Biophysical Survey of the Enchanted River: A Scientific Report

Foreword by Ms. Ethel Wagas:

This article is an output from FCD’s project entitled “Rapid Resource Assessment of Four Philippine Underwater Cave Systems”, funded by The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ) under the PAME Project, in partnership with the Department of Biology of the University of San Carlos and the local government unit of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.

This was the very first scientific investigation on the flora, fauna and water properties of the Hinatuan Enchanted River Underwater System. The exploration was made possible through the collaboration divers, field scientists and representatives from the local government – with the aim of better understanding the ecosystem of both the underwater cave system and its connecting river. This is also the first scientific article produced by the Filipino Cave Divers published in Annals of Tropical Ecology.

Ethel Wagas

Ethel Wagas

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The Marigondon Cave of Mactan: A scientific study made in 1993

Foreword by Dr. Danilo T. Dy:

The 1993 scientific article was USC’s first contribution to the study of underwater caves. It was a collaborative effort between a marine geologist from the Univ. of Hamburg, Germany and researchers of the Marine Biology Section, USC. The article provided initial data on the dimension of the cave, the range of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen & the meiofauna density inside the three sections of the cave.

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Exploration of Katipunan Spring in Siargao

Thinkpad in the jungle

Thinkpad in the jungle

Background

At the onset of summer 2013, website designer and videographer JM Libarnes, accompanied by Siargao’s tourism officer Donna Tiu, visited a little known spring in Siargao. Libarnes published a video of the spring on YouTube , and from then on, curious visitors started to make a detour on their way to Siargao and take a glimpse of this new attraction.

The spring is located 500 meters southwest of Barangay Katipunan, Pilar municipality, on the island of Siargao, Surigao del Norte, Philippines (9°49’41.99″N, 126° 5’24.15″E). It feeds a small river that meanders for 4.5 kilometers along embankments of Nipa and mangrove trees, finally flushing out to sea at the eastern part of Siargao Island. The barangay (population 600+), is accessible through the Corazon junction in the middle of the Dapa-General Luna road. The junction is 8 kilometers from Dapa, and only 7 kilometers from General Luna.

Map

The Katipunan junction Map

The Katipunan junction

The Katipunan junction

The way to Katipunan

The way to Katipunan

Exploration

Soon after seeing the YouTube video, cave diver and FCD member Jake Miranda (Punta Bilar Dive Center-Surigao City) contacted local authorities of his intention to visit the spring in the hope of finding and exploring the underground source of the spring. Miranda had earlier sought the assistance of Dir. Mundita Lim of DENR-PAWB to send representatives from the DENR-PAWB Caraga to assess the area. After the DENR assessment, permission was finally granted by no less than the governor of the province, Gov. Sol Matugas, who had earlier visited the site and gave specific instructions that no “dives” should be done in the area.

Katipunan basketball court

Katipunan basketball court

Katipunan River

Katipunan River

Boarding the small boat

Boarding the small boat

Local guides

Local guides

On the morning of June 6, 2013, Miranda, with the support of Barangay Chairperson Flora Forcadilla, and aided by local volunteers, made shallow dives in the area. The team explored two small dry caves as well. After an exhaustive search, no “accessible” underwater entrance leading to an underground cave was found.

Dry cave being explored

Dry cave being explored

Inside the headspring

Inside the headspring

Locals listening to how caves are formed.

Locals listening to how caves are formed.

The katipuneros

The katipuneros

According to sources in the internet: “The soil type in Siargao Island is 80% Bolinao clay, 10% Bolinao clay steep phase, and 5% Jamoyaon clay loam.” In the Katipunan area, underneath this loamy soil, is more of the limestone substrate acting as the underground canal for rainwater. The rolling topography of the island, low altitude of the ridges southwest of the spring, and the presence of other “springs” nearby, may account for the weaker flow of water in the Katipunan spring. It is but one of the many outlets of water in the area. The longest river in Pilar municipality is actually the one that sources from Barangay Maasin-this river has a total distance of 8.5 kilometers. Such river systems have tourism potential as a river cruise attraction.

