Text by Chris Borgen
Photography by Erik Foreman and Chris Borgen
From all corners of the globe, each year thousands of divers flock to the Central American nation of Honduras all bound for the islands of Roatan and Utila. On the top of their list are diving the coral reefs and photographing colorful fish. But for our team of explorers, consisting of Erik Foreman and myself, neither fish nor reefs even made the list. We were there for two reasons: discovering Lenca and Olmec artifacts and exploring the unseen. Our destination: Lago De Yojoa. Lake Yojoa is Honduras’ largest lake located in central mainland Honduras three hours from the Caribbean coast and bordered by lush jungle and the Santa Barbara National Park. It is easily one of the most picturesque places in all of Central America. With unsurpassed amounts of fresh water and local fishing, it’s no wonder the families in this area date back to the pre classic period. Our interest in this history and lust for discovery is what brought us here.

As we touched down in San Pedro Sula, we were relieved to find our closed circuit rebreathers and gear had made it all the way from Seattle mostly unscathed. With everything packed in our 4x4 jungle rig, we made our way through the twisting and turning, pothole infested dirt roads that would lead us to our home base, the D & D Brewery, the only microbrewery in Honduras. The owner, Bob Dale, a middle-aged man from the state of Oregon is a 15-year resident of Honduras. He is not only known for his incredible variety of micro brews, but also his knowledge and small museum collection of Lenca and Olmec artifacts. With his knowledge of the area and expertise in the local culture of the past, he would be our team’s right-hand man.

Millions of gallons of water per minute emerge from the head pool that creates the impressive Puhlanpanzak Falls
Team member Chris Borgen and a local guide climb a waterfall to explore a cave hidden behind the water.
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As usual, our first task was to find a gas supplier, since there are no dive shops in the area. Bob had met a man who owned a compressor some years’ back who lived way up in the hills. We made our way through a barbwire and wooden fence and up to the house where the man was living. When we stopped the truck, the man appeared with a loaded side arm and a concerned look. Only after Bob appeared did he calm. He explained how he had shot a man just the day before for stealing things from his property. He also explained that the Mako compressor he owned hadn’t been used in 15 years. We decided the local gas plant would be a better option. After donning hard hats and paying an “entrance” fee, we made our way into the local gas plant that supplies hospitals and welding shops. With some minor plumbing adjustments mixed with our fill whips and knowhow, we were on our way with two 40 cubic foot cylinders each. With our closed circuit rebreathers, this amount of gas would last us all week.
Chris Borgen at gas supply plant, Infra gas in San Pedro Sula getting oxygen for our rebreathers.
Ancient carved stone figurines adorn nearly every surface in the Mayan capital of Copan
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Back at the brewery assembling gear and thinking our dive plans through for Lake Yojoa, a local man came by to meet the “loco” guys who would be diving in their lake. After a bit of broken conversation and laughs, he spoke of a spot on his land way up in the mountains where a river began. He said no one had ever been in this blue hole, but that it was the only spot supplying the Puhlanpanzak River and falls. Having seen the amount of limestone topography in the area, we decided the lake could wait another day. We wanted to be the first to see what was to be found in this unexplored blue hole. We drove up the winding mountain road through the fields until we came to the hole where the river started. We geared up as fast as we could to avoid the Central American swelter. As we donned our masks and descended through the blue, we hit the bottom at 40 feet. We immediately began searching the parameter, and found a restriction that led to deeper water. We tied off and ran line another 15 feet deeper when a large room opened up. This room was 55 feet at the bottom and topped out at 5 feet. There were amazing limestone formations, but no stalagmites, leading us to believe this cave had always been submerged. We found many pieces of pottery inside and another restriction leading deeper, but due to the time of day, we agreed to leave it for later. We decided to head back and prepare the boat and gear for our dives at the lake.
Diver Chris Borgen gearing up for an exploration dive in Lake Yojoa
Erik Foreman getting ready to dive a discovered blue hole with possible cave passage
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The next day we headed out to a small clearing in the jungle called Aqua Azul where the boat was kept. We loaded our gear and cranked the 10-horse Johnson to full speed for our 45-minute ride to an area lined with cliffs where human sacrifice was believed to have been performed over 2,000 years ago. We finished our pre- breaths and back-rolled into the murky green water. As we dropped below the surface, we immediately saw cut-throughs in the rock face; small caves about 3 feet wide. We searched the bottom for 2 hours, peering through the rock crevices and digging through the mud. We came across many pieces of Lenca pottery, some painted, and others with carved markings. Although we found no evidence of human bones, the pottery showed us the lake had been inhabited for thousands of years. We ended our day with a few chilled amber micro brews and hand-rolled tortillas.

