MALE SPEAKER: He was going to talk about caves He’s a very famous– I guess, I don’t know this field– cave explorer He’s been responsible for discovery and exploration of many caves, which he will cover, and he will have pictures– much better than what I can do He’s also been involved a lot in aerospace, and underwater exploration as well, which ties into the cave. And I’m doing a terrible job of introduction, so I want him to talk about this himself But remember, there is a 12:30 talk, which should be a so fascinating one Thanks BILL STONE: I want to thank all of you for the opportunity to come out here This is, for me, a rather eye-opening experience to see what Silicon Valley has a metamorphosed into over the last 10, 15 years or so I used to do some research work in collaboration with Ames I’ve met a few of the people who have migrated here from there, as the interest in the space arena change over time I’ve had the privilege over the past 25 years of being involved, not only with space exploration related projects, aerospace vehicle design and things like that at a national lab, but also of leading some projects that deal with some of the last untouched, truly unexplored terrain that exists on this planet If you try to ask yourself where would you go if you really wanted to go someplace that was truly unexplored, you think about the mountains, right? I’ve climbed some fairly high altitude peaks You can get satellite images of where you’re going while you’re on the mountain You can call up people through sat phone You can get weather forecasts for the next day to try to plan your summit assault That’s how much the Alpine environment has changed over the last 50 years Similarly, with pretty much all of the tropical rain forests, the jungles, and the other places, the arid deserts and things like that, as well as underwater Some may argue that the ocean is one of the least explored places, at least when you get down to talking about touching every square meter, that’s quite true But as far as knowledge, we have really detailed benthic maps of the entire floor of the ocean We visited the deepest spots, and pretty much like the plans to return to the moon in 2020, people are talking still about returning to the bottom of the Mariana Trenches, if it were a big deal We ought to be able to do better than that But in one particular area, and this is something that’s taken me a long time to realize, what constitutes a true frontier It’s a place where, in my opinion, the exploration consists of a process This is where many people try to wiggle out of the definition To me, the definition of exploration is putting this in terra incognita Nothing short of that Now, you can do it in many ways, by gaining scientific knowledge, by using intelligent mechanical surrogates Now we call these things robotic spacecraft, for example, or robotic autonomous underwater vehicles The question then becomes a philosophical one Is it better to see a raster line appear on a television screen of the image of a place that no one’s seen before, or is it better to be there in person to be able to look at it and interactively touch it, feel it, experiment with it, observe, satisfy the curiosity of the human species? I tend to fall into the latter category, but there are places where, indeed, it is too dangerous, too far, simply because our limited knowledge of propulsion has not allowed us to get there more easily, or perhaps it is, in fact, a lethal environment Like for example, the surface of Europa is not a good place for humans Five minutes there and you would have a lethal dose of radiation, largely whipped up by particles from the Sun going out and being spun up in the gravitational sphere of Jupiter So what I’m going to talk about here now, and I hope a couple of you will find your way over to the talk at 12:30 on Europa, because there’s a lot of cool stuff that’s going on in the robotic area as well, as many of those in California who have had any association with JPL or Ames would know But this is about what’s left on Earth It has to do with the exploration of extraordinarily deep caves Everybody’s probably at one time or another visited a commercial cave What I’d like to show you today is a very unknown world,

at least unknown to almost everybody I know Except for a very small band of expeditionary groups, they’re around the world, who do know what’s going on and realize that this is, in fact, a finite, dwindling frontier and they’re going for it now on expeditions pretty much as much as two to three or four months a year until they run out of time So what I’m going to show you is where things are happening There are largely three places in the world right now where there is a competition going on, for lack of a better term, between good-willed groups– Russians are leading one in an area of Chechnya, which is a bad place for Americans to go, unfortunately The US is leading a multinational team of about 10 countries to an area in Southern Mexico And there are pockets of work that are taking place at high altitude in Austria and the French-Spanish border and places like that But largely it is shaking out now to what we would call the 2,000 meter plus gain The deepest caves in the world for the longest times were measured as a crossing of 1,000 meters, much in the same measure as you would consider a high-alted peak to be an 8,000 meter peak There was this gradual push to where things slowly, slowly grew towards 2,000 meters deep It was as much of a physical barrier as a psychological barrier to think about it And I hope when you see these slides here, you’ll get a feel for the fact that these are not– it’s not like going to a National park These are projects where to gear up is equally or greater than the logistics involved with the largest ever expeditions that were ever put together Typically, you’re looking at a 50-person team, on site for four months It takes on the order of two to three weeks to get your team to base camp It takes several weeks to initially begin to prepare a place like this for travel, and you’ll kind of see what that travel is like And then there are a whole host of obstacles, at least three or four or five that I would run in to the category of extreme situations where we have had to invent technology And we’ve been doing this now for over 25 years, and you’ll get to see some of that here The place that we’re working, where the US team is leading, is in Southern Mexico If anybody’s been down there, it’s about 400 kilometers Southeast of Mexico City in the Northeastern tip of the State of Oaxaca The idea is that there is a large entrance up there called Cueva Cheve, which was discovered about 20 years ago At that time, it was explored down for a certain distance The water that goes in these things, unlike a Jules Verne journey, does not go to the center of the Earth They go towards the center of the Earth, but eventually with most of the deep cave systems on the Earth, they have to find a way for the water that creates– and these are created in limestone There are, in fact, lava type systems, but they don’t go as deep, at least not yet Most of them collapse because of the hydrostatic pressure In this particular case, in Cueva Cheve, we have the possibility of hitting over 2,600 meters down over a distance of about 20 kilometers And the waters come out in a spring down here in the depths of this place called the Santa Domingo Canyon So those are kind of the topograph places that are going on, and we have projects that are going up and down this mountain range It’s about 20 kilometers from left to right, about 6 kilometers across, and 2,600 meters deep The gain then is what’s in between in the center of this mountain, and how deep can you go in it Yeah? AUDIENCE: What did you say was the depth