Still one cannot discount the possibility of finding a large dry or wet cave system in the area.

Developing the Spring into a Tourism Attraction

There are two springs in the river. The first spring one sees as you head upriver has a muddy bottom profile, thus swimmers have to contend with water turning murky at the slight disturbance. The furthermost spring, the “headspring,” this one with rocky limestone bottom, is the one that can be turned into a “natural” swimming pool.

Deep spring but murky when disturbed

Deep spring but murky when disturbed

Shallow spring can be made deeper.

Shallow spring can be made deeper.

Guide shows stones that should be removed.

Guide shows stones that should be removed.

This spring, which flows from the side of a rocky outcrop, had an observed average water flow of 30 liters per second. Because of the shallow “catchment” pool, the water quickly cascades to the river. During low tide, when the river drains all its water to the sea, the pool is only knee deep at its deepest. The water during low tide is fresh and clear.

During high tide, when sea water flows into the river, the pool fills up and water level rises by at least 4 feet, making the pool deep enough for swimming. During high tide, the water in the pool turns salty but remains clear.

The local barangay can turn this main spring into two pools-one shallow pool for children, and a deeper pool for adults. But they must first remove the stones left by crab fishermen who put them there.

Recommendation

A tourism master plan must be designed and implemented by the barangay council with inputs from the local tourism office. The steps can be:

1. First, an initial meeting for the creation master plan involving the council and the tourism office must take place. The components of the master plan will be the objective, work design, tourism fees, economic activity, marketing and sustainability.

a. Objective-To bring in local and foreign tourists to the spring pool.
b. Work Design-To effectively and efficiently use available manpower, funding and other resources to meet the objective.
c. Tourism Fees-To design affordable tourism fees to attract tourists to the area.
d. Economic Activity-To collect fees, encourage economic enterprise such as food catering, river cruise, boat ferrying and tourist guiding.
e. Marketing-To place directional and informative signs from Dapa and General Luna leading to Barangay Katipunan.
f. Sustainability-To train the local populace in embracing and protecting this natural resource.

2. Second, a work schedule should be finalized to remove the stones, erect cottages, build or redesign boat ferries, and place road signs leading to the area.

3. There are also food products that can be marketed by Barangay Katipunan. Locals can sell and cook on site the popular dried flying fish called “Bang-si” and mud crabs which are aplenty in the area.

Breakfast of dried fish and crabs

Breakfast of dried fish and crabs

Breakfast is ready

Breakfast is ready

Cheap Bang-si

Cheap Bang-si

(end of report)

Copy furnished to:
1. DENR-PAWZCMS, DENR XIII Caraga
2. Office of the PAMB-SILAS
3. Hon. Sol F. Matugas Governor, Surigao del Norte (care of Donna Tiu, Tourism Office of Siargao)
4. Hon. Lucio Gonzales, Pilar Municipality, Surigao del Norte
5. Hon. Flora Forcadilla, Barangay Chairperson, Barangay Katipunan, Pilar Municipality
6. FCD/file

How are underwater caves formed?

How are underwater caves formed?

The illustration is from a clip of images (modified from Rob Wood/Wood Ronsaville Harlin). If you are interested to view an animation of cave formation, go to this link http://www.classzone.com/books/earth_science/terc/content/visualizations/es1405/es1405page01.cfm?chapter_no=visualization.

Most caves are formed in limestone rock. Calcite (calcium carbonate) is the main mineral of limestone.

1. Throughout time, rainwater seeps into the cracks and pores of the ground. This rainwater which absorbs carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, (and takes more carbon dioxide as it drains through soil and decaying vegetation), becomes a weak carbonic acid solution.

2. This acidic water slowly dissolves the calcite, and carves tunnels and cavities. The resulting network of passages become fully submerged or underwater caves in the limestone rock.

3. When there is climate change (ice caps form thus lowering sea level) or a tectonic uplift occurs, the water drains out of the caves, leaving dry chambers.

4. As rainwater continues to pour, dissolved limestone drips from the roof to form into stalactites, and drops to the ground becoming stalagmites.

