothems were breathtaking; the water although cool was crystal clear. Small catfish and other cave dwelling creatures were in the numerous pools throughout the cave system. The air was hot and humid. As Mr. Boswell found out the hard way (eight times) that the stalactites don’t give very much when they come in contact with ones head. The cave itself is extremely dark and when we turned off the lights you can’t see ANYTHING in front of you. Might as well have your eyes closed. We had a very fun time, even after a few comments, and there were lots of jokes to go around.

Lastly, a team went to assist the divers (Renee, Carl, and Grant) in cenote Muchacho. The people that assisted the divers were Annie Rudy, Amanda Massie, Woody Dunkum, and Artie. After arriving at Cenote Don Rafael we helped the divers prepare for their dive. We lowered gas tanks into the water so they could attach them to their sides. All three divers went down at 11:30AM. Grant had problems with his light, and Karl had some side effects from his cold during his dive. They all came back. Karl gave Grant his light and returned to the shore so Grant and Renee could return to the Cenote. While they were diving, the students along with Karl and Artie ventured throughout the jungle to the other Cenotes (Mud and Muchachos). During the afternoon, Grant and Renee returned to the surface and the others helped pull them and their gear to the shore. By the time all of the excess gas was released from the tanks, the van with the other team members (jungle team) returned to collect some data from the cenotes. As we were leaving, some of the team members visited with Don Rafael and found out some more information about the water and cave system.

In conclusion, it is obvious that our days are ANYTHING but boring! We are truly experiencing a once in lifetime opportunity. This has been AMAZING! Bring on day three, we’re ready!

Team Dive
The mission of the dive team, Karl, Grant, and Renee, was to enter at Cenote Raphael and explore the deep section of that area. Several of the students were assigned, under the supervision of Artie, to help support the dive team. They learned about the cenote and a little about its history as it relates to our experience with it.

The bottom composition here is fine clay. Once disturbed, it can take days to settle. The line going into this portion of the cave begins very close to the surface of the water and goes down steeply. Once you are inside, traveling through zero visibility, the line zigs and zags a bit. You then descend over a mound of silt that ends at a formation where a “T” is found. At this point, we staged two of our tanks. We did this because previous reports from the area mentioned that the passage was small with little visibility at times.

The area also drops below 70 feet and in this system that means there will be saltwater. The halocline is the area where the fresh and saltwater meet. Halocline is beautiful but if you’re not the lead diver you may not see much! Undisturbed, it looks sort of wavy in the water and there are distinct layers. Typically, the limestone below the halocline is very white and crunchy. This area is also known as “Velcro cave” because it snags everything! The divers behind the lead usually have distorted visibility. However, if the passage is large enough the diver can go above or below the halocline layer and have good visibility. It’s best not to run line in the halocline layer do to the difficulty in both seeing the line and collection of survey data.

After staging our two tanks we descended down into the deep section. Renee lead the team followed by Karl and then Grant. None of the team had been in this area previously, so it was a new experience for all. After about eight minutes of dive time, Renee got the “thumbs up” from Karl. Following the golden rule of cave diving, “Any diver can call a dive for any reason at any time without fear of incrimination from anyone,” we turned the dive and surfaced. When the up sign is given we discuss the reason on the surface. Once there, we learned that Grant had a primary light failure. Karl had a reverse block during ascent and decided not continue diving. Grant borrowed Karl’s light and we descended again.

The two person team repeated the path of the first descent. The two stages that were dropped on the first descent were kept with the dive team. The passage was not as narrow as reported. Renee was in the lead and Grant followed. The passage made a semicircular track. After about 800 feet, they both dropped their two extra stages because the passage did narrow significantly at that point. Shortly after dropping stages they found the end of the line in a walled out passage.

Grant turned the dive at that point. On the way out, a few leads were followed, but produced nothing. From the surface opening, thirds were recalculated and the team picked their stages back up and continued on their return trip to investigate the leads that were marked on the way in. Four good leads were investigated. Two required running a reel. Unfortunately, none of the leads produced any significant passage.

The team returned to the entrance “T” dropping their two stage bottles. Recalculating thirds, the team proceeded to the shallow side of the system. This area of the system appears very much like the system at Cenote Muchachos. There were several leads; however, none of them produced any new cave. There are several other leads that remain to be investigated. This side of the system has a lot of very dramatic speleothems or decorations. There are multiple breakdown areas and big passages. This is in stark contrast to the deeper section of this cave.

The team turned the dive and headed for the exit. They recovered their stages and exited. It was exciting for them to investigate new leads and they look forward to the opportunity to explore the system further.

Once the team surfaced, Artie had the students remove the gear from the dock leading to the cenote. The students were full of questions about what was seen and what the cave was doing. The team exited the water and answered their questions as they got cleaned up.

Back at Villas DeRosa, students learned how to plot data to make a map. With what they learned, they can make a map of their project to give to Aktun Chen.

Our day closed with a wonderful shrimp dinner served by the pool. After dessert, Terrence and Amy presented Josh Owen with the first Legare Hole Scholarship. The scholarship was set up in memory of Terrence’s best friend, Lee. Josh was selected to receive the award because he exemplifies many of the same qualities that Lee did. He has also participated on three Cambrian Foundation expeditions, including the first SS Commodore Project.

