Caves are totally different from the world on ground; it’s a dark world surrounded by rocks and mud. Cave exploring could be dangerous yet fascinating; you could witness alluring formations, waterfalls and streams, steep canyons, narrow crawlways, bats and cave rats or shallow pits.
Caving can be pursued as a hobby, a sport or means to conduct scientific research. While some cavers undertake caving for scientific purposes, there are many cavers who are engaged in cave photography. While in the developed nations, most of the accessible caves have been explored, there still lie some unexplored regions of Earth waiting to be dug.
Many areas have made caving a part of eco and adventure tourism. The tour companies have set up a business, leading and directing tours through caves. You could have an adventure or an ecological based experience depending on the type of tour and the cave that you chose to tour.
Édouard-Alfred Martel is the man behind caving; he was the first to descent and explored Gouffre de Padirac, in France, in 1889 and also the first to complete a descent of 110 meters wet vertical shaft at Gaping Hill, England in the year 1895. Martel intelligently developed techniques of his own based on ropes and metallic ladders. A well-known US caver Floyd Collins made some historic explorations in the well known Mammoth Cave National Park, in 1920’s. By the 1930’s caving was in the rage, the Alps and the high plateaus of Causses and Pyrenees in southwest France were explored by many small teams making it a scientific and frivolous activity. Later during the World War II an alpine team explored the Dent de Crolles cave system near Grenoble, France. Soon France had become the deepest explored system in the world; thanks to cavers like Robert de Joly, Guy de Lavaur, Norbert Casteret ,Pierre Chevalier, Fernand Petzl and Charles Petit-Didier.
Equipment Required for Caving:
- The cavers need to wear Hard Hats to protect their heads from falling rocks and bumps. A lightweight helmet with good quality LED lights is a must for a caver. The rule is that you have at least three light sources, your primary source is a headlamp mounted to your helmet, you could have a spare headlamp as the second source in your backpack and the third could be a flashlight in your pocket. The point of keeping these sources in different sources is that if you are separated from your things you will have at least one source.
- It is important that you be well clothed while caving, it may vary with the temperature of the caves, how long your trip lasts, etc. You need to wear warm based layer of clothing that have insulating properties if it gets wet and waterproof over suit, if the caves are cold. In case of dry caves, you may wear light clothes. If you are caving in one of those tropical caves you need to put on polypropylene clothing to keep your body cool.
- Hiking style boots are worn in the dry caves whereas you need to put on rubber boots with neoprene socks if the caves are wet.
- Knee-pads and elbow-pads are important to protect joints when you are crawling.
- Gloves are used to protect one if the caves are cold and sometimes powder free, non-latex surgical gloves are used to guard the caves from contaminants.
- Ropes are used to ascend or descend pitches. Some of the knots used in caving are the bowline, Italian hitch, Alpine butterfly and figure of eight loop. Bolts, slings and karabiners are required to rig the ropes. Some of the cavers use flexible metal ladders.
- Cavers commonly carry first-aid kits and food with their other equipments. Long trips would require the cavers to carry necessary provisions for sleeping, cooking, camping etc.
Safety: Caves can be hazardous and it is best that you use some of the below techniques to keep yourself safe:
- Underground flooding could be dangerous in your expedition and it is best that you check before.
- Consider going in teams of at least four so that if a team member is injured one can stay back to help while the other two get help.
- Inform people about an intended time of return, so that a search party can be sent if you are delayed too long.
- Keep yourself well clothed according to the temperature and the type of cave.
- Remember that you will be exploring caves and all will look different than it usually does on ground. Distribute the responsibilities among your team to memorize certain points or mark the openings and the passage for your safe return to ground.
- Before undertaking to explore a vertical cave you need to have proper skills and training, it requires the use of ladders and ropes underground which is difficult. Make sure you know all the techniques required.
Let’s have a look at some of the Best destinations for Caving:
Puerto-Princesa Underground River: The beautiful rock and mineral formations of the Underground River in Philippines, which is actually a part of the much longer Cabayugan River, has earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site label.
Waitomo Glowworm Cave: The underground attraction stands out because of the small worms with luminescent bodies hanging from the walls of the cave. A boat trip can be taken to closely witness the natural light show.
Barton Creek Cave: Located in Belize in Central America the domed chambers of the Creek is famous amongst the cavers who flock to see is beauty. The Mayans used it as a burial place and human remains can still be found.
Harrison’s Cave: Erosion of limestone rock over thousands of years has created beautiful tunnels and chambers of colorful rocks of whimsical shapes. You can use a tram ride to reach the cave on the Caribbean Island of Barbados.
There are thousands of unique caves like these waiting to be explored, so gear up for the adventure of a lifetime underground.