Underwater caves are actually fully submerged sections of caves, which cave divers try to explore. Some were dry caves but due to the warmer climate melting the ice caps, sea levels rose and flooded the caves once again. The stalactites and stalagmites inside these underwater caves consequently stop growing and are now frozen in time.

Article by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 23, 2013. 

Siargao’s Blue Cathedral

blue cathedral

Being unfamiliar with scuba diving does not really prevent you from admiring all that Caraga has to offer under the water if one looks at all its endless coastlines, countless islands, islets and shoals.

Surfing in Siargao became such a phenomenon that there is one more product that perhaps we did not seriously take a look at because we were all focused on what was on the surface-surfing and island-hopping.

In Siargao, there is the majestic wonder called the Blue Cathedral, an underwater rock formation with a vertical hole. Blue Cathedral’s top is a 20-meter diameter hole at a depth of 20 meters. Then as you descend into it there’s a sliding slope that leads to its two caverns-the North and East caverns.

On the north cavern you will see a jagged rock that has split off from the top ceiling (Sword of Gabriel), going into this hole will lead you to 10 meter high and 30-meter long cavern (at average depth of 30 meters) that will spill you North into the Pacific waters. On the east cavern is the other cavern Devil’s Pipeline (15 meter high and 40 meter long tunnel), shaped more like a Cloud 9 pipeline than a cavern. You need a good light here to appreciate the tunnel’s grand design. At the end of Devil’s Pipeline is the Arm of God (30 meter long rock perched on three columns that reach out East to the Pacific), as there are spaces between the columns you will tend to see blue-lit water out of those spaces. We call these spaces the Eyes of God.

The size of a large church, it does look like a cathedral because of sun rays entering the hole and the three entrances (top hole, north and east caverns) welcoming schools of pelagic fish like jacks, tuna and barracuda and sometimes sharks from the Pacific Ocean. One diver jokingly said that this indeed feels like a church because when you see it, all you can say is “Oh My God!”

What a wonderful new gift the Lord Almighty has given to Siargao.

Out of Blue Cathedral is the lip of the Siargao shelf meeting the blue Pacific waters. The terminal depth of 50 meters goes on for several kilometres, and on any given day you can see the bottom. Diving here is not for the faint-hearted. It is also not predictable like any house reef dive. Like Cloud 9, the Blue Cathedral faces the Pacific Ocean. Like a surfer waiting for swells, a diver must carefully plan for a break in the current to come in the hole.

This ‘holy’ dive site just sits in front of the Cloud 9 pavilion where from your boat you will still get a ‘heavenly’ glimpse of the surfers riding the waves.

Indeed you are in surfing and diving heaven.

Article by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda

What is cave diving?

What is cave diving? It is scuba diving inside a cave. Simple isn’t it?

Not quite. It is a complicated game of the human spirit wanting to perfect skills in the most challenging environment. This is not to scare everyone but cave diving is listed as the most dangerous sport in the world. Although there are many sports like American football, Rugby, horseback riding that may get you hurt or worse end up comatose after a fall, cave diving will not hurt or slowly paralyze but will simply get you killed.

Stop reading now.

ajawIndeed, cave diving is the world’s most dangerous participatory sport. Per attempt, there are more people who die diving in caves than those who jump with parachutes out of airplanes or buildings.

A pure death wish as anybody called it. Tell me in a world of six billion people and counting, how many would like to go into a dark and flooded tunnel, in the coldest water, with limited air and some flashlights. Who gets into cave diving?

Very, very few. Like you? Yes, you may get into it as you are past my warning and still reading.

Like the pursuit of limits like Everest or Challenger Deep, the underwater world beckons us. What about these caves? They are the natural canals of the world which connect water tables underground. Far from dirty, they are the source of our freshwater.

With the right equipment, proper training and enough experience, the once taboo world of cave diving can be a truly rewarding sport or game as well as a lifelong adventure, even with all its dangers.

You still reading? Then join us at FCD. Write us and begin your journey to the underworld.

Written by:

Jake Miranda

Jake Miranda