Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Deep Cave Exploration - Yikes!

In my continuing quest to be very well read and well watched in things I would never do on my own, I'm listening to a book on Deep Caving called Blind Descent (http://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B003L8GZLQ).

Now I like tourist caves where you go and see all the cool formations that form from something being dripped on or from for many millennia. They are beautiful.

I also like hiking and climbing up mountains partially for the physical challenge, but mostly for the view really, and to spend time in a lovely environment, breath some fresh air and just to get outside the box.

Deep caving offers precisely none of these features save for the extreme physical challenge.

To risk sounding like Andy Rooney. I don't get it.

To be fair I'm only half way through, though I have little doubt my view will change much. [I'm much further now and I was right.]

Features of deep caves
  • pitch blackness, no light at all, you are totally dependent on artificial illumination
  • they are flooded much of the year and such are very wet
  • they are surprisingly noisy because of wind
  • your sleeping accomodations might be a narrow wet ledge that you have to worry about rolling off ot
  • you go down first so when you "top out" you now have the hardest part of the climb still to go
  • there are myriad ways to die and nearly no help is available or what is is days away.
  • similar to mountaineering even the simplest of injuries are much more difficult to manage, even worse than mountaineering is the possibility of infection because of all the wet, dust, and silt is much higher. And the no help factor too.
Remarkably the main guy who leads a lot of the effort to discover the deepest cave seems pretty sane. His name is Bill Stone (ha) and you can see him speaking here at a Google "TED" conference:

National Geographic took at interest and has some information here:
and here

You can also learn to be a cave diver. That is also another thing that the touristy "oh look all the cool sealife" totally is appealing to me, but when you get down that deep it more looks like this photo of the US Deep Caving Team's webpage:
completely empty of life (well mostly).

As one reviewer of the book said. "It's all kinda creepy in a way." You are deliberately placing yourself in a really strange environment simply because no one else has yet been there. It is the last frontier on this Earth. Quite literally a journey towards the center of the Earth, and how people deal with being obsessed with finding the deepest cave in existence.

Of course the first or second thing that occurs to me is that this is a moving target in a way. Water, volcanoes and earthquakes are constantly reshaping the Earth. What is the lowest point now is very likely not going to continue that way for too long, but we are talking geologic time so it may not matter.

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