Caving

Caving

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Encyclopedia
Caving—also occasionally known as spelunking in the United States and potholing in the United Kingdom—is the recreational pastime of exploring wild (generally non-commercial
Show cave
Show caves — also called tourist caves, public caves, and in the United States, commercial caves — are caves that are managed by a government or commercial organization and made accessible to the general public, usually for an entrance fee...

) cave
Cave
A cave or cavern is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter. The term applies to natural cavities some part of which is in total darkness. The word cave also includes smaller spaces like rock shelters, sea caves, and grottos.Speleology is the science of exploration and study...

 systems. In contrast, speleology
Speleology
Speleology is the scientific study of caves and other karst features, their make-up, structure, physical properties, history, life forms, and the processes by which they form and change over time...

 is the scientific study of caves and the cave environment.

The challenges involved in the activity depend on the cave being visited, but often include the negotiation of pitches
Pitch (vertical space)
-Climbing:In rock climbing and ice climbing, a pitch is a steep section of a route that requires a rope between two belays, as part of a climbing system...

, squeezes, and water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 (although actual cave diving
Cave diving
Cave diving is a type of technical diving in which specialized equipment is used to enable the exploration of caves which are at least partially filled with water. In the United Kingdom it is an extension of the more common sport of caving, and in the United States an extension of the more common...

 is a separate sub-specialty undertaken only by very few cavers). Climbing
Climbing
Climbing is the activity of using one's hands and feet to ascend a steep object. It is done both for recreation and professionally, as part of activities such as maintenance of a structure, or military operations.Climbing activities include:* Bouldering: Ascending boulders or small...

 or crawling is often necessary, and rope
Rope
A rope is a length of fibres, twisted or braided together to improve strength for pulling and connecting. It has tensile strength but is too flexible to provide compressive strength...

s are used extensively for safe negotiation of particularly steep or slippery passages.

Caves have been explored out of necessity (for shelter from the elements or from enemies), out of curiosity or for mystical reasons for thousands of years. However, only in the last century or two has the activity developed into a sophisticated, athletic pastime. In recent decades, caving has changed considerably due to the availability of modern protective wear and equipment. It has recently come to be known as an "extreme sport
Extreme sport
An extreme sport is a popular term for certain activities perceived as having a high level of inherent danger...

" by some (though not commonly considered as such by its practitioners, who may dislike the term for its perceived connotation of disregard for safety).

Many of the skills involved in caving can also be put to use in mine exploration
Mine exploration
Mine exploration is a hobby in which people visit abandoned mines, quarries, and sometimes operational mines. Enthusiasts usually engage in such activities for the purpose of exploration and documentation, sometimes through the use of surveying and photography. In this respect, mine exploration...

 and urban exploration
Urban exploration
Urban exploration is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities. Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as infiltration, although some people consider infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or...

.

Motivation


Caving is often undertaken for the enjoyment of the outdoor activity or for physical exercise, as well as original exploration, similar to mountaineering
Mountaineering
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...

 or diving
Diving
Diving is the sport of jumping or falling into water from a platform or springboard, sometimes while performing acrobatics. Diving is an internationally-recognized sport that is part of the Olympic Games. In addition, unstructured and non-competitive diving is a recreational pastime.Diving is one...

. Physical or biological science is also an important goal for some cavers. Virgin cave systems comprise some of the last unexplored regions on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 and much effort is put into trying to locate and enter them. In well-explored regions (such as most developed nations), the most accessible caves have already been explored, and gaining access to new caves often requires digging
Cave digging
Cave Digging is the practice of enlarging undiscovered cave openings to allow entry. Cave digging usually follows a search of mountains and valleys in karst topography for new caves. Often it takes place underground in places where a large passage has clearly been backfilled with silt, or choked...

 or diving
Cave diving
Cave diving is a type of technical diving in which specialized equipment is used to enable the exploration of caves which are at least partially filled with water. In the United Kingdom it is an extension of the more common sport of caving, and in the United States an extension of the more common...

.

