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Me diving

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jailhouse, Upstream to Ninth Level, etc.

On Monday we went to Jailhouse.  After discussing the options for where to go there, we decided that we would just have to do two dives there, one going upstream and one downstream.  So we decided to do upstream first.  Unfortunately Kevin got sick (food poisoning or something) the night before, so it was just me and Rob.  Rob decided not to schlep the camera along for this dive, but I brought the hero-cam with video reflector.  I was pretty impressed by the quality of the video that Kevin had captured the previous day with this configuration.  We had picked up the key the day before, so we headed straight down to the site.  I was tasked with opening the two (yes, two) gates.  I was a bit stymied by the first gate.  After Rob drove through, I couldn't figure out how to lock the gate once we were on the inside.  In fact, I was so stumped, that I made Rob get out of the car to show me.  Yea, I'm never going to live that one down.  Once we were inside of the first gate, we got only slightly lost on the drive to the site.  I think that the road has changed a little bit so it is actually now a lot easier to find... you just go straight until you get there :)  But if you are expecting to have to go right at a fork, this seems a little confusing!  The facilities have improved a bit, with an even nicer path and stairs down to the water (not into the water though, that's pretty much the same as before, but with a stump where there used to be a poison tree).

So, the plan was to go down to the INAH room and then back up and to the right, then up to the Ninth Level.  Then further up the line afterward if gas allowed.  The water in the basin didn't seem quite as gross as usual, which I attributed to no one diving in there for a while.  There was a kayak sitting at the edge of the water, which we both found pretty funny.  Anyhoo, we lined up our bottles along the edge of the water, got into our gear and did all of our checks on the benches (to minimize time in the basin), and got into the water.  We agreed to go onto our stages once we were in the entrance room because, well, verifying bottles in the muck didn't seem like a great idea.  We found the line and down we went. The viz in the basin was probably like 3 to 5 feet rather than the usual 1 to 2, so I'll call that good :)  Viz was clear in the entrance room.  We headed right at the T and dropped our oxygen bottles and went onto our stages once we were to the edge of the room, where there was a non-mung bottom to drop our bottles on.  Then we headed along a couple of minutes up to the INAH line.  I did want to get some video of that line, but I figured that I could do so on the way out, so we pretty much just scooted through there without stopping.  I've been to the end of this line, but never actually made the jump back up (I think Rob was halfway to installing the jump when I turned the dive once).  Going up through the halocline on the way out of there was one of the best through-the-halocline views I think I have ever had!  The boundary was so crisp-looking.

Swanky new path to the stairs
From there we headed to the right, or in the direction that the arrow pointed back toward Jailhouse.  This passage was all above the halocline, and pretty similar to the downstream above-the-halocline portions of Jailhouse that I've been to before -- dark tunnel, orange-y pillars small and large.  After not terribly long, maybe 6 or 8 minutes, we came to the end of this line, which sort of surprised me, though looking at the map now, it probably shouldn't have.  I thought that the line we were on was what the mainline from Jailhouse would eventually become, but instead, the mainline takes a turn and this line is a jump off of it.  So we jumped back into the mainline, where it takes the turn.  I dropped my first stage bottle there too.  After another like 2 minutes, we hit a T (which I think we thought would be a jump... can't believe everything you hear!).  The T was right in the halocline, which seemed, umm, non-optimal.  From here on for the next 10 minutes or so, the halocline was pretty much right in the middle of the passage.  The tunnel was both wide and tall and I would describe it as not particularly decorated (though a very attractive tunnel nonetheless), though maybe if I had been closer to the walls and paying more attention to them, I would say differently.  For a good bit of this passage, Rob was riding right about the halocline, and I was riding right below it.  This made for some pretty funny attempts at conversation.  Rob would start gesticulating at me, and his hands would be flapping around right in the halocline.  Which wouldn't really signal anything to me so much as it would stir up the halocline.  Doh.  We made one stop for Rob to check out what looked like a passage below and to the right (not sure what it was, since we didn't get a chance to check it out on the way out).

Before you know it, we were at the jump to the Ninth Level, which was perfectly obvious despite our concerns about that.  We took the jump down, which lands you in a wide tunnel, really more like a big rectangular room, in 70-some feet.  After maybe a minute, still in this room, we came to a T.  Hmm, a T.  I remembered on the map that it did look like there were two spits of tunnel going off from this jump, but I couldn't remember which one was the Ninth Level (not that it really mattered).  So we went left first, which was really more straight than left.  The passage gets deeper and narrower, and the walls are that rough "cheesy" kind of texture.  After just a minute or two, the line heads up into a slightly tight chimney of sorts (which appears right at the start of the video), and we popped out into a shallower passage that was a bit wider.  Both parts of the tunnel are a nice size in the sense that you can see everything and really light it up with one (or two) lights.  But it's not small in the sense that it is hard to maneuver through (we were both carrying stages the whole way).  After another minute or two, Rob stopped and reported that the line had ended, so we turned around.

