Caving

Caving is the recreational sport of exploring caves. It is also known as Speleology that designate a scientific approch of cave exploration.

Exploring caves has been a hobby for thousands of years, but has changed considerably in recent years.

Table of contents
1 Caving vs. Spelunking
2 Modern Caving
3 Urban Caving
4 Souterrains Study
5 External Links

Caving vs. Spelunking

Clay Perry wrote about a group of men and boys who explored and studied caves throughout New England. This group referred to themselves as spelunkers. This is regarded as the first use of the word in the Americas. Throughout the 1950s, spelunking was the general term used for exploring caves in US English. It was used freely, without any positive or negative connotations, although only rarely outside the US where 'caving' has always been called 'caving'.

In the 1960s, the term "spelunking" began to convey the idea of amateurs, using unreliable light sources and cotton clothing. In 1985, Steve Knutson (editor of American Caving Accidents) made the following distinction:

..."Note that I use the term "spelunker" to denote someone untrained and unknowledgeable in current exploration techniques, and "caver" for those who are."

Modern Caving

Caving today has become a hobby for many different reasons. Some cavers are interested in conservation. Others are interested in gathering hard data about caves (also known as speleology). Geologists explore caves for the purpose of learning about the formation of rocks, and formations. But, for most of the rest, the purpose of caving is just to have fun.

Getting involved in caving today is very easy. You can look for caves near you by using the Caving Directory. The best way to get involved in caving in the United States is through the National Speleological Society or NSS for short. There, one can find a local chapter, or grotto, and hook up with individuals who will help train and educate the novice caver and point to the right type of gear to be purchased.

Helmets with mounted lights can often be bought in local shopping marts, or more deluxe models can be found from online distributors. But, perhaps the best way to find equipment is to attend a caver gathering and talk to a speleovendor. Several vendors have retail stores and sites on the internet. But, the novice caver should first consult more seasoned cavers before making investments in what gear that might not be best suited for the novice.

Caves can generally be explored during any season of the year. Most caves remain at the same temperature year round.

There are several animals which live in caves. Watch for cave-dwelling newts, salamanders, fish, shrimp, insects, and bats among others.

Also, many cave formations can be found in caves. These include stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.

Some common rules of thumb apply:

  • Always wear protective headgear.
  • Always check to be sure there is no danger of flooding while you plan to be in the cave.
  • Never go alone. A minimum of three cavers is best.
  • Always make sure someone on the surface knows where you are caving.
  • Carry a minimum of three light sources per person.
  • The cave environment is more fragile than people realize. And, since water that flows through a cave eventually comes out in streams and rivers, any pollution will wind up in someone's drinking water and can seriously affect the surface environment as well.
  • Remember the cavers motto: Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.

Urban Caving

Urban caving, 'draining' or urban exploration, involves exploring man-made caves, such as drain-pipes or disused underground rail tunnels. There are many websites which encourage you to post pictures of such excursions. Of course, check to see if such exploring is legal in your area before attempting. Drainage pipes may fill without warning and one should heed the motto of the Australian Cave Clan: "Don't go draining when it's raining".

Souterrains Study

There are also people who are interested in gathering scientific data about man-made caves, rather than just exploring them. This discipline is usually considered as a part of speleology and has no common name. In Great Britain it is called "Mining history", in Europe it is known as "Souterrains study", in Russia it is called "Spelestology". See http://www.souterrains.org/

See also: List of Caves

External Links




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