of a cave? BILL STONE: It’s the vertical extent I’ll show you here at the end In order to determine that, you actually have to survey what you’re doing inside the mountain So we actually have a three-dimensional computer model of the inside of the mountain that I’ll show you right at the end here that shows where everything sits inside If you go from point to point, for example, if you go from the highest known point and you pop up in the resurgence springs, you can go down there with phase differential GPS, and within a centimeter you know exactly what the vertical differential is So when we talk about depth, it’s the vertical differential from the highest point to the lowest point If you’re talking about the length of a system, that’s an entirely different animal The stuff that’s being found here will probably, when it all winds up, be in excess of 150 or 200 kilometers worth of passages that weave their way in through the interior of this mountain To do that, however, is going to be a logistical challenge, the likes of which we’ve really not dealt with yet here on Earth, and I’ll tell you why It’s kind of a dramatic statement to weight, but when you see what we’ve gone through to get the knowledge that we have and what remains, you’ll see that it is, in fact, logistics that control the entire thing So basically, you can start many, many projects here by trying to choose a target point to find your way inside the mountain This one here is at the bottom of a canyon that is deeper than the Grand Canyon It’s called the Santa Domingo That’s just a part of the ramparts of the plateau surrounding each side They go up to over 3,000 meters in each direction This typical type of morphology that you find down

there, you’re going through fairly dry type stuff Because you’re at a resurgence spring, you’re working upwards through the mountain. these are of some local Mexicans from in the village Just like in the US, you might have farmers that would own a cave down here They’re Mexican ranchers These are the kinds of things that people typically think about when they think about caves They’re relatively small, they have formations in them This is what you would find if you went to a typical tourist type cavern When you get further in, you find out that you’re dealing with places that are flushed by seasonal rains This is one of the controlling factors in Southern Mexico is that you really only have about a four month window between the beginning of February and the end of May when you can conduct any type of research here After that point, these things will flood right to the roof and flush out, and so you’re getting this nice, polished scalloping going on here However, invariably in these things, you find yourself confronted with obstacles that are a grade up There are several of them that I’ll point out to you here One is that the strata that you’re following can take a minor hiccup It can just be a concave bend that goes downward The cave does not end These are carved out by water moving through them The water that’s moving through them then collects– you have the equivalent of a subtrap in a sink in your bathroom or something like that, and the question is how long are those things Well, in this particular case, we’ve been in this 450 meters so far at 30 meters depth The little sketch in the lower right was taken from the expedition base camp log that showed this guy had gone in with two tanks and a re-breather Took the re-breather off, took one of the tanks off and was pushing the other tank ahead of him with a hammer trying to knock rocks out of the way That’s the kind of mentality that you have going on to explore these things At the same time that was going on, there was another team that was saying, well, you know, if it stopped here going down, there’s still a possibility that there can be multilevels These things are labyrinthine in nature The rivers find their courses from higher levels to lower levels over time So this crew here on the– well, all these slides– started climbing above that underwater tunnel, and, in fact, scaled 100 meters straight up using rock drills and Yosemite-type climbing techniques To where they got to a point where the path onward was blocked with boulders in the ceiling The curious thing was that there was a lot of air coming out of these boulders Now, you had a choice there You’re hanging off 100 meters worth of rope, over an underwater tunnel, and if you decide to pull one of these boulders out so that you can go past it, it may initiate a landslide which then comes down and cuts all your ropes, and might hurt you as well, or at the very least leave you stranded hanging on the wall up there So we decided it was prudent at that point not to go any further So here was kind of a cross-section of what’s going on in the bottom That’s a section view, and on the top is the plan view There’s about 12 kilometers of caves there The parts that are blue and red are under water, and that is not uncommon in a deep cave system to find the fact that a fair substantial amount is under water, some of it involves climbing going up If we were exploring this from the top down, we would be throwing ropes down these shafts as opposed to climbing up from the bottom But this is starting at the bottom of the problem and trying to see if we can explore into the mountain going upwards Another thing that’s rather curious and I always found this funny when I looked at the history of exploration and things like that is you would look at a map of a very deep cave over in France, for example, and it would have dates on it, 1898, 1930, 1952, 19– these would be the places that over the course of time, sometimes over 100 years in many cases, there would be expansion of knowledge because technology had changed or something like that So many of these things will go for a 10-year or 15-year hiatus before somebody will say you know it’s time to go back and look again So this right here, Cheve 2003, was the first expedition in seven years to what is certainly one of the great caves of the world It would be like the equivalent of Everest getting visited only once every seven years That’s the nature of these places and the logistics of getting to them This picture right here is rather curious You can see all these little white streaks there That’s 3,000 meters of 9-millimeter nylon line that’s going to be used to rig this cave. And straightening it out, and cutting it, and bagging, and things like that, is one of the first little chores that you do on an expedition The area is located just to the east of the well-known Tehuacan Valley This is the place where corn was first discovered by anthropologists back in the 1960s, well, proven to have existed there as one of the earlier agricultural remnants of a ancient society That was where it was first cultivated I should say