Team Member Profile
Amy Giannotti, Vice-President of Research and Education for the Cambrian Foundation, is leading the water quality analyses on this expedition. Amy has a masters degree in environmental science from the University of Virginia, with an emphasis in marine/aquatic ecology. While teaching high school several years ago, Amy and her students comprised the first school group to participate in a Cambrian Foundation expedition, the SS Commodore Project. Now, she has the opportunity to combine her love of field research and education.

Team Members

  • Artie Ahr
  • Amy Giannotti
  • Bob Giguere
  • Grant Graves
  • Renee Power
  • Karl Shreeves
  • Thecia Taylor
  • Terrence Tysall

Fuqua Team
  • Meg Barkley
  • John Boswell
  • Woody Dunkum
  • Meagan Jones
  • Brian Mackintosh
  • Amanda Massie
  • Josh Owen
  • Annie Rudy
  • Jeremy Wyatt
  • Dora Bounds – teacher
  • Shane Newcombe – teacher

Send questions or comments to the trilobite.
Questions and Comments to the Trilobite

Hi to all,
I was wondering what you do with the info you gather. Do you give it to the landowner, governmental officials or what? Sure would like to be there and see it all and also to see the kids from Fuqua. Please tell Woody, John, Jeremy, and Josh I said Hi. I don’t believe I know any of the others from the Commodore trip. I envy all of them and hope they realize how lucky they are to be able to take part in this “hands on” experience. Take care and be safe! Linda Wooddell (Amy’s Mom)

HI Mom! Thanks for your email! We are making the water quality data available and the survey data to the Quintana Roo Speleological Survey. They will utilize that and incorporate it into the rest of their database. You would love it here, mom, and you’ll have to come down next year, ok? I love and miss you guys bunches! Give Allie a kiss from me. 

Hi Linda! I miss you and really wish you were here. You’d have a blast! Plan on it next year!


Looks like you guys are making fine progress! Keep those pictures coming. Many of us are living vicariously through you! I’m just drooling to somehow get full cave training soon, it looks so great!

I have it on good authority that if you put salt on a rooster’s tail, that will keep it from making a racket in the morning, try it!

Also, was the peanut butter grade E or better? Perhaps you introduced some contaminants which contributed to the fire…


The requirements called for smooth peanut butter. The contaminants were most likely due to the nutty particulates.

Hi to all ~ The updates are great and I especially love the photos taken during the dives. I hope my husband was up to diving today as I know that has been bumming him out to be sick. I wish I were there…even hauling stuff through the jungle sounds fun, except for the spiders!! I’m glad to see at least my GPS is having a good time on the dives.
My love to Karl and Hi from Lisa, Craig, Guy, Rod and Barry…we thought of you at dinner last night!
Love, Shawn

Hi, Sweetie,
Thanks from all of us for the kind words. We managed to empty the hospital ward for a dive, though I’m still dealing with issues and I ended up cutting things short, with Grant and Renee continuing on. I’m going to try again today.


Hi again guys! I just had to write again because I love all the cave pictures!!(post more please!!) Everything is so unbelievably beautiful……..beyond breathtaking just from my computer screen. I can’t imagine what it must look like for you guys first hand! I’m glad to see all the kids/teachers made it safely – what an incredible opportunity they have! Thinking of you guys all the time and wishing I could be there

Big smoochies to my hubby! The puppies and I miss you terribly!

I love you hon!

Heedo Weeefeh! Heeez mi beeh Key-babeez, ind da Modi-Modi? Sorry, I lapsed into Kaibab-speak! Thanks for writing it is great to know that you are following along. My team did a incredible job in Aktun Chen today and we saw hundreds of BATS!!!!! I love and miss you all!

Hi Renee. I’m glad you guys are having a good time. Sounds like you’re seeing lots of new cave and sinkholes. I’m enjoying reading your little updates… Take care, and be safe. – Keith

Hi Keith. We are having a great time here. It’s truly a spectacular place both above and below the water. Thanks for following along with the progress!


Sounds like you got a lot done today now that the batteries are smaller you will have to carry more of them. I went down to steam machines today and Luke and Saul and Stephen came by and we all went to lunch. After lunch we all went down to the pool to help Fabien with his 18 foot mechanical great white shark.
I think it is very cool and I think it will be a great tool to learn about this miss understood predator.

Cheers Kenny

Glad to hear you got to have fun Kenny. Tell Luke and Sal I said Hi. Rub the bald boy’s head for luck for me. You have got to get a picture in the jaws of that thing even though you are using it to dispel myths. Have fun, we are.


Hi Gang,
I’ve been trying to keep up with all the progress over the past couple of days…our system has been down here at Rollins so it’s making it a little difficult to check on y’all regularly. The pictures are cool though- the sunset looks gorgeous! I also liked the pic of the group on the beach, but what’s with that blond kid wearing his boots in the sand?? I guess he must have something against feeling sand squish in between his toes, huh? He is pretty cute, but next time, someone should tell him to take off the boots for the beach shots. J/K Artie,
we all miss you and hope you’re having fun!

Take care, Whit

Hey Whitney,
I am glad to finally get to talk to you! Yeah, that boy in the boots looks kinda riduculus huh? I think he was just stoked be dressed up like a jungle boy. Tell everyone I said hi!


Comments are closed.