As night turned to day, we again loaded our gear and headed to another spot on the north end of the lake. It appeared to be an easily accessible area for bathing and washing, and the ground topography appeared rockier. Although we had found many artifacts already, we knew with the thickness of the mud, the lake was hiding all but a few of the pieces it swallowed some 2,000 years ago. We dropped down and landed on a very unusual looking limestone ledge. We followed the ledge, peering in holes and overturning anything that looked out of the ordinary. We found many “hand made” anchors, or rocks with line tied around them. As we moved into deeper water, Erik came across a stone that was more round than the usual stones with 90-degree angles that scattered the bottom of the lake. He stuffed it into his weight harness pocket and we continued swimming out towards the middle of the lake. As we reached the end of the ledge where the limestone rock met deep mud, we cut back towards shore where we discovered more pottery shards. It wasn’t until we reached the surface that we realized the stone found on the rocky ledge was a hand tool used for scraping. It was a beautiful light green color with intentional formation to fit inside one’s hand perfectly.
Chris Borgen holding Lenca pottery, discovered in the depths from Lake Yojoa
Some "artifacts" discovered from the bottom of the blue hole
Diver Chris Borgen entering Lake Yojoa in search of Maya relics
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We spent the next 4 days combing the lake, picking up pieces of pottery just about everywhere we looked. We decided we had accomplished what we came to the lake for and that was to find artifacts proving the Lenca had come to the lake for washing, bathing, fresh water and food. Still, there was one last unexplored spot we had to get to in our last day before the 9-hour flight home.

Poso Azul is what they called it, another blue hole where a smaller river started. Since this was going to be our last dive, we decided to each take our 40 cubic foot cylinder with air and power snorkel. After all, we had to hike about a half-mile through a coffee plantation, then another half mile up, and then back down a very steep ravine to the location of this hole. The water temperature was 50 degrees Fahrenheit; we decided our drysuits were going to be essential. We made our way to the hole, careful to avoid the baby kinkajous and occasional snake. When we arrived, we noticed the bottom appeared to be only 10 feet deep. With some disappointment, we geared up and surface-swam through the crystal clear water to the deepest section of the “poso azul.” We gave the okay sign and began searching once again for any deeper holes or river flow. After only 5 minutes, we both surfaced and agreed it was only a clear pond. It wasn’t until I decided to take one more look and go grab some of the bottom composition that we found the unexpected: the bottom was only a layer of organic material and felt more like a handful of water than earth. We descended as far as we felt comfortable with 500 psi in a 40 cubic foot tank. The organic material had been so stirred up we couldn’t see a thing. But 10 feet below the layer, we still hadn’t hit bottom. Back on the surface, we were both beat from the week in Central America and decided to keep this adventure for the next trip down. We packed our now mud-laden gear back to our vehicle and headed for the brewery.

Chris Borgen getting ready to “power snorkel” Poso Azul
Some Lenca pottery shards found in the bottom of a blue hole
Bob Dale, owner of the brewery holding Lenca artifacts he has recovered over the past decades
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Our time at Lake Yojoa had come to an end, but we had accomplished what we came for. We had discovered many pieces of Lenca pottery, dove in some virgin caves, and drank enough micro brews to last us the rest of the year. All pieces we found were donated to the Bob Dales small museum collection at the D & D Brewery and left for the locals to view and enjoy. Our successful expedition to Lago De Yojoa was only the first of many to come in the near future.

We would like to thank Bob Dale of the D & D Brewery for the advice, knowledge, and technical support he provided that made this trip possible. For more information on the D & D Brewery: And a special thanks to Tito Loco for access to the Puhlanpanzak area.

Team divers, Erik Foreman and Chris Borgen enjoying company with the local workers of the brewery
"The old man" - a massive Maya carved stone head at Copan
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