With 7 billion people populating the Earth and expanding across more territory every day, it may come as a surprise to learn that there are still places that have yet to be explored. One of the most under-explored areas is underwater caves, and with good reason — diving hundreds of feet below water and then entering a dark, narrow space is a highly dangerous activity that should only be attempted with the proper training and caution.
This September, a team of divers and engineers from the Advanced Diver Magazine Exploration Foundation spent a week attempting to explore one such place. The Santa Rosa Blue Hole in New Mexico is one of the region’s most popular tourist attractions, but the cave system at the bottom of the hole has been sealed off since 1976 following the deaths of two divers.
“We do this because every single one of us loves exploration,” said Walter Pickel, a former Navy diver who now works on logistics, exploration and photography for the ADM team. “We know so much more about the bottom of the ocean than caves. For us, it’s to go explore and aid and assist government and academic agencies.”
But the team’s hopes of getting further back into the cave system were thwarted by the large amount of rubble piled up at the cave’s entrance, said the ADM press release. Lead diver Brett Hemphill managed to explore one of the first of the cave’s rooms, but got no further, joking to the Albuquerque Journal that he’d had one too many burritos to squeeze into the cave.
While on their expedition, the team worked with the Santa Rosa Mayor and the City Council and Economic Affairs Office to do school presentations, create a more accurate map, remove the grate that was placed in front of the cave in 1976, and install a new one. Although the men didn’t get the chance to do more exploring in the cave system, they’ve had their share of adventures in other caves. They’ve discovered everything from Mayan relics to the skull of Antillothrix bernensis, an extinct species of New World monkey once found on the Dominican Republic, said Pickel.
“I have this burning, innate, primordial desire to see things no man has ever seen, and when I do that I encounter objects of the past,” Pickel said. “Caves are amazing things. Every cave is a time capsule, it’s a time capsule of geology, of society, of archaeology.”
But the caves are also deadly, Pickel warned, adding that he’d lost friends to cave diving and has recovered the bodies of unfortunate divers from caves.
“There are old cave divers and bold cave divers, but there are no old bold cave divers,” Pickel said.
Source: The Weather Channel