This is Robert MacNeish and that crew In any event, you’re going up from a desert through deciduous, and then finally up into a Pine forest at 3,000 meters elevation One of the things you can see here is what looks to be a giant valley In fact, that valley extends in five different directions of about the same size And sitting at the very bottom is this little soccer field with nice green grass growing in the bottom It’s called a llano in Spanish, meaning meadow The curious thing about it is that this is up at 3,000 meters elevation All the water that drains within that 5 kilometer diameter circle goes into this entrance right here When you find things like this, this is the kind of things that people who are looking to discover a deep cave somewhere in the world look for those kind of signs Does it capture a lot of water Is it very high elevation In this particular case, it’s really sitting on top So what we saw before there was explorations in this thing called the Cheve resurgence down at the very base of the mountain We’re now at the very far upper right at the entrance of Cueva Cheve trying to go down In this year, 2003, the deepest point in the cave was 1,386 meters, and you see this thing called Cheve sump That means there’s an underwater tunnel there And as soon as you start adding all of the rope work, and the fact that you’ve got to do cave diving at the end of this, you start to see that the logistics start to mount up, which is why people don’t do this every year Very typical here This is just going through a series of 120 shafts on the way down and traverses They vary in size Most of them probably 15, 20, 30 meters A lot of them can get up as high as 50 to 150 meters This is at 320 meter level I hope everybody understands metric, because I’m not going back to feet We made that conversion a long time ago at the National lab So this is the 500 meter level here This is where pretty much the limit of where you could get on a single day’s travel This would be about 24 hour journey to go down to this point and back out with a backpack That’s the beginning of a shaft If any of you guys, or people, saw, for example, some of the Hollywood representations of what happens underground, things like that Invariably they have something like a bottomless pit, and they throw a rock in it and it goes forever Curiously enough, this one here is 150 meters If you throw a rock down this, it takes about six seconds of free fall to hit the bottom That’s really not much The current knowledge of this kind of thing is single drop, not necessarily the deepest cave in the world, but a single drop is now 600 meters over in Croatia for people who are into morphological features It is, as far as I’ve heard from colleagues, a straight drop It’s got Alpine ice water that flows into it So it’s not very pleasant place But 2,000 feet straight down– oops, slipped Throw the catch me here One of the things about deep caves is that they are very much like a– to give you an analogy, it’s like the limbs of a tree Very high up in the tree you have very small limbs They come down and they eventually join to form a truck Think of each one of those things as the potential entrance that collects water So the tops of a very deep cave frequently tend to be small, unless they have a big focus mechanism– that’s the term for that big sink hole that you saw there Frequently you don’t have that So you end up with these very tiny passages, that as you get deeper they get bigger after they join with another and another and another But eventually in all these cases, by the time you get to somewhere around the 800 to 1,000 meter level, you have a substantial underground river that you are dealing with that continues to build and become a danger, a physical danger So you find yourself building tension traverses and things like that to bypass all this stuff AUDIENCE: This is the dry season? BILL STONE: That is correct Rainy season, that water would probably be more than 5 meters higher in that area, and you would not want to be there Some passages would flood completely shut This picture on the left here is something that’s called a taut line/slack line traverse, and it’s a technique that we picked up from the Europeans probably 10 years ago in which you have a, what used to be called a Tyrolean line, which is a diagonal line going down, and then you have a slack repel line So you hook up a short cable onto the taut line and you repel the slack line What it does is it carries you magically away from the place you want to avoid, which in this case is that big waterfall Coming back up is a little more complicated You have to put a pulley on the taut line and ascent the slack line This kind of gives you an idea for the logistics here You’ll note that there’s distinctly different types of suits going on here That’s because we’ve got nine nations involved on these projects Typically sometimes 10 or 11 Right now it’s mostly US, Mexico, England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Canada, Australia, Portugal,

Spain are the main ones These guys right here with a light-colored yellow suits are all the Polish team They’re unloading tackle at camp two at minus 800 meters On the far right over there, the guy in the sleeping bag, is on the lead rigging team He’s out about two days from the entrance at that point These guys up there have just brought in a resupply of rope and food to keep the lead team going AUDIENCE: Do you want a question? BILL STONE: Yeah, sure Go right ahead AUDIENCE: What about communication? How does the guy who’s two days on the lead– I mean he’s not using his cell phone BILL STONE: No, that’s a very good question In fact, up until I would say last year we did it all by basically messenger You would send a message back with somebody from camp to camp to camp, which offered tremendous– it’s like one of these games where you all sit in a circle and you tell a message to the next guy and by the time you get back, it’s not anything close to what this guy really wanted If it happened to be that he wanted a battery pack for a drill because they weren’t going to be able to rig anymore, and what came out was I need a charger for a battery pack, but it doesn’t work with that one So the guy gets this charger for the battery pack and he says, well, you know this only runs at 110 AC, we don’t have that down here We’ve seen stuff like that And that’s a really good question because it bears on what I’m going to show you at the very end of this thing It’s this logistical pyramid that you’re fighting, and the question is can you cut the ties to the surface? There are some things that you can cut, some you can’t But the issue of communication is one that was dealt with over the last year We have three solutions, one of which was to deal with magnetic induction radio and actually put receiver stations on the surface and then standard radio relays back The second one was to run a multi-hop internet in And the third one, which we ultimately ended up doing, was using a single wire, low impedance com system that used the Earth as the ground Very clever design Came out of Australia It’s just a little tiny box the size of a pack of cigarettes With that you got one hand on the wall for your ground and you press the button and you’ve got communications and it works like gangbusters So we’ve been using that since We ran seven kilometers of wire over the last year in one system here But anyway, this is a typical large tunnel when you’re down there Everybody asks me what is its depth? AUDIENCE: On one of those, you mentioned that GPS system before wouldn’t pick up the satellites either What’s the technology? BILL STONE: GPS would not work underground You put a piece of paper over– AUDIENCE: You said you hit suspension depth BILL STONE: Oh, only between the open entrances So you could go from the highest entrance to the spring provided you had made a link between them, and it would serve as a correcter, an ultimate absolute correcter, to whatever survey that you had done in between It only works if you have access to open entrances AUDIENCE: How do you measure the depth then? BILL STONE: We survey in polar coordinates You have a metric, fiberglass tape, you have two optical instruments, hand-held These are [? Symptose ?] made in Finland Quarter-degree accuracy on compass angle, and roughly the same on vertical inclination So if you think about it, our polar coordinate system, you got all the information you need to convert back to Cartesian or standard GPS type coordinates That’s basically how we do it As you’ll see here at the end here, we actually have a computer model of the entire internal coordinates of the mountain, and they’re done in northeasting and op standard