The Wonderland ProjectLatest update June 14, 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.
I want to take this time to properly introduce the members of Project Wonderland:
Kent Stone - USA - Team Leader, Full Cave Diver, Photographer - Jean Michel Liboiron - Canada - Full Cave Diver, Dive Safety officer - Massimo Ardizzoni - Italy - Full Cave Instructor, Photographer - Mauro Moro - Italy - Full Cave Diver, Photographer - Michael Dinitz - Germany - VFX Team Leader, Photogrammetry Specialist - Jeronimo Aviles Olguin Segovia - Mexico- Full Cave, Paleontologist, Photographer - Stephen Roden - USA - Rescue Diver - Engineer, Drone Pilot
These members have donated their time, equipment and skills as specialists in their field. I thank each of them for their amazing talent and background that each brings to the project.
As we proceed from here we will be 3D scanning caverns using Photogrammetry and high-resolution digital photography to create the most accurate cave recreations in the world. We will also be working with Paleontologist Jeronimo Aviles to scan bones, fossils, and other archeological significant pieces to incorporate into a virtual reality experience.
Thank you for joining us, Kent Stone - Explorer
I hope everyone has taken our silence as working hard. The team has been busy not only 3D scanning bones found inside caves but also we started scanning the first cave!
To explain what you are seeing in the image is a waterfall looking formation to the left. Along the ceiling, we are a stunning ribbon formation with small cut looking marks in it.
To say the least, the team is happy with the results and look forward to fully scanning our first dry cavern in the coming weeks.
All of this is possible because of our amazing sponsors, Dive Rite, for providing sidemount dive kits, lighting, fins. Helix Camera for Dive Housing and accessories for our Nikon camera system, Agisoft for providing Metashape, ProAir of Playa Del Carmen, Koox Diving for providing air and equipment, The North Face, Columbia clothing, Helly Hanson, National Geographic and everyone following this amazing adventure.
Finally after the first inspections, we dove in the new cenote of Dario. We called it 7 Chingones in honor of the day we saw it for the first time, walking in the middle of the jungle, under the violent rain, opening the path with machetes, it was epic, but in the end, reached the edge of the cenote , we have all seen the wonder before our eyes. And we were just 7, Dario the owner, one of his employees (whose name I can't remember), Max Ardizzoni, Kent Stone, Jean Michel Liboiron, Dominique Gingras and our videographer Juan Pablo. Returned to the place, during the dive we split into 2 teams. Team 1 Max and Kent are responsible for map and survey the cenote, a pit about 40 meters in diameter, with a depth of 16 meters in the center with a further deeper area on the south side, which reaches up to 21 meters. While team 2 Jean Michel and Dominique try to look for probable underwater continuations. The mission was successful, even if they did not find any continuation due to a major restriction that does not allow the passage of the cave divers. However, we measured and mapped another virgin cenote. A special thanks to our sponsor Dive Rite, who with his continuous support, allows us to dive and explore pristine places. Stay tuned for the next adventure.
This week has been something you would read about in an action adventure book. After we finished the survey of Boca Del Puma outside Puerto Morelos the landowner spoke to us about a cenote in the middle of a low canopy jungle outside Puerto Morelos. After a long drive down a farm ride, we were greeted by the thickest mess and tangle of vines. Our videographer Juan Pablo Ferrari did an amazing job launching the drone without getting into the trees above. Once he was airborne a quick five-minute search showed us our prize a cenote in the middle of nowhere! We looked for a trail but after not seeing one we opted for the hack through the jungle with machetes during a rainstorm tactic. Amazingly this tactic works long enough for us to find a well-worn animal trail that the locals sneak out too. We arrive and it is a huge surface pool and we launch the OpenROV courtesy of www.Sofarocean.com and the S.E.E. Initiative. I am using a Samsung Galaxy S9 currently and the water resistant feature seems to be holding true at this point and the picture and control are beautiful. We searched two areas and discovered sulfuric gas as well as a massive pile of trees starting at 18 meters. The opening definitely bells out as it gets deeper but the real question is how deep and what's in the bottom. A lot of this depends on when the ceiling of the cave collapsed and how long stuff has been falling inside. It is a very large opening with depths ranging from a natural ramped entry on one end to more than 18 meters on the other with larger possible underwater gallery visible before getting. These past two weeks have been an amazing assortment of adventures and meeting new people. Over the next week, I will start to introduce everyone and walk you through where we are headed.