Naming issues



Clay Perry
Clay Perry
Clair Willard Perry , called Clay Perry, was an American writer and outdoorsman. He coined the term "spelunker".-Biography:Born in 1887 in Waupaca, Wisconsin, Perry moved to western Massachusetts as a young man. A novelist, short story writer, and journalist, in the 1930s he worked for the Federal...

, an American caver of the 1940s, wrote about a group of men and boys who explored and studied caves throughout New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

. This group referred to themselves as spelunkers, a term derived from the Latin spēlunca and Greek σπῆλυγξ (spēlunks) meaning "a cave". This is regarded as the first use of the word in the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

. Throughout the 1950s, spelunking was the general term used for exploring caves in US English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

. It was used freely, without any positive or negative connotations, although only rarely outside the US.

In the 1960s, the terms "spelunking" and "spelunker" began to be considered déclassé among experienced enthusiasts. They began to convey the idea of inexperienced cavers, using unreliable light sources and cotton clothing. In 1985, Steve Knutson (editor of the NSS
National Speleological Society
The National Speleological Society is an organization formed in 1941 to advance the exploration, conservation, study, and understanding of caves in the United States. Originally located in Washington D.C., its current offices are in Huntsville, Alabama...

 publication American Caving Accidents) made the following distinction:
This sentiment is exemplified by bumper sticker
Bumper sticker
A bumper sticker is an adhesive label or sticker with a message, intended to be attached to the bumper of an automobile and to be read by the occupants of other vehicles - although they are often stuck onto other objects...

s and t-shirts displayed by many cavers: "Cavers rescue spelunkers".

Potholing refers to the act of exploring potholes
Pit Cave
A pit cave, or vertical cave — or often simply called a pit or pot — is a type of natural cave which contains one or more significant vertical shafts rather than being predominantly a conventional horizontal cave passage. Pit caves typically form in limestone as a result of long-term erosion by...

, a word originating in the north of England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 for predominantly vertical caves. The term is often used as a synonym for caving.

History


Caving was pioneered by Édouard-Alfred Martel
Édouard-Alfred Martel
, the 'father of modern speleology', was a world pioneer of cave exploration, study, and documentation...

 (1859–1938) who first achieved the descent and exploration of the Gouffre de Padirac, France as early as 1889 and the first complete descent of a 110 metre wet vertical shaft at Gaping Gill
Gaping Gill
Gaping Gill is a natural cave in North Yorkshire, England. It is one of the unmistakable landmarks on the southern slopes of Ingleborough – a deep pothole with the stream Fell Beck flowing into it...

, in Yorkshire
Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

, England in 1895. He developed his own techniques based on ropes and metallic ladders. Martel visited Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 and notably Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park is a U.S. National Park in central Kentucky, encompassing portions of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world. The official name of the system is the Mammoth-Flint Ridge Cave System for the ridge under which the cave has formed. The park was established...

 in October 1912. Famous US caver Floyd Collins
Floyd Collins
William Floyd Collins was a celebrated pioneer cave explorer in central Kentucky, an area that is the location of hundreds of miles of interconnected caves, including the Mammoth Cave National Park...

 made in the 1920s important explorations in that area. In the 1930s, as caving became increasingly popular, small exploration teams both in the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 and in the karstic high plateaus of southwest France (Causses
Causses
The Causses are a group of limestone plateaus in the Massif Central. They are bordered to the north-west by the Limousin and the Périgord uplands, and to the east by the Aubrac and the Cévennes. Large river gorges cut through the plateaus, such as the Tarn, Dourbie, Jonte, Lot and Aveyron...

 and Pyrenees
Pyrenees
The Pyrenees is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain...

) transformed cave exploration in both a scientific and recreational activity. Robert de Joly
Robert de Joly
Robert-Jacques de Joly was a famous French caver and speleologist. Considered by some as the successor to Édouard-Alfred Martel , de Joly was a leading figure of French speleology between the world wars and into the 1960s.De Joly was an active cave explorer throughout his entire life, from age...