UTM GPS coordinates So you could actually overlay those on a standard GIS model and look at it Right now we’re in the process of converting and getting the digital terrain model for Oaxaca, and I don’t have it to show you But you can see what the surface looks like on Google Earth I could give you the coordinates Anyways, one of the things that people always ask us here is what does it take to get on one of these teams? So the guy on the right over there is just doing the normal test that we ask everybody to perform [LAUGHTER] BILL STONE: So onward you go from camp to camp It takes roughly one day’s travel, and by one day’s travel we’re talking anywhere from 12 to 16 hours one way travel time between camps So this is camp three You’re down at the end 1,025 meter level, and you can get an idea for the feel of the tunnel right there We’re on the side of that on a little pocket over there Finding flat spaces is always a challenge in a deep system because you have rivers that are flowing the place out every year Yeah AUDIENCE: Are these strictly in an exploration and surveying teams, or is there a biologic aspect to any of the expedition? BILL STONE: It is not uncommon to have a biologist along It is not an intentional search that we do to have a biologist along, the same way that we would not necessarily have a geologist along Most of the people who do this long enough recognize instantly if there’s something unusual, and they’ll frequently collect it Some people just carry a little vile of formaldehyde because there are people who do this

You have to watch that though because you’re crossing a curious boundary in certain countries, and Mexico is one of them If you’re doing scientific research, you have to have a Scientific Visa, which is totally different from a standard Tourist Visa, which is what most explorers go on AUDIENCE: So a lot of the teams that are working on the [UNINTELLIGIBLE] are looking for places that are sort of like [UNINTELLIGIBLE]? BILL STONE: That’s an interesting connection you make there Yes, people like Penny Boston and a few of these other people who are fairly well-known Extremophile biologists and things like that, Norm Pace, John Spear, people like that Some of the times they’re finding these things in caves Frequently, they’re finding them elsewhere in hot springs and places like that There are a whole host of those, and that’s a totally different talk I will talk a little bit about the types of things that we’re designing apparatus to detect on Europa when we do the 12:30 talk So again, the thing is when you’re going down there, you’re picking up more water all the way, which means you’re constantly rigging more rope So about this point, you’ve run out of your 3,000 meters of rope and you’re getting ready to move on to doing the final bits of exploration As we invariably find, the deeper you get, it seems like the higher the probability is that you’re going to find a tunnel that is completely under water So in Cheve, you’re now at a point where you can see the waters is building up massively in that left-hand slide Still doesn’t mean that you can’t hit small spots If you hit a hard layer of rock, you can usually hit a fissure that’s narrow That’s actually not narrow Narrow would be something that would be compressing your chest and your back at the same time and just barely getting through So this is the typical place that you would get Up until probably 1970, ’75, these places used to be called terminal sumps, or terminal syphons, meaning that’s it OK, that’s the end, let’s get out We’ll de-rig the ropes and go home Until people started taking a dive mask along and sticking their head under water and saying hey, you know the cave doesn’t end here, it’s just full of water, man So that started a whole cascade over the last 30 years of this skill, sport, whatever you want to call it, called cave diving It’s developed into two distinctly different factions If you go, for example, down to Cancun or the Yucatan, you can actually take a sport course and do a cave dive down there right now You can get an open water certification, then you do a basic cave dive And you’ll see what some of these cenotes and things like that look like Very fascinating Also very deadly if you go much further without the proper skills The other faction, which is perhaps, I would say, on the order of one of them to 300 or 400 of these other types who go and visit these springs and things like doing cave diving, is what you would see the divers who would do this kind of stuff The problem is that you have to have all these other skills behind you to get to these locations The other problem is that to transport normal diving apparatus, let’s say a tank of compressed air to these places, is enormous So when you get down there, if you don’t find the way on on the first crack, you’ve just shot all of your equipment and all that has to go all the way back up Right now, this is at a point 8 kilometers from the entrance one way, three and a half days travel time Very arduous And after it’s rigged So you’re about six weeks into the expedition right now just to get to this point And that’s with your one shot, right? So to break that, what people have done is gone to closed cycle life support systems that are now becoming popularly known as re-breathers What those things do is close the metabolic loop and you can get anywhere from 6 to 12 hours out of a backpack that weighs the same amount as what you had before, and you can take the recharge materials to give you another 12 hours So suddenly the distance underwater becomes less and less important, as long as it’s not too deep So in 2003 we were successful in passing this first one here It was 120 meters long, about 12 meters deep, which by diving standards is not much The second one, about a kilometer away, this was all a large cascade canyon, again, with all that water that you saw before 280 meter dive there, and on the far end of that, there was a place where the ceiling had collapsed and you couldn’t go any further So the problem then is now what do you do? Well, you could, perhaps, put a team out there and camp on that far side of that second underwater tunnel and see if you can weasel your way through What everybody felt was you know, maybe it’s time to start looking for an alternative way into the heart of the mountain So a year later, we had a three-month reconnaissance expedition looking at areas in between that entrance and the resurgence to try to find a way on This is kind of a topographic map of what’s going on This is the main Cheve entrance right here The resurgence is right at the very top there That’s over 18 kilometers a straight line distance between those two The limestone band runs, it’s a 5 kilometer wide chunk, perhaps about that wide from here to there

