Tag Archives: Belize

Back from Belize

Home at last! The week of caving in Belize was somewhat exhausting, which is why I only had time to post on the one day I took time off. It was a great success however. We managed to survey all of my goals for the week, which essentially covers the most important parts of the cave. We also had a number of local cave guides participate so that they could learn cave surveying and hopefully continue the survey on their own. The map will get finished much faster if the locals mapped it.

More important, it is their cave. They really are the ones that should do it.

I will be posting throughout the day, catching up.

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Day off on the Fourth of July in Belize

After three hard days of caving, I decided to take the Fourth of July off to rest, relax, sit by the pool, and catch up with the news in space and elsewhere.

The cave surveying has been going well, but we have been trying to finish the survey of the cave’s largest room, and have found it daunting. Basically we have four survey teams spread out across the room’s width, marching forward to cover the entire passage. Since the room is never less than 150 feet wide, this takes time. After three full days of work, we finally reached the far wall yesterday, though we still have significant clean-up in many places.

Nor is this the cave’s only passage. We have several other areas that need survey, many of which I hope the local cavers will do after we Americans go home on Saturday.

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Heading to Belize again

Today I am flying to Belize for a week long caving expedition. This will be the third trip there as part of a project to complete the mapping of a well known and very spectacular cave located in St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park

As I did on the previous two trips, first in May 2016 and second in February 2017, I will continue to post on Behind the Black, though my posting will generally occur in the evening when we get back from the caves. I will also do at least one Batchelor appearance from Mayan Mountain Lodge in San Ignacio, where we will be staying. The lodge has been gracious enough with each visit to let me use their office and phone.

I very much want to finish the map this trip. The local cave guides, who depend on keeping the caves in pristine condition so that they can show off their beauty to tourists, need the map to help protect the cave. They will be helping with the survey, as they have previously. As I noted after my first trip in 2016,

Because Belize’s law puts the ownership of all caves under the jurisdiction of the Institute of Archaeology, which generally lacks the resources to protect them all, this work by the tour guides is essential. For example, Barton Creek Cave is a major tourist river cave that requires a canoe to see. Though the property surrounding the entrance is privately owned, the landowner, Mike Bogart, cannot prevent access to the cave to others. He offers tours, using the canoes he provides, but others can do the same and access the cave by canoeing up the river past his property. They need only get a government permit.

Thus, under this socialized system, with no single owner responsible for each cave, the only way the caves can be protected is for the tour guides and operators to band together to protect the caves themselves. In fact, their effort to flag the trails these past few weeks was begun expressly because they all saw the damage that uncontrolled visitation was causing, and wanted to stop it

Hopefully, their effort will bear fruit, and the caves and their guides’ livelihoods will prosper for years to come. And if the cave maps we Americans produce can help contribute to that success, then my short trip to Belize will have accomplished a lot more than provide me a few days of vacation pleasure.

On to Belize! The image below, of one of the many caves there, will give you a taste of their beauty.

Small side passage

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Off to Belize

Today, Wednesday, I head to the airport to return to the western regions of Belize for a week of cave exploration and mapping. Last time I was there in May we began a cave survey. I am now the cartographer for this project, and this time I hope we can finish it.

I intend to post while in Belize, though it will likely have to wait until each evening when we get back from the caves. I also intend to do my Batchelor appearances, but this time live from Mayan Mountain Lodge in San Ignacio, where we will be staying. The lodge was gracious enough in May to let me use their office and phone, and I expect they will be agreeable again this time.

Anyway, off for more adventure. The world is much too fascinating a place to see it just from my desk by way of the internet. You have to get out and see it for real whenever you can!

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Belize and Guatemala

During my caving trip to Belize last week, we reserved one day off to do some sightseeing. The goal that day was to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal, across the border in Guatemala about three hours from our resort in Belize.

Arranging this trip was not straightforward. We couldn’t simply get in our rental car and drive off. Locals have found it a bad idea to drive Belizean vehicles in Guatemala, as they are more likely to be attacked. So, the resort arranged for a Belizean driver to take us to the border, where it also arranged for us to be met by a Guatemalan tour guide with her own car.