I got my hero cam out at this point, and switched out my light reflector.  I swam back toward the chimney while videoing, and stopped before it so that I could get Rob swimming by and then disappearing down the chimney (I stopped filming when puffs of silt started to poof out of the chimney).  We returned to the T and then went the other way (the correct way), with me in the lead so I could video before it got too chalky :)  This side of the T started out similar, with a nice-sized white-walled tunnel that meanders for a bit before eventually getting wider and more decorated.  After a short passage with quite a few big decorative columns in the middle of the passage, eventually the tunnel flattens out, all the while slowly getting deeper (down to almost 90').  I finally decided it would be a good time to drop my stage, since it was getting low.  When I clipped the stage to the line, the bottle could not comfortably stand vertically, to give you an idea of the height of the passage.  I continued on and like 30 feet later, the line ended.  Doh!  Total waste of a bottle drop.  Rob was in disbelief, because it really seemed like the tunnel kept going, but it got really low first.  So we turned around, I retrieved my bottle (grumble) and out we went.

View from the top of the stairs
When we got back to the mainline, I dropped my bottle and we headed further up the line.  Ahhh, so free without any stage bottles.  For the next 5 minutes or so, the tunnel was pretty similar, with the halocline in the middle of it, though there were a couple of spots where it sort of pinched down before leading into another bigger space.  Then we came to a BIG room, very tall, with the line running at about 45 feet in a channel next to a tall tall ledge.  I was halfway up the ledge and Rob went all the way to the top.  He saw that there was a line up there, so asked if I wanted to take the jump.  Sure, why not?  We'll rack up less deco than if we keep heading up the line we were on :)  Rob put the jump in and we headed up the line.  The top of the ledge was about 20 feet, but the line slowly worked its way to 30-some feet.  We passed through a low, flat, somewhat silty area, and then there were a couple of narrow twisty turny areas.  It was definitely the siltiest part of the dive so far.  Eventually I turned the dive on gas, probably about 10 minutes up this line.  Looking at the map, this must have been the line that passes by Fenceline Cenote, though we didn't see the cenote.  Maybe we are just oblivious.

Our exit was fairly straightforward, and a bit faster than the way in.  As we approached the INAH line, I got my camera back out and deployed the video reflector again, because I wanted to get a shot of the halocline.  But it was still pretty stirred up, so that wasn't too successful.  As I dropped through the chimney there, I practically bounced off of the halocline.  I had a feeling I might be a bit underweighted in the saltwater passage on the way out (with an empty and near-empty stage).  I had meant to add a 2-pounder to my rig before I ventured beneath the halocline, but my bullet weights were in Kevin's car, and Kevin wasn't with us!  So, I had to either dive my suit completely squeezed, or breathe off of the bottom of my lungs.  The latter option was quite doable, but I really wanted to get some video of that passage, and didn't necessarily think I could do a great job if I was underweighted.  So I told Rob that I was light, and he offered to take my empty stage :)  Ahhh, what a good dive buddy.

So we meandered through that passage, with just a brief stop for Rob to checkout a jump (to the left as you head in, right before the end of the line).  The halocline on the way up was likewise too stirred up for any good video.  When we got back to our O2 bottles, I offered to take my stage bottle back, but he ignored my efforts (not sure if he didn't see, or was just ignoring me).  So I picked up my O2 bottle and just continued along.  I was relieved to see that the entrance room was as we left it, with good viz.  I suggested 8 minutes of deco, which was probably overkill, but I don't have a deco rule for 56 feet average, so I split the difference between 60 feet (16 minutes of deco) and 50 feet (no deco).  While on our very short deco stop, I managed to find out the hard way what happens if you flail around in the mung.  My light handle started to slide off of my hand (because it is sized for my hand with a 5mm glove) and I swooped my hand down to "catch" it and poof, there was a giant cloud of stuff in the water.  I watched the cloud float across over the line and then eventually it dissipated.  When our deco was over, I headed up and surfaced, and a moment later Rob appeared too.

It was hot and muggy and a little buggy, so we were quite efficient at packing up and getting out of there.  We headed to Tulum to get some lunch (Don Cafeto, love the super limonada) and return the key.

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