Huautla you say?
May 13, 2010 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Bigtime expedition caving in 1980s Mexico A very high-quality 35-minute video about long-term, multi-expedition efforts to connect several large cave systems in southeastern Mexico. Lots of diving and climbing, and some very nice formations. No bats or insanity (unless you think cave diving is crazy).

Thanks to Devils Rancher for pointing this out. I hope he'll add some background in the discussion.
posted by Kirth Gerson (7 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Of course I think cave diving is crazy, but also totally awesome.

I'll definitely check this out later.
posted by opsin at 8:49 AM on May 13, 2010

The main thing the video doesn't cover is the deep diving expedition in 1994 in which Stone & Barbara am Ende spent a number of days beyond the sump at camp 5, using rebreathers. National Geographic did a piece on it, but I can't find it on line. Bill Steele has also published a book. The '94 sump dive & exploration really was one of the epic caving trips of all time.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2010

Ah, this is awesome, thanks!

I just recently joined the local caving grotto and a few months ago they brought someone in to speak on just this topic. He had so many amazing pictures and stories; he talked for two hours and still had to rush through some of his stuff. I can't for the life of me remember his name at the moment, but I'll look around for it later today.

Anyway, he talked about how he was down in Mexico in the 70s and how almost nothing had been explored in any detail. There was a lot of talk about nearly dying in flooded caves and spending days at a time down there, but the other thing that I thought was amazing was that he and his group found a set of perfectly-preserved masks just sitting in a cave along with thousands of pottery shards and some intact pots. They got some local people to come collect them and gave them to the government, and if I remember correctly, those are now on display in a major anthropology as the best-preserved examples of masks from that period. So that was pretty cool.

I like caving, but some of the stuff they were doing... I'm not sure if I ever could.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 10:21 AM on May 13, 2010

This video combines my fear of being stuck in a tight cave with my fear of drowning, it's amazing.
posted by jardinier at 12:15 PM on May 13, 2010

When Bill Stone is talking about his discovery of the passageway link (around 9:56) he exhibits such relief, luck, and amazement that is common among cavers because of what I think could be attributed to the physical exhaustion and anticipation built up to that point. Maybe there is something about the reward of discovery that is common to caving but not found in many other modern day exploratory activities?
posted by cycad2000 at 1:12 PM on May 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, think about the lead-up to that. They'd been in Mexico a month, in the cave for quite a few days (staging camps in caves is a logistical nightmare and it's grueling, exhausting work to schlep duffels down pit and through crawlways, then figure in scuba tanks -- they're heavy!) and this was as far as he could possibly swim (out of dive line) on the last dive of the last day of what would otherwise have been a nearly fruitless trip. I'm trying to think of an analogy, but there's nothing that comes to mind to compare it to.

And yeah, when you push through into big going passage, it's common to do some yelling and little victory laps. It's quite exhilarating to break through some nasty crawlway into a room that no one on Earth has ever seen before. In Huautla, they were doing that on the biggest scale imaginable.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:12 PM on May 13, 2010

> exhilarating to break through some nasty crawlway into a room that
> no one on Earth has ever seen before

I almost remember what that would be like. One time a bunch of us had spent hours were in a new-to-us cave in very, very rural Kentucky, it was midwinter, at night. We pushed through a tiny little passage and came out into a humongous room, so big our little carbide lights couldn't illuminate it.

There were huge stalactites near where our little crawlway opened out.

Except, well, they had bark. We'd found a new exit.

Utterly wonderful experience, though, even though ours proved to be a fantasy.

Great link and movies, thanks for them.
posted by hank at 4:25 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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