The idea then is can you find places where there are entrances dropping in Well, this was one of the areas right here that seemed most profitable for looking for new entrances And indeed, we found a lot of stuff while we were up there It’s one of the few remaining true cloud forests in Latin America It’s up at about 2,600 meters elevation You can see everything is covered with green moss This is on a typical day where, or untypical day, where the sun is actually out This is more typical, chopping your way through 10 meter high vegetation to look for entrances But entrances, we did find, over 150 in the space of three months Many of them quite spectacular from the entrance looking out, things like that But ultimately, we ran across this one here, which had the name J2 Now, you might wonder where these names came from Well, since we’re doing the original exploration– in fact, the only people to ever have ventured into this cloud forest before were a handful of local hunters from this tiny remote village on the mountain down there called El Ocotal So this was this pretty much cutting track where nobody had ever been, even in the jungle on that mountain We had various groups breaking up to go do the surveys Well, the Americans went with a lot of the Mexicans, and we would put a P for pozo, which means pit in Spanish, and we were up to like P25 or 30, something like that The Poles, the Spanish and the Australians went off in another group, and they used the term J, which in Polish means Jaskinia, which means cave. So J2 was cave number two in Polish That was where the name came from Now, we were able to get down a little over 340 meters, something like that, during the course of that project The thing that made this very interesting was the fact that there was a wind blowing into this entrance that exceeded 35 miles an hours, 35, 40 miles an hour And that alone was enough to drive a team to want to come back and find out where the heck that was going, because you don’t get a wind that’s 35 or 40 miles an hour in a cave unless there’s something enormous underneath It takes a huge hydrostatic differential in terms of compressed air to cause that kind of air flow to form, which also means that there’s consequently a big cave, but a very deep cave as well, attached to it So this is expedition life in the cloud forest. Gear is all hung under tarps because it’s always dripping and rainy Everybody hangs out in their tents when they’re not up and caving It is wet, it’s dirty, you have to deal with a lot of really strange characters who have attitudes, and they have strange ways of resolving their problems. But in general, I would say if I had to add up some of the experiences that I’ve had through life, and what has been the most valuable to me, it’s the people that you do these crazy things with A lot of people I’ve talked to about this said, well, it’s kind of like war You’re out there with a platoon or something, you all barely survive for some lucky reason, and you go back and you have that experience to think about for the rest of your life The difference is here is we meet every year This is my family It’s my international family here, and they’ve all got crazy ideas about what life is about and everything else So it’s a good cultural diversity time for all of us So this is the exciting thing that got everybody to come back there You might think that that’s not so exciting But in fact– and the first 400 meters really isn’t exciting In fact, it’s really terrible You’re basically in a fissure It’s one of these deals where unlike Cheve, it did not have a huge drainage area, and so therefore you were working at very high altitude, you’re up in one of these tiny little limbs that’s small and leading on downward Ultimately, there’s a series of shafts There’s one that’s about 140 meters long It’s not nearly as big as the ones in Cheve, but is controlled by the same geological straight and so it tends to form shafts Just like all the other things, repeating the ideas Camp one was established at 500 meters about eight hours from the entrance Not as far as normally we would like, but that was the only place that we could actually put a camp Below that you’re now in clean washed rock, you’re picking up streams. As soon as you have something about that size you know you’re going somewhere You know that you’re definitely headed for a very, very long, remote trip down into the core These are kind of like walking through mountain streams and things like that with a slot canyon, except having a roof over your head You don’t really even think about the fact that there’s a roof over your head unless you’re cave diving That’s a more disciplined type situation where you really are thinking about what are your options for getting out Whereas here you’ve got plenty of time to think about it You get tired, you can just sit down Same thing with being on rope It’s again, J2, very similar to Cheve Two and a half kilometers to get to the moment of exploration in 2005 three and a half kilometers where we got to this year AUDIENCE: What’s the temperature down there in Centrigrade degrees? BILL STONE: It starts off at about 10 to 12C at the

entrance, and by the time you’re down 700 meters, it’s sitting at around 13, 14 And it’s not so much from geothermal heating as from the fact that you get frost and snow and stuff like that at high elevations that run down these valleys and dump into the entrance You’re really equilibrating with the mountain by the time you get to that depth So again, a typical camp down there We have a wonderful relationship with the Nalgene Labware Company [LAUGHTER] BILL STONE: And we’ve had it for almost 25 years I would say You might wonder what do you use these things for? Well, the thing is you’re constantly in the rain, you’re swimming, you’re diving, you’re doing– If you want to be happy underground, you don’t want to arrive there with your food soaked, your clothes soaked, and your sleeping bad soaked Very, very bad karma Well, in this particular case, we found out a long time ago– actually, not that long ago– but we found a very good synthetic sleeping bag that would fit in a four liter bottle if you compressed it Now, it takes some extra effort to make it fit in there, but it’s worth it because these things are like nuclear indestructible You can actually drop them down shafts and they just bounce around at the bottom and off they go So you can carry your hammocks down there, you can carry your clothes down there in these things, and basically you’re transporting these bottles through the cave until you get to where you’re going to go AUDIENCE: I don’t see any advertising, so how much does it cost, and who’s funding? BILL STONE: Very good question I’ve run projects like this that have run as little as $25,000 to run an expedition when I was doing stuff in college at UT Austin, to as much as over $2 million It depends a lot on the technology that’s being involved When we were first developing closed cycle life support systems, we were building 8, 9, 10 prototype devices that were running $50,000 to $80,000 a piece to small process manufacture We had to design our own computers That’s a whole different talk that I don’t have an opportunity, unfortunately, to get in to here But over the course of 15 years, we developed some pretty high technology, and building that stuff costs money So I would say generally a project like this you’re looking at around $100,000, and you’ve got roughly 40 to 50 people who are involved Typically on the order of 20, 25 industrial sponsors, corporate sponsors put up most of that National Geographic has been very, very good to us We have probably been sponsored by them, I would say, 7, 8 times They don’t always do a story Once in a while we’ll do a story in the yellow magazine, the main one Frequently they’ll do stories in Adventure magazine, things like that Sometimes it’ll come out on the web There’s a great website that’s still archived there on the 2004 expedition Rolex, another good sponsor there We’ve been very fortunate in the last couple of years to have had some individual patrons who put money into the– you know, much like Lance Armstrong, built up the US cycling team for the Tour de France and all that We had people who would put into a nonprofit corporation to try to get the team out in the field And we’ve been pretty lucky the last couple years We’ve been pretty much been self-sponsored for the last few years That will change if we have another high tech need that pops up So somebody was asking how we know where we are This is really typical You have somebody who’s a good artist/sketcher who’s taking the notes down And basically you’re building maps of what the roadway looks like ahead that you have to navigate through, and