Cave Diving, Cave Exploration and Cave Mapping in Yucatan, Mexico
Casa Cenote near Tulum Mexico

The Quest for the Blue Abyss. Part 1.

Allie gearing up at Nohoch Na ChichToday, Allie and I set out to find the Blue Abyss in Sistema Nohoch Na Chich. This was a recon dive to setup future deep CCR dives in the Blue Abyss. The Blue Abyss is a 235ft (77 meter) deep room. The entrance to the room is supposed to be at 20ft and the room drops off on a slope to its max depth. It is supposed to be very beautiful and a challenge to dive. For us it turned out to be a challenge to find.

Nohoch Na Chich Cenote Pet CemeteryWe had some general directions to enter at Pet Cemetery. With those we went by Protec to speak to Nando and look at the map. We decided to change our entry point to Cenote I-Hop, it looked closer to the Blue Abyss. I took the stick map down that covered I-Hop to Blue Abyss. I neglected to take any compass headings or draw the other potential entrances. I have now learned a very good lesson; I need to be prepared for the unexpected by mapping more extensively. Since none of us knew how to find Cenote I-Hop, we decided to drive down to Dos Ojos and do a little discovery on arrival.

The trip to Dos Ojos was uneventful, except that just after Taj Mahal Allie asked me, “Do we need tanks?” Opps! I had driven past the fill station. The truck was full of rebreather tanks and 40cuft bailout tanks. Not a set of doubles in sight. Two quick u-turns later and we were at the fill station exchanging the rebreather tanks for AL80’s and doubles. I would have driven all the way to Dos Ojos without tanks. I was on planet Mars thinking about the pending dive and enjoying conversation with Allie.

When we arrived at Dos Ojos, with tanks, we talked to someone at Ruben’s dive shop at the entrance. He was a little surprised when I asked about entering at I-Hop. He hadn’t heard of it and they didn’t have a Nahoch map. He did know about Cenote Dirty Dog and was very sure that is where we should enter. So he drew us a stick map that included directions to walk a 1000 meters through the jungle on a small path and turn left. I thought that was a little extreme, but I was willing to at least give them a try. We went to pay our entrance fee and tell them where we were going, and they too were very concerned. We had to show our cave cards, they asked us if we had doubles, and some other questions. After a little discussion and confused looks all around, I showed our cards and assured them everything was going to be okay. They granted us passage.

We followed the directions and ended up at a beautiful little Pallapa in the jungle. It is the middle of no where. There were a bunch of ATVs from a tour. We asked the people working, in Spanish, where Cenote Dirty Dog was and we got confused looks. When I looked around I recognized a face, it was Dennis from Aquanauts. We asked him for some directions and he seemed a little confused also. He finally told us to enter the Cenote down the path. He said it was the easiest way to get to the Blue Abyss from this area. I think he told us it was Pet Cemetery, but at this point I was thoroughly confused.

I wasn’t sure of the name of the Cenote we were going to enter. All I knew was there was water, it was Sistema Nohoch Na Chich, and there was a continuous guideline going somewhere. We didn’t know where we were compared to my stick map or what direction we should head. And I don’t have a map of Nohoch so I couldn’t reference us again. Allie and I decided to take a crack at it. We kitted up and walked down some vertical steps into a nice little Cenote they are dredging out. We got on the guideline and entered the cave. The dive was very beautiful. The passages were very large and there was substantial percolation. After a T and then 10 or 15 minutes the guideline terminated. I tied in my cavern reel in and went looking for another line. After about 15 minutes of searching I found it. It looked like the mainline; it was a thick white line. Staying with the rule of right, we turned right. After 10 minutes, we surfaced in a Cenote. The Cenote was dry/wet cave for another 100 feet after the guideline came out of the water. Allie and I inspected the cave and then decided to turn the dive. By this time 50 minutes has elapsed. The swim back to starting Cenote took us 10 minutes. It is amazing how much longer exploring takes then returning. We surfaced and decided to recalculate thirds and go the other direction on the guideline. This mini dive was about 10 minutes before we ended up in another Cenote.

Dos Ojos Cenote The PitOn the way home, I had to stop and check the paths by foot. In my searching I found the Pit. Wow, that is a gnarly entrance and exit. The recon of The Pit will have to wait for a small team. I am still not sure how to get out of the water.

Luckily, I took very detailed notes of the dive including headings and all the jumps and T’s we encountered. When we got back to the Protec, we looked at the map and determined we entered at Pet Cemetery and traversed to I-Hop during the first dive. The second dive was just a traverse between the two entrances to Pet Cemetery. Overall, we had a great time! For all intensive purposes, we were exploring. There may have been guideline in the cave, but it was all new to use. We had to work with the land managers and other parties to piece together a story. Then we had to use that story to try and find our objective. Fortunately, we didn’t find it today. Instead we found two cenotes, bones and beautiful damage free cave.

I think I might go back tomorrow to try and get down to Blue Abyss. I have better idea of where I am going. Wish me luck.

2 comments

1 Patrick { 04.23.08 at 7:52 am }

YOU ARE SOOOO HOT RIGHT NOW, HANSEL…

Very nice report, and knowing you, I could picture it very well all the way and here I it now in cold austria with a smile on my face…

1) I told you from THE BEGINNING you hould enter in Pet Cemetery or didn’t I…???
2) The picture you posted is not the PIT or it is a VERY weird angle…
3) Cool to hear/read that you keep notes and headings and therefore understand closer your actual position and path during and after the dive…and yes it takes a lot of time at the beginning (50′ in 10′ out) but it adds conservatism plus contributes to a safe, progressive penetration.
4) When you do stuff solo there, think about a broken ankle…I’m not concerned about the water part but to get in and out might proof difficult and especially after a long dive when your concentration level is low and your legs are powerless, to carry heavy equipment through jungle terrain might be quite challenging. Then just slipping might leave you in a VERY bad situation…

In any case, I enjoyed your story, wish I would have been there…

Enjoy and be safe,
Patrick the ACE

2 Hans { 04.23.08 at 9:49 am }

You did tell me to go in at Pet Cemetery. I changed the entry based on the map and other’s ideas. I was wrong. From now on, I will do better.

I am pretty sure that was the pit. It fits the description you gave me for entry and exit. 10 foot giant stride and a nasty climb to get out. To be honest, it looked ugly and I was in flip flops. There was a pully system to lift the tanks from the water though.

I will not be going there with out a team. I can’t imagine how I would handle the logistics on my own. I will be patient. The entry to the Blue Abyss is much more reasonable.

Ahhh….. and Pet Cemetery is a beautiful cenote with a set of steps and a nice beach sand path. Well, the steps are near verticle, but very manageable when carrying single 80’s. Car is about a 3-4 minute walk through the jungle.