Akalche

This project was led by MCEP/CINDAQ in the fall of 2019 on private land. This mostly very tannic and hidden cenote was first discovered by cave diver Fred Devos in 2003 from underwater and belongs to the Ox Bel Ha cave system.

Although the upstream section is very silty, it has a high amount of percolation and the irregular, twisty tunnels end in a massive collapse with only small possibilities to proceed to, the downstream seems to be the opposite with massive sized tunnels, decent flow and less percolation. The uninviting entrance has an organic slope and drops immediately to 13 meters where it leads to another gigantic room. Already figuring out the correct way to start towards can be a challenge.

 

The first dives here during this project have been conducted by Sam Meacham and Sigurd Bowitz. After successful recon, Emőke and Laszlo were tasked to explore the upstream area further and if possible push towards the west which seemed to be open. As always, the dives started with resurvey and quickly an old existing tunnel has been remeasured and connection has been reestablished between the Coka Ha area of the system and Akalche. After this the team decided to move north, northwest since another new exploration area from early 2019 seemed to be in reach. For the moment that connection was not possible so the divers moved gradually to the west. For a few days of exploration Laszlo joined forces with cave divers Osama Gobara and Cameron Russo to look for leads to the west. As one of the furthest tunnels to the west started to drop into the saltwater layer a shallower freshwater opening revealed itself on the north side of the line. This tunnel became relatively defined, solid, but featureless and had a bit of flow at it's beginning which made it promising. As the divers penetrated further it was harder and harder to remain in the freshwater, the flow dropped and the bottom opened up for more saltwater possibilities.

To avoid going back to the salt the team decided to take a turn to the east which ultimately led them back to their own line. Having the turn pressure reached, they have decided to return tomorrow and if nothing else appears they will head into the saltwater layer.

 

The following day the dive continued to the west and the divers decided to drop deeper into the saltwater. Surprisingly it added another 700 meters of new tunnel to the survey but as expected the size of the tunnels gradually dropped, silting increased and a smaller collapse ended further exploration here.

 

Outside of exploration another interesting occurrence surprised the divers one day at the dive site: while exiting, a nearby earthquake of seismic magnitude of 7.7 at the Cayman Trough and the north of Jamaica was being felt even in Mexico! The aftereffect of the earthquake resulted in rapidly alternating water levels, but luckily the divers were already in the open water of the cenote when this happened.

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The total new exploration distance in the area was: 3100 meters / 10200 feet, avg. depth: 13 meters / 42 feet, max depth: 21.1 meters / 69 feet. The teams have used GUE sidemount configuration only, with multiple stages and SUEX DPVs.

Many thanks to all the great divers who contributed to diving with us in the area: Osama Gobara and Cameron Russo.

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