that’s information that you pass on to the next crew that’s coming in to change out with you when you want to go back to the surface You might wonder how long you stay down I’ve accumulatively spent 397 days below 400 meters deep Typically, your run would be on the order of anywhere from 10 days to two weeks Maximum somewhere between 18 to 20 days As you’ll see when I show you the slide at the end here, we’re extrapolating to complete this project probably on the order of 35 to 40 days as a mission length of time at distances over 30 kilometers from the entrance In 2005 we had a rather curious thing happen that hadn’t happened to me in 20 years because invariably we took cave diving equipment with us, just in the off chance that you ran into an underwater tunnel Well, we had so much wind in this cave J2 that we figured why bring diving gear It’s just an extra piece of stuff you’re not going to use because there’s so much wind That means it’s all open, it’s deep, and we’re just going to be rigging rope this year So we had plenty of rope Until we hit the 700 meter run You see this guy here on the left up to his armpits there in water in that fissure, which obviously, he’s not going to go any further in We didn’t have any dive gear in base camp So we backed up and we tried the old climbing trick Go into the roof, see if you can find a place where the old river went, and try to bypass the sump Well, we tried that for two weeks and it didn’t work And then finally we drew straws in base camp, and four

lucky volunteers drove two and a half days back to Brownsville where a team from Austin, whom we contacted on sat phone, brought down enough dive gear for four people and then they drove back So within five days we had dive gear at camp This is not your normal dive gear These are carbon epoxy tanks They run at 6,000 psi They weight about 8 pounds empty, about 16 pounds full So half the weight of the tank is the gas that you’re putting inside there AUDIENCE: And is that just compressed air? BILL STONE: Yes, in this particular case These are shallow dives, so you don’t need Helios or anything else But again, that’s a whole other subject we can talk about if people are interested AUDIENCE: So why was there so much wind if the cave was [UNINTELLIGIBLE]? BILL STONE: Because there, in fact, were higher-level fissures, but they were only a couple of centimeters wide But because they were on the order of 30, 40, 50 metres tall, you’ve got enough cross-section there for it to get through However, even with that, what we discovered, and I’ll show you something interesting here that happened just after this In order to do a dive, you noticed how narrow that fissure was Well, underwater we found that, in fact, it was still almost that narrow It was about a meter, less than a meter wide Maybe three-quarters of a meter wide And you had to get through that Well, the normal technique is to either have tanks on your back or on your side But those wouldn’t fit through We couldn’t get through the thing with that So we ended up doing this thing where you strap two tanks together, this neutral, you push it ahead of you and then you basically slip through this tight crack underwater while pushing that gear ahead of you Here’s the phone we were talking about The first use that we saw with that was in 2005 where we ran an underwater line through the underwater tunnel to talk to the crews who were on the other side, just in case we had a problem So this went from camp two to the crew that was on the lead team on the other side of the sump What they discovered over there was something really curious, and it’s something that I haven’t seen in 40 years of doing this stuff Is that where those guys are standing right there, there used to be a gigantic pile of boulders, about 15 to 20 tons worth And they were small enough that they had backed up and gotten silt on them and built a dam, which pulled the water up in this fissure to a point where you had to dive through So they started pulling the rocks out and they found that, indeed, they were lowering the water enough to eventually lower it two and a half meters to where they had air space to go through So this guy right here on the right is actually coming through the place where we dived with those two tanks just the previous day And beyond that, things are pretty much the same Just the kind of thing that you’d expect in a small in-feeder into a gigantic cave system Again, doing lots of rigging along the walls Then finally you get to a fine point in the deep caver’s world where you still have all this gigantic wind and you run out of rope at the end of some big shaft going down and there’s nothing but blackness below you And then you come back and you see where the heck you are It’s at that point that you begin to cycle anew for the next year’s project So everybody says well, we’re all out of time this year, what are we going to do next year So you look at these things and you start thinking well, are we coming back here or not? In this particular case, we did And again, this is the cultural diversity of the teams that we have up there When you’re sitting at base camp and doing nothing but either sitting in the rain forest or working in the muck, you tend to have a curious psychological outtake and look for ways to amuse yourself This is Artur Nowak on the left from Poland That’s Mark Wilson on the lower left over there from Australia And Tony Dwyer from Germany on the right And again, upper section, tight, narrow, dirty, uncomfortable When you get down to about the 1,000 meter level, you’re in the water This year we did a couple things different this year because we were trying to experiment with ways to break this tie chain to the surface The first thing we did was try to reduce the amount of clothing that you have to take down And one way we did that was by finding a way to introduce heat into the sleeping environment here That’s a silk tent, weighs about one pound Fits in one of those four liter Nalgene bottles And it raises the temperature of six people sleeping in there by about 6 degrees C. 6 to 8 degrees C. It’s quite significant such that you can really cut down on the weight of what you’re bringing on down Again, typical camping environment here So we are not in a Gulag or a concentration camp here These are happy explorers reducing weight We’ve only got one spoon between the entire four person crew here No bowls, no cups, one pot You even think to the level of where you either don’t take a toothbrush or you cut the toothbrush off to save the weight of the handle when you’re going down to places like this because everything has to be carried out Here’s another interesting experiment that went on Probably half of the weight that we carry– this might be amusing or whatever– is the fact that we’ve gotten away from the traditional way

