Last month we traveled to Mexico with some students and fellow UTD instructors for some cave training and cave diving in Mexico. We've been traveling down to Tulum for several years now, and I don't believe we will ever get enough of the cave diving there. Tulum is about an hour and a half south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula, and there are caves EVERYWHERE! There is something exhilarating about entering these systems that were formed thousands of years ago, and that few people can ever see. It's so serene and so beautiful. There is also something appealing about the technical aspects and the precision needed for cave diving - so that we can have fun and be safe while we're exploring these underwater systems.

In the Yucatan Peninsula, we enter the caves through "cenotes" (pronounced si-NO-tay). A cenote (a sinkhole) is formed when the limestone collapses, exposing the underground water. Ancient Mayans often used cenotes as sacrificial sites to make offerings to the Mayan gods. Even today artifacts are still being discovered. The cool thing about these cenotes are that they are just the beginning. There are hundreds of miles of underwater cave in the Yucatan!

Here's a video that was put together following the February cave diving trip by fellow UTD instructor, Brian Wiederspan. Have a look and check out the incredible things that you can see in these awesome underwater cave systems!

Yucatan Underground 2015 (Part 1) from FKD (Frog Kick Diving) on Vimeo.

Highlights from our cave dives in U'Ku' Cuzam and Tortuga Cenotes in Tulum Mexico in February and March 2015.

Footage was taken using a Gopro Hero 4 with 2 UTD 50W Vision video lights and a UTD 35W Video head.


So how were these caves formed?
Millions of years ago the Yucatan was a much different place. The sea level was higher, so the jungles that we see today were actually a reef under several feet of water. This explains why we see coral fossils while we're walking to the cenotes in the middle of the jungle, far from the ocean. We have even come across coral fossils several thousand feet into some cave dives.

During the last ice age, the sea level dropped significantly and the reef was exposed. The coral died, and the jungle that we see today grew over the limestone platform that the coral reef had formed. So how did the CAVES get there? Well, over millions of years, this porous coral limestone substrate was slowly dissolved by slightly acidic rainfall. As the rainfall seeped through and dissolved the limestone, stalactites and stalagmites formed. Some of them joined together to form columns, some are thin like a pencil and some are massive, thick formations.

Roughly 10,000 years ago, after the last Ice Age, the water level rose again and these limestone caves filled with water. Now there are hundreds of miles of flooded underground caves in the Yucatan. Some of it is freshwater, some of it is seawater. Where the seawater that seeps in from the ocean meets the freshwater from inland in the jungle, the water forms a halocline and creates some pretty neat visual effects.
Every system is different in terms of the formations, and the challenges that they present to us to dive and navigate them. It's certainly not for everyone, but it's an incredible experience if you're up to the challenge!! Are you??
 


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