In 2008 after driving around the island following the images taken by a satellite screenshot, my diving buddy, at that time, Arek Pers and I arrived at the end of a rocky road. Under torrential rain and threatening lighting storm, we hiked for over three hundred meters of uneven, sharp rocks and muddy ground to the edge of a swamp, where the water looked as if it was overflowing.
We entered the water in a sidemount configuration, wearing drysuits and plunging below the darkness caused by the hydrogen sulfide, with the pungent feeling on our exposed skin, giving us an idea of the high concentration in the water we entered what appeared to be a cave opening.
Within a few unspooling of the line, Arek turned towards me to signal the cave was not going, and there was no place to continue the exploration. While maneuvering to exit, I glimpsed at the standing skull of a crocodile, something I had just recently learned from a paper written by Nancy Albury from the Museum of Antiquities. There were no cameras to record the finding. Only the view of that head remained imprinted in my memory for over a decade.
Last year, as part of a comprehensive project to put all openings on the island of Grand Bahama on a map, Kewin Lorenzen and I made a comeback to Anaconda Swamp. This time the hike was over one kilometer long, dictated by the crashing of numerous trees from Hurricane Matthew followed by the floods which covered this area during Hurricane Dorian. The work to clear the road and bring the vehicle back to only three hundred meters away took us four different expeditions.
In the meantime, we planned different scouting approaches. The first time we hiked the one km with our single tank and wetsuits, fins and mask, and one light each. Swimming in the open water basin, we decided to return with full cave gear. This first cave dive brought us back into the same opening, but this time I was leading, and I found a wide passageway I had to abandon at 150 feet of depth, based on our gas calculations and decompression requirements. A third expedition saw us going back with sidemount rebreather, and additional decompression gas for the ascent and oxygen for the twenty-foot stop. Carrying the loads across the uneven terrain took over three hours of work. This dive would become the deciding one. We discovered that the tunnel went north, tumbling down in a vertical shaft to 190 feet, to rise back again to 145 feet, where the tunnel ended. The exploration stopped at nearly 600 feet into the cave. This dive changed forever Anaconda Swamp and its importance in the more significant project of protecting a very famous system, the Lucayan system, known as Ben’s cave. The furthest tunnel of Ben’s heading north is 4200 feet away from the entrance of Anaconda. Unfortunately, in cave diving, those could just as well be 100 miles. We went back a fifth time to scout all around the hole’s perimeter, we found different entrances, but nothing gave to a full passageway towards Ben’s. These are details that we will have to come to terms as explorers, but the content of Anaconda is the real importance of this cave.
At 150 and 160 feet, we discovered massive piles of crocodile bones, skulls, jaws, teeth, and other body parts scattered in a waterfall manner. These bones have survived in this hypoxic environment for a very long time. They are of incredible value in this island’s history and the importance of protecting all these areas and avoiding altering the chemical balance of the underwater and underground world. On a new dive, we went back to collect images of the bones for reference. As we are always closely working with the Bahamas National Trust. Currently, we plan to transfer the complete survey, location, and images of Anaconda to them to include this newly acquired information. We want to extend the Lucayan National Park’s perimeter beyond the current area and add to this special place.