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Spelunking in Kentucky

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June 19th 2017  |  0  |  Category: Other  |  Author: Tim Krzys  |  156 views

Spelunking in Kentucky

 

            People continually look for a distraction to their daily boredom and routine, compelled to test how close to a nasty death they can go. They take up sports and hobbies that are risky, a junkie always looking for that higher dose of Adrenalin that feeds their high. Mental health professionals are fascinated by such people, and with few exceptions, they share a common belief that they have a death wish. Defining the world’s most dangerous sport is tricky at best. Unsurprisingly, organizers and participants are loath to publicize deaths or serious injuries for fear of creating the wrong impression. The facts, however, produce interesting results. In the U.K. for example, angling kills more people each year than any other sport, due to drowning, but it is by no means deemed extreme. The key to a good tale, to giving a person a good case of the shivers, is not the death toll, but what the worst-case scenario is if something goes wrong.

            Caving is as safe as a person wants it to be. Aside from slips and falls and scraped knees, it rarely makes headlines, unless the worst-case scenario takes over. By taking life to the extreme, living on the edge, puts life into perspective. Breathing the same air as death can make a person feel more alive and more in touch with life. But cliff walking is always a short step away from the worst-case scenario. People who sky dive, mountain climb, go cave diving, race motorcycles or any other dangerous sport feel most alive and attached to the very fabric of life when they participate in the sport they love.

            Spelunking, a term often used by amateurs or non-cavers is probably one of the oldest sports known to civilization. The earliest hunters and gatherers called a cave home and left ancient cave drawings as proof. Once nothing more than a search for shelter, spelunking has grown to a popular sport.

            There are many types of caves. Solution caves, the most common type are formed by water in limestone or gypsum. The water actually dissolves the rock, and as the passages get bigger, the water flows faster and erosion accelerates. These types of caves are formed slowly and rarely collapse. The wide variety of rock formations and passages also make this type of cave the most popular. Solution caves are scattered throughout the United States.

            Talus caves are literally piles of boulders. They tend to be very confusing and are easy to become lost in. The predominance of broken rock makes them hard to a person’s body. These caves are most often found in mountainous areas, especially near cliffs made of very strong rock, such as granite.

            Ice caves are generally restricted to glacial areas, and harbor a great many dangerous traps, ice bridges, and holes barely covered by thin, patches of ice and snow. Despite their extreme splendor, chilling cold yet beautiful bluish color and delicacy, and hidden icy cold rivers, they are very dangerous to any explorer who dares to venture into them.

            Volcanic or lava caves, found near many volcanoes are passages formed around and over flowing lava. Once insulated by surrounding rock, the lava stayed hot enough to drain out when the eruption ceased, leaving behind a cave. These caves tend to be extremely jagged, and can cut a person’s clothes or skin to bloody ribbons.

            Despite common belief, it is not easy to become lost in a cave. Experienced cavers pay close attention to their surroundings and do not carry balls of string to find their way out. The most common belief is that caving is a very dangerous sport. Experts disagree. Caving is as safe as a person wants it to be. It is a sport for thinkers. Clearheaded thinking prevents accidents. Experts advise to go slowly and think, and never go caving alone. It is not a sport for people who do things hurried or unprepared, without preparation or alone. It is certainly not a sport for people who are claustrophobic or have an intense fear of bats.

            Steve Nelson did not fit nicely into that category. A person who was determined to not be pigeonholed, neatly labeled and certainly not declared normal, Steve was a car salesman. Considered by many to be a boring job, with countless hours spent wandering around the car lot or sales showroom waiting for a customer, Steve was a loud and often obnoxious person who had many hobbies and habits that filled the conversations during any lull in customers. Other salesmen listened and got their daily dose of Steve in a few short minutes before they remembered something that had to be done back at their desk. He was described as colorful, eccentric, repugnant, a sales genius, and sometimes just a poor excuse for a human being. Steve Nelson had a knack for selling cars, new or used. His sales technique vacillated between hard sell and laid back, pushy or apathetic. He varied his style depending upon the customer, sizing up each person like a predator assesses its prey; looking at size and strength, speed and defense mechanisms. No matter the educational or occupational background, Nelson always found the soft underbelly. For fifteen years running, the forty-six-year-old, five foot eight man was the top salesman. Money always bought tolerance, and his boss tolerated his idiosyncrasies.

            Steve had tried sky-diving, bungee jumping, scuba diving, cave diving, and motorcycle racing until an accident fractured his right leg and shoulder. After that, he decided to take up caving. Living in Louisville Kentucky, cave exploring was a natural hobby to pursue. The state of Kentucky was often referred to as ‘the land that breathes’ because of the huge honeycomb of caves beneath the surface. To date, over 3700 caves have been discovered, and some counties boast well over 400 caves. It’s a cave explorers playground.

            The Lost River Cave near Bowling Green Kentucky was a favorite of Steve’s. Native Americans first inhabited the cave over 11,000 years ago. The Lost River rises to the surface in four places, or ‘windows’. The most prominent of these begins at a ‘blue hole spring’ and flows through the valley for a few hundred yards before entering what is considered the largest cave opening in the Eastern United States. After flowing into the Cave entrance, the river becomes ‘lost’ and courses for several miles under the city of Bowling Green, finally emerging at Jennings Creek, a tributary of the Barren River.  Ripley’s Believe It or Not claims Lost River to be the world’s shortest and deepest river, measuring at least 437 feet deep and running only 350 feet before disappearing into the cave entrance.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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