The Wonderland ProjectLatest update March 19, 2019 Started on December 1, 2018
The primary mission is to cave dive and photograph the entrances to the underground river systems throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.
One of our teammates Cameron Donaldson, the member who was searching the area between Cozumel and Playa for outflows was diving off the north end of Cozumel with his mother when he failed to return from the dive. His mother is safe but leading the search for this amazing person and I would like to ask our followers to please keep the family in your thoughts but to also contribute to the search to find him.
The month of February was insane between getting an ROV from OpenROV and working with Dive Rite and Lamar Hires to get the team of Wonderland set up with the gear needed for mapping this new set of caves.
I was able to get everything confirmed with Peter Sprouse that the cave set near Puerto Morelos are previously unexplored meaning that we must now also map these caves! To map dry caves we use a tool named DistoX2 modified. This device allows us to make multiple needed measurements quickly without the need for multiple devices.
Massimo and Jean Michel are staying in Mexico over the month of March while I run around getting last minute gear and funding needed to secure the tools needed. Currently, we are in need of a gas generator for lighting systems, ropes and repel gear to lower personnel and equipment into the large cavern. We are in need of a high power computer system that is capable of handling the Metashape Software from Agisoft.
I have just received word that that Cave 1 is a new discovery and we will now proceed forward with our new find!
Check out that S.E.E logo! Thank you OpenROV for your support.
Details to follow soon,
I wanted to get a few thoughts off my head while waiting for the ferry for Playa Del Carmen. These past few weeks have been used to get some behind the scenes things taken care of so that we may continue more smoothly. Today I am meeting with Stephen Rodan, another awesome Open Explorer project leader and Massimo Ardizzoni to gather more information about the first set of caves.
I look forward to updating everyone with a more complete project overview very soon!
Week 2 Summary:
Monday- Lou and I were able to meet with the second property owner and gained access to several new caves. One specific cave the bottom is filled with sascab, or decomposed limestone and water. The stalactite and coral formations are unbelievably well preserved and while walking through the surface pool I discovered a coral head fossil the size of my head!
Tuesday- Massimo and I returned to the original cave as well as the new properties and were able to photograph and mark GPS coordinates. The second landowner has given us permission to further investigate the land and search for more caves.
Monday ~ Another property owner has come to us and identified a cenote he has found on his property. This morning Jean Micheal and myself will be headed back into the jungle of the Rivera Maya to investigate the secrets of this long-hidden area.
Tuesday ~ Massimo and I will return to the site of cave A to start mapping of the initial area. I am hoping that Monday's investigation will lead to a dive photography session on this day as well.
Stay tuned to get the report of today's investigation
Outstanding first day in the field. We have identified several stunning small caves that need to be photographed and registered. It is truly amazing to see a place so covered in caves. I can push myself through dense jungle for a few minutes and find another cave with beautiful fossil formations.
Cave A: 23/1/2019 The surface pool quickly became so dirty that visibility was measured in millimeters and not even centimeters. We were able to establish that most of the flooring in that pool while semi-solid is dirt based and when sticking long poles into the dirt bottom we found no restriction of the NE side of the pool. Jean Micheal suited up and did a hand over hand inspection of the water-based cavern zone to find cooler water flowing which give promise to a current. We will return and reinspect the pool in a few days.
Cave B: 23/1/2019 After speaking with a local he informed us of a larger cave nearby. After locating the cave myself and Jean Micheal we're able to climb down and give a preliminary inspection. The water was clean, clear, and cool. This cave and several like it in the area have shallow pools with rock bottoms and even small fish and crayfish. Photo one is a small opening that we can look through and see a much larger cavern zone and pool off behind a large rock wall... To see these things is remarkable, while in this cave I really marveled at what it is we are doing and the challenging working ahead of us. These caves are almost 66 million years old and to think they will give up their secrets so easily makes for a foolish attempt at discovery.
In closing, I would like to take this time to thank Dominique Gingras with www.ESPO.biz an amazing Canadian dive shop that has no problem getting down and dirty in the spirit of adventure and showing the world these stunning caves. So if you guys need gear that will get you into the scuba diving in the best gear check these guys out!
Team Wonderland hopes that you follow along, share, and interact with the team members. National Geographics Open Explorer is a remarkable platform that not only allows you to follow our expedition but many others right down the road from you!
Preparation is over and the initial expedition team has been formed. Tomorrow the team of Wonderland will set out to dive our first unexplored cave just outside of Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. Tomorrow's goal will be to push the initial pool and to see where she goes, my current thoughts are that with the amount of current and clarity of the water we are looking at more than cracks in rocks. So these caves were formed almost 66 million years ago when the asteroid that whipped out the dinosaurs hit just off of the Yucatan Peninsula in Eastern Mexico just on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. The impact was so great that it fractured the limestone that the Yucatan is formed on allowing massive currents of water to erode and form vast underwater networks of flooded cave systems. Tomorrow we are diving one of these very fractures and hope to discover a completely unexplored cave system. The initial team tomorrow will be made up of Jean Micheal Liboiron, Massimo Ardizzoni, and the owner of ( https://www.epso.biz/ ) Dominique Gingras will be on the ground to lend a hand and support the team with photos and moving tanks in and out of the hole.
