Cambrian Foundation Akumal Cave Project 2004

Introduction

Links: Check out photos from the expedition here! | Read more on the expedition

The Cambrian Foundation is conducting the 2004 Akumal Cave Project.  In 2000, team members rediscovered Sistema Camilo after three days of blazing trail with machetes through the jungle in the heart of cave country in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.  The system was named after Don Camilo who helped the team in finding the first cenote (karst window).  The system is located near one of the oldest exploration sites in the region, Cenote Car Wash.  Initial exploration showed that the system had real potential.  The Cambrian Foundation has been working the system ever since. 

The previous projects have amassed over 20,000 feet/6,500 meters of surveyed submerged passage.  Five new cenotes have been discovered.  The system appears to be a blending of two distinct types of cave.  In some regions the limestone is very dark and tinted by bacteria.  While other areas are almost pure white.  Water flow seems to be complicated.  The cause of this is yet to be discovered. 

The foundation has multiple goals for this project.

Exploration:  The system is still actively producing new leads.  The effort will continue to map the system to aid in the study of the hydrology of the region.  All passage is mapped using Knotted Line Survey, KLS techniques.  The divers generally lay the line while exploring into the new area of the cave and survey the work on the return trip home.  This data is entered into the computer to allow for it to be plotted for further study.  This serves as a valuable tool for the study of trends in the cave and to help build on the work that has been previously done.  Maps will be produced and local landowners have been supportive of the effort.

Water Sampling and Hydrology:  The YucatanPeninsula is composed of almost entirely limestone.  This soft stone is very porous.  In the entire region there is not one surface stream or river.  Considering that annual rainfall is high, this should seem unusual.  However, once you realize that limestone acts like a big sponge and all the rain that falls on the surface quickly passed into the rock substrate, you understand why all the water flows underground.  This has created one of the worlds largest submerged karst (cave) regions on the planet.  Because anything the happens on the surface eventually finds its way underground, the study and expansion of knowledge about the quality and health of the aquifer is critical.  The Riviera Maya (Yucatan) is under intense development pressure. To insure a sustainable resource of fresh drinking water for the area a better understanding of the resource is needed.  

Biology:  Documentation and collection of unique cave adapted animals will be conducted as needed.  The cave environment provides a very unique habitat for the animals that live there.  They become adapted to life without light.  It is not uncommon to see blind cavefish, crayfish, and other invertebrates that lost the ability to see.  They also have no pigment because of the lack of light, so the appear ghostly white.

Education:  Students from the FuquaSchool in Farmville, Virginia , USA will be joining the team for the second week of the expedition.  These high school students will have the opportunity of a lifetime to participate in an actual ongoing expedition.  The students will be surveying a never before mapped dry cave (well, sort of dry) and then actually producing a map of the site for publication and the landowners.  They will also be conducting water sampling at various cenotes throughout the Akumal and Tulum region.  This sampling will included such parameters as pH, alkalinity, total dissolved solids, dissolved oxygen and Fecal Coliform counts.  They will be participating in the expedition by conducting land survey, assisting with diving logistics, cutting trail, blending and analysis of diving gasses, and land survey simulation of the cave environment.  For some of these students, it will be their third year participating with the Cambrian Foundation on various projects.  Returning participants have already assisted with shipwreck preservation and archaeology on the Commodore Project for the previous two years.  

Research:  Diver’s Alert Network Project Dive Exploration is conducting and logging all the dives on the project.  Their goal is to collect 1,000,000 real world dives.

For detailed daily updates checkout www.cambrianfoundation.org

Links: Check out photos from the expedition here! | Read more on the expedition