Riviera Maya | Cenotes | Snorkeling | Labnaha

| Riviera Maya | Cenotes | Labnaha


13th Labnaha Expedition - Mol Balam Exploration

The System

Mol Balam system is a big crater (400 ft diameter).The age of this Karstic phenomenon goes from 60 million years up to 80 M. approximately.

This is one of the thousands of those craters that we found in this area. The morphology of this crater remember us another Labnaha expeditions: Uxben Nah Iloob, Tuchaa, Pelanuscus and Sastun.

Some of the scientists tell that they were formed by the impact of the famous meteor, other say that it only a dissolution process.

In this hole there are two cenotes that are very important in this exploration.

  1. Mol Balam Cenote (Tiger Foot Print)
  2. LukZonot (Muddy hole)
Mol Balam Map

One is 200ft from the other crossing the crater North to South.

In Mol Balam Cenote were 1380 ft already explored by the Team Sergio Granucci- Jason Brauhn last year .It happened the last day of the 8th Labnaha Expedition and Jason organize this expedition to continue the exploration. It has a very big downstream that is few feet from Nohoch nah Chich Downstream System. There is also there an upstream narrow and highly decorated. In this place Walter found a connection to a salt water corridor but the entrance was very difficult.

The third day of the expedition Sergio and Pep have found the other entrance in the crater and call it LukZonot. Here the cave starts in a difficult restriction to bring you to a very nice and technical cave. In this side we did the last days of the expedition.

Exploration Teams

The exploration teams change some of the days but basically they were formed by:

Bert Willcher – Suzanne Woodall:

This team formed by the person that did the effort of bringing a heavy underwater camcorder during all the expedition: more than 10 filmation dives and a lot of miles of dense jungle. And Suzanne is Richard Hick s wife.

They were more dedicated to obtaining a good quality shots than to install line.

They gave support to other teams.

Mol Balam Team

Richard Hicks- Dave Mc Laren

Team formed by a experienced explorer with Labnaha (2 expeditions and planning to do a third) Richard and Dave that came for first time.

They do a good task with 1200 ft of line in this difficult cave.  They installed 600 ft in Mol Balam upstream and several lines more till the total in Cenote LukZonot. (Muddy hole).

Walter Pickel- Jason Brauhn

They installed 500 ft of line (Grand Illusion and Don Polo's Diner).  And In addition they surveyed the line laid in the Ponzo line by Richard and Dave.

Our well known Jason (three expeditions on his back) was promoted to Ministro in a ceremony the last day of expedition by a Mayan Chaman.

Ministro is an exploration degree that you can get after 3 Labnaha expeditions alive.

Walter is an expert in geodesic programs and coordinates. Very useful in this expeditions.

Sergio Granucci-Pep Llinares

Find LukZonot and Install 2300 ft of line. They find Cenote Don Polo too and two skeletons.

Both are the directors of the expedition.

Logistics of the expedition.

One more time Labnaha Expeditions demonstrate a good level in Extreme Diving Expeditions.

The compressors were two Bauer Mariner powered by Honda one of them and the other by a Yanmar diesel engine. Both performed very well. They were supplied with new filters and new oil before the expedition as usual before an expedition. The maintenance before the expedition was done by Cuzel (Marco Rosenberg).

All the tanks were aluminum 80cf. because of the side mount rigs. We use 20 tanks in Caracol and 50 tanks in the Mol Balam system.

As the place was like a crater we decided not to place the compressors near the entrance of the Cenote, so we placed the fill station on the edge of the crater. The Camp Manager and the sherpas create a zip line to upload and download the tanks with pulleys and speleo Petzl equipment.

Four Sherpas were involved in opening the jungle and the cleaning of the diving places to avoid a possible attack of a snake or some of the animals that are hidden in the leaves and branches of the jungle.

They also carried the equipment from one place to the other .

This is a very hard task that the explorers appreciate a lot.

Sandwiches, fruits and cold soft drinks were provided everyday at the right time.

Every day we provide arrows of the expedition and knotted line as much as the explorers need. The camp manager was preparing knotted line few weeks before the expedition.


Few considerations about the jungle exploration.

Matching survey data with gps coordinates.

During the expedition many cenotes were founded, those are a very useful tool for the explorer for many reasons.
The first one is that with the gps coordinate you can readjust the survey data.

If there is a big variation of the azimuth and the total distance of a determinate survey from the first station to the last with the gps coordinate we must verify both.

For us this error can be 5% or less, for a bigger error we must verify everything.

In this case the Cenote that we discover was named “Don Polo” due to the work of Don Polo (the camp manager) in all our expeditions. He always has a good help and a smile even in the worst situations.

The second reason of the importance of finding new cenotes is the possibility of placing the front of exploration in a more advanced place and this way we can penetrate more in the cave. Sometimes if the cave is big we move all the camp to the last Cenote founded, starting from there all the new dives.

In the 3rd day of expedition, in the LukZonot exploration we had a total azimuth of 253º from the entrance to Cenote Don Polo and a distance from one to another of 1131 ft. This data obtained with the survey of the installed lines and later translated to the program “Compass” using the function rule and measuring from one point to the other.

