Unique Challenge Fails To Thwart Diving and Caving

Karl geared up and ready to collect survey data

Dr. Andy revives Brown Stripe

Tools used for dry cave exploration and survey

Karl and Renee receive gifts from Don Raphael

Shane Newcome ready for action

Survey data recorded

On our (Fuqua students) way to Aktun Chen, the dive team’s van had a bit of trouble. This delayed us about an hour or so and from there the dive team and the Fuqua team split up. While the divers waited for Wayne from Villas DeRosa to repair the van, the Fuqua team went to explore a dry cave at the Ecological Park Aktun Chen. At first, we encountered water that came up to about waist deep and then we crawled through some small holes. From there on, the team made their way to a cave opening named Hidden Breeze. At that point, the team had lunch and then the team split into 3 groups. One team consisted of Catesby, Joe, Boz, and Bethany. The second team was Kara, Amy, Breanne, Taryn, Linda, and Josh. Finally, the last team was Woody, Terence, Jessica, Hope, Mr. Newcombe, Ms. Trovato, and Doug. After the three teams surveyed the cave, we headed to the van. While on our way, we were entertained by the wildlife. Some of this wildlife included deer, spider monkeys and other creatures. Finally around 5:30, the Fuqua team arrived at Villas DeRosa and met up with the Dive team.

The dive team, having determined to force the students to carry tanks and gear on the mile-long jungle hike without the benefit of make-up or air conditioning…. Just kidding! We’ll be doing that tomorrow. We, the divers, had decided to dive from Cenote Camilo, which is located on a 6/10 mile trail the students had re-cleared (with machetes!) through the jungle. Brown Stripe, our lovely van (air conditioned by the numerous rust holes in the floor, ceiling, sides, doors, etc., was so excited it overheated and died near the internet cafe. We took advantage of the computers to send regards to family and update the Cambrian site. The men managed to resuscitate Brown Stripe. We lurched toward Cenote Muchacho, but alas, Brown Stripe passed out from exertion in front of a roadside Mexican store. This brought the proprietor much joy, as we bought blankets, hammocks, etc. from her establishment. Wayne arrived right after Andrew fixed the van. It was the middle of the day and the students had some cave surveying to complete, so they headed off in their cushy new van while the dive team limped to Cenote Muchacho in Brown Stripe.

The teams split, Renee and Andrew headed back up to Dark Side of the Moon to check for leads. They peered in numerous places some which were very small, crunchy and often accompanied with zero visibility. A baby blind cave fish was spotted and Andy noticed that the fish had a reddish structure in its thorax. The halocline was prevalent in this area which reduced visibility further. No going passage was spotted and the team headed back after hitting thirds on their gas supply.

Mike and I went up to survey the Hass Line and check for leads. Mike and I had a great long dive. I noticed an amphipod carrying a molt and pulled on the molt. The amphipod dropped the molt, landed on my thumb and immediately began eating!! I shook him off, he searched for me again. Thinking I must have been mistaken, I again let him land – he started eating again!! Of course, I couldn’t feel him, but there was no mistaking the napkin and fork. We returned for a pleasant 30 minute decompression. Renee and Andrew had just finished their deco when we arrived. The little fish were still trying to eat them, thus leaving Mike and me alone. We did notice a huge mass of silt and low visibility during decompression. When we surfaced into the turbid basin, Andrew mentioned the French divers who had been in the system. Well, Andrew is British, so Mike and I thought he was making a joke – he and Renee really messed up the basin and were blaming it on the French. But no, there really HAD been a French team in between Renee and Andrew and Mike and me. I found a set of slates while on the Haas Line. Turns out these slates were lost by one of the divers in 2003 that contained some missing survey data!

Previous dive data set up Bob and Karl’s dive by revealing an inconsistency in the existing survey data. To determine the problem, they resurveyed the Low Silt Line from the Grand Canyon Line down to the jump to Cindy’s Passage, including laying temporary line to re-tie in Nan’s Bypass, the Hass Line and Cindy’s Passage. With these data, Andrew determined that the Cindy Passage tie in was placed almost 300 feet too far to the south. The correction reconciled conflicts in the survey data from Michael’s and Sandra’s dive yesterday.

We stopped to bid farewell to Don Raphael for another year. We thanked him for his gracious hospitality yet again. He enjoyed watching us playing with his puppies when we’d stop to say hello and give him a cold beverage. One of the puppies we named Wheel Chock because he seemed to like the challenge of playing Chicken with the van tires at times. Before we departed, our host gave Renee, Terrence and Karl each a wood carving. These carvings are hand crafted by a friend of his out of a single piece of precious wood. We were honored by his sentiments and graciousness. It was sad to bid farewell to our friend. We returned to Villas DeRosa for an awesome meal and a great time trying to communicate with Jaime, the waiter and a very friendly Mexican. He was most concerned that we would all leave without giving him a photograph of us all. So tomorrow, the students really will help us carry our tanks and gear on the jungle trail. Really! For real!

Thank you to Liberty Mountain and Ben Meadows who have contributed to this expedition by donating supplies and equipment. We really appreciate your generosity and support! Also, we greatly appreciate the donation of $1000.00 by the Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society. This money has been designated to help with the oxygen needs of the divers on this expedition. It is an honor to have Mike and Sandra Poucher on the team this year who are greatly involved with the CDS.