, Guy de Lavaur  and Norbert Casteret
Norbert Casteret
Norbert Casteret was a famous French caver and adventurer, and is one of the most recognisable names in caving worldwide. Following Édouard-Alfred Martel , Casteret, along with Robert de Joly, became a leading figure of French speleology between the world wars and into the middle of the 20th...

 were prominent figures of that time. They surveyed mostly caves in Southwest France. During WWII, an alpine team composed of Pierre Chevalier
Pierre Chevalier
Pierre Chevalier was a well-known caver and mountaineer from France, with many alpine ascents and cave explorations to his credit. Chevalier is principally known for the exploration of the Dent de Crolles cave system over a twelve-year period , which became the deepest cave in the world...

, Fernand Petzl
Fernand Petzl
Fernand Petzl was a caver and manufacturer of outdoor equipment under the brand name Petzl.Petzl lived most of his life in the village of Saint-Ismier , France at the foot of the mountain Dent De Crolles. He first went caving in Trou du Glaz in 1933, and was immediately captivated by the idea of...

, Charles Petit-Didier and others explored the Dent de Crolles
Dent de Crolles
The Dent de Crolles is a karstic mountain of the Chartreuse Mountains range, 17 km north east from Grenoble, Isère . It has a characteristic "tooth-like" profile which is well-known sight of the Isère Valley seen from the Grenoble area...

 cave system near Grenoble
Grenoble
Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère...

, France which became the deepest explored cave in the world (-658m) at that time. The lack of available equipment during the war forced Pierre Chevalier
Pierre Chevalier
Pierre Chevalier was a well-known caver and mountaineer from France, with many alpine ascents and cave explorations to his credit. Chevalier is principally known for the exploration of the Dent de Crolles cave system over a twelve-year period , which became the deepest cave in the world...

 and the rest of the team to develop their own equipment, leading to technical innovation. The scaling-pole (1940), nylon ropes (1942), use of explosives in caves (1947) and mechanical rope-ascenders (Henri Brenot's "monkeys", first used by Chevalier and Brenot in a cave in 1934) can be directly associated to the exploration of the Dent de Crolles cave system.

In 1941, American cavers organized themselves into the National Speleological Society
National Speleological Society
The National Speleological Society is an organization formed in 1941 to advance the exploration, conservation, study, and understanding of caves in the United States. Originally located in Washington D.C., its current offices are in Huntsville, Alabama...

 (NSS) to advance the exploration, conservation, study, and understanding of caves in the United States. American caver Bill Cuddington, known as "Vertical Bill", developed the single rope technique
Single Rope Technique
Single Rope Technique is a set of methods used to descend and ascend on the same single rope. SRT is used in caving, potholing, rock climbing, canyoning, roped access for building maintenance and by arborists for tree climbing.-Historical Developments:...

 (SRT) in the late 1950s. In 1958, two Swiss alpinists, Juesi and Marti teamed together, creating the first rope ascender known as the Jumar
Jumar
An ascender is a mechanical device used for ascending on a rope. One such device is a Jumar, named after the Swiss factory which developed the first tool for sale in 1958. The device's name also leads to the term Jumaring for the process of using such a device...

. In 1968 Bruno Dressler asked Fernand Petzl
Fernand Petzl
Fernand Petzl was a caver and manufacturer of outdoor equipment under the brand name Petzl.Petzl lived most of his life in the village of Saint-Ismier , France at the foot of the mountain Dent De Crolles. He first went caving in Trou du Glaz in 1933, and was immediately captivated by the idea of...

, who worked as a metals machinist, to build a rope-ascending tool, today known as the Petzl Croll
Petzl Croll
A petzl croll is an ascending device used in caving and industrial rope access made by the French company Petzl. Its name comes from the town Crolles where Petzl's company headquarters are located but might also be a reference to the nearby cave system of the Dent de Crolles, The exploration of...

, that he had developed by adapting the Jumar to pit caving. Pursuing these developments, Petzl started in the 1970s a caving equipment manufacturing company named Petzl
Petzl
Petzl is a world leading manufacturer of climbing gear, caving gear, work-at-height equipment, and headlamps based in Crolles , France. The company was created by the cave explorer Fernand Petzl in the mid-1970s...