The next day (4th day) Sergio & Pep team dove again the same line and brought with us a Gps inside of a Pelican container that Jason gave to us. They go till the Cenote Don Polo and take the Gps Coordinate two times.
At the same moment Pep ate two chocolates that he have put into the Pelican case together with the Gps. Jejeje, every moment is good to take energy!!!

At the main camp in the afternoon we compare the survey data with the Gps coordinate and there was only a difference of 40 ft. That was amazing!!!

So, the next step to close the cycle of a Jungle Exploration was to find the Cenote through the Jungle. We asked the Sherpa “Don Casio” (very good in opening Jungle) to come with us. With the help of the Gps and the compass in combination we found the Cenote. It was a very nice place.  A Big and elliptical crater with a lagoon placed at the south. We came back to the camp and inform the explorers that the new Cenote was founded.

Walter Pickel decides to visit it the next day with Don Casio.

Why has been this expedition so important?

Nowadays The Labnaha Exploration Team is working in 4 different fronts:

  1. Caracol System……………15 miles of surveyed passages.
  2. Uxben nach Iloob …………10 miles of surveyed passages.
  3. Mol Balam System………..  5200 ft.
  4. Aktun Hu System ………..   5200 ft.

All this systems are separated for a less than a mile one from the other and with this expedition we made a approaching of Mol Balam to Uxben down to a distance of 1500 ft.(that is not a big amount of line compared to the Labnaha World Record (5600 ft on one dive).This make easy the logistics because we founded a Cenote in LukZonot that is between this two systems.

Another important thing is the founding of old bones like the two skeletons founded in Cenote Don Polo. One a big animal that we do not recognize and the other a Wild Pig that was in a tunnel 1700 ft away from the entrance.

These skeletons will be studied by Mexican Paleontologists in further expeditions.


The Side Mounts

This is the first expedition where all the explorers use the Side Mount rig.

The systems where very different but all of them performed satisfactory.


Dive Rite Side Mount.

The name of this rig is “Nomad” but everybody call it “Transmadillo” (I don t know, why????)
A very new system. Used in this expedition by Bert Wilcher. He was satisfied with this rig. We have never seen it before in these caves but for video filmations or photo looks nice.


Marsupial System

Patented by Labnaha and used for Jungle Expeditions for 10 years. More than 100 new cenotes were founded with this system. More than 200000 ft of line installed with this system.

One of the good things of these rigs is the attachment of the tanks to the body. They never float even when empty. Very good for stage exploration and very long caves exploration.


Armadillo System

Used by the rest of the Explorers. Cave explorer Brett Hemphill originated the Armadillo side mount rig. Curt Bowen, cave explorer and publisher of ADM magazine, had conducted several expeditions to the Yucatan with this system.


The expedition day by day.

1st day.

The 2nd of December was the day everybody was waiting for. The explorers arrived to Cancun Airport and Labnaha and Alltournative Expeditions pick them up from the airport and transported to the divers accommodation in Puerto Aventuras.  All together went to eat something and start to plan the next days.

2nd day.

As everybody wished, the first dives were going to be in the amazing Cenote Caracol. This day we do a part of the filmations due to the prettiness of the passages of the upstream of the cave. Some of the explorers adjust their side mount rigs.

3rd day.

The night before was pretty hard for the sherpas. They had to carry all the equipment of the team from Caracol to Mol Balam. Amazing!! Everything was there at the time and in good condition. So, all we start a dive in Mol Balam.We were anxious to go in the water and so did we. Richard and Dave installed 600ft of line in Mol Balam upstream pushing the former line to the west.

Sergio and Pep found the other entrance in the other side of the crater and named it LukZonot (Muddy Hole) install 1420 ft of line and discover Cenote Don Polo.

Mol Balam

4th day

During the morning Sergio & Pep explored in LukZonot and the rest did it in Mol Balam.In the afternoon everybody was exploring LukZonot. Sergio and Pep with the Sherpas commanded by Don Polo take their “Machetes”, the GPS and the compass and start to find Cenote Don Polo though the dense jungle. Finally they found it and Double Check the GPS coordinate.

5th day

Sergio and Pep did a exploration of the Mol Balam upstream the rest go to the LukZonot. In the afternoon they change of places. Bert did filmations in Mol Balam.

6th day

Filmation dives in Caracol.The explorers were proposed to go to the system of the next exploration of Labnaha named Aktun Hu (Crocodile s Cave) but they preferred to dive in Caracol that is the best system for filmations.

7th day

All the explorers share the data of the explorations and did some maps. In the afternoon all decided t to make a visit to the Ruins of Tulum. We had lunch in the famous “Don Cafeto” of Tulum

8th day

A hard work starts for the sherpas and for Don Polo bringing all the stuff to Labnaha main camp. Back to the airport.

The future of the Explorations of Labnaha

Sergio and Pep evaluate the possibility of new expeditions in the area during the post reunion. New explorers are pushing hard for the design of new explorations of this kind. A lot of systems are waiting to be filled of lines, surveyed and mapped. Connections need to be done between systems. Bones and skeletons need to be identified and classified.
New movies and documentaries will be filmed. And all this information will give the human kind a more complete vision of this big picture that is the Mayan World in the frame of the Karstic Phenomena. We are going to design a new big exploration for May or June.

Micro Expeditions (two or three days) will be done every two months.

So, let us meet together in Labnaha.

100 ecofriendly