After a very nice, if slightly short dive through Kristal Cave on the first day, we were looking forward to getting into the caves and potential caves. The information we had from 1998 suggested there was about 500m of passage with two air chambers, all through crystal clear water following an entrance restriction. However, when Donovan returned 2 years ago to dive the cave he found the entrance pool full of mud and aborted the dive.
On closer inspection it was still full of mud. The upside of this is that the local people have stopped drawing their drinking water from the cave and as such had no objections to us muddying it up even further. There was also no washing rubbish here. I drew the short straw (or possibly the long straw?) and geared up very gingerly on the edge of the water before executing an elegant face plant into the water. The plan was to run the line through the muddy entrance, hopefully breaking through the restriction into clean passage before returning for camera and dive buddy.
Drifting down a brown mud slope I spotted a promising sinkhole in the floor. Since there wasn’t too much silt dropping down off the ceiling I paused to rearrange the line. The mud was deep enough that finding tie-offs under it was tricky and it was definitely going to be a zero vis exit. Line sorted, I inserted myself head-first and sideways down the crack at the far end of the sinkhole.
It went straight down from 3m to about 8m where I did a bit of yoga and rearranged myself into a small twisty passage going sideways. The craggy, crumbly white limestone walls were set off by the deep brown mud floor. This seemed promising for tunnel formation as I was close to the halocline depth from Kristal Cave. Encouraged by the idea that I was moments away from breaking out into large tunnels, I squished forward another body length to stay ahead of the silt.
From this position the tunnel I could see was getting smaller rather than larger, with the mud floor rising up. I considered the likelihood of success of trying to back out around a corner and up the fissure, then decided that discretion was the better part of valour and that now was a good time to turn around while I still could. A bit of wriggling with the line carefully held out against one wall and I was on my way back up to report the bad news. I think the two guys who carried all the gear down in anticipation of both of us getting in were almost as disappointed.
After yesterday’s very nice dive, this was not quite what we were expecting…exploration has a way of changing your plans.