Caving/Exploring

Exploring Caves (Windows Media) | Exploring Caves (Real Media)

Transcript



Transcript
(Siri)
Good Morning, I'm Siri Lindholm, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and we're joined this morning by a cave expert, Jim Kennedy. He's the cave resources specialist with an organization called Bat Conservation International and we're going to talk a little bit about what it's like to be in a cave and Jim you've had quite a bit of experience with cave really all of your life.

(Jim)
A long time Siri, I've been exploring caves since I was thirteen actually, so that's thirty years (Siri laughs). I've been in a lot of different caves in a lot of different states, several different countries, probably well over a thousand caves by now.

(Siri)
So what's it like in a cave? This is a show cave so it's a little bit different from some of the experiences you've had.

(Jim)
This is true. A lot of people's first experience is with a show cave and that's a good way to get underground and get your feet wet, so to speak. But that's not what the majority of caves are like. The show caves tend to be bigger, course they're lighted, they have nice smooth walkways but caves aren't normally like that. Most of the caves we go through aren't like that. They're uneven, they're muddy, they're very dangerous. It's a very harsh alien environment.

(Siri)
Hmmm, so what are some of the precautions you take knowing that you many not know what you're getting into when you go down there?

(Jim)
Well, one of the things that people don't realize is that caves are dark. There's just no light and I'd really like to show everybody out there what that's like.

(Siri)
So I'd imagine if you'd close your eyes you'd know what that's like. (laugh…)

(Jim)
It's…when there's no light you have to take everything. Oh, now we can see what it's like. It's dark, I mean, there's nothing. You have to take all your lights in with you. You have to also carry in other things because it's cold. I mean we have to have clothing for emergencies, if somebody gets hurt, or lost. You have to have extra water and food. You also need to have proper clothing and we'll talk about that in a little bit.

(Siri)
OK, and do you find there's a difference between caves in different parts of the country or different parts of the world?

(Jim)
Oh, definitely, definitely. The caves we have here in central Texas are relatively warm, as caves go. They tend to be about 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Where I grew up in Pennsylvania the caves tended to be about 48 degrees Fahrenheit. So it was a little chillier up there and we had to wear more clothing, more long johns, things like that under our cloths. And a lot of the caves up in the north east tend to be really wet and muddy too. So you're not just wearing say, jeans into the cave you have to have nylon coveralls and protective clothing like that.

(Siri)
So what do you think are the rules that you think are important for people to follow, or that you follow as a professional, when you go caving?

(Jim)
Well, one of the most important things is to never go caving alone because if something happens and if nobody knows where you are you could be there for a long time and, you know, not to scare anybody, but you could really die in the cave. So you should always have at least four people. That way if you get hurt someone could stay with you, while two other people go for help. Also, you should always let somebody know where you're going and what time you expect to be back so you have a backup just in case something goes wrong somebody can call for help and come find you without searching all over the county. You should also (cough) excuse me, ask permission before you go. Nobody likes trespassers. There's a lot of caves in the state and a lot are fairly close to roads and so on, but you really need to make sure it's OK before you go there, a lot of caves that people have been exploring for many years are now closed because of thoughtless actions. When you're in the cave you should never have any uncontrolled motion. You should never go running through the cave or jump or do anything like that. You could fall, you could come off a rock, or something as simple as twisting you ankle could mean that you'd be in the cave many, many hours longer than you'd planned to.

(Siri)
And what's…I know there's no such thing as a typical cave but what are some of the features you'd find in a cave you'd have to look out for, plan for?

(Jim)
Well, it's a good question. Caves are all different. I've been in a thousand plus caves and no two are alike but normally you'll find things, you'll have the rock walls and the rocks could have pretty hangy down things on them, they could have just boulders. Sometimes the floor might be smooth and muddy, sometimes it might be covered with rocks as well, there might be slopes, there might be fissures, or even pits that you can't go down without specialized equipment and training.

(Siri)
A fissure is a big crack?

(Jim)
A fissure is a big crack like a crevasse in a glacier. Um, sometimes there's water, there's critters. A lot of things live in the cave year round but some things just use the cave entrance area as a temporary home. Umm, there's a you know, sometimes there's strong breezes, there's air. In fact that's one of clues that cavers follow whenever they're trying to find more passages and see which way the cave is really going.

(Siri)
Since there's no light you kind of have to figure out some other clues. So how do you follow the air?

(Jim)
Feel for little breezes. You can follow where water may go but sometimes the water and air can go places we can't. Sometimes the passage just gets too small and we just can't get through. Caves aren't formed with humans in mind

(laughing…)

(Siri)
It's a good point. Are, do we know where most of the caves are? Are people discovering caves all of the time?

(Jim)
People discover caves all the time. In Texas we have about 38 hundred known caves, I think that's the number now, every year we find more and more caves. I suspect, I don't know, ten thousand or more caves in the state but it's a large area and a lot of land is private and just there's no access for people to go look. Even the places we do look, popular state parks like Colorado Bend State Park we find new caves every time we go out there.

(Siri)
Just real quick, tell me a little bit about what you do at Bat Conservation.

(Jim)
Well, I deal with a lot of state agencies, federal agencies, non-profit organizations that have cave management issues. Places where they're looking for some help managing their cave, keep the damage from occurring in the cave, or to keep, help protect resources in the cave such as bats so we talk about how to assess the cave and how to prioritize what we want to do to it. Whether we want to put a gate on it to protect it or whether we want to just educate people, or put up a sign about protecting the cave. I often go out into caves, I do a lot of research myself too with some endangered bat species that live in caves, they're very reliant on caves. So it's, it's a very interesting job.

(Siri)
Sounds like it and you've been exploring caves since you were twelve?

(Jim)
Exactly and I get to use a lot of my personal experience and contacts, friends I have out in the caving world, to help me do my job.

(Siri)
Aha, great, so your job and your hobby are the same.

(Jim)
It's a very wonderful mix. A lot of my friends are envious.

(Siri)
Well fantastic and we'll be talking later about some of your experiences as a caver, some of the most exciting things. What I'd like to do now is go ahead and throw things over to Ann and she's going to talk about how caves are formed.

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