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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cave Divers Expand Quintana Roo’s Sistema Sand Crack

January 15, 2013 / Mexico, North America
Sistema Sac Actun's Gran Cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Sistema Sac Actun’s Gran Cenote, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Photo by asbjorn.hansen/flickr
In their most recent update, posted earlier today, the Quintana Roo Speleological Survey reported that the Quiet Diver Team has connected Cenote Herradura, Cenote K’oxul, Cenote Maya, Sistema Ak Tulum, Sistema Sand Crack, and Cenote Little Fish into one underwater cave system.
The system, named Sistema Sand Crack, is already over 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) long. With much more yet to be surveyed, we can expect to be hearing more about this cave in the future.
Meanwhile in nearby Sistema Rio Secreto, Peter Sprouse and his team have been busy surveying. At now over 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) long, this dry cave is a welcome treat for non-cave divers visiting the area.
Finally a new underwater cave, Cenote Cuzel Gasera, has been added to the website, as was new information on Cenote Muk K’in, Sistema Minotauro, and Sistema Umberto. There was also the hint of a soon to be released update on Sistema Taj Mahal.

Underwater Incident Claims Life of Italian Cave Diver

January 24, 2013 / Italy, Europe
Cave Diver Chiara Stella Assolari.
Cave Diver Chiara Stella Assolari. Photo via Bergamo News
An Italian cave diver died over the weekend after an incident while diving in Covolo Veci, one of the two active branches of northern Italy’s Oliero cave system.
The cave diver, 45-year-old Chiara Stella Assolari, has just began a dive last Saturday afternoon when she ran into trouble.
The two companions she was with report that only a short distance under the water she spit out her regulator and rejected attempts by them to help her. She then apparently lost consciousness and they immediately brought her to the surface where their efforts to revive her failed.
It is speculated that the woman suffered a sudden illness which led to a fatal panic attack.
Valstagna, Vicenza, Italy
An autopsy has been performed and Local Police and Fire officials are now conducting an investigation to determine the cause of the unfortunate accident

Phantom Springs Cave Becomes Deepest Underwater Cave in the U.S.

January 23, 2013 / Texas, United States, North America

Deep into the cave the morphology changes drastically into large, stair-stepping passage as it continues ever deeper.
Deep into the cave the morphology changes drastically into large, stair-stepping passage as it continues ever deeper. Video grab by Andy Pitkin
An early January expedition to explore Phantom Springs Cave in Texas saw divers hit a depth of 140.8 meters (462 feet), making it the deepest underwater cave system known in the United States.
Following the success of the 2012 expedition, which unexpectedly extended the maximum depth of Phantom Springs Cave from 24 meters (79 feet) to 72 meters (237 feet), a hand-picked group of the United States’ best underwater cave explorers assembled in the Texas desert from January 5-11, 2013 with a goal to push it even further and deeper.
The team, composed of members who specialize cave survey, underwater high-definition videography and photography, and cave biology and science, was organized into groups, each with specific tasks.
The survey team, whose goal was to improve and update the old Grade 3 survey, spent a total of 37.7 man-hours of diving and managed re-survey and sketch a total of 1758 meters (5,769 feet) to Grade 4 survey. They also were successful in adding some 329 meters (1,080 feet) of dry survey.
Other teams kept busy setting up sediment traps, collecting water quality data, and shooting hours of high definition video and still photos both above ground and underwater.
Meanwhile, the exploration team continued from where they left off in 2012, when the cave passage rapidly dropped to the new depth of 72 meters (237 feet).
Following the steeply sloping passage, the team quickly dropped to a depth of 98 meters (320 feet) before entering horizontal tunnel at a depth of 104 meters (340 feet). After only about 61 meters (200 feet), the tunnel opened at the top of a large, deep, rectangular fracture which ran perpendicular to the passage. Although it was hard to make out the floor, it was estimated that the bottom of the fracture would be over 122 meters (400 feet) deep.
Cave Diver Brett Hemphill descending toward the deepest section of the cave.
Cave Diver Brett Hemphill descending toward the deepest section of the cave. Video grab by Andy Pitkin
A subsequent dive on January 8th revisited of the fracture and found an outgoing passage at the bottom, at a record depth of 140.8 meters (462 feet), which continued horizontally as far as their lights could penetrate.
Unfortunately, encountering these extreme depths meant that continued exploration would go beyond their planned safety measures and reluctantly the divers had to return to the surface.
With the maximum depth at the bottom of the fracture reaching 140.8 meters (462 feet), Phantom Springs Cave has surpasses Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs as the deepest naturally formed underwater cave in the USA.
Plans are already in the works for a return expedition to push the cave further, however due to the extreme depth and distance, future exploration will require bailout rebreathers and a potentially a decompression habitat placed over 6,000 feet into the cave.
Furthermore, as Phantom Springs Cave is home to the endangered Comanche Springs Pupfish and Pecos Gambusia, access to the cave is extremely restricted and only two permits are ever concurrently issued, both of which are currently assigned until at least 2015.

Swedish Cave Diver Dies in Hospital After Incident in France

January 29, 2013 / France, Europe
The Landenouse Resurgence is located in the Lot Valley.
The Landenouse Resurgence is located in the Lot Valley. Photo by RuTemple/flickr
A Swedish cave diver died in hospital on Monday, January 28th after an incident while diving in the Landenouse resurgence between Cadrieu and Cajarc in southwest France.
Reports indicate that the victim, a 30-year-old doctor from Stockholm visiting the area for a week of caving diving, was part of a team of four divers exploring the cave when he was sucked into a siphon by the strong current.
Stuck in the passage, his arm blocked and hindered by his respiratory equipment, the man could not free himself. His companions did all they could to save him, but during one of their attempts, he was carried further away and pinned him at the bottom of the basin.
Landenouse Resurgence, Cadrieu, France
Eventually extracted from the water in cardiac arrest, over a dozen firefighters performed CPR for an hour and a half before the caver was transported to the hospital in Cahors, where he died shortly before 6:00 pm.

Fourth Longest Underwater Cave Discovered in Mexico

January 10, 2012 / Mexico, North America
Czech Cave Divers
Photo via
Members of the Czech Speleological Society (CSS) have recently connected the Ko’ox Baal system, located in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, to another cave to create the world’s fourth longest underwater cave system.
A connection between the ~20 kilometer (12 mile) long Tux Kupaxa system to Ko’ox Baal had led to a total length of over 56.5 kilometers (35.1 miles).
A commitment to mapping the cave has led Ko’ox Baal to actually take the top spot as the longest mapped underwater cave system.
“We never abandon any of the newly discovered caves before completing its map. Unfortunately this is an exception in Yucatan,” - Speleologist Daniel Hutnan to the Czech News Agency
Another system, Xunaan Ha system, located around 2 kilometers away could also potentially connect to Ko’ox Baal in the future, which would mean an additional 51 kilometers (32 miles) and the spot as the third longest underwater cave.