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Short History of Cave Exploration in Mexico

Short History of Cave Exploration in Mexico

Geraldine Solignac
Deep Dark Diving Yucatan
on an exploration and survey dive with Geraldine Solignac

Mexican cave exploration began in the early 19th century with documentation of cave fauna and flora in central Mexico. The aim was to collect new specimens and not to actually explore the caves and were published in travel reports and texts about archaeological finds. Speleology itself was born later and at the beginning of the 20th century the first biospeleological research was carried out in northern Mexico. Research in the caves in Yucatan began in the 1960s. In 1962, with the founding of the Association of Mexican Cave Studies, the AMCS based in Austin, TX, an organ was created which was initially concerned with the collection of data, especially from the caves of northern Mexico. 20% of the Mexican territory consists of karst and therefore possess the ideal conditions for caves; over time the federal state of Yucatan has emerged as the center of speleoarchaeological and speleoanthropological activities. It was only in the 80s of the 20th century that interest in exploring the caves in Quintana Roo began, which was also facilitated by the improved accessibility with the expansion of Cancun. In 2001 the AMCS became an official project of the National Speleological Society (USA).

Underwater Cave Exploration in Quintana Roo

Whereas the caves have been in the area for million of years and since civilization settled also known to the local population, the first serious exploration and mapping efforts of the caves in Quintana Roo began in the early 1980’s. Since that time the Quintana Roo Speleological Survery (QRSS) has collected documentation of several hundred kilometers of submerged cave passages. These efforts have established the area as a unique karst aquifer and unparalleled in size on earth. Currently (as of October 2019) 9 of the 10 longest underwater cave systems of the world are located within our area.

The first caves explored were those with easy road access between Puerto Aventuras and Tulum. Now much of what remains to be discovered as virign caves requires further penetration into the thick jungle where remote cenotes pose increased logistical challenges. New cave systems have also been explored and surveyed in the  South in the Muyil area and in and around Playa del Carmen and more North.

Dry Caves

In recent years, also exploration of dry caves has progressed tremendously. Surveys and mapping projects continue to give us detailed information about these caves.  The data can be viewed on the QRSS page and some maps are accessible via the AMCS. Excursions to the dry caves are offered commercially by a few specialized organizers.

Urban cenotes

Since 2019, a group led by the Playa del Carmen  Planetarium Sayab and the Círculo Espeleológico del Mayab has started systematic research and mapping of the cenotes and caves in the urban area of ​​Playa del Carmen. The first maps have already been created and there will be a book in the not too distant future. 

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