The Connection Proves To Be Elusive

Don Raphael is presented with a map of the system

Andy rigging his stage

Pre -dive silliness

Warm Atlan wetsuits

Back to back line arrows

At 8:15 AM we gathered for departure. We reviewed our gear checklist as we do everyday to ensure we don’t forget any of our equipment. On the way to the site is an internet cafe, where we stopped to post yesterday’s update and retrieve email. When we pulled into Don Raphael’s gate he stepped out of his home to greet us. This morning we presented him with a simple map of the system. He seemed greatly pleased. This gesture fulfills a promise made to Don Raphael when he first gave us permission to dive off of his property.

Karl and Renee descended first and investigated a few areas off of Cindy’s Line. Nothing was promising so we headed up to Nan’s Bypass to do a little line maintenance. First, the line was rerouted slightly to accomplish two things. The passage has a small section with some fragile speleothems (natural cave decorations), so they relay the line so that divers can see these beautiful features with less risk to them. Second, the team placed double arrows, facing opposite directions, midway on the line. In the case of an emergency, a diver then knows the quickest way to the main line. Once they finished this task, Renee and Karl headed back to Cenote Muchachos, checking for possible leads before arriving at the decompression area. After 2 hours and 08 minutes total dive time, Renee and Karl surfaced safely.

Terrence and Andrew searched for a shallow connection between Cenote Muchachos and Cenote Mud, which is the cenote on the other side of the same karst depression where Muchachos is. They found a promising area between 25 and 40 feet deep that looked like it might allow a diver through, but. this close to the surface, everything is covered with fine dark silt that reduces visibility to nothing with only a hand wave. Where they were searching it was impossible not to disturb the silt, so they worked in zero visibility for much of the time. Unfortunately their lead walled out (came to an end), as did another area they checked out deeper with quite promising passage. Here there was clearly halocline (the place where fresh water meets deeper salt water) and some flow discernible, but there was no opening large enough for a diver. On the way back they scrutinized the south wall for any other potential passages and made sure (as they suspected) that there was no way around the depression towards Cenote Mud to the north. Their total dive time was somewhat shorter than Karl and Renee’s.

Terrence and Renee use wetsuits by Atlan. Thank you Atlan for supporting the Cambrian Foundation with your generosity, and with your quality exposure protection that allows Terrence and Renee to make long dives comfortably.

Team Members

  • Andrew Pitkin
  • Renee Power
  • Karl Shreeves
  • Thecia Taylor
  • Terrence Tysall
Send Questions or Comments to the Trilobite

Congrats to Terrence on 3000! Later this week we can celebrate my 30th! Looking forward to joining you all.

Bob Giguere
bGenesis, LLC
Equinox Documentaries, Inc.

Thanks Bob. All of us are looking forward to your arrival. Have a safe trip.

Why are you doing all this research?

The main reason we are doing all of this work is to protect fresh water. The reason this is important is as human beings we can’t survive without it. Think about it, without food you could live for months, but without fresh water we will only survive for about four days! Also consider the fact that of all the water on the planet only about one percent of it is available for us to drink! It’s a lot like me giving you a dollar and then telling you that you can only spend one penny of it, not much huh! So the little water that we have is vital for us to survive. So if we take that small amount of precious water and ruin it we will be in a lot of trouble! Since most of the water that people drink in the world (especially Florida where you live) comes from underground, we journey into caves to find out how to keep this water from getting damaged. Other really cool things are the animals that live deep in these caves. Usually they are very small but some of them can outlive your Great Grandparents! Write me tomorrow and see if you can guess how long they can live! The closest answer will win a special prize that I will bring home from Mexico!

Do you ever see any sharks in the caves?

That’s actually a good question when you realize that the ocean sometimes comes into the cave. It does this underground through porous rock (porous means having lots of holes in it). The holes are usually much too small for animals like sharks to swim through. Also, even if there were a passage that a shark could fit into, most cave animals are very small and wouldn’t make a very good dinner for a hungry shark, unlike my dive buddy Andrew! So, a shark would not be able to survive deep in caves like we’re diving. There are some caves near the ocean that are short and shallow where you can find sharks, but the sharks feed in the open ocean and hang out in the sea caves.

What about barracuda?

There are no barracuda in the caves for many of the same reasons there are no sharks. You will see them in some of the same caves that Mr. and Mrs. Shark go to…maybe they’re having some kind of “Dinner Party”, they keep inviting Andrew but he won’t go!

What happens if your lights go out?

Having your lights go out would be really bad – if you only have one light! For this reason, every diver on the team has at least three lights. So, if one fails, they each have two more spares. In the case of a light failure, we turn on a spare and immediately head back to the surface. In addition to the lights, we always have a continuous line – very strong, fine cord – from where we are all the way back to the safety of the cave mouth and sunlight. I guess in the Shark and Barracuda caves they could use this line to floss with!

How do you carry four tanks without drowning?

When someone goes into the water that doesn’t know how to swim they need something that floats right? The same is true for us, we wear a sort of life jacket that we can fill with air to make us float. Even though, four tanks weigh a lot on dry land (each one weighs as much as a third grader), they don’t weigh as much in the water. To make up the difference, this life jacket thing, called a BC allows us to control how much we float or sink. So, in the water we actually glide through the water somewhat like an astronaut weightless in space. Andrew of course hopes that this equipment causes Shark tummy aches and then they will leave him alone!

Isn’t it scary swimming back so far in the caves?

It can be, but not too scary because we all have special equipment and training for this very special type of diving. But, it’s important that it be a little bit scary because it keeps us aware that we always have to follow the safety rules that allow us to do this without getting hurt. Andrew finds the shark much scarier… think this is why he likes diving in caves so much!

What happens if you run out of air to breathe?

Running out of air underwater in a cave would mean that you would have to try to swim out of the cave holding your breath. Since sometimes we can be miles back into the cave, this wouldn’t work really well! Much of our training and equipment involves avoiding this. For one, we always save twice as much air for going out of a cave than we use going into a cave. Second, our equipment is set up so that we always have at least two air systems (remember all of those tanks)? That way, if we have an equipment problem, we have another air source we can use. Third, each dive team plans its air use together so that each diver has enough air to get two divers out of the cave in an emergency. Andrew got really good at holding his breath when he was hiding from the shark party!!!

Hope all is well and I wish you luck pushing the cave even further! I’m sure we’ll have more questions tomorrow! Send big hugs and smoochies to my hubby –

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