Now to thank our sponsors and answer the question of what does it take to go cave diving. Beyond the educational and dive requirements, equipment is a high priority.
The main thing about this is two or more cylinders for breathing gas. Even though we have more breathing gas we use more conservative return pressures then open water diving. To really get into this I am going to walk you through my prep. The first thing is thermal protection, due to no sunlight once our bodies starting losing heat it doesn't stop. With long enough dives even the warmest ocean waters will make you chilled to the bone. I use a 7mm wetsuit while others dive in a drysuit. Now that we won't freeze let's discuss buoyancy. There are many choices of buoyancy control devices and each is a personal choice for functionality as well as comfort. The most important is deciding if you will be diving back mount or sidemount, sidemount being the teams preferred method due to restrictions and small passageways that we must fit and wiggle through. Each buoyancy device has different lift capabilities and you just ensure you have enough lift for the number of cylinders and gear you are carrying. I use the Dive Rite Nomad LS for my personal Sidemount harness. Buoyancy is one of the most important aspects of diving because of how it ties into almost every aspect of diving. Buoyancy in a cave is life and death, with pour buoyancy you can damage the cave, hurt yourself, or even cause a zero visibility situation. We now have our body warm and a way to control our buoyancy, now how do we move around? Fins! With cave diving fins you want something not too long and something you can easily frog kick while wearing. Now that we can move around we need to protect our heads, there are many gear helmets out there but it comes down to accessories you want to attach, ie: GoPro or torches. Okay, our brain is protected, our bodies are warm and we can maintain neutral buoyancy but we still need to breathe. We will add a minimum of two cylinders and two complete regulator kits configured for sidemount.
Now all of this stuff is amazing but humans can not see in the dark and being that most caves have no natural lighting we have to bring really powerful and long last lighting. I am currently using the Dive Rite EX35 and as you can see in the recent photos, it has a beautiful beam and allows us to really see what is off in the distance.
As you can see it takes a lot for one diver to safely enter an overhead environment. This brief walkthrough doesn't include the number of spools, extra torches, wetnotes, and any other equipment needed to complete the dive ahead. Doing exploration adds a layer of difficulty due to the fact we have no idea what the dive sites will hold for us and carrying extra gear can be as foolish as not bring enough
So awesome week team and I look forward to the telling you about Boca Del Puma this week!
The team and I would like to throw out huge thank you to Dive Rite and Lamar Hires! Sharing a deep passion for exploration and education Dive Rite is sponsoring Project Wonderland on our quest to 3D scan these amazing Cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula. The equipment we use determines if we make it back out of a cave or not and for this reason I am honored to have Dive Rite's expertise supporting Project Wonderland.
With the team together in Mexico, we are now ready to proceed. Before we begin I would like to thank every one of you truly, without your support none of this would be possible.
The team met today to discuss the next few weeks of the project. Currently, we have new caves near Puerto Morelos and we will be revisiting the very large cavern space to get measurements as we are preparing to scan into 3D. We will be visiting several beautiful cenotes over the coming weeks as well allowing us to photograph the amazing passages. Please follow along, share, and engage our team with questions you may have.
As we mourn our fallen explorer and friend we carry on. We train to be better than we were but the task does carry a high degree of danger even with the best training. We carry on for our friends, we honor their memory by showing the world something they truly loved. The team of Wonderland is ready to show you our world. Follow along for a crazy adventure filled with Meso-American masonry, caves willed with crystal clear water, HUGE whip spiders, and much more.
It is with a heavy heart that I type this posting.
As of March 23rd, the search for Cameron has been called off. We were able to aid in the search using the OpenROV and other volunteers and team members aided in the search from both land and sea.
To lose two teammates and colleagues in 10 months is absolutely devastating but to lose two friends that enriched the world the way they both did will leave a hole that can not be filled. I hope that our project inspires people as amazing as these two men and I pray that their accidents don't discourage the next generation of explorers.
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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