Team Members

  • Bethany Barton
  • John Boswell
  • Breanne Bryant
  • Doug Chapman
  • KO Donkor
  • Woody Dunkum
  • Taryn Eggleston
  • Inspector Gadget
  • Amy Giannotti
  • Bob Giguere
  • Jessica Langlois
  • Hope Morton
  • Mr. Shane Newcombe
  • Josh Owen
  • Andrew Pitkin
  • Renee Power
  • Michael Poucher
  • Sandra Poucher
  • Kara Robertson
  • Catesby Saunders
  • Karl Shreeves
  • Thecia Taylor
  • Ms. Stephanie Trovato
  • Terrence Tysall
  • Linda Wooddell
Send Questions or Comments to the Trilobite

Taryn’s mom checking in….Hope she’s behaving (she likes life on the wild side)!
Anxious to hear more about the kids’ activities.
Miss y’all!

Hey Mommy! It’s like… 7ish right now and I’m up with the divers with Katesby, Kara, and Bethany… we’re heading out early with them today to help them off this morning. It’s going to be a lot of work- but it’s so much fun. They’re making breakfast for us right now- bacon & eggs & toast. This has been so cool here lately… every morning we help them into the water then we do our own thing- cut down paths, go through underground caves, everything- its cool. Yesterday the divers van broke down so we couldn’t help them into the water… and we spent all day in an underground cave- I have some great pictures… But I.ll talk to you later- Breakfast is almost ready. I love you & I miss you all. Tell everyone I said hey & try to get my boyfriend to come with dad Saturday to Fuqua PLEASE! And if you talk to him tell him he can stay the night if he wants & come with me to church for EASTER hehee. I love youuuu and I’ll keep in touch- AND YES.. I’m behaving! You know me! Hahaa. XOXO! ~Taryn

Keep up the good work guys! It pains me that I was not able to make it down this year. If there is a chance, please have the kids resurvey the bat cave line in Aktun Chen. It was never given to me last year and is not on the map. It is likely the water source for the cave and important to add to the map. Also, more detail on the main passage would help as well. I am still trying to work enough detail into a hand drawn version of the map, but it is difficult with the data I left with.

Also, if they can do a basic run of the opening area outside of the system, it would be great and confirm the GPS numbers for the entrance. If you want to send me the data, I will add it to the compass program and fire it back. The Bat cave line survey can be ended at the three or four way junction that is there. I do not remember. I think it is a three way junction. It is the point where the line runs up to the other cenote. Or just get good tie in data.

I so wish I could be there right now.


Thanks Grant. We’ve got it all covered! We wish you could be here, too. Maybe next year!

Hey Josh,

I am proud of you getting the scholarship again to spend two weeks in FL in August. I know you are having a great experience down there. Tell everyone I said hello, especially Amy and Terrance. Hope all is going well and good luck with everything you do. Can’t wait to see you when you get back. I’m checking the site to see all the great stuff ya’ll are doing. Be careful!

Love you,

Hey Becky,
We all miss you and wish you were here too. I’m having so much fun working to take pictures and video of this trip and the things were are doing. I can’t wait to see you when I get back.

Love you,

Hello Fuqua people!! It looks like you’re all having lots of fun and
working hard. Wish I could be there…I’m sure it’s a little more
interesting than boring classes 🙂 A special hello to Boz, Woody, and of course Newcombe. I miss you guys!! And hi to Mrs. G and Josh! Have lots of fun and be careful. I’ll check out the website daily to see what y’all are up to.

Have fun!
Becca Tennant

Hey Rebecca,
Thanks for your note! We are having a blast, and we wish you were here! You don’t have to be a Fuquaite to come along, you know….we accept Mountaineers, too! Take care and miss you!
Mrs. G.

Dear Andrew
I hope you’re having a nice time diving.
Was that you that had the pizza tree rash?
They told a lot of jokes on you and the sharks party!
Why was that fish blind in the cave?

Love from Caleb and Nana

Hi Caleb & Mum,
I’m having a nice time, although it is tiring doing all this swimming. That was not me who had the pizza tree rash, it was a diver on a previous expedition called George McCulley. We wanted to show a picture of it but everybody this year has been too careful to avoid the pizza trees to get the rash.
All the jokes about sharks were written by Terrence, who is actually my friend, but you wouldn’t think so sometimes when you read stuff like that.

The fish in the cave are blind because they live their whole lives in the cave, where it is completely dark. It is so dark you cannot see anything at all. Nothing. It is darker than when you go under the bedclothes with your light turned out at night. Because it is impossible to see anything, the fish don’t need eyes, so they have evolved over millions of years to be blind. It’s a bit like humans not having tails like other animals. We have a remnant of a tail (called the coccyx) but it’s useless. We have lost it because we don’t need it. In the same way the cave fish have lost their eyes and become blind. Instead their other senses have become very sharp. They can sense movement in the water and they can smell food extremely well too. We’re not sure how they avoid swimming into the sides of the caves, but they do.


Dear divers,
Are the blind cave fish all bruised up from swimming into the sides of the caves.

No, they seem to avoid the cave walls OK. Unlike the divers (especially me), who seem to swim into the cave walls all the time.

I am following your updates and I’m with you in spirit! Solution tube hopping was one of my favorite challenges last year. Taryn, how’s the sunbathing? I think you’ll be catching some rays between the branches of the jungle flora. Mr. Newcombe, where are you? I need to see you in a picture to know you are really there. I will miss having those poolside meals with you. Get some panoramic pictures of Cenote Camilo for me. Say hello to the wonderful staff at Villa De Rosa. Amy, Terrence, and all the gang, I am hoping for you to find the connections you are looking for this year. Hi, Bob! Glad you are back. I know the view from your hammock is spectacular!

Love and Peace, Dora the Explora

Hey Dora,
We miss you bunches! We are having a great time, and the jungle is quiet without your giggling voice! We surveyed parts of the cave in Aktun Chen today, and we pointed out Lucille’s Landing to the students. It certainly is a special place, and I’m glad you named that spot in honor of your friend.
Take care and see you next year!!??


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