When It’s Hot — Go Caving!

Beyond the Deep | Non-Fiction Adventure Book Review

Caver in an Alabama cave showing common caving...
Caver showing common caving wear: coveralls and helmet-mounted lights. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you are not in the water, what else is there to do when the mercury hovers above 95 degrees?  Go caving!

I love true life adventure and I just got finished reading “Beyond the Deep” — The Deadly Descent Into the World’s Most Treacherous Cave.  It was one of those books that I was truly sorry to see end.  You really feel like you are there with them, exploring places where truly no person has EVER been.

There is a cavers’ joke that is a twist on the old why-do-men-climb-mountains cliche, the caver deadpans: “Because it’s not there.”  This explains why expeditionary cavers like Bill […] keep searching for the bottom of the earth.  For while every climber knows which mountain is the world’s tallest, no one will know which cave is the deepest until cavers bottom them all.

Español: Bailable de sones mazatecos de Huautl...
Español: Bailable de sones mazatecos de Huautla de Jimenez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book is about Bill Stone and his expedition to explore the Huautla Cave System in southeastern Mexico, made possible only by using a high-tech rebreather – a device that he engineered to recirculate air instead of inefficiently releasing it, as in traditional scuba tanks.  Bill’s rebreather is what made it possible to make it through “sumps” — underground tunnels flooded entirely with water.  Sumps are what stopped his expedition 15 years prior to when this book takes place, and this book chronicles his adventure pushing the limits with his new technology.

Here is a video of Bill Stone giving a formal talk where he shows fantastic photos and video (some from Huautla) of what it is really like in these dangerous places. (Only need to view the first 5 minutes, as he then starts talking about space).

The Huautla Cave is an extremely dangerous system and there is excitement on every page as he takes you through waypoints named “The Washing Machine” and “Rockin’ and Rolland” and others during the 44 days of triumph and tragedy, deep in the bowels of the cave.

I’ve been “real” caving once, where you had to crawl on your belly like a worm to get through tight places, and once was enough.  So I am perfectly happy to experience his adventure vicariously in the comfort of my chair on the porch.  He does succeed in pushing the limits and making the Huautla Cave System the deepest cave in the Americas (as of the writing of the book).

To put things in perspective, as the book relates:

As with any claim to a superlative, one must qualify what is meant by “remote.”  One might be tempted to equate remoteness with distance from the nearest entrance.  Under this simple definition, Tennessee’s Blue Spring Cave would vie with [… several others…] for the record.  All three terminate roughly ten kilometers from the nearest entrance.  However, as with any frontier, one must consider physical efforts, the level of enabling technology required, and the degree of psychological commitment necessary.  It is the presence of 655 meters of flooded tunnels — not to mention the more than three kilometers of nylon highway one must traverse in order to reach those sumps…

Day Trip – Only 129 Miles

Imagine my surprise when a cave in Tennessee is mentioned, out of the blue, and a record-holder at that —  at 38.4 miles as of February 11, 2012.  It is in White County, near the town of Sparta – only 129 miles from Sharps Chapel, TN.  It is not open to the public as the entrance is locked.

Here is a video I found on YouTube that has photos from Tennessee’s Blue Springs Cave.  Have any of you been caving?  Please share.  Life is an Adventure!