. The development of the rappel rack and the evolution of mechanical ascension systems extended the practice and safety of pit exploration to a larger venue of cavers.

Practice and equipment



Hard hat
Hard hat
A hard hat is a type of helmet predominantly used in workplace environments, such as construction sites, to protect the head from injury by falling objects, impact with other objects, debris, bad weather and electric shock. Inside the helmet is a suspension that spreads the helmet's weight over the...

s are worn to protect the head from bumps and falling rocks. The caver's primary light source is usually mounted on the helmet in order to keep the hands free. Electric lights are most common, with halogen lamp
Halogen lamp
A halogen lamp, also known as a tungsten halogen lamp, is an incandescent lamp with a tungsten filament contained within an inert gas and a small amount of a halogen such as iodine or bromine. The chemical halogen cycle redeposits evaporated tungsten back on to the filament, extending the life of...

s being standard and white LED
LEd
LEd is a TeX/LaTeX editing software working under Microsoft Windows. It is a freeware product....

s as the new competing technology. Many cavers carry two or more sources of light - one as primary and the others as backup in case the first fails. More often than not, a second light will be mounted to the helmet for quick transition if the primary fails. Carbide lamp
Carbide lamp
Carbide lamps, properly known as acetylene gas lamps, are simple lamps that produce and burn acetylene which is created by the reaction of calcium carbide with water....

s systems are an older form of illumination, inspired by miner's equipment, and are still used by some cavers.

The type of clothes worn underground varies according to the environment of the cave being explored, and the local culture. In cold caves, the caver may wear a warm base layer that retains its insulating properties when wet, such as a fleece
Wool
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camel from animals in the camel family, and angora from rabbits....

 ("furry") suit and/or polypropylene underwear, and an oversuit of hard-wearing (e.g., cordura
Cordura
Cordura is the brand name for a collection of fabrics used in a wide array of products including luggage, backpacks, pants, military wear and performance apparel. Cordura fabrics are known for their durability and resistance to abrasions, tears and scuffs....

) and/or waterproof (e.g., PVC
Polyvinyl chloride
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is a thermoplastic polymer. It is a vinyl polymer constructed of repeating vinyl groups having one hydrogen replaced by chloride. Polyvinyl chloride is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene. PVC is widely used in...

) material. Lighter clothing may be worn in warm caves, particularly if the cave is dry, and in tropical caves thin polypropylene clothing is used, to provide some abrasion protection whilst remaining as cool as possible. Wetsuit
Wetsuit
A wetsuit is a garment, usually made of foamed neoprene, which is worn by surfers, divers, windsurfers, canoeists, and others engaged in water sports, providing thermal insulation, abrasion resistance and buoyancy. The insulation properties depend on bubbles of gas enclosed within the material,...

s may be worn if the cave is particularly wet or involves stream passages. On the feet boot
Boot
A boot is a type of footwear but they are not shoes. Most boots mainly cover the foot and the ankle and extend up the leg, sometimes as far as the knee or even the hip. Most boots have a heel that is clearly distinguishable from the rest of the sole, even if the two are made of one piece....

s are worn - hiking-style boots in drier caves, or rubber boots (such as wellies) often with neoprene
Neoprene
Neoprene or polychloroprene is a family of synthetic rubbers that are produced by polymerization of chloroprene. Neoprene in general has good chemical stability, and maintains flexibility over a wide temperature range...

 socks ("wetsocks") in wetter caves. Knee
Knee
The knee joint joins the thigh with the leg and consists of two articulations: one between the fibula and tibia, and one between the femur and patella. It is the largest joint in the human body and is very complicated. The knee is a mobile trocho-ginglymus , which permits flexion and extension as...

