5 Things You Didn’t Know About CavingJune 26, 2009
Exploring the natural openings into the earth -caving- isn’t for everybody. Touring through caves, however, is. Here’s a list of facts that might surprise you about what it means to go underground.
1. Caving and Cave Tours – there’s a difference
Cave tours are for everyone. Curators of certain caves have made lighted, often easily accessible paths that will lead you through walking tours to take in some wonderful underground sightseeing.
Caving, on the other hand, is the muddy, grimy, wet, slithery, awesome business of exploring underground passages. Guides are required for newbies, but the payoffs are huge. There’s very little above ground that’s as fun as caving.
2. Did you call it spelunking? Well, aren’t you smart…
Don’t ever do that again. Spelunking is a term that cavers frown on, even if it does make us normal people feel special when we use it. Cavers have some running jokes about it too: “Spelunk” is the sound you hear when someone drop their (only) flashlight into an underground pool.
3. There are 3 kinds of caves
No, not “small, medium, and large”. The first type is a sea cave, created along rocky coastlines. Next come lava caves, hollowed out by flowing liquid lava. Last are the ones we have here in Southern West Virginia, limestone and gypsum caves. They were formed by water flowing under the earth. Cool.
4. Know your speleothems
Ha! You thought this would be the “which one is a stalagmite?” part. Well, as long as you know that both stalagmites and stalactites are speleothems – any secondary cave decoration formed by mineral deposits – you’re good to go. (BTW, stalagmite is the one on the floor, not the ceiling, because you “mite” trip over one).
5. Bring Your Friends
The number one rule of caving safety – NEVER cave alone – is pretty easy to follow, especially if you’re new. The best way to learn about caving is to go with an experienced guide. Or, if real live down-and-dirty caving isn’t for you, stick to the cave tours. Going underground is all about having fun, so don’t try to push the limits right out of the gate. Enjoy!