Oppenheimer Cave takes its name from the speleologist who discovered it. He earned the nickname because of his resemblance to the actor in the film, and it was just in early August, when the film was being released in theaters, that while walking along the construction site of Section 5 south of the Tren Maya, between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, Oppenheimer noticed a cavern next to the piles that would one day support the train’s viaduct.
“I suspect it is connected to the Manitas Cave,” said the speleologist. He said this with reason and concern, since recent drone shots showed that the route of the Tren Maya had been diverted some 30 meters so as not to affect Manitas – supposedly preserved by the government, since it contains cave paintings and other pre-Hispanic remains – but was going to run into the Oppenheimer Cave.
It is difficult not to impact the caves if a construction project is built in this region. The subsoil of the entire Yucatan Peninsula is made up of an intricate system of subway channels that represent the aquifer of the Yucatan Peninsula, one of the largest water supply sources in the world, and the north of Quintana Roo is where there are more cenotes and caves.
As shown in the photo below, where the route of the Tren Maya is juxtaposed with the map of the subway caverns in the area where we are located, here the route passes just above the Aktun T’uyul system.
The route of the Mayan Train coincides with the system of caves and cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula.
It is a karst terrain and therefore fragile, subject to collapse: the most recent was in 2020 less than 10 km from here, where a cave collapsed leaving a huge hole in federal highway 307, which was soon sarcastically christened “The train is taking me”.
“They will probably end up filling in the Oppenheimer cave to put in the piles, but we don’t know for sure, because it is a project created without previous studies and improvising,” says Guillermo D. Christy, a water treatment consultant and member of the Cenotes Urbanos collective, as we leave our tour of the subway channels.