-pads (and sometimes elbow-pads) are popular for protecting joints during crawls. Depending on the nature of the cave, gloves are sometimes worn to protect the hands against abrasion and/or cold. In pristine areas and for restoration, clean oversuits and powder-free, non-latex surgical gloves
Medical gloves
Medical gloves are disposable gloves used during medical examinations and procedures that help prevent contamination between caregivers and patients. Medical gloves are made of different polymers including latex, nitrile rubber, vinyl and neoprene; they come unpowdered, or powdered with cornstarch...

 are used to protect the cave itself from contaminants.

Ropes are used for descending or ascending pitches ("Single Rope Technique
Single Rope Technique
Single Rope Technique is a set of methods used to descend and ascend on the same single rope. SRT is used in caving, potholing, rock climbing, canyoning, roped access for building maintenance and by arborists for tree climbing.-Historical Developments:...

") or for protection. Knot
Knot
A knot is a method of fastening or securing linear material such as rope by tying or interweaving. It may consist of a length of one or several segments of rope, string, webbing, twine, strap, or even chain interwoven such that the line can bind to itself or to some other object—the "load"...

s commonly used in caving are the figure-of-eight
Figure-of-eight loop
A figure-eight loop is a type of knot created by a loop on the bight. It is used in climbing and caving where rope strains are light to moderate and for decorative purposes....

- (or figure-of-nine
Figure-of-nine loop
The figure-of-nine loop is a type of knot to form a fixed loop in a rope. Tied in the bight, it is made similarly to a figure-of-eight loop but with an extra half-turn before finishing the knot....

-) loop, bowline
Bowline
The bowline is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. It has the virtues of being both easy to tie and untie. The bowline is sometimes referred as King of the knots because of its importance...

, alpine butterfly
Alpine butterfly knot
The alpine butterfly knot is a knot used to form a fixed loop in the middle of a rope. Tied in the bight, it can be made in a rope without access to either of the ends; this is a distinct advantage when working with long climbing ropes. The butterfly loop is an excellent mid-line rigging knot, it...

, and Italian hitch. Ropes are usually rigged using bolts
Bolt (climbing)
In rock climbing, a bolt is a permanent anchor fixed into a hole drilled in the rock as a form of protection. Most bolts are either self-anchoring expansion bolts or fixed in place with liquid resin....

, sling
Sling
The word sling may refer to:* Sling , a device used to hurl projectiles* Sling is an item of climbing equipment consisting of a sewn loop of webbing that can be wrapped around sections of rock or tied to other pieces of equipment.* Sling * Ski jumping sling is an item of sports training...

s, and carabiner
Carabiner
A carabiner or karabiner is a metal loop with a sprung or screwed gate that is used to quickly and reversibly connect components in safety-critical systems. The word comes from "Karabinerhaken", meaning "hook for a carbine" in German.-Use:...

s. In some cases cavers may choose to bring and use a flexible metal ladder
Ladder
A ladder is a vertical or inclined set of rungs or steps. There are two types: rigid ladders that can be leaned against a vertical surface such as a wall, and rope ladders that are hung from the top. The vertical members of a rigid ladder are called stringers or stiles . Rigid ladders are usually...

.

In addition to the equipment already described, cavers frequently carry packs containing first-aid
First aid
First aid is the provision of initial care for an illness or injury. It is usually performed by non-expert, but trained personnel to a sick or injured person until definitive medical treatment can be accessed. Certain self-limiting illnesses or minor injuries may not require further medical care...

 kits, emergency equipment, and food. Containers for securely transporting urine
Urine
Urine is a typically sterile liquid by-product of the body that is secreted by the kidneys through a process called urination and excreted through the urethra. Cellular metabolism generates numerous by-products, many rich in nitrogen, that require elimination from the bloodstream...

 are also commonly carried. On longer trips, containers for securely transporting feces
Feces
Feces, faeces, or fæces is a waste product from an animal's digestive tract expelled through the anus or cloaca during defecation.-Etymology:...

 out of the cave are carried.

During very long trips, it may be necessary to camp in the cave. This necessitates the caver carrying sleeping and cooking equipment.

Safety




Caves can be dangerous places; hypothermia, falling
Falling
Falling may refer to:*Falling , movement due to gravity*Falling *Falling *Falling *Falling , in which the goal is to hit the ground last...