that people used to use light underground, which was calcium carbide Right up until about, I would say, 2001, 2002, this was the standard way that we went Calcium carbide, you put it in a little container, you put water on it It generates the acetylene You light the acetylene, you’ve got this very bright flame Anybody who’s used a welding torch knows how bright acetylene is They used this, it was invented back in the early 1800s for miners We’ve not completely supplanted that We used to use 700 to 800 pounds of carbide for an expedition 700 to 800 pounds We now use less than 20 pounds of lithium ion batteries What you see right here are lithium ion batteries that we’ve developed for drills The way that you rig is using the pneumatic impact drills Well, those used to use really big, heavy batteries And taking those out to the surface every time was probably 25% of the mass that you were transporting up and down. so what we did now, is by going to these batteries, and using a hydroelectric power station to recharge them by hanging in the water, we have snapped that tie to the surface And off we go down in the big tunnel You’re now at 6 and a half kilometers distance from the entrance at about 1,100 meters down Geology is all around This is what’s called a slickenside, for those who have ever heard that term in a geology class It means a place where the Earth has been just ripped up and down You can probably see it out on the San Andreas fault and other places like that if you look very carefully But this is a graphic example where the left side has just dropped down below the right side, and you can see the signs of salacious materials like clay and stuff like that, which have a nice color to them, that indicate the fact that these walls have moved to some seismic event in the past AUDIENCE: Also, we’re seeing all these photos taken with a flash, and presumably you’re seeing this whole thing with your Petzl headlamp and that’s about it, right? BILL STONE: Actually, not Petzl headlamp, we design our own LED lights AUDIENCE: OK But with a Petzl band on it BILL STONE: Yeah AUDIENCE: So you’re working on this with some cluster of LED lights and you have like that 5 degrees of– BILL STONE: Right, and that’s a good point So if I go back up here– I don’t want to delay the end of this show too long– You look at a slide like this, OK, you don’t see that when you’re walking through it That’s a multiflash thing Pretty much like from about five slides before this, until this right here, all those previous slides were taken with either bulb or large capacity underwater strobes and Kodachrome 200 film using Nikon S5 cameras This year everybody has gone digital, and as a result of it, the quality has gone down So we’ve gone from probably 20 megapixel, 25 megapixel resolution, to these three and a half megapixel waterproof cameras that you can put in your pocket So everybody likes them, but we haven’t crossed that frontier of bringing the quality back up in terms of digital, because if you gave me the top of the line Nikon 15 megapixel digital camera right here, $6,000 camera, I and 39 other people on that team could trash it for you in less than a half a day in an environment like this So that’s the problem that we’re still working on there The environment can vary dramatically The rock here can just be as fluted as Swiss cheese You have to really watch yourself when you’re walking on stuff like this There’s a term for it It’s called [? xenolith. ?] it means razor rock in Latin It’s very peculiarly present in tropical caves in certain areas This kind of looks like a pleasant area, but in fact, everything they step on breaks off underneath them as they go through Not everything is big These are the kind of things that you occasionally have to deal with While you’re doing that, of course, you’re also passing five or six duffel bags that you carry between your team with them Frequently we don’t have the sense to show those in the pictures because they’re in the way of the camera We’re down at the 1,150 meter level here And finally we’ve arrived at camp three This is a far more arduous trip here You’re about 7 and a half kilometers now from the entrance 1,150 meters down Same ideas again though The silk tent to keep you warm, lightweight stuff There’s our happy crew This is the, we call this the DUS team That’s the Dutch members of our team on the left there, and myself, and Matt Covington who’s from Stanford, are the US members– that was be Dutch-US team This is a typical night down at camp three again with the single pot servings It looks suspiciously comfortable in this place And in fact, you can have nightmares because you wake up and you go, what a great place, and you step outside and realize where you are This is what you look like after 10 days down It gets to be a little wearing on you After about 20 days down, you don’t look a whole lot different, you just have a little more facial hair It just gets to be a place that you go to work You get up every morning and do it Again, things that you don’t see on the surface Just razor-like little things with popcorn growing on them

in the middle of a big tunnel Stuff like that And, of course, the ubiquitous underwater tunnel, which marked the end of this year’s exploration at 1,210 meters down That’s our lead diver for this year, Jim Brown, coming back This was not a re-breather dive In order to get off a quick recon right at the very end of the trip, we just had two carbon tanks with us And as a final act of arrogance, we tried to put a climb directly over the top of the sump So the conclusion of this story will leave you hanging, so to speak So where is all this is going? Why do all these people spend enormous amounts of their private effort and money and time and risk their lives at to do this? Well, it’s largely because we’re looking at something that’s going to happen It’s going to be an event It’s going to be like is the US or the Russians going to be the first on the Moon? Once it’s happened, that’s it, it’s history, it’s gone Right now, the deepest cave in the world is sitting out there waiting There’s a of couple people who think they have it They quite likely do have it Either the Russians or the US team probably are on to it, and Cheve, in the eyes of the American conglomerate team, is the place where it’s going to happen, and it probably will not be anywhere else in the world than Southern Mexico in our opinion We may be surprised But this is the way things have been going starting as early as 1700, how deep people have been underground Currently, this is a little bit out of date The Russians hit 2,140 as of January last year Otherwise, the map is pretty much the same Cheve is down there at number nine You’ll notice, however, that there’s not a whole lot of difference between the top 10 in terms of vertical distance If we were to find a 400 meter shaft at the end of Cheve, for example, we would surpass all that in one afternoon I mean it’s just a matter of taking a 200 meter rope down there and another 200 meter rope Throw them, connect them together, rig them, and down you go But you know, it’s always more arduous than that This is giving you an idea as late as 1980, you could count the number of 1,000 meter caves just the way you would the number of 8,000 meter peaks So it was a very serious thing Since then the technology has changed It’s become a more popular sport I want to close with one last PowerPoint slide here and then show you two other images These are not all the same When you say the deepest cave in the world at 2,140 is sitting in Chechnya right now with the Russian team standing on top, was that as difficult as what’s going on at Sistema Cheve, for example If you look over here, Krubera, which is the place that was explored by the Russians, there’s a great article in National Geographic, May of last year if anybody wants to read about what the Russians have been doing Great guys, good work But on the scale of things, you can see that what’s going on down in Southern Mexico absolutely dwarfs everything that’s going on over there The distances are enormous, what you’re dealing with over here Krubera, you can pretty much be at the bottom of Krubera in two days and that’s it And it’s not going to go any deeper because the springs are at a level approximately 30 to 40 meters below that, and it’s a very difficult piece of terrain in terms of strata that they’d have to get through to go that deep So what I want to show you now, just in closing, this is the vertical view now This is Cueva Cheve This is J2 out to what we did this year There’s another cave, Charco, and there’s the resurgence So you can kind of get an idea now, we’re inside the mountain, and all these things