TODAY MANY TENS OF thousands of tourists flock to the spectacular show-cave every year. Surprisingly, however, there is a dearth of information, or imagery, on the underwater environment.
My role in the diving operations was very simple – to photograph and capture video footage of the first few hundred metres. Fortunately Tom Iliffe, released from his academic duties on this trip, was more than happy to partake in the imaging programme.
Amazingly, on the very first dive I caught sight of an extremely rare cave-dweller, a remipede, just a couple of centimetres long. Other than at this site the animal had previously been found only in a few locations in the Caribbean. Sighting it was one thing; taking an image with a wide-angle lens sadly proved impossible.
The size of the underwater tunnel in Jameos del Agua is dramatic, and added to the proportions is the fact that it quickly splits into an upper and lower tunnel, with three separate shafts linking the levels.
Cueva del Agua – Crab Lake.
Research under water has been limited – Atlantida Tunnel is very much the repository of untold science. Lying beneath the floor of the ocean, the lava-tube might be tidal but, being virtually sealed off from the sea above, the range is much reduced. The tides rise and fall by up to 3m in the ocean, but the levels at dive-base fluctuate by only 1m.
As has been observed throughout the length of the tunnel there is virtually no silt. This place quietly flooded at the end of the last glaciation, 10,000 or more years ago, and since then nothing has changed.
The cave-adapted life-forms are clearly worthy of far more attention.
To a diver normally operating in caves and mines, this project was fascinating. The terrain itself varied from rugged, jagged, walled massive tunnel festooned with boulders, to pleasant smaller-sized passage with a relatively flat floor.
In places the walls seemed perfectly smooth and rounded, reflecting presumably the uninterrupted flow of the lava. Almost-level shelves were occasionally seen on one wall or another, and now and again lava splash-marks and small lavacicles hung from the ceiling.
Formations that in a limestone cave might take hundreds or thousands of years to develop had appeared here, I presume, in but a few fleeting moments.
A fairly regular and very odd feature on the floor, very close against one wall or the other, looked for all the world like a giant water main.
Three diving operations were undertaken and a fair amount of science achieved. I had never seen anything quite like this place and, thankfully, some reasonable images were taken.
We had swum amid unique cave-adapted life-forms and gained an amazing insight to the science of volcanology.
Yes, I feel exceptionally privileged to have had this opportunity to dive in Atlantida Tunnel and hope that the images will enhance the experience for show-cave visitors in the future.