, flooding, and physical exhaustion are the main risks. Rescuing people from underground is difficult and time-consuming, and requires special skills, training, and equipment. Full-scale cave rescues often involve the efforts of dozens of rescue workers (often other long-time cavers who have participated in specialised courses, as normal rescue staff are not sufficiently experienced in cave environments), who may themselves be put in jeopardy in effecting the rescue. This said, caving is not necessarily a high-risk sport (especially if it does not involve difficult climbs or diving). As in all physical sports, knowing one's limitations is key.

The risks are minimised by a number of techniques:
  • Checking that there is no danger of flooding during the expedition. Rainwater funneled underground can flood a cave very quickly, trapping people in cut-off passages and drowning
    Drowning
    Drowning is death from asphyxia due to suffocation caused by water entering the lungs and preventing the absorption of oxygen leading to cerebral hypoxia....

     them. After falling, this is the most likely fatal accident in caving.
  • Using teams of several, preferably at least of four cavers. If an injury occurs, one caver stays with the injured person while the other two go out for help, providing assistance to each other on their way out.
  • Notifying people outside the cave as to the intended return time. After an appropriate delay without a return, these will then organise a search party (usually made up by other cavers trained in cave rescue
    Cave rescue
    Cave rescue is a highly specialized field of wilderness rescue in which injured, trapped or lost cave explorers are medically treated and extracted from various cave environments....

    s, as even professional emergency personnel are unlikely to have the skills to effect a rescue in difficult conditions).
  • Use of helmet-mounted lights (hands-free) with extra batteries. American cavers recommend a minimum of three independent sources of light per person, but two lights is common practice amongst European cavers.
  • Sturdy clothing and footwear, as well as a helmet
    Helmet
    A helmet is a form of protective gear worn on the head to protect it from injuries.Ceremonial or symbolic helmets without protective function are sometimes used. The oldest known use of helmets was by Assyrian soldiers in 900BC, who wore thick leather or bronze helmets to protect the head from...

    , are necessary to reduce the impact of abrasions, falls, and falling objects. Synthetic fibers and woolens, which dry quickly, shed water, and are warm when wet, are vastly preferred to cotton materials, which retain water and increase the risk of hypothermia. It is also helpful to have several layers of clothing, which can be shed (and stored in the pack) or added as needed. In watery cave passages, polypropylene
    Polypropylene
    Polypropylene , also known as polypropene, is a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications including packaging, textiles , stationery, plastic parts and reusable containers of various types, laboratory equipment, loudspeakers, automotive components, and polymer banknotes...

     thermal underwear or wetsuit
    Wetsuit
    A wetsuit is a garment, usually made of foamed neoprene, which is worn by surfers, divers, windsurfers, canoeists, and others engaged in water sports, providing thermal insulation, abrasion resistance and buoyancy. The insulation properties depend on bubbles of gas enclosed within the material,...

    s may be required to avoid hypothermia
    Hypothermia
    Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as . Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation...

    .
  • Cave passages look different from different directions. In long or complex caves, even experienced cavers can become lost. To reduce the risk of becoming lost, it is necessary to memorise the appearance of key navigational points in the cave as they are passed by the exploring party. Each member of a cave party shares responsibility for being able to remember the route out of the cave. In some caves it may be acceptable to mark a small number of key junctions with small stacks or "cairns" of rocks, or to leave a non-permanent mark such as high-visibility flagging tape
    Flagging (tape)
    Flagging is a colored non-adhesive tape used in marking objects. It is commonly made of PVC or vinyl, and wood fibre cellulose-based biodegradable flagging also exists.-Forestry:In forestry flagging is commonly used to mark trees for various purposes...

     tied to a projection.
  • Vertical caving using ladders or SRT (Single Rope Technique
    Single Rope Technique
    Single Rope Technique is a set of methods used to descend and ascend on the same single rope. SRT is used in caving, potholing, rock climbing, canyoning, roped access for building maintenance and by arborists for tree climbing.-Historical Developments:...

