Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Trawler wreck off the beach in Bonaire

Looking for Remains at Cristolino and Finding 400ft of Cave

In the last two weeks I have dove at Cristalino twice; once with Etienne and once with Patrick. The dive with Etienne was a sublime traverse over to Cenote Azul. We didn’t surface there but we could see the light.  The cave from Cristolino to Azul is twisty and never tracks straight for a long distance.  You are always changing direction and orientation, plus it is pretty silty.   I know it was a challenge for Etienne and we both had fun.

Part of the dive plan was to go and check out one of the lines that is rumored to have human remains.  We found the line and started looking.  The line was in very bad shape; it was slack in the water and placed in some horrible places.  The cave is very tight for a backmounter and FULL of black soft silt.  We made it to the first T when I called the dive.  I didn’t really think it was the place for us.  However, it sowed a seed and I knew I had to return.

On Tuesday, Patrick and I wanted to do a relatively close dive and we both wanted to find the remains.  We headed to Cristalino.  The bad news is that we never found the remains.  However, we did find the end of the line on both branches of the T.  We also got out the exploration spool and reel and started to check leads.    Most of the leads were less then 200ft in length.   Patrick and I traded position as reel man, so we could both experience the join of being the first person in with clear visibility.

Finally, we found a good lead.  We ran off my whole exploration spool, about 250ft.  As luck would have it, the spool ran out in a Cenote.  Then I attached my medium exploration reel which has about 400ft of line on it and ran that down by 2/3rds.    The cave is small and full of black billowy silt.  When we got to the end of the run, I asked Patrick if I should tie it off and cut the line?  I didn’t get a reply, so I removed the line.   What a mistake!

You are now asking yourself, “Why did he remove the line?”  I will answer your query, “I am an idiot!”  That isn’t the only reason.  I knew that I had placed the line in a haphazard fashion and that it couldn’t be surveyed.  I had exploration fever.  I knew I would have to install the line again.  Patrick and I hadn’t planned on doing any exploration and didn’t agree on a protocol before the dive.

We discussed the our mistakes in the debrief and came to the following conclusions:

  • Removing the line in zero visibility was a violation of line protocol. (I didn’t know this.)  What if the lead guy came off the line? The reel man could pass him by and not know it.
  • Removing the line means we have to install it all over, creating more work and more risk.
  • Removing the line means we have to find all the leads again.
  • I suffered from perceptual narrowing as the reel man.  When we arrived at the end of my spool in the Cenote, I didn’t even realize I was in the day light zone.  I was so focused on finding a tie off that I never looked up.  Patrick pointed it out to me.  We agreed that knowing the Cenote was there could save my life one day.

Patrick and I agreed we would leave the line in place going forward, unless it is a very short lead.  If the line needs to be fixed we will do so during the survey phase.  It is safer in those conditions to cut the line off and exit.  I talked to Steve about the dive and he reminded me that when I get to a tie off or the end of a line I should stop, check my gauges, and look around.

It was a fabulous dive!  Patrick and I were super stoked to do some exploration and we plan to go back and finish that project, maybe sometime in November.


1 Etienne { 10.03.08 at 5:26 pm }

!!!! I got my name on your blog!!! impressive.

It was in fact lot of fun, and that cave is really amazing. I hope to dive there agains very soon.

Good post as always.

2 Hans { 10.03.08 at 7:48 pm }

Etienne, both dives I have made with you have been great fun. I am glad you joined our little group of divers. I have to admit you missed an excellent dive today at Xunaan Ha. That place is awesome. It is super low key and super beautiful. See you soon.


3 John K { 11.09.08 at 6:40 am }


Just got back from the Thailand trip. Glad to see you have been busy having fun and futher learning. Maybe I should have come to Mexico for two months instead of Thailand.