Exploration of Cenote Crustacea

©Marike Jasper

This story will be part of a book that I am writing on the moment about my cavediving adventures, while living here in Quintana Roo Mexico. This is the uncorrected version of my story and because English is not my main language, this text contains many errors..... Any comments and suggestions are very welcome, thank you for your interest!

5 january 2001

My buddy and me planned a long exploration dive for friday the 5th of january, two days before, I helped him with one of his survey projects and suggested the idea of exploring and surveying in my project and he was interested ! I showed the map that I had of the so far laid lines and we discussed the best way to do a dive. My friend just got another scooter, since I don't have one and wasn't able to borrow one, we decided he would tow me. We decided to use double 80's with air, two stages with Nitrox, whatever we could find ( I found two 34%) and OX for deco. A dive which we estimated would take us about 3 hours dive time and an hour deco........

The dive plan
Starting at Crustacea swimming up all the way to Jigsaw, check out the tunnel on the left that I saw last time, and survey the complete mainline on the way out. Remove the jump to the Remipedia city line and make it a T. Placing arrows with dates and names of explorers and lines.

The day
My friend passed by my house to pick me up and we loaded all the gear, passed by the owner of the property, who lend us Luis, one of the boys of his staff to help us and watch the car while we where in the water.

At the cenote, the water looked different than the last time I saw it in September. The green algae layer was gone and the water was now kind of brownish. The level was also kind of low it seemed. Some cenotes here in Quintana Roo have an algae layer in the summer that dissapears in the winter and the water becomes totally clear. Best time to dive these cenotes is wintertime. For now it seems that cenote Crustacea doesn't have a single day of clear water in 12 months....too bad !

I tied the ladder to the trees and we set up all the gear, the board with my specially made stageloops was still there and I hung the stages on them. Ox and scooter went down on extra ropes.

Cenote Crustacea In the water we wanted to dump the Oxygen bottles first, so I would go in and my friend would follow me. The mainline is tied at 8 feet on a branch that sticks out right below the spot where the ladder is tied in......I went down and saw.....nothing......inspite of the fact that the algae layer was gone, the tannic acid and hydrogen sulfide now started right at the surface, the visibility was worse than ever, 3 inch maybe ! Since I didn't see the line I thought somebody had pulled it out and that it dissapeared, so I just swam in, I knew it had to be down there.........since the water was really shitty I guessed my friend returned to surface ( which he did) while I was going down, then I hit my head against the ledge, I went of a littlebit to far to the left, but ofcourse I thought the cave collapsed ! At 20 feet still no viz, this time it was really bad, on other dives the viz returned at 15 feet........, I was still going down around the rock and in the unknown, finally at 35 feet there was clear water again, I saw the mainline at my right at the second T of the Tea line...... So I followed the line back up, put the Oxygen tank on a rock and tied the reel to the beginning of the line, which was still there ofcourse, and surfaced, my friend was waiting for me. He was bitching at the water and said that once he had to recover somebody who lost it in a place just like this !

Now the line was there and we both went down and put in the OX tank, coming back up, he mentioned the fact that the deco would be bad in the H2S.....not something to look forward to !

So we discussed our plan again in the water, clipped on the stages and checked eachother out for bubbles and gear, and of we went !

The scooter had a hard time pulling us both, but it was fun holding on to somebody else's tanks, and at the same time having all the time in the world to look around. I was very happy to see all the Remipedia again, they where back, in one spot on approximately a square meter I saw about 30 of them crawling around. Another spectaculair thing was the shrimp. When we passed the ceiling there was a heavy percolation........of shrimp ! Many of them carrying eggs. Swimming in the clear water and then looking behind....the cave silted out with shrimp !!! This cave is a miracle !

We dumped the first stages and the scooter at the big crossing section and swam further towards cenote Jigsaw. Then we came to the tunnel on the left that I spotted the last time I was there, so many months I dreamed about checking that one out ! I tied the line and there we went....., it went in the right way, NW, but then turned towards Jigsaw...... So we ended up with a loop connected at the mainline, my friend asked me what I wanted to do, cut it, or reeling it in, since the line wasn't really short, I decided to leave it and I tied it in with an arrow. While laying the line I switched on the air in my doubles and didn't dump the stage. My friend surveyed the new line back to the mainline, I dumped my second stage there,ah its so nice to swim with only tanks on your back ! We continued to Jigsaw, there we placed another arrow and we turned the dive. My friend started the survey, while I was swimming ahead of him, looking around and watching him survey.

remipedia Back at the scooter and tanks we clipped everything back on, I took the scooter and let my friend go in front of me, still surveying. That gave me time to remove the jump from Remipedia city and turn it into a T, we are going to survey this line too and since the jump was quite big this would be more accurate for measuring the distance.

Then he gave me the slate, he said he wanted to go to have a look around ! And said I had to figure it out myself ! OK, no problemo ! I handed him the scooter and of he went scootering around.

Being raised with metric and having a serious problem with counting, its still very hard for me to count in feet ! I had to swim back to the station about two times because I lost it ! Then I understood why he gave the slate to me.......... ! The tanks where getting empty....then we had to pick up the OX tank, and mine was also quite low on pressure, so here I was counting knots and writing my data down, with two floating tanks with a will of their own on my left side, a complete buoyant steel 72 on my right side, going up, no viz and stopping for deco, and switching gas......what a hassle !

This is NOT Crustacea! My friend already found himself a spot on a ledge, and I hung on his manifold for a while, then I remembered my special deco tree on 11 feet so I went up there, still counting my line, in less and less viz ! I guestimated the last meters, excuse me, feet ! My computer gave me 54 minutes deco which I could chop in half while breathing the OX if I wanted too. I kept my computers on air instead of Nitrox. Busy with my notes, floating tanks and afraid of loosing my slate, I suddenly saw I had 20 minutes of deco left and decided to do all my deco anyway. Whats 20 minutes in a lifetime ?! Back at the surface my friend was there already waiting for me for a while.

My total underwater time was 242 minutes, interesting that the computer jumped to zero after 199 minutes........don't these computer people know there's cavedivers who dive a littlebit longer? Maximum depth 60 feet, 18 meters.

The animals
The Remipedia are back, they are with many and they are big ! The shrimp are uncountable....And the biggest surprice was a Lucifuga, blindfish, with a big belly, so I hope we will see the baby's soon !

We had a ball, mission accomplished, tired and happy we climbed out, packed and went home....

Next day I went up to my friend's house and he had put all the data in, and printed out the map, he declared this cave a 'powercave' and remembered him of some Florida caves. The data looked great and the line just as it was, with the new loop added. My friend explained me how he thought the big picture of this system could look like and where we possibly could find some new leads.

Hopefully we are going back soon to finish the job which will ofcourse never finish.......cave diving is a never ending story.....what a great obsession !

Two days later we went back again with the same amount of air, at the Crossing section we laid another line and I found another floor in the system, now we have two levels of cave to explore, one on 60 feet and one on 35 feet, its getting crazier all the time ! Beautiful fossiles of Conch shells, but also trash pushed in by the saltwater from the ocean......lets go back soon !

İMarike Jasper
Cave diver in Quintana Roo, Mexico