Paradox Underground

blog post photo

by Denis McCready
Line Producer, Naica II Production Inc. (Canada)

Naica is a paradox.

Contrary to many underground natural wonders, Naica is a surprising find. 300 meters deep, it has no natural openings to the surface, so it would have never been found if there hadn’t been the Industrias Peñoles mining complex operating there. Some caves require days of expeditions to reach, and film crews have to live in tents and cook their own food. Naica is the opposite, an improbable “film studio” environment. The cave is accessed by simply driving directly from our production office down a tunnel. Down there, we have plenty of electricity and establish a base camp with lights, computers, food, drinks, miscellaneous equipment, etc. Once the day is over, we drive back up, debrief, drive back to our hotel, eat, shower and sleep in a modern room with wireless Internet access and cable TV. That’s the easy part.

There are two doors between the base camp and the giant crystals.

What lies beyond those doors is another story. The base camp is tropical-like, warm and humid, an uncomfortable set in a stone-carved 100-meter long corridor. The closest you get to the 1st door, the warmer it gets. Open the metal door and you instantly feel a draft of noticeably warmer air. Making your way through another corridor leading to two stone-carved steps, it gets much warmer. You go up the steps, not even three feet higher, but you suddenly feel even more oppressive heat and humidity, it’s hard to breathe and you sweat instantly. You can see the giant crystals stretch in all directions beyond the transparent plastic door. Standing there you tell yourself: “This isn’t too bad… Just like a sauna with obstacles.”

Then you open the plastic door…

A burning wall hits you and you are shocked. Until then you haven’t really experienced Naica. Now you are in a humid hell and your feel your entire body sending you messages: “Get out of there NOW! You are in mortal danger.”

No joke. From that moment on, you are.

But you’re safe for now because you just walked in, full of your precious bodily fluids and electrolytes. Climbing over big crystals, you make your way deeper in the cave, giving 100% of your attention to breathing slowly and not falling on the razor-sharp crystals, you then make a stop and raise your head.

You will remember this moment until your last breath.

The first sight of the giant crystals stretching in all directions is impossible to describe. You are in awe, and yet you have a lot of difficulty appreciating it because your entire body is fighting a losing battle against the elements. The Humidex factor of the combined heat and humidity of Los Cristales cave is double the death threshold. Unprotected you can stay 10 to 15 minutes, after that your body is essentially a walking time bomb ready to overheat and die.

But someone is watching over you.

A voice on the walkie-talkie tells you it’s time to go. You reply back and make your way to the exit. You were never really in danger, because the Naica Project team, who have been filming at Naica for almost 4 years know how to keep you safe.

Naica is one of the most remote, beautiful, dangerous place I’ve ever visited, yet it’s surprisingly easy to access, breathtakingly hard to appreciate and, if you don’t go too far in, it’s very safe.

Video Preview: “Exploring a Deadly Cave” — See just how much it takes to be able to both explore and film the cave in the midst of crippling heat and humidity.

Explore Naica’s natural wonders in “Into the Lost Crystal Caves” premiering October 10th at 8P et/pt.