First Big Push

Bob sports his Dive Rite Transpac, wing, and pouch

Cenote Camilo cavern

Stalactites in downstream Camilo

A bone noted along dive


Andy and Rhiannon in Carri’s Loft

Off and running the team headed out to the jungle at 8am. At the entrance of one of the smaller roads we travel is a large gate. Yesterday when leaving the road we found it to be locked. Via creative means we were able to get around the situation and return to Villas DeRosa’s that same afternoon. So we stopped by to speak to the “gate keeper” to introduce ourselves and secure access to the site. With the help of bilingual Roger, one of our muchachos, we were able to communicate effectively with Carlos, the landowner. This gentleman owns what turns out to be a chicken processing business (it’s really the place where chickens come to meet their maker). During our visit with him some of us were slightly distracted by feathers and chicken legs. We got quite the visual education on the initial stages of Chicken Cordon Bleu. I’ll have the pasta please. We Shook hands with our new found friend Carlos. Landowner relations are critical both in the United States and abroad. It’s difficult to obtain these from afar, but when opportunities have a funny way of presenting themselves. We have driven down this road for years with never a locked gate. Today we made great strides in ensuring our continued access.

After sunning ourselves on the side of the camino (Spanish for a small street) in front of the chicken factory (i.e. a thatched patio where two men strung ’em up, cut ’em up, boiled ’em and tossed ’em into the de-feathering machine) and playing with the owner’s two guard dogs, we were happily on our way to relocating tanks and gear to Carri’s Loft. Another gorgeous day in paradise – a breeze and cloud cover kept the temperature bearable and the multitude of colorful butterflies were a nice distraction. Mike and Sandy headed back into the nether regions at the end of the Tres Amigos, this time carrying three stages in addition to our two sidemounted tanks. Gearing up in the narrow confines of Carri’s Loft can be a challenge, but we were quickly on our way. We dropped our first stage at thirds in the Loft and the second stage also at thirds on the old new line. We hit the end of the line and Mike took the reel and headed off, Sandy directing via the compass and making line placements. The passage turned into small bedding plane type passage, decorated with remnant rim pools and columns. We dropped our third stage and meandered through the bedding plane, finding rooms and ultimately a fissure that unfortunately headed south right back to the passage Andy and Renee discovered last year. The line was tied off in a 20′ x 20′ circular room where the light gray limestone resembled lattice that was strikingly different from the dark wide low passages in the area. On the return, Mike collected distance and sidewall information while Sandy collected azimuths and depths. While surveying, Sandy noticed a wonderfully blue passage to our right. Unfortunately she and Mike also shortly became aware of two divers’ light beams (we are assuming this was Andy and Rhiannon, although they insist they didn’t see us signaling them). We continued to follow our line out. Mike decided to check a side passage with flow to our left just as his light died. He waited a bit to see if the lamp would refire, but it sputtered and died completely. Mike switched to a handy Dive Rite back-up light and we continued our exit (such fun when picking up stage tanks). The cave was stunning as always. We noticed two blind cave fish, one right in the cavern as we entered and one large on the now old new line. Amphipods were abundant throughout the system and we discovered a happy little isopod (well, at about one inch it’s a big isopod) crawling on a large breakdown boulder just before the cavern on the way back. Decompression was approximately 20 minutes (padded for fun) breathing pure oxygen, making our total dive time 189 minutes.

Bob and Renee headed back downstream to re-survey a portion of the Low Silt Line back to Cenote Camilo. We took a few photos along the way but didn’t see much life. After retuning to the cenote we recalculated thirds, took a new tank and went to investigate a passage in the same area. In cave diving, gas management is often based on the rule of thirds. The cylinders we are using are aluminum 80’s filled to 3000psi. In the rule of thirds 1/3 is used for the way in, 1/3 for the way out and 1/3 for emergencies. So if a diver is carrying 2 tanks he would breathe each tank down to 2000 psi then signal to his buddy to turn the dive. Whichever diver hits thirds first turns the dive based on this rule. Once back to Cenote Camilo we spent some time taking photos and exploring the cavern. Twenty five minutes was spent on the surface off gassing before exiting the water and beginning the hike out. The nitrogen in the air we breathe has to be breathed back out. Any nitrogen left in the bloodstream must be treated gently so as not to agitate them. If we were to exercise immediately after a dive, we could develop decompression sickness or the bends.

Andy and Rhiannon continued where they left off yesterday and went to investigate the end of the line laid last year when Andy dove with Renee. This had seemed to end in a room full of breakdown (big blocks of limestone) and it was unclear which was the way through at that time. Rhiannon stayed at the end of the line to act as a reference light for Andy, freeing him up to make short investigative swims in various directions in order to determine the correct route ahead. This took only a few minutes and they continued in a north-northwest direction around the breakdown and through some stalagmites. Although they did not see Mike and Sandy signaling, it is likely that both groups were fairly close to each other at this time. Andy and Rhiannon laid approximately 300ft of new line and turned around in open water – thus setting up the next day’s exploration. The depth and direction of the cave and the degree of flow is all consistent with main passage and the line will hopefully be continued tomorrow – watch this space!

Kris ran between the two cenotes to gather times and pressures for the expedition dive logs. Once everyone was in I had lunch with the muchachos and after taking a swim break it was back once again to running between the two cenotes as the divers came up so I could gather times and pressures. Having prepped the tanks for Tuesday we had our nightly debriefing after which, Karl explained decompression models to me which was very interesting but at the very same moment confusing! Thanks to him using layman’s terms (that helped out a great deal) I at the least feel like I have a basic idea of what a “decompression model” is. Sandy & Rhiannon trained me on making survey line & then it was off to bed!

Thecia and Karl spent the day reading, playing Su Doku and watching for pirates.

Thank you to Dive Rite who is a sponsor again for the Akumal expedition. Dive Rite donated line, arrows, cookies, slates and underwater notebooks. Explore to learn more about this fabulous sponsor.

Team Members:

Bob Giguere
Andrew Pitkin
Michael Poucher
Sandra Poucher
Renee Power
Rhiannon Raggatt
Kris Shannon
Karl Shreeves
Thecia Taylor
The Muchachos

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