Southern Indiana Living

JUL-AUG 2018

Southern Indiana Living magazine is the exclusive publication of the region, offering readers a wide range of coverage on the people, places and events that make our area unlike any other. In SIL readers will find beautiful photography, encouraging s

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Jul/Aug 2018 • 43 I f I use the word "spelunking" in a conversation I'll usually have at least one person give me that blank look for a split second before they say, "What's that?" That's the more technical term for what most people in southern Indiana refer to simply as "caving." Wikipedia defines it as "the recreational pastime of exploring wild (generally non-commer- cial) cave systems." The word "spelunk- ing" is used throughout the United States and Canada by die-hard folks that devote hours of their time to this extreme sport. Caving actually dates to 1889 in France. Edouard-Alfred Martel (1859- 1938) is considered to be the pioneer who started it all. The lack of available equip- ment in those early years led to the inno- vation of several things: the scaling pole, nylon ropes and the use of explosives in caves. The challenges cavers face can vary, depending on the cave. I would advise you not to even think about doing this if you're afraid of tight spaces, heights, darkness, bugs or water. Three out of these five apply to me. When you're in the un- derground world you may have to crawl along on your stomach or swim through a pool of water in order to get on to the next area. To some people this all sounds dreadful; to others it sounds wonderfully exciting. I appreciate the thrill-seekers. It's because of these fine folks that we know about the fascinating world under our feet. Devoted cavers have become ac- complished at surveying and mapping and have made remarkable discoveries. Besides the pure adrenaline rush of ex- ploring the unknown, spelunking has also accomplished some very important work in science, conservation and management of cave environments and photography. The photography aspect is largely what lured in Don Hudson, a Bedford resident and local businessman. "I started out going along with Car- roll Ritter, helping him map some of the caves," Hudson said. "I was in Squire Boone Caverns before it was even opened up as commercial." Hudson then started experimenting with lighting and even painted the flash- bulbs that were used back then, in order to create some incredible effects. When de- scribing how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites, Hud- son painted a great visual. He said: "Think of stalactites as being 'tight' against the ceiling, hanging down like icicles, and sta- lagmites as they 'might' reach the ceiling someday, rising up from the floor." Untouched cave systems make up some of the last unexplored regions on earth. There's still an ongoing effort to locate, enter and survey them for public record. Even though someone may be able to make a trip without direct assis- tance from others, they will generally go into a cave in a group for safety purposes. After all, lots of unexpected things can happen. You should always let someone from home know when and where you're going, and whom to contact if you don't return in a reasonable amount of time. If you're new to this sport, you'll need a hard hat. They're a little bulky and uncomfortable, but they'll help protect your head from falling rocks and sharp edges as you navigate. Next, you'll need lights. Your primary light source should be mounted on your hard hat in order to leave your hands free to keep your bal- ance and help maneuver through the un- even terrain. It's strongly recommended that you always carry at least two sources of light with you at all times so you'll have a backup if the first one fails. It would be a pretty panicky experience to be a half mile or more into a cave and suddenly find yourself in total darkness. Also, don't drink cave water. It can contain all sorts of germs, possibly sewage, plus house- hold and industrial pollutants. So be sure to bring along some fresh drinking wa- ter for your journey. Are there any other health hazards a person can develop from spelunking? Yes: histoplasmosis — also known as "caver's disease" or "spelunk- er's lung." The symptoms can vary great- ly from person to person but it primarily affects the lungs. But now, let's talk about the fun part. Nature is truly magnificent, and some of the things you'll see underneath the surface will leave you even more im- pressed. You may see fascinating rock formations that have been hundreds of years in the making along with peaceful streams, breathtaking waterfalls or can- yons. The animals and insects, such as snails, beetles, worms and spiders, that live their entire lives in caves, and there- fore in darkness, are what we would call "albino," since they don't have any pig- ment in their skin or shell. They also have a very low metabolism and may be blind. There are 170 known species of cave fish in existence, while other animals and in- sects, such as bats, bears, foxes and moths, will spend the majority of their day above ground foraging for food, then retreat to a cave to sleep. Devoted cavers have become accomplished at surveying and mapping and have made remarkable discoveries. Besides the pure adrenaline rush of exploring the unknown, spelunking has also accomplished some very important work in science, conservation and management of cave environments and photography.

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