It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Last Dive of the Trip: Jailhouse, Downstream

I know some divers like to go down the list of all of the dive sites in a particular location and check them off one by one.  This seems especially common among cave divers.  But personally, I prefer to dive one site over and over so that I get to know it really well.   (Which is good, since sometimes you end up in Florida with only Ginnie being diveable!)  So if it had been up to me, I probably would have gone to Gran Cenote twice, Jailhouse twice, Naharon twice, and someplace new once.  It's a good thing that Kevin was with us, and encouraged us to check out some new sites, since I really did like every place that we went.  But today was our day to return to a favorite site, so naturally we picked Jailhouse.  Plus Kevin had missed Jailhouse while he was sick, so we had to go back anyway.  Meredith and James came along with us, since they'd never been to Jailhouse and thus didn't know the drill for getting the key and getting to the site.  So we all met up at ZG in the morning, caravan'd down to Tulum to get two keys, and then headed to the site.  I wow'd everyone with my ability to both lock and unlock the gates today :)  I think there wasn't quite as much wind today, so it was quite toasty while we were getting setup for the dive.  Plus I think we got started a little on the later side, what with the meeting at ZG and then stopping for keys.

We weren't diving together, though we were both planning to go downstream.  Team Kitty managed to get into the water first, so we headed in.  Our plan was to take the (first of) the second jump(s), which would spit us out on the L-R-R line, beyond the Swiss Siphon jump.  There is a pair of jumps right around the same spot just a couple minutes up the downstream line (left at the T).  If you take the "left" of the two jumps (the jumps are to the right, but if you are facing the two jumps, one is more to the left and one is to the right), that puts you further up the L-R-R line, just before the Swiss Siphon jump.  We did this on a previous dive.  We did want to go to to Swiss Siphon, but first we wanted to go further downstream, ideally to the final room.  So for that, it made more sense to take the "right" second jump.  The map shows a restriction, and there really is just one spot where it gets small.  But not so small that we couldn't get through with 2 stages each.  But then the tunnel pretty quickly gets bigger (though not big).  After maybe 10 minutes, we ended up popping out into the big tunnel, below the halocline (which we pass through just before the end of the jump we took to get here).  We jumped back onto the mainline, and depoted our full stages for use later in the dive.  We continued downstream, in a big tall tunnel for maybe another 10 minutes.  Eventually the tunnel takes a turn to the right, and it flattens out (on the deeper end) and gets narrower.  So you abruptly transition from a tunnel that is bigger than a subway tunnel to a tunnel that would be more appropriate for the parking tram from Hershey Park.  We dropped our stages right before the transition (on gas, not saying the tunnel was small enough to drop stages before going through).

Doesn't this make you want to go for a swim?
So, on the map, it looks like there is this really big second-to-last room.  But if you are expecting a really big room, you will be underwhelmed.  I think it's because there are some big floor-to-ceiling formations that kind of split the room up, plus at this point you are in the fresh water, so the tunnel is quite a bit darker.  On the way in, I didn't even recognize the big room as being a room.  Only on the way out (after realizing that we must have passed through this big room) did I figure out where the big room was and how it was that I missed it.  I think that the line essentially runs to the left (west) side of the room, and then takes a 90 degree turn and runs along the north side of the room.  So it seems a lot more like an L-shaped passage than a big round room, which is what it looks like on the map.  Once you are through that, you pass through several restrictions.  I counted three, though on the map there are only two (but I'm really certain that there were three).  The first restriction is low and flat, and Rob had to drop his camera before he got to it.  The other two are more narrow and sort of angled to the side slits.  Between them, you are in a vertical canyon/crack.  As you progress from the big room through the restrictions, you are slowly getting shallower, so that by the time you get through the third restriction, it's probably about 35 feet.  And then you pop out into a big room, where the line ends once you get to the other side.  This room seemed a lot bigger than the first big room, because you can actually look around and see to the walls in all directions.  After a minute or two in there, we headed out.

On the way out, after passing through the restrictions and the big room, we passed Meredith and James,  in the tram tunnel.  After we got back to the subway tunnel, and picked up our stages, we were moseying along, and I kept seeing Rob's strobes go off.  But Kevin and I were both swimming along, so I didn't know why.  Then I realized that Meredith and James had caught up to us, and Rob was hanging back to take some pictures of them.  So we eventually ended up moving along as basically one team.  I asked Rob to try to get a picture of all four of us in the tunnel, but sadly I guess none of those pictures came out.  He said that they were, for some reason, all badly out of focus.  Sounds like user error to me.  We made it back to our depoted stages, and we dropped the ones we had with us and picked up the full ones, and headed to Swiss Siphon.  It was maybe a 10 minute swim from there.  I was in front at this point, and I impressed myself by actually being able to find the jump :)  So we headed in there, and had quite a few stops along the way for pictures.  I was video'ing too and so was Kevin.  There was a bit of reordering throughout this part of the dive, so everyone got a chance to do their thing.  We went right at the T, which is even closer to the jump than I remembered, probably because we didn't stop for that many pictures before the T (compared to the last time I was there).

My memory of Swiss Siphon is that it is basically non-stop big tunnel with big decorations.  But actually it is somewhat varied, with areas that are big and open with big decorations, and others with smaller, more delicate formations sort of filling the tunnel.  Perhaps I didn't make it that far up the line the last time I was there, but I'm not really sure.  We went through a couple of relatively narrow spots, and then the tunnel would widen again.  And then eventually it got really flat, and single-file, and it was a bit chalky squeezing through the flat area.  Then it got a little open and then flat again.  I was waiting in the slightly more open area (I was #3 at this point) and saw Rob (#1) signal turn to Kevin.  I guess this is the end of the line.  Two ends of the line in one dive!

Scheming about the dive
We headed back out to the T, and we took the other side of the T.  I dropped my bottle there because, well, I was feeling lazy :)  This turned out to be pretty silly.  I didn't realize it, but that side of the T just takes you back to the mainline, after not very long (maybe 5 minutes).  Actually it takes you back to the jump from the mainline to Swiss Siphon.  So we got to the end of the line, and I could see our spool jumping into the Swiss Siphon line.  We turned back and returned to the T, where I retrieved my bottle, and we headed out.  From there, it was a pretty direct exit, though we did have one little stop along the way.  We were swimming along, and at some point, Kevin dropped down near the bottom, and was looking under the ledge on the left side. I thought maybe he was looking for some hidden jump or something.  He signaled us and I dropped down, expecting to see a tunnel, but instead, there was a pile of bones.  Neat!  For some inexplicable reason, Rob did not immediately recognize them as bones, though I thought they were pretty distinctly bone-looking.  Kevin said he thought they were sloth bones.  I was skeptical (not because I know anything about sloth bones, more because I know something about Kevin :P), though the internet does seem to agree with that claim.  That wasn't too far from the jump back toward the exit, and before you know it, we were back in the entrance room, arguing (err, negotiating) deco.  We did far too much deco, and then we headed to the surface.

The rarely-photographed land kitty
It was hot and (relatively) buggy as we broke down our gear (boohoohoo) and cleaned up.  Then we headed into Tulum to return the key, get some lunch (at Don Cafeto's) and one last gelato!  I think we went to the gelato place a total of four times on the trip, which may be a personal best for me.  And I had a different flavor every time!

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