are generally trending down in this direction Ultimately, they’re going to hit this area in here And because you can see that they’re getting close to it already and there’s a long distance here, what that means is there’s going to be a lot of diving in that section right there Not a very pleasant prospect, but it’s waiting out there in the looms, which means we’re going to have to invent better diving gear Fortuitously, that is in the wind right now We are working with a company to develop the Marc 6 re-breather It’s going to be about the size of a briefcase Give you three hours under water at depths down to 60 meters, and that’ll be out by January next year Our team will start training with it for a 2008 push on the second sump in J2 down there Now, from a logistics standpoint, this is that topo map What we’ve added now is this new piece of information here Here is the work that’s taken place over the last three years at J2 Three months in the field this year– added this little tiny green line Now you start to get an appreciation for the scale of this kind of thing I know a couple of really good people who have done high-altitude mountaineering work, and I always ask them what’s it like, like Ed Viesturs, for example, we were

having a conversation one time, and I said, you know what, when you go do Everest or K2 or something like that, what is the thing that really impresses you most. And he says, you know, it’s when you get to base camp and you look up and you go holy smokes, this thing is huge, enormous, just bigger than anything you could possibly imagine by looking at a picture Well, that’s kind of how you start to feel after you go to a place like this and you say, oh man, that was a really tough expedition We were down there for three months, we beat ourselves all over the place That’s what we added This is another thing The difference between exploration and adventure is one word Data If you don’t bring data back, you haven’t done anything You had an adventure, you’ve have a thrill, you’ve had some kind of a tourist trip or whatever And some people, you really don’t see that much in the deep caving world, but it’s starting to happen in the mountaineering world with people going to Everest in particular, and you see the results of that with what happened, for example, in 1996 But any event, all of this stuff in here in between is the giant unknown How are you going to beat the Russians if you can’t get into that? Well, this is the logistics map that we’re projecting down Each one of those little red circles represents a projected underground camp, one day travel time underground based on our knowledge of what’s been going on in the system We’re expecting that there’s a major fault that takes it all down to Mano curving Northeast and then finally Northwest But just to give you an idea, if you want to get to the resurgence from some place like J2, which is currently the only open system that’s down there, you’re looking at 11 days one way travel time to get to the bottom 11 days back out That’s 22 days just to go down there and say hi And then you normally will spend anywhere from 7 days to two weeks doing actual exploration So we’re looking at times of 35 days roughly when we finally pull this off And God knows when that’s going to be The 2008 expedition is targeting right here, and if we’re really lucky, we may get to 7D or 7U on that project So that’s where the world of very deep exploration endeavors is standing today We could give you similar discussions over some of the other caves in Europe, but this is the kind of technology that’s out there This is what people are doing Yeah AUDIENCE: How quickly, if at all, does the underground terrain change? Like you’d say one year you’d come back and suddenly one of the caves has collapsed? Is that common or not? BILL STONE: Almost not at all We used to say that those are Hollywood theatrics to inject collapses into movies and things like that If anybody had the bad karma of going and seeing that movie The Cave last year, they had an underwater collapse that traps this steam beyond it But in fact, I know of at least two or three cases where that has happened And it’s usually been in places where it was a virgin exploration, nobody had ever been there before, the rocks were just precisely balanced at the wrong angles It’s quite common, for example, to go through unexplored territory and step on a rock the size of a truck and have it just move like that Go back and forth It’s really scary the first time it happens to you, but you realize oh, that’s not going anywhere, it’s just balanced But every once in a while, you have to think about those things One of the things that we do is when you have a team of 40 to 50, you come prepared for what we’d refer to as self-rescue So we have tools in there for dealing with that if we do have a collapse Highly unlikely I’ve never had to deal with one in 53 expeditions But we have had to deal with a lot of other stuff, including fatalities, broken bones, all kinds of stuff like that Yeah AUDIENCE: What are you guys bringing down there for food, like nutrition? BILL STONE: We changed that dramatically We used to all freeze-dried, and then we went to the extreme of taking the freeze-dried, running through a salad shooter and compressing it with a jack into a four-liter Nalgene bottle so that you’d get the absolute, most dry food into the smallest possible place What’s happened in the last two years is that we said you know, this stuff really sucks, and it would be better to have something that is dense and dry So we’ve gone to doing things like a high carbo routine So for example, rice We’ve gone back to whole grain rice I wouldn’t have predicted this 20 years ago We’ve done that We go to ground-dried meat For anybody who’s traveled to Mexico, there’s a very popular breakfast that’s called machacado You can get machacado dry in Mexico at Sam’s Club So this year we bought an eight-ton truck worth of food from Sam’s Club and Suriano and a few other places in Oaxaca City, and we didn’t buy a spec of freeze-dried food, and everybody actually liked it It was pretty good It was heavier, a little bit heavier, but everybody were on a higher calorie diet than we’ve had in the past. We’re running about 8,000 calories a day, by the way, if anybody’s wondering If on tour with the Tour de France

AUDIENCE: Talking about logistics, you say you unstring the ropes You take the pins out of the rocks Do you carry everything? Everything back? BILL STONE: No It depends on where you’re working This is considered an active exploration project So the things that will survive year to year, a stainless spot, for example, will stay at camp three, camp two, camp one The ropes, if they can, will be pulled up to a location that is outside of the zone if the water arrives You can tell on the wall how far the water’s going to rise And you pull your ropes out of the main shaft You coil them up and you hang them Staged them is the term that’s used And frequently we can just reuse them year after year It saves on the order of two weeks of a restocking effort When you’re totally done with a place, if you’re absolutely, absolutely certain that it’s done, you clean it Everything comes out AUDIENCE: But at the end of the two weeks, you carry out your debris and your waste and all that BILL STONE: All the debris comes out, all the waste, all the used/spent trash Anything like that all comes out Frequently, if the sleeping bags and things like that that are down there is utilities– we use common sleeping bags People don’t carry personal bags So you go from camp to camp to camp If they’re wet or something like that and you’re not going to dry them down here, you’ll bring those out OK If anybody has any other questions you can hit me afterwards