Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
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Category — Cristal

7200 Feet at Naharon

Saturday morning I got up and went to breakfast with a close friend. I still wasn’t sure where I was going to dive. After breakfast I went to The Gym for a run and an ab workout. While I was at the gym it came to me, a eureka moment! I decided I should go to Naharon with my Megalodon and do a CCR length dive.

I went home and pulled together my bailout and my rebreather and jumped in the car. I discovered it is almost exactly 40 miles from my apartment to the entrance of Cenote Cristal. The drive down was uneventful although a little lonely. That is the biggest drawback and the biggest upside of solo diving. The whole thing is solo. I always think of diving as a social activity. Talking about the dive, anticipating the dive, executing the dive and then taking about how big and scary the conquest was all make good memories. Unfortunately, talking to yourself about all those things might get you committed and is just not that entertaining.

I decided on an AL80 and an AL40 for bailout. I have the 80 plumbed into my manifold, so I can use it as diluent or for my BOV. 120cuft of gas gave me a max penetration time of about 50 minutes at the depths I was expecting. This was enough time to cover the distance and areas I wanted. I started the dive by going up the main line and taking the second jump into the Halocline Room. I counted two arrows after the jump, one to the left and one to the right. I guessed the jump to the right might be the end of the main line. I turned the dive in Chac’s Room. On the map it is marked at 1700’. The clock was about at the 45 minute mark and I was starting to feel a little distance pressure. The little man starts to talk to me, when I think about how far I might have to swim on bailout and as far as I know, there are no emergency exits. The Halo-Line is an excellent swim. The first three times I had been to Naharon, I really didn’t see anything. I was focused on the dive and staying a live. This dive was different, my field view really opened up and I saw so much more. One of the striking features of Naharon are the tiny silk covered stalactites. They are really amazing, and with the CCR I took plenty of time to wonder at them.

I returned to the main line and made a left swimming deeper into the cave. I made it to the end of the Main Line in about 15 minutes. It terminated near Chac’s Room as I had guessed earlier. The Main Line is a bummer compared to the Halo Line. The Main Line is a shortcut to Chac’s Room, I would use it as a transit route in the future to cut about 10 minutes off the swim. I turned the dive and headed back to the first jump off the main line.

When I reached the first jump, I was nearly two hours into the dive. I decided to make the jump and swim 20 minutes or so. I counted 4 arrows on the swim and after the 4th arrow the cave takes a hard left and then a right and then you go up onto a boulder / breakdown. On top of that boulder is a gorgeous garden of formations. I was clearly in a part of the cave which doesn’t get a lot of traffic. Even with no bubbles, I was getting a reasonable amount of percolation just from my pressure wave. I relaxed and enjoyed the view for a while and gave my poor calves a break. Then I headed for home.

Overall it was a very meditative dive. My recent tweaks have really paid off. Carrying two BO bottles is superior in a lot of ways to carrying one. More gas rocks and two bottles are so much more balanced then one. My neutral position is not pulled to one side or the other. And de-inverting the tanks really helped my trim.

There are still some problems with my rig:

  • It is too heavy. With two BO bottles, I have to really inflate my wing and it is pressing on my back. This is uncomfortable and inefficient. It wastes a lot of diluent and makes the volume changes that much greater.
  • The door handles on the Armadillo Butt Plate suck! They are all wrong for AL tanks. And they make reaching the butt ring very difficult. And they just don’t seem to be in the right place. Donning and doffing tanks can be difficult with them.
  • My Dive Rite Two Zipper pocket that is belt mounted is also in the wrong place. It is very difficult to get my wet notes out with the BO on.

Here are my proposed solutions:

  • I am going to remove the single tank adapter and strap the tank to the back plate with the hose clamps. That should lower my profile and remove a pound or two of weight.
  • I am going to remove the door handles and attach two d-rings to the butt plate. Like the original Nomad butt plate. This should fix the position of the tanks and make it easier to reach the goods on the butt ring.
  • I may trim some AL off the back plate. However, this is not going to happen immediately.
  • I am going to get a new bellows pocket mounted on my left thigh for wet notes and other spare crap. I want to ditch the Two Zip. Or I will start to hang it from my butt ring, like I do when I am side mounting.

I feel like I have seen some of Naharon. Total run time was 2 hours and 40 minutes. There is at least one circuit I would like to do and a bunch new passage to be inspected. I figure I will need another 10 trips there to feel satisfied.

Dive: 396

April 21, 2008   4 Comments

The Monster, Cuzan Ha, The Halocline Room and more: Dives 386 – 394

On Friday morning our friend Paul flew into town to do some cave diving! It was his first trip after finishing full cave with Protech in November. We planned to do 2 dives a day Friday through Monday. However, the airlines had other plans and his flight was late on Friday, so we were limited to a warm up dive on Friday. First thing we did was to go over to Chac Mool and do a quick gear review. Paul had just gotten a beautiful new Halcyon harness and donut wing. We revised his hose routing a little and tweaked some other minor things. Those minor improvements really made a difference.

The crew was Allie, Paul and myself. Paul and Allie were in backmount and I was in side mount. We got in the water, did our S drill and dropped down. The dive was called immediately on account of Allie not being able to equalize. Unfortunately, she had been suffering a minor cold. There were tears all around and then Paul and I elected to continue the dive. We did a quick S drill and started the dive. Paul did a nice job of running the reel. We made the 30 minute swim down to The Monster. The Monster is the world’s largest underwater stalagetite. It measures 45feet tall and it hangs into a pit that is 90feet deep. It is really stunning the first time you see it. I always want to swim over to it and put my arms around it. We chose to dive Chac Mool becuase it is a realatively easy dive and there is only one T to contend with and that leads to a air doom that is breathable. Most of this dive is pretty ho hum, as you get to The Monster the rooms become more decorated and enjoyable. The return trip was uneventful. When we got back to Playa we decided to go to one of our favorite restaurants, La Cueva Del Chango.