    ) to avoid the need for climbing passages that are too difficult. SRT however is a complex skill and requires proper training before use underground and needs well-maintained equipment. Some drops that are abseiled
    Abseiling
    Abseiling , rappelling in American English, is the controlled descent down a rock face using a rope; climbers use this technique when a cliff or slope is too steep and/or dangerous to descend without protection.- Slang terms :...

     down may be as deep as several hundred meters (for example Harwood Hole
    Harwood Hole
    Harwood Hole is a cave system located in the northwest of the South Island of New Zealand. It is one of several important cave systems in Takaka Hill, between Golden Bay and Tasman Bay. Starting at the surface as a 50 metre round entrance and descending 183 metres, Harwood Hole is New Zealand's...

    ).

Cave conservation


Many cave environments are very fragile. Many speleothem
Speleothem
A speleothem , commonly known as a cave formation, is a secondary mineral deposit formed in a cave. Speleothems are typically formed in limestone or dolostone solutional caves.-Origin and composition:...

s can be damaged by even the slightest touch and some by impacts as slight as a breath.

Pollution is also of concern. Since water that flows through a cave eventually comes out in streams and rivers, any pollution may ultimately end up in someone's drinking water, and can even seriously affect the surface environment, as well. Even minor pollution such as dropping organic material can have a dramatic effect on the cave biota.

Cave-dwelling species are also very fragile, and often, a particular species found in a cave may live within that cave alone, and be found nowhere else in the world, such as Alabama cave shrimp
Alabama cave shrimp
The Alabama cave shrimp, Palaemonias alabamae, is a species of shrimp in the family Atyidae, found only in caves in the state of Alabama.-Conservation status:...

. Cave-dwelling species are accustomed to a near-constant climate of temperature and humidity, and any disturbance can be disruptive to the species' life cycles. Though cave wildlife may not always be immediately visible, it is typically nonetheless present in most caves.

Bat
Bat
Bats are mammals of the order Chiroptera "hand" and pteron "wing") whose forelimbs form webbed wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of true and sustained flight. By contrast, other mammals said to fly, such as flying squirrels, gliding possums, and colugos, glide rather than fly,...

s are one such fragile species of cave-dwelling animal. Bats which hibernate
Hibernation
Hibernation is a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in animals, characterized by lower body temperature, slower breathing, and lower metabolic rate. Hibernating animals conserve food, especially during winter when food supplies are limited, tapping energy reserves, body fat, at a slow rate...

 are most vulnerable during the winter season, when no food supply exists on the surface to replenish the bat's store of energy should it be awakened from hibernation. Bats which migrate
Bird migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...

 are most sensitive during the summer months when they are raising their young. For these reasons, visiting caves inhabited by hibernating bats is discouraged during cold months; and visiting caves inhabited by migratory bats is discouraged during the warmer months when they are most sensitive and vulnerable. Due to an affliction affecting bats in the northeastern US known as white nose syndrome
White nose syndrome
White nose syndrome is a poorly understood disease associated with the deaths of more than a million bats. The condition, named for a distinctive fungal growth around the muzzles and on the wings of many affected animals, was first identified in a cave in Schoharie County, New York, USA, in...

 (WNS), the US Fish & Wildlife Service has called for a moratorium http://www.caves.org/WNS/USFWS-WNS_cave_advisory_news_rls_2009-03-26_final-1.pdf effective March 26, 2009 on caving activity in states known to have hibernacula (MD, NY, VT, NH, MA, CT, NJ, PA, VA, and WV) affected by WNS, as well as adjoining states.

Some cave passages may be marked with flagging tape or other indicators to show biologically, aesthetically, or archaeologically sensitive areas. Marked paths may show ways around notably fragile areas such as a pristine floor of sand
Sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

 or silt
Silt
Silt is granular material of a size somewhere between sand and clay whose mineral origin is quartz and feldspar. Silt may occur as a soil or as suspended sediment in a surface water body...

 which may be thousands of years old, dating from the last time water flowed through the cave. Such deposits may easily be spoiled forever by a single misplaced step. Active formations such as flowstone
Flowstone
Flowstones are composed of sheetlike deposits of calcite formed where water flows down the walls or along the floors of a cave. They are typically found in "solution", or limestone caves, where they are the most common speleothem. However, they may form in any type of cave where water enters that...

 can be similarly marred with a muddy footprint or handprint, and ancient human artifacts, such as fiber products, may even crumble to dust under all but the most gentle touch.