On the way, we drove through several small towns of both Guatemala and Belize, as shown by the two photos below, with Santa Elena, Belize on top.
» Read more

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Why I went to Belize

There are many reasons cavers decide to go to faraway places across the globe during their vacations. Some do it because they want to get out of the office. Some go because they like to see exotic sights and strange places well off the beaten path. Some go, like me, because they want the chance to see something new and unexplored. And we all do it because it is fun!

One doesn’t have to go to Belize to get these benefits. I could have traveled to England, Mexico, Hawaii, or any one of several dozen other countries to see the exotic, the new, and the unexplored. In fact, I have already done so in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and Czechia (the new official name of the Czech Republic). Belize however was relatively close, the local population spoke English, I had never been there before, and most important, someone else was organizing things! When David and Eleanor Larson invited me to join their Belize project I decided this was a great opportunity to visit a strange and new place with a minimum of aggravation or planning. They had already done it, and I merely had to sign up and agree to do whatever their project needed doing. So, off I went.

Upon arrival, I soon discovered several very important additional reasons why this cave project exists. First there are the caves. They are grand and beautiful things, with very vast chambers filled with delicate and rare formations. The picture below, taken by fellow caver Laura Sangiala, shows one wall of the gigantic entrance room of one cave.
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Leaving Belize tomorrow

After a week of intense and amazing caving, I will be leaving Belize tomorrow. I will not get home until Saturday, however, as my flight ends in El Paso at about 11 pm. I will drive home on Saturday.

I intend to post several essays about my trip, one describing the caving and why it is happening, one describing the ruins and my impressions (with photos), and maybe a third with my overall thoughts about the experience. Since I have a lot of other work that needs to be done, some with deadlines, it might take a few days to pump all this out. Stay tuned.

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Two days in Mountain Cow Cave

Still alive! We spent Saturday and Sunday surveying in Mountain Cow Cave, located on the Hummingbird Highway in a national park. Quite amazingly beautiful. Gigantic rooms filled with big towers and formations everywhere. The size makes surveying and sketching the rooms challenging, as I am sometimes staning in plsces far from any walls. To sketch a cave passage it helps to be able to see the walls.

No pictures, for the moment, as it is hard to upload large files here.

We go to a different cave tomorrow (Monday) while on Tuesday we will take a day off to go sightseeing at the Tikal ruins in Guatamala.

One more thing: there is a chance I will still do my Tuesday appearance with John Batchelor. If we find the phone connection acceptable, I will go on live at 11 pm eastern. I will know for sure by tomorrow night.

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Off to Belize

This Friday morning I am leaving for Belize for a week long cave expedition. I do not know if I will have the time or internet access to post as normal. Moreover, the days will be spent underground surveying and pushing new cave passages, so if I do any posting it will be in the evenings. In addition, some of us will also be heading to Guatemala for a day to visit the ruins at Tikal.

I have never been to Belize before. If I can’t post there I will definitely post my impressions of my travels upon my return.

Posted from El Paso, Texas.

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New evidence of child-smuggling in ancient Mayan human sacrifices

Isotope testing of the teeth of the skeletons of children found in a cave in Belize has found that none had come from that region, suggesting that the children were kidnapped from other neighboring communities before they were sacrificed to the Mayan gods.

Though the data is still being crunched (the full report will be published when Lorenz presents her thesis later this year), initial analysis indicates that the children whose bones littered the Midnight Terror Cave did not come from the surrounding Upper Roaring River Valley, where the cave is located, or even from Belize. In fact, the young victims appear to have been brought to this spot from as far as 200 miles away (an enormous distance in the 9th century), before being taken deep into the earth to have their beating hearts cut from their chests to appease any number of angry gods.

The article is fascinating not only for the profound archeological discoveries it documents but also for its detailed description of the science process itself. It also is brutally honest. Even though these results cast a poor light on ancient Indian culture, something that is very political incorrect in today’s world, the author minces no words, even if he does wring his hands a bit about these conclusions.

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