“Route-finding wasn’t an issue, and the massive passage turned right and started gradually getting deeper and bigger.”
as i walked into the cave entrance, I turned to look back out into the hazy, humid Uluapan valley.
A row of stalactites like sharp teeth shrouded with hanging garden vines set a stage of serenity. Birds flew out into the valley below in a symphony of sound and motion.
The main resurgence of the Nacimiento del Rio Uluapan. Divers are entering the massive resurgence lagoon to explore the cave as Gilly retrieves more gear from the port-a-ledge.
The Rio Uluapan is more than just a cave for exploration. It’s a water source for the local community, and a sanctuary for life. Inside, we had 60m of boulder-hopping to reach the impressive resurgence pool, which extends back 60m to where the ceiling meets the water.
A big wall-climbing port-a-ledge was set up just beyond the cave entrance at the ceiling for storing equipment. Today was a rest day from the previous day’s exertion, so I stayed at the entrance to photograph the passage.
The following day we headed back up to the cave and prepared to dive into sump 2. I was diving open-circuit steel 85s, while everyone else was on Sidewinder CCRs. Tanks were trans-filled, sorb packed and we prepared to dive to the waterfall room.
This lies 518m from the resurgence, with a 12m average and 21m maximum depth along the way. To speed up travel time through sump 1, I held on to leader Zeb’s crotch-strap through the submerged passage, keeping a low profile to minimise drag. I noted the sculpted walls and sandy rock bottom that Bill Stone had seen.
Visibility was around 10m, revealing some of the biggest underwater passage I had ever seen, although at one point restrictive contouring of the passage meant that I had to let go and swim into a pit before ascending back to Zeb.
We descended back to 20m, the walls disappearing into the blue darkness. It was at this point that a vertical line appeared, heading straight up to the waterfall room.
Surfacing, I could see the lights of Jon Lillestolen and Gilly Elor moving around, and heard the roar of the waterfall.
I had imagined it as larger than its actual 6-9m size. The team had named it Victoria Falls, after the cases of warm Victoria beer they had been drinking.
We attached our dive-gear to a line on a ledge and swam over to the fixed ropes set in place for an easy traverse over to the top of the falls.
Jon had set these traverse lines up to minimise exertion in carrying the gear over to sump 2, and they went from the shoreline to a shelf over the waterfalls.
Another set of ropes continued from this shelf to the top shelf, about 12m higher, and into a very sharp upper passage in which water appeared to flow when levels were high. The trolley continued horizontally to an anchor-point, concluding at sump 2.
This sump required more technical decompression procedures, so Zeb and Teddy – equipped with CCRs, blended gas, heated undergarments under drysuits, dive-line, survey gear and additional tanks – pushed deep into sump 2.
We expected them to be in the water for four hours, so headed back to get some photos of the dry portion of the cave.