Caving organizations



Cavers in many countries have created organizations for the administration and oversight of caving activities within their nations. The oldest of these is the French Federation of Speleology (originally Société de spéléologie) founded by Édouard-Alfred Martel
Édouard-Alfred Martel
, the 'father of modern speleology', was a world pioneer of cave exploration, study, and documentation...

 in 1895, which produced the first periodical journal in speleology, Spelunca. The National Speleological Society
National Speleological Society
The National Speleological Society is an organization formed in 1941 to advance the exploration, conservation, study, and understanding of caves in the United States. Originally located in Washington D.C., its current offices are in Huntsville, Alabama...

 of the USA was later founded in 1941 (originally formed as the Speleological Society of the District of Columbia
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 on May 6, 1939) and the Swiss Society of Speleology created in 1939 in Geneva, but the first speleological institute in the world was founded in 1920 in Cluj-Napoca
Cluj-Napoca
Cluj-Napoca , commonly known as Cluj, is the fourth most populous city in Romania and the seat of Cluj County in the northwestern part of the country. Geographically, it is roughly equidistant from Bucharest , Budapest and Belgrade...

, Romania, by Emil Racovita
Emil Racovita
Emil Racoviţă was a Romanian biologist, zoologist, speleologist and explorer of Antarctica.Together with Grigore Antipa, he was one of the most noted promoters of natural sciences in Romania...

, a Romanian biologist, zoologist, speleologist and explorer of Antarctica. The Pakistan Cave Research & Caving Federation
Pakistan Cave Research & Caving Federation
The Pakistan Cave Research & Caving Federation. PCRCF formed in 14th August 1997 is non-profit National constituent Governing body for Underground Exploration, research, and conservation of caves in Pakistan and adjacent areas...

 was founded in Pakistan in 1997.

See also


  • Cave
    Cave
    A cave or cavern is a natural underground space large enough for a human to enter. The term applies to natural cavities some part of which is in total darkness. The word cave also includes smaller spaces like rock shelters, sea caves, and grottos.Speleology is the science of exploration and study...

  • Cave rescue
    Cave rescue
    Cave rescue is a highly specialized field of wilderness rescue in which injured, trapped or lost cave explorers are medically treated and extracted from various cave environments....


Caving by country
  • Cave diving
    Cave diving
    Cave diving is a type of technical diving in which specialized equipment is used to enable the exploration of caves which are at least partially filled with water. In the United Kingdom it is an extension of the more common sport of caving, and in the United States an extension of the more common...

  • Caving organizations
    Caving organizations
    -Australia:*Australian Speleological Federation is a national organisation formed in 1956. It is an environmental organisation promoting the protection of Australia's unique cave systems....

     
  • List of longest caves
  • List of caves

  • Outdoor activity
  • Outdoor exploration
    Outdoor exploration
    Outdoor Exploration is a collective expression for activities that include exploring the geography around us. Although many people immediately think of the more specialist activities such as...

  • Pit cave
    Pit Cave
    A pit cave, or vertical cave — or often simply called a pit or pot — is a type of natural cave which contains one or more significant vertical shafts rather than being predominantly a conventional horizontal cave passage. Pit caves typically form in limestone as a result of long-term erosion by...

  • Speleology
    Speleology
    Speleology is the scientific study of caves and other karst features, their make-up, structure, physical properties, history, life forms, and the processes by which they form and change over time...

    , the scientific study of caves
  • Urban exploration
    Urban exploration
    Urban exploration is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of urban areas or industrial facilities. Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as infiltration, although some people consider infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or...

    , an activity similar to caving, but done in urban areas


External links