Hunt for a Blue Abyss

Click here to see more pictures from cenote Pet Cemetery on a separate page.

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On a way back from our first River Run dive, we stopped at the dive shop at the Dos Ojos entrance and one of the managers there asked if we had done the Pet Cemetery. I heard the name before, but not much else. Curiosity peaked, I asked about it. In reply, he asked us to name the most beautiful cave that we knew. There was only one answer to that question – Nohoch.  He then told us that Pet Cemetery could take us to Diaz line in Nohoch system via couple of jumps. It would be a different line from the Mainline that we did previously, so we’d see a section of that cave we did not see before.  We were already sold on the idea of diving the Pet Cemetery when he dangled a carrot in front of us – he told us about the Blue Abyss. And then we spent a big chunk of our vacation looking for it.

Aptly named, Blue Abyss is a jump off the Diaz line that opens up into a big area going from 4 ft to 240 ft depth and filled with impossibly blue water. The description of it sounded mesmerizing and we knew we would have to try to find it. We have gotten a basic map on the piece of paper that explained the cavern line layout and the jumps that we would need to take to get to Diaz line. The directions to Blue Abyss from Diaz line sounded simple enough – pass though a tight restriction, swim for a while, look for a certain feature and take a jump to the right when we pass that feature. Reality proved anything but simple.

Pet Cemetery had the long cavern line with no visible daylight from pretty much anywhere along that line, but there were a few air pockets. It was possible to run the line straight from the entrance to where the cave line started but it would have taken us a whole separate dive to do so, and with the rebreathers, we did not mind the 15 min travel along the cavern line to get to the point where the cave line started.

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On our first dive in Pet Cemetery, we followed the cavern line to the jump to I-Hop cenote line and then jumped to the Diaz line – all that was relatively easy as we shared the system with another team and they were headed to the Diaz line as well, so we just put our jump lines right next to theirs. Shortly after the start of the cave line (to I-Hop), we came face to face with the massive formation, reminiscent of the Heaven’s Gate formation in the Nohoch proper.

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Then, once we jumped to Diaz line, the cave got tighter, decorations disappeared and the line ran alongside some huge boulders. I named one particularly large one “the monolith”.

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After a short swim on the Diaz line, we came to the restriction. We carry our bailouts in the sidemount fashion and we were told that we’d need to take at least one off, may be both in order to get through that restriction. As I was hovering next to the restriction, taking off my right side bottle and contemplating the most efficient way of getting through, I saw the lights of the other team returning. There was not enough room for them to pass us next to the restriction, so we backtracked, waited for them to get out of the restriction and pressed on. With one bottle off, I pushed it in front of me and got through just fine with the other one still attached. I guess there is something to be said about being a small person – I can still squeeze in smaller spaces even with the Boris on my back.   

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As I was clipping my bottle back on the other side it occurred to me that my camera-carrying buddy would have to manage both his bailout bottle and the camera. I turned around towards the restriction just in time to see a hand pushing through the camera, so I picked it up and waited until he was on my side and ready to proceed. We then swam for a long time looking for a feature that was supposed to be near Blue Abyss jump and noticing the jump markets all over the place. If I was asked to describe that cave in two words, it would be “ever-changing”. The variety was mind-boggling.

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The cave changed character past the restriction area becoming increasingly decorated. Most incredible formations were everywhere. While there was only one place I needed to take my bottle off, I had to swim on my side to get though couple of other passages.

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Some time later, the small decorated passages then gave way to much larger breakdown sections. Some parts of the cave had the most incredible decorations on the floors – the intricate wavy patterns that reminded me of flat sand castles.

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As we pressed on along the Diaz line, I started seeing the feature I was supposed to see everywhere, but none of it made sense. It occurred to me that the time estimates that we were given to get to Blue Abyss were for normal pace and we usually swim much slower than normal pace and we were also quite delayed at the restriction. When the computer showed 80 mins, I decided to abandon search, turn back and take our time shooting and check couple of jumps on the way back. We did all that for the total dive time of about 4 hrs. Given how shallow that dive was (less than 20 ft or 6 m average), it took a lot of work to achieve precision with the rebreather and the camera and we were exhausted, but we knew we’d have to come back for another try.

Few days later, we tried again. That time, we did not waste much time getting to the restriction and through the restriction and then pressed on along the Diaz line. It took us about 60 mins to get to where we turned previously and we kept moving for another 30 mins. Couple of times, I thought I had the right feature and the right jump, but we came up empty handed every time. Eventually, we had to admit defeat and turned back, checking all the remaining jumps on our way out and taking some pictures we wanted to re-do from the previous dive. We also spent some time shooting the entrance formation on the I-Hop line and surfaced over 4 hrs after we got in the water.

So, in the end, while we still do know know where was the magic jump that leads to the Blue Abyss, we did explore a number of other jumps that did not lead to Blue Abyss. IN the process of searching, we had seen a lot of that amazing cave and had an incredible journey. The one that I’d definitely want to repeat again.

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