Belize Deep Cave Exploration & Archaeological Project
An archeological expedition to the jungle of Belize, exploring and surveying a cave over 60 meters (200 feet) deep in search of fossils and Mayan artifacts, led to the creation of the following video.
Besides the excellent video, one of the members of the expedition, Patrick, also posted his account of the trip on Cave Diver’s Forum.
Some days ago, Kim and I had the amazing opportunity to go down to Belize to join an Archeological Expedition close to the Guatemalan boarder. The trip was organized by Lisa a Professor on the University of Illinois who has studied the ancient Maya for years.
The short trip had three main goals, first to explore and map a deep cave, second to look for Mayan Artifacts and third to get some images of the huge fossil beds that are filled with ancient bones.
Kim had already part taken in a previous expedition and was part of the team that had explored and surveyed the Cenote. Already back then he called me right when he came back to tell me about this huge tunnel they had discovered at 200ft/60mtr depth. I was so incredible stoked and excited to check the place out and now it was finally the time to do so.
We packed the truck and with all the gear, tanks, CCR and other stuff and headed down on the 8 hour drive to the Banana Banks. It was an amazing drive and so interesting how everything changes once you cross the boarder. Although I consider myself fluent in English I have to admit it took some time to get used to the strong Belize accent.
Crossing the Boarder was super easy: Bring a list with all the stuff you want to bring to Belize and take back later, have some money ready to pay the car insurance that is mandatory and stop for decontamination which is also a must before you can drive your car through Belize. Everything is made out of wood and has a strong Creole touch, with the main food being Chicken, Rice and Beans =)
The Banana Bank Lodge where we were staying, is surrounded by amazing jungle and bypassed by the river. The sound is amazing, all sorts of birds and of course the super loud screams of the howler monkeys. There are several nice little bungalows, everything is made by hand and fits perfect in the surrounding. They have several interesting animals around, my favorite being “Tika” the Jaguar, who I could watch for hours. Every night we would eat with all the team as well as all the other guests of the hotel some amazing creole dinner, no menu, you eat whats on the table and it was always amazing!
The dive team consisted of Kim who was exploring parts of the deep cave, Chip who was scanning the floor for artifacts, Marty the videographer and me also exploring the cave.
When we arrived the first day at the site I was amazed to watch the locals cut a huge trail to the waters edge in no time. Having cut quite a few trails myself I was stunned by their technique and speed. It was simply amazing watching them constructing a 10ft/3mtr ladder in no time after using a bunch of vines to rope up the roof of the camp. These guys just rock!!!!
On the first dive we immediately realized that the hurricane and the wildfire had done terrible things. Plenty of trees had collapsed into the Cenote cutting the lines or covering them with lots and lots of debris.
Kim. Chip and Marty were looking for artifacts as well as cleaning up the fossil beds to get good footage while I did my first check out dive of the huge cavern. I dropped straight down to 180ft/55mtr and from there swam slowly direction north into the overhead. The cave kept on dropping fast to 230ft/70mtr where it leveled off. It reminded my strongly of diving in the Austrian lakes due to the dark green color and the trees. It was super dark and extremely silty and after a short swim I unfortunately already had reached the back wall of the room. There I turned right and followed the wall along the floor until I swam again towards the exit so I turned. Back at the tie off where I had found the back wall I made a “T” and now checked the other side of the room for possible passages going further north but did not find any. I had already laid a bit more then a full reel and was at 50 min bottom time which was enough for a first check out and so I made my way back to the exit to ascend and start decompression.
Back at the surface I met the other who where exited to report that they had yet found more fossils which was super exciting and so we all had a great first dive and now where on the one hour drive back through the jungle to the banana bank lodge.
The next day we were back for more Kim and I were diving the cave with Kim looking for cave at 170ft/50mtr and me surveying the line I had laid the day before and scanning the wall again for a possible opening. Meanwhile Chip helped Marty to get some insane shots of the fossils. This dive I did one hour bottom time and met Kim later on the ascend line both signaling that we were not lucky with our search for a going tunnel.
The next day had yet another deep dive on the program looking for more artifacts on the floor and shooting some more for the documentation. At the end of each dive we were all feeling good and also went for runs at night with no signs or symptoms of DCS.
Last day was 100% dedicated to science and so we shot plenty of footage of the various fossil beds, took rock and fossil samples and measured some of the huge bones. We even gave a little interview at the end which was pretty funny =)
All in all I had an amazing time and enjoyed every minute of it, the landscape, the people, the food, the crew, the dives, the lodge, the jungle, the animals, just everything. Can’t wait to go back!!!
Thanks Patrick for the detailed log of events. It sounds like it was a wonderful experience.