2014 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 08 January 2015 10:18

In August 2014 the team returned to sunny Covanera. The exploration divers this time were Jason Mallinson (JM) Rene Houben (RH) and Rick Stanton (RS).

An experienced support team consisted of:  Xesus Manteca (Teca), Alberto Medina, Hilari Moreno, Rafa Bernardo, Adrian Gonzalez,  Xavi Labad, Viriginia Soria, Enrique Ballesteros, Pep Pujal, Leopoldo Trabanco (Poli), Roberto Cano, Carlos Garcia (Krilin), Pedro Gonzalez, Martyn Farr, Brian Schofield, Rob Dalby, Mel Dalby, Yolanda Spronck, Peter Goossens, Jose de Veer.

Several other volunteers from the Spanish diving and caving community also attended at various times.

The objectives for this expedition were:-

1) Continue the exploration of the dry passages leading off from Tipperary and survey them.

2) Attain radio communication with the outside via a Hey Phone cave radio system, loaned for this expedition.

3) Continue the exploration beyond Sump 4 in Razor II.

After the initial familiarisation dives to 2000m in S2, JM and RH were in position to dive to Tipperary and spend 1 night there to set up camp and carry out the first objective of the expedition.

JM set off into S2 first and immediately noticed a leak in the drysuit, continuing to 700m the problem worsened, and therefore he turned back rather than carry on for the possible 6 hour dive to Tipperary. RH had only just entered the water in S2 when JM returned to base, but he decided to continue to Tipperary. RH traversed S2 and spent 1 night in Tipperary. He arrived back at S2 dive base the next day around midday.

In the meantime several problems were slowly being overcome by the other lead divers. A leaking drysuit was repaired. A damaged LED main dive lamp was repaired. One of the main Aquazepp scooters was completely rewired twice, following a relay burn-out, luckily this happened on the surface, as the motor stuck ON !

Burned out Relay

Due to the amount of work required beyond Tipperary, the plan now was to camp for 3 nights rather than the usual 2 to allow time for this extra work as per the original objectives.

JM was ready to go a full day ahead of the other 2 divers and so left for Tipperary alone to begin the survey work in Galeria Covanera. The next day after 8 hours of solo surveying JM returned to Tipperary to find Rene Houben had just arrived and RS was expected imminently. After a hot meal the duo returned to Galeria Covanera to continue the survey work and to explore the large tunnel that JM had found earlier that day. In total over 1000m of drya passages were mapped that day and a large borehole followed to a pitch which was free climbed. This led to a further deep looking hole and when the data was processed it looks like it may drop directly into Sump 2. This will require ropes and SRT gear.

Back at Tipperary several hours later RS gad not arrived, and it was assumed that he had had an equipment problem. In fact it was later learned that the Aquazepp electrics had failed at around 1200m into Sump 2 and RS had to abort the dive towing the Zepp back with the bail-out scooter.

The Hey Phone radio communication device was tried many times during the day and a beacon signal left on for many hours hoping for a signal connection to the outside. This ultimately failed. The rock overhead is presumed to be too thick for this particular device. (note: it was later found on return to UK, that the battery pack for the device was faulty).

The following day JM and RS rose early for breakfast and prepared for the long day ahead. Rene using the large fast ride-on Aquazepps passed Sump 3 in around 100mins, whereas Jason using slower tow-behind Zepp and Silent Submersion - Magnus took longer and accumulated longer decompression leading to a 140min dive time. Once Sump 3 was passed, both divers removed their Otter drysuits and donned wetsuits for the journey ahead into Razor passage and Razor 2. The advantage of the wetsuits being that holes created by sharp rocks would have minimal effect. The dive through Sump 4 was somewhat chilly, but the pair were soon beyond and into the active streamway reached in 2013. At this point it was decided to only carry one set of dive gear forwards. 300m upstream the limit of the previous year was reached and from this point forward every metre was a new discovery. Some hard sections of fast flowing canyon with deep pools was negotiated to a large cascade where a 5th sump was discovered.

JM dived first and passed Sump 5 after 100m to a deep water canal. This canal led left and right to sumps. On the return back a further side passage was noted and followed and again after 100m this also surfaced in the same canal on the Left Hand side. Mindful of the air reserves in the cylinders being used (which belonged to Rene) JM returned to base. RH decided that there was plenty of air left in his cylinders and decide to also dive to look further. RH found a right hand side passage off from the main tunnel about 80m in and followed this to surface in the active river passage. This large tunnel conmtaining the full Pozo Azul river continued for 300m to a cascade and side tunnel which was partially explored. At this point RH turned and headed back, returning to base with somewhat less air in the cylinders than before !!

The side tunnel discovered in 2013 was explored on the return to S4, and this split into a labyrinth of tunnels, none of which were explored to a conclusion. Some 500m of passage were discovered here, with more to find in the future. Eventually the pair returned to S4 and S3, but the work was still not complete. An accurate survey of Razor passage (from S3 to S4) was completed using a Disto-X.

Sometime was then spent preparing the equipment for the dive back through Sump 3 and donning the drysuits. Rene had an uneventful dive back, again making the journey in relatively quick time due to the fast DPV's. Whereas JM had some serious issues with his dry-gloves which were leaking water. This became so bad that water was entering the main drysuit through the cuff seal and so a mid-sump exchange of dry-glove to wetsuit glove was required and a soggy diver eventually regained Tipperary.  Despite hte divers having been active for over 16 hours, again the work for the day was not complete as all the equipment had to be carried across Tipperary and the rebreathers prepared for the following day.

An early start saw the 2 divers ready to head out from Tipperary, several hours after awakening and after a 4 .5 hour dive back they reached the Burbuja and the friendly faces of the support team.

Another successful expedition was completed and much more of Pozo AZul had revealed itself the the team.




Last Updated on Monday, 14 September 2015 20:39