Journey Towards The Center Of The Earth


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.

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