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Ponor 3 Cave

We had now been caving several times a week in Puerto Rico for over a month. Some members of the caving community were beginning to trust us. A longtime caver gave us the location of Ponor 3,a river cave which flows into Cave #10 via a sump.

We went early in the morning. The man who owned the house where we parked, next to a basketball court, was shocked there was a cave there. He said he had no idea. We told him it was super dangerous and under no circumstances should he ever explore it alone, or expose it to anyone. He told us we were crazy to even go in, describing the size of recent floods.

Again, we set a strict ‘out by noon’ rule. The skies were clear.

We walked 100 feet north up the road from the basketball court, turned right and went into the jungle. It was less than 200 feet of bushwhacking to a dry streambed, which quickly disappeared into the black, misty entrance to Ponor 3. Awesome!

Although the local man had said a huge flood roared through here only three days prior, the stream was dry, with no puddles, and lots of green plants and grass with no mud. Was he wrong? Regardless, being inside during a flood could certainly be fatal.

We entered the cave. Due to thick fog, we could only see 10-15 feet. It was quickly black, and I noticed something moving next to my feet. A seven-foot long snake slithered under a boulder! Suhei screamed and wanted to go back. We all have a weakness. But from what I had read, this was almost certainly a harmless, shy and rare Puerto Rican boa. We didn’t bother it, and continued, hoping it would find its way out of the cave before the next flood.

For an hour, we moved at a good pace over logs and boulders, through stagnant pools, and across multiple swims. There were also some bats and some guano. Mostly, though, there was trash. Large objects like pipes, metal bars, washing machines and chairs were wedged between boulders, and smaller ones like dolls and diapers were stuck in the ceiling. It was not a landfill, but there was hardly a passage without some sort of human product.

Most of the trash, however, seemed old and worn. There were no bright coke cans, no shiny toys, and no new appliances. Later, the local man would tell us that trash is thrown from a ravine upstream, but in recent years has almost stopped. His neighborhood, he told us, does not trash the stream.

We continued through a swim of green water, which brought us to the first intersection, where two six-foot waterfalls dropped into separate passages on the right. These passages were somewhat tighter, with flowing water and more swims. The main passage continued, which we followed. This one brought us to a larger room with an eight-foot downclimb into a deep part of a flowing stream. Upclimbing this would be impossible without a fixed rope, which we did not have. Because of this obstacle, and the time (11 AM), we decided to go no farther.

Based on the map I was using, I believe this feature was called Holes-in-the-Floor. We were then just over a full kilometer into the cave, barely a third of the way to the sump. It is likely that the aforementioned small waterfalls connect to the stream beneath this hole, but we did not check. Tom Miller’s description seems to confirm this.

When we got back to the car, the local man told us about the trash problems. We again emphasized to keep it secret and not go in without contacting SEPRI.  When we told him about the seven-foot snake, his eyes widened and he said even with cavers he would never go in!

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