Picture 1 is the actual entry to the tunnel Picture 2 is the tunnel before the hole that enters the cavern Picture 3 is the hole in which leads us to the cavern space with the pool we will dive 22/1/2019 photo 4 is Jean Micheal testing just how deep the water was (deeper than he thought)
So now that you know what we have planned, I invite you and your friends to follow our exploration and I look forward to posting the next set of photos from inside that pool.
Team Leader Stone
I don't know if this counts as a new post for the first stage or a new post confirming we are moving to the next stage earlier than July 15th but I have an announcement.
We've done it! Not only did we find a cave, but a cave with a crystal clear pool of water... I don't want to say too much but I will include a few photos to show the way. The current plan is to return before the end of January to cave dive and lay the first line.
I am confirming everything with sponsors through this week and hoping to start filming so we can show you exactly what the team is up to very soon. Since we launched before receiving funding we will be launching the Kickstarter selling exclusive prints and expedition patches to help cover the major expenses that this endeavor requires. We appreciate everyone who is keeping an eye on the project and hope that you will become part of the project by contributing.
Thank you again, Photographer Stone
While sitting here at Chicago O'hare I wanted to take a moment and update everyone following. With the cameras and dive gear in tow, I prepare to make the first trip to Mexico to unload. I have contacted several schools about working with students through STEM-based education and eagerly await replies. Teammates will begin making their introductions over the next week and I encourage you that are following to ask questions, be involved, and most importantly learn. I hope everyone is as excited for 2019 as myself, the team, and the sponsors of Project Wonderland and we look forward to getting to work!
I would like to personally introduce my friend and colleague on this project, Micheal Dinitz. I had the please of meeting Micheal and his twin sister Maria a few years ago while backpacking through California. I was just coming from a really hard couple of months and nothing seemed to be going right. Once getting to know these two I became enchanted with the ability to create and love of the arts. When the project became something more than an idea I knew I needed Micheal and his talent on this team. So with that, I would like to welcome Micheal Dinitz, my friend and fellow adventurer.
Photo 1 (Maria Dinitz, April 6, 2016) Photo 2 Micheal Dinitz, April 16, 2016)
Preparing for 2019 the team of The Wonderland Expedition is excited to announce Helix Camera & Video as our first official sponsor. After Stone met with the owner and staff of Helix Camera and Video, he knew that it was a partnership made in heaven. Not only does Helix stock the latest in pro-level camera gear they also have an amazing inventory of lighting as well as carrying Ikelite housings to hold the Nikon D800 that will be used for the mission. Helix not only provided amazing service on my existing gear but with carrying such an amazing inventory had the Nikon D800 housing in stock!
The team is excited and eager to get started but we are still preparing. Any expedition demands proper planning, but an expedition involving caves and camera systems adds different levels of complexity. Safety is paramount and all of the team members need to be trained so each team member is able to serve as a backup to one another.
The Wonderland Expedition was born out the need for proper dive planning. Two members had met a few months prior and bonded through the passion of scuba diving and the comradery that ex-military share. Sharing that passion and bond the team dove several times a week, not only to dive but also to better each other and themselves. Those two members would be the start of The Wonderland Expedition, team leader PADI Instructor Kent Stone (USA) had just finished rebreather training in Hawaii and PADI Instructor Jean Michel Liboiron (Canada) was recently retired from the Canadian Military and establishing his family in Mexico.
While looking through cave maps looking for interesting places to dive, the team quickly realized that there was little to no information past the major tourist destinations. After surfacing inside the cave and seeing daylight through the small opening they both knew this was just the beginning. After 75 complete cave penetrations over 4 months, Jean decided to invest in a larger vehicle as the team had been using a Chevrolet Aveo to carry themselves, tanks, and gear into the jungle to explore and dive. After securing a pickup, Kent invested in two dive camera systems allowing for not only stunning photos but the start of capturing the first images of caves that had before only been a dream, thus The Wonderland Expedition. While searching for a diveable camera system team leader Stone met Instructor Cameron Donaldson (Canada) and by trading a rebreather for a camera the two quickly formed a bond born from the love of the dive and the passion to capture it. As fate would have it team members Donaldson and Liboiron already knew each other. That combined with the skills of all three the idea quickly became a reality and all members agreed to move forward. The team was still not complete, diving in overhead environments such as caves carries great risk. A Dive Safety Officer then joined, Carlos Arturo Herrera Perez (Mexico) is a NOAA registered Dive Safety officer and hyperbaric chamber operations trainer in Mexico.
Our last teammate is Brian James Bugge, Bugge and Stone met through the internet while discussing rebreathers and the love for exploration. Stone and Bugge grew close while training together in Hawaii for three months, sadly Brian J. Bugge passed away while diving his rebreather in late May. With the permission of his wife Ashley Bugge, Brian will be a member of the 2019 Wonderland Expedition. Whatever success the team finds Bugge's name will also be included.
Now that you have met the team I hope that you stay tuned, we are currently in the process of receiving new equipment and getting enjoying the holidays with family to begin the new year ready to push forward.
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