The beauty of Yucatán
Yucatan - flat, overgrown with jungle peninsula, popular among the ancient Maya. If you get any of the pyramids left by a vanished civilization, the eyes will view the visibility of a few tens of kilometers in any direction - and there was not a single river.
For the greater part of the peninsula there is not that rivers and even creeks; It was not them and in the heyday of the Maya: Yucatan complex soft, easily limestone karsts and water after heavy but short-lived downpours quickly leaves the surface through cracks in the earth formation. It leaves shallow: the aquifer lies not below sea level, and the average height of the peninsula is only 8 meters.
Underground water makes its usual job of creating caverns, and as a result a few meters under the surface of a solid in appearance lies a quaint three-dimensional maze of underground streams, rivers and lakes - perhaps the greatest of the known system of underground waters on the planet.
This labyrinth communicates with the surface via multiple sinkholes diameter of 2 to 20 m - or they are known tsenotami senote (cenote), from Hispanicize, Indian "dzonot" - "something deep."
Around the cenotes - the only sources of fresh water in most parts of the peninsula - the ancient and concentrated towns and villages of the Maya: the Nile for thousands of their civilization were scattered in the jungle small karst wells. And today, most of the villages are located near the cenote, Cenote others mark the boundaries between poceleniyami.
Cenotes were sacred to the Maya twice - as the only source of drinking water for 9 months of the dry season, and as the gate to Xibalba. A typical example is the famous Chichen Itza ( "chi" in the Mayan language means "mouth", "someone" - "well" and "ICA" - Mayan name "The mouth of wells itsev." - that's the literal translation of the name of the city). About 300 meters from the main buildings is the Sacred Cenote - a hole in the ground more than 60 meters in diameter, with steep walls and about 10 meters deep, not counting the multimeter thickness of silt on the bottom. The main temple of the city, dedicated to Kukulcan, facing facade to the well and connect it to a special road paved with stone slabs. On the edge of the cenote for ease of worship was located before a special platform.
Archaeologists have found at the bottom of the cenote bunch of extremely valuable for science stuff - two carved wooden throne, a few wooden buckets, about a hundred clay jugs and bowls of different sizes, shapes and ages, pieces of cloth, gold jewelry, jade, rock crystal , bone, mother of pearl; amber, copper and onyx, as well as bones, including humans.
Human sacrifice at Chichen Itza began to bring the tenth century, after the Toltec conquest. All from the well were recovered the remains of forty-two people, half of them were children.
Sacrificed slaves and illegitimate children or orphans, bought for the occasion, and, judging by the marks on the skulls before skidyvaniem in cenote wretches beaten on the head, so as not to climbs and did not start to broadcast on behalf of the gods - and that was the case ... Until the Toltec era, people used instead of animals: turkey, dogs, squirrels, quail and iguana.
In the century cluttering Sacred Cenote turned into a dirty hole filled with green water, mud and stones. Water is the citizens of it did not take, the water sources were other cenotes, smaller size, located on the territory of the city, the largest of which was located in the eight hundred meters Shtolon ( "Iguana"), located near the center of town, with a gently sloping edges, and most importantly - with the cleanest water, as in most other cenotes Peninsula.
In the 16th century, after the treatment of Indians to Christianity, cenotes water was used in the rite of baptism. Folk beliefs, however, have not been forgotten: even now, Maya, say, conduct rituals in the caves in order to cause rain, which, according to their view, begins in these caves long before, as the rise in the sky. Found more than one hundred caves with the remains of graves and Maya images, entire underground temple complexes were built in some of them.
Today, however, most of the cenotes near settlements bring the owners a real advantage - as objects to attract tourists from the usual crowds of tourists on buses to speleodayverov enthusiasts. Fortunately, such a fate not all wells - according to rough estimates, in the peninsula of more than 7,000, with most located in the jungle.
The map shows the location of cenotes in the northwestern part of the Yucatan. It is evident that some of them lined up in the form expressly arc - these wells are located along the tectonic faults around the perimeter of the ancient meteorite crater Chicxulub - matter of the meteorite fall is the author of popular articles and films are usually blamed for the extinction of the dinosaurs. Wells are located on this arc, differ from other cenotes - they are much deeper (150 m), with steep walls; they are called silo cenote. Below depths of 30-40 meters in many of them there is a layer of the dissolved hydrogen sulfide formed during the decay of organic matter.
Here is the "underwater river", which resembles a layer of fog at the bottom of the photographs - is the upper boundary of hydrogen sulfide layer. It is chemically aggressive environment for a long time to be in it is not recommended; eyes sting even under the mask.
The groundwater is no wind and the waves, no sharp temperature changes and over - which it is - a very smooth and "smooth" so the layers of pure hydrogen sulphide and water do not mix. caves conventional system, the "non-meteorite" cenotes communicates with Caribbean waters, and in many of them under fresh water layer at a depth of 30-60 m - a layer of sea water. They also do not mix with each other - at least until the next diver does not stir up his flippers invisible border. In this case, due to the difference in refractive index on the boundary waters vzvihrivsheysya halocline an effect that resembles the view through the strong wavy glass or through the flow of heated air.
Above: The sun's rays passing through the halocline. Below it is the same.
As the only source of fresh water in the jungle, cenotes far from human settlements attract a lot of animals, and for waterfowl are a permanent home. Peccaries, deer, tapirs come to the cenote at the watering hole, followed by predators. Under the arches of the cave nest numerous birds and bats. Aerial roots of trees and vines hanging down to the water - and not only in the wells, but also in underground ducts, where there is eternal darkness: in search of moisture roots pierce the thick limestone. Trees extract water from the land and hoard it in fruits and leaves, from which, in turn, it is removed monkeys, iguanas, nosuh ... Underground rivers nourish the jungle from top to bottom.
The bottom of the underground rivers and lakes stony-muddy and water extraordinarily transparent -. Visibility of at least 30 m water temperature is almost constant - 23-24 ° C. Numerous stalactites and stalagmites under water irrefutable evidence that earlier - during the ice age - the level of the ocean, and therefore groundwater Peninsula was much lower, and these caves were dry. In some places, the water found the remains of Pleistocene land animals.
Life here in complete darkness flooded the galleries, there are today. Above water spiders are hidden in the walls and between the sample top of jungle, tree roots and blindly about the final, determining by heat, smell and movement of air the presence of other entities; underwater white blind fish are looking at the bottom brought bats pieces of fruit and hunts them coming from the surface raccoon, leaving footprints on the sand lime.
Closer to the open wells and in those places where in bocas - small windows in the ceiling - in the cave light penetrates, is home to many fish, including our familiar aquarium Tetra tsihlazomy, platies - here is their homeland. On the surface of the water in the pristine Cenote blooming water lilies, black catfish hiding under their leaves, hunted eared grebe ...
Most of the caves are connected with each other and with the sea. Speleodayverov efforts have been investigated more than 550 km of underwater and underground passages, hundreds of cave systems, but what is the full extent of all the caves and what other secrets they keep - no one knows.