Underwater archaeologists made a stunning breakthrough in their investigation of eastern Mexico’s submerged cave systems in early January 2018. The divers were part of the Gran Acuifero Maya, an international research initiative, and they had a very special assignment. The scientists’ recent five-year mission has involved the exciting adventure of exploring directly underneath the Yucatán Peninsula. And the team’s latest discovery has linked two underwater cavern complexes, making their find the largest submerged cave on Earth.
The underwater marvel lies beneath the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán headland, near the popular tourist destination of Tulum, in the eastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The two cavernous systems that have now been linked are Sac Actun and Dos Ojos. The former has therefore effectively subsumed the latter, and together the two underground complexes comprise about 216 miles of flooded tunnels. The lengths of these channels are also regularly punctuated by some 248 sinkholes, which are known as cenotes in American-Spanish.
The Gran Acuifero Maya project has, then, gathered together a team of scientists from different disciplines to explore and map the caves beneath the Yucatán Peninsula. Its members include researchers from Washington, D.C.’s, National Geographic Society and Mexican educational institutions the Aspen Institute Mexico and the Technological University of the Riviera Maya.