Glossary of Caving Terms


Aquifer
A layer of rock or sediment containing groundwater that can be drawn for use above ground.
Arthropods
The most common group of animals inhabiting caves, including insects, crustaceans, spiders, millipedes, etc. They have jointed limbs and external skeletons.
Biospeleology
The study of cave life.
Calcite
Crystalized form of calcium carbonate. The is the major material in stalactites and other cave formations.
Carbonic Acid
A weak acid formed by rain or other water in contact with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or in soils and vegetation.
Cave
A natural cavity beneath the earth's surface.
Cave Coral or Popcorn
Are irregular clusters or rough knobs of crystalline calcium carbonate. They build up on walls and existing formations or on the floor and walls of pools.
Chamber
The largest order of cavity in a cave, with considerable width and length but not necessarily great height.
Chimney
A vertical or nearly vertical opening in a cave, narrow enough to be climbed by chimneying.
Column
A speleothem from floor to ceiling, formed by the growth of a stalactite and a stalagmite to join, or by the growth of either to meet bedrock.
Conduit
An underground stream course completely filled with water and under hydrostatic pressure or a circular or elliptical passage inferred to have been such a stream course.
Decoration
Cave features due to secondary mineral precipitation, usually of calcite. Syn. speleothem, sometimes referred to as "formations".
Draperies
Form where drops of mineral–laden water trickle down the undersides of inclined ceilings, leaving deposits in lines which fold and curl as if they were drapes or curtains.
Erosion
The wearing away of bedrock or sediment by mechanical and chemical actions of all moving agents such as rivers, wind and glaciers at the surface or in caves.
Grotto
A room in a cave of moderate dimensions but richly decorated.
Groundwater
The naturally occurring water found beneath the earth’s surface in layers of rock or sedement.
Guano
Accumulations (sometimes large) of fecies, generally derived from bats, found in caves.
Gypsum
The mineral hydrated calcium sulphate, CaSO4.2H2O.
Helictite
An irregular, gravity-defying speleothem with eccentric form (usually composed of calcite or aragonite), which at one or more stages of its growth changes its axis from the vertical to give a curving or angular form.
Karst
Terrain with special landforms and drainage characteristics due to greater solubility of certain rocks (notably carbonate rocks such as limestone, dolomite or magnesite) in natural waters.
Limestone
A sedimentary rock consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, (CaC03), derived from the accumulated deposition (and fossilisation) of the calcareous remains of marine or freshwater organisms.
Passage
A cavity which is much longer than it is wide or high and may join larger cavities.
Recharge
The process involving the input or intake (absorption) of water into the zone’s of saturation in karst aquifers; also relates to the quantity of water added to the saturation zone.
Rimstone
A deposit formed by precipitation from water flowing over the rim of a pool.
Room
A part of a cave, wider than a passage but not as large as a chamber.
Shaft
A vertical cavity roughly equal in horizontal dimensions but much deeper than broad. Wider than a chimney.
Sinkhole
A rounded depression in the landscape formed by solution of bedrock or collapse of an underlying cavity.
Speleology
The study of caves.
Spring
A natural flow of water from rock or soil onto the land surface or into a body of surface water.
Stalactitie
A speleothem hanging or "growing" downwards from a roof or wall, usually of cylindrical or conical form, with a central hollow tube.
Stalagmite
A speleothem projecting vertically upwards from a cave floor and formed by precipitation from drips, often found directly under a stalactite.
Tube
A cave passage of smooth surface, and elliptical or nearly circular in cross-section.
Tunnel
A nearly horizontal cave open at both ends, fairly straight and uniform in cross-section.

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