Saturday brought fabulous weather and we headed down to Tulum for some diving. Allie wanted to give her head another day to clear, so Paul and I were on our own. We decided to go to Grand Cenote and do two dives. The first dive was down to the Cuzan Ha Loop. We elected to make this dive a little more complex, so we took the short cut jumping to the left on the first arrow. At the end of the line we jumped back onto the main line and turned left. We gapped at Cenote Ho Tul. The dive was going fantastic. We were making good time and I could tell Paul was in complete sensory overload. When we got to to the jump for the circuit a little miscommunication/confusion occurred. I went to set the spool to close the loop and Paul followed me. When I realized he was behind me, I sent him back and then finished up. We I returned to the main line, we continued the dive. We made it about 3/4 of the way around the circuit and had to turn on thirds. As we exited we cleaned up our gear and took our time. This is a beautiful dive and it is fun. The restriction after Cenote Ho Tul is good fun and I particularly enjoy it.

The second dive was towards Lithium Sunset. Last time I tried to find the jump off the mainline, I just couldn’t figure out where it was. I guess I wasn’t persistent enough. The picture I had in my mind’s eye was short jump, the reality was it is about 50 feet or so. Maybe less if you make it a straight shot. So we made the jump, went to the second arrow and made the short jump to the left. This is another beautiful dive although it is a little less challenging. If there is a no brainer, this is one of them. Just set the cruise control and enjoy the scenery. Some dives are just easier/less engaging then others. Paul was over joyed at the end of the dive. I was super relaxed and really enjoyed the dive. Grand Cenote is really a wonderful place to dive. The cave is bright white almost blue-ish and is highly decorated.

Sunday Allie decided to join us. We planned to go down past Tulum to Cenote Cristal aka Naharon. I wanted to give Paul the experience of the caves north of Tulum, in Tulum and south of Tulum. My experience is that they offer very distinct dives. And let me tell you, Naharon is no slouch! Naharon is feed by swampy lands to the north and west. Therefore the water in the system is tanic and stains everything. Naharon is about the darkest place I have ever dived and Allie and I find it to be a very psychologically challenging. It literally eats HID light. The darkness makes it very tight and unforgiving. This challenge makes the dive some much more rewarding! Once your field of view starts to open up, you discover the the black silk floors and the black stained formations are amazing. It is really like diving into the belly of a beast. On the main line there is a portal in the rock that looks like the jaws of a shark. As I pass through the formation, I imagine being swallowed by the beast. I guess the Halocline room is the belly.

Naharon is a little deeper then most of the other caves we dive. We plan for a depth of about 70feet and to stay out of deco we use 32% EAN. The plan was to head up to the Halocline Room; which is about a 25 minute swim up the main line. The most striking feature of the Halocline Room is the demarcation on the walls between the fresh water and salter water. The wall below the saltwater is perfectly white. The wall above is tanic stained black. My understanding is that the saltwater eats the black stain. It is really stunning and a worthwhile dive. I really want to get down to Naharon with my CCR or a couple of stages. I can only imagine what treasures hide in the inky blackness.

Dive over, it was time for food! We headed into Tulum for some Chicken! I love the chicken in Tulum. Our favorite place to eat is Pollo Bronco. It is an orange building on a corner on the north bound side of the road. Chicken can be had in the following sizes: quarter, half and whole. There are not really any other options. I think you can get pasta instead of rice. But, I never do.

Lunch over, it was time for diving. We drove over to Car Wash for a little dive. Car Wash is a cenote where the taxi drivers used to wash their cars. The land owner has really made some improvements to this site since that time. There are rest rooms, changing rooms and tables to setup on. They have built a reception area at the Luke’s Hope cenote. It is really nice.

This time of year there is a cloudy layer for the first 10 feet in the cenote then visibility opens up. It is really awesome to drop down through the cloud into clear water and to watch a friend do the same. The visibility reminds me of wreck diving in NJ.

This time it was Paul’s job to run the primary. We setup our primary tie in on a tree a couple of feet from another team’s, then we proceeded in. What we found was an unbelievable spider web of line. The team ahead of us had literally criss crossed the cave at different depths at least three times. Paul was confused and I was livid! Message to all you Muppets out there, “CAVE DOESN’T BELONG TO YOU!” There are other teams in the world, have some common decency. We spent an unreasonable amount of time negotiating the other team’s line. In the end we had two choices: call the dive or install our gear woven through theirs. We choose to install our gear. I helped Paul to take the most respectful path possible. Then we hit another snag, Paul’s primary reel was too short. I loaned him a spare Spool and we gapped to the main line. The lesson here is; confirm how much line you have on your primary reel. Don’t take the manufactures word for it. Unfortunately, the cavern debacle cut our penetration short. I think we made it 15 minutes past Luke’s Hope and Paul turned us on thirds.

When we got back to open water, we recalculated thirds and went for a little exploratory dive down stream. Again we ran into the other team. Again they had taken the entire cave to themselves with their handy reel work. What a headache. Please learn to use your reel!

Monday was going to be a short day for Paul and I. Since he hadn’t been to Minotauro, we went over and did the circuit in two dives. I blundered in my briefing, but nothing severe enough to call the dive. I actually realized it as soon as we submerged on the first dive. We setup the circiut and returned. The second dive we completed the circuit. The only thing notable was that I did the in about 1000PSI. I guess all this working out and concentrating on finning technique is paying off.

Paul’s trip was fantastic and we had a great time. Hopefully he will come back soon and we can do some more diving. There are just too many beautiful places to see!

April 17, 2008   4 Comments