THE CATANAMATIAS CAVE PROJECT,

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - JANUARY 2023

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this expedition will be to explore and document Catanamatias Cave located in the Dominican Republic. This cave is likely the deepest cave in the Dominican Republic, and maybe even in all the Caribbean.  The cave is reported to have a vertical extent of 380 meters with continuing passage.

 

BACKGROUND:

From the research that we have conducted, there were two previous expeditions to explore Catanamatias Cave. Though known to locals for perhaps a century, this cave was first visited by Italian cavers in 1988. They drew a crude map, and left almost no other details as to what they found. Another group, possibly Italian, Dominican and French, entered around 2005, and locals claim they spent three days underground, before turning around at a river. Locals say passage continued across this river, but the current was strong, and this group was unable to cross. We have found no written documentation of this expedition beyond word-of-mouth from locals.

 

We have not been able to find information on specific equipment used to enter the cave but there is a substantial entrance drop that appears to be a 40-meter free-hang, then around 100-150 meters on a slippery 45-degree slope. The cave will need to be entered with single-rope-techniques.  Once at the bottom of the entrance shaft, we believe there is a pool, as there are reports that rocks thrown in bounce and fall for 14 seconds before the sound of a distant splash. Running water cannot be heard from the entrance.

Somewhere well past this entrance pool is dry passage that leads to the reported strong-current underground river. Domingo, one of the Dominican cavers that has been into the cave, mentioned that the river is not passable. Based on the existing map, we can see a large entrance (lower angled) drop that goes into some passage and continues into a series of multi-drop shafts. One of the two former trips, reported that they ended their expedition due to depleting their resources for continued exploration. There is a basic and almost certainly incomplete plan and profile view of this cave. No other pertinent information is known about this cave.

Our expedition objectives include an entire re-survey (or first complete survey?) of the cave, as well as photo-documentation, and  to explore/map beyond the limits of the previous effort.

The friendly locals have mentioned that there are multiple caves in the region.  A British group of cavers in the 1990’s came into the region around Catanamatias cave to explore other entrances, but only found short passages that ended in mud and water. Notably, their trip was in the height of the wet season, and these entrances may be more accessible in the dry season, when we plan to visit. Locals report they know at least 100 caves in the valley around Catanamatias Cave, and it seems unlikely that they have all been checked out by cavers.

There is a report that a resurgence is in the region and after heavy rains, the resurgence has muddy water coming out. Locals say the water appears out of a boulder sieve. No other information is known about the resurgence.

EXPEDITION PLAN:

The plan will be to arrive at the village with 10 to 15 cavers in two 4x4 jeep rentals We will rig the cave to provide a safe rope access trade route into the cave for the expedition.

We will survey and photo document the cave in its entirety as a concurrent operation while we pursue access to the river.

We will determine the feasibility of a river crossing and decide on the feasibility of a dive by conducting recon and deciding if a dive will fit within our margin of safety. Our margin is defined on DPV scooters available, open circuit and closed circuit equipment available, and the water pressure. Our initial thought is to enter the water and dive into the current (up-stream).

The dive operation is subject to change but once we are able to determine the subterranean river discharge (CFS). We will employ two divers to lay a line and EXPLORE the river as much as gas management and safety allow. The use of open circuit and closed circuit rebreather will be necessary along with the option of DPV scooters. The trajectory from this point on will be decided on time left in the expedition, resources, environmental conditions, local relations, and what we find upstream from the start of the dive.

Proposed Time Table

Day 0: Acquire jeep, personnel, food and water

Day 1-day 2: two teams rig the cave to the river and survey, decide on a cave camp (if needed).

Day 3: Determine the feasibility of a dive, photograph, survey,

Day 4: Survey, plan for the dive and acquire dive personnel and gear

Day 5: stage diving gear at the river set up dive base

DAY 6: Explore, map and proceed with the exploration dive. Haul empty tanks and gear out that needs replenishing

DAY 7: Haul gear back down to dive base

DAY 8: Survey underwater passage

DAY 9: Build remaining trip around known unknowns.

10-11-12-13 bake in inclement weather, known unknowns, Exploration to the resurgence, and exploration into other surrounding caves that can be accessible with the local community. 

We expect to pursue this cave and provide detailed documentation.  We will either find continuing submerged passage (up-stream), or find continuing dry passage ( up-stream)

 

PERMITS: We verified that no permits are needed to enter the cave near the village but we will be including the museum of natural history represented by DRSS for their interest in cave documentation.  There are no permits needed in the village to access the cave.