Master Control at base camp at the
entrance to the Crystal Cave.

Francesco Lo Mastro inside "The Crystal Cave."

Aktun Robot inside “The Crystal Cave.”


From the start of the Project we realized the need to record in images a site that would disappear within a few years. We are also aware that the longer the time that the cave remains “dry” will suffer greater deterioration due to dehydration and human involvement, such as temporary visits like ours, or the daily explosions during mining activity. The cave we visited in 2006 is deteriorating and day by day there are more fallen crystals. We observe daily more red pieces on the floor which have fallen from above.

The extraction of the groundwater for the mining operation made possible the discovery of the caves and access to them, but the impact of the human element is causing the miraculous stability which allowed the crystals’ spectacular growth, to end. To safeguard the memory of this magnificent site, it is essential to keep a record of the cave in images.

This would not be easy; the photographic and lighting equipment had to withstand the heat and humidity conditions of the place. We could not have imagined the long road ahead; but we had to conquer the challenge.

In the first place we had to overcome fear; everything was terrifying: the heat, the sharp edges on the crystals, the darkness and the unknown, which paradoxically made us, freeze. The film crew was no expert in caves, mountains, abyss or anything similar, least of all a place as extremely challenging as this. Expressions like “ten minutes inside and you are dead” resound in our head, and our partners the speleologists of La Venta, lovers of adventure and the fantasy of exploring were, for a time, our only link to be able to enter the cave. But it was impossible to remain there, so we had to grow. We had to be independent to be able to film and register the speleological and scientific work.

With time everything changed, slowly this small privileged group learned to manage themselves within the cave; we developed our own equipment and generated cold. Our fear of heat made us design what we call a robot, which would do part of our work inside the cave and would solve essential technological and practical aspects; we designed efficient lighting, helmet lights, computer programs and we made of the caves the best possible world, to evade the world.

Our project to rescue the memory of the site in images grew. We arrived in Naica to build a chapel and ended up building a cathedral. A simple documentary as the original aim, turned into several international documentaries, a few photographs turned into a corpus made by the best “extreme” photographers of the planet, and at the end we produced a feature film about our own experience.

All this was possible because the team became committed to its own challenge, learned from its teachers and achieved original innovative technological development, unique, special for the site; it could not be otherwise, these caves, unique in the planet demanded it. Otherwise this would not have been possible.

Gonzalo Infante