Skip

You travel all around the globe looking for the world’s most beautiful cave. . . and the best one is in Sheffield.
November 1, 2012 5:07 AM   Subscribe

"During that trip I even had a leech stuck to my eyeball for a couple of days. We tried coaxing it off with some raw meat and salt." Robbie Shone takes eye-popping cave photos.
posted by unSane (74 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bonus: some urban exploration of Sheffield's Megatron.
posted by unSane at 5:09 AM on November 1, 2012


I'm sitting here, thinking about clicking, debating "cave photos sound cool" versus "eyeball leeches? No thanks."

I expect this will take up most of my morning.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:12 AM on November 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


Don't let the eyeball-leech quote keep you from clicking, even though that is a perfectly reasonable response to eyeball leeches.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:13 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


What we are trying to say here is that there are no photos of eyeball leeches at all. Just really amazing caves, and somewhat uncomfortable looking people.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:15 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yep, I can confirm. I clicked, and there were cool cave photos and not an eyeball leech in sight.

OH MY GOD CAN YOU EVEN SEE EYEBALL LEECHES?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:18 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Eyeball leeches are transmitted from host to host purely by gaze, so if you look at a picture of an eyeball leech, you now have an eyeball leech. Also, make sure you don't leave 'em on there for more than a couple of days, or you will end up with the painful condition known as "Raisin Eye".
posted by Rock Steady at 5:24 AM on November 1, 2012 [22 favorites]


I added the noeyeleeches tag.
posted by unSane at 5:24 AM on November 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Instead of raw meat and salt, they should have tried cave bacon. Mmmm, cave bacon.
posted by Jpfed at 5:29 AM on November 1, 2012


CAN YOU EVEN SEE EYEBALL LEECHES?

How could you help it?
posted by Egg Shen at 5:31 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


:/

Eyeball leeches...penis leeches. Eyeball leeches...penis leeches.
How about no leeches at all. Is that an option?
posted by AugieAugustus at 5:37 AM on November 1, 2012


Gorgeous!
posted by OmieWise at 5:37 AM on November 1, 2012


I didn't see mine; it had crawled up under the lid, attached its arse-end sucker to the inside and its mouth end to the white.

It filled up and fell off after about half an hour of panicked scrambling back down the walking trail. As it did so, it left a trail of slime across the front of my cornea that put everything out of focus, making me panic that I'd gone blind in that eye from having a hole chewed in it.

I hadn't; it had only chewed deep enough into the white to get to a blood vessel. But what with all the anticoagulant that the little bastards spit into their chew holes, and the fact that the whole eyeball has a transparent outer layer, my whole eye turned demoniacally blood-red and stayed that way for a couple of days. Got me some funny looks in the shops.
posted by flabdablet at 5:37 AM on November 1, 2012 [75 favorites]


Leeches for everyone! Seriously beautiful photos.
posted by arcticseal at 5:38 AM on November 1, 2012


Caving is amazing fun. I did a lot of it in high school and college. It's also when I discovered I had a bit of claustrophobia...and squeezing through a two-foot high crawlway is not a good time to discover this fact about yourself.

Photos like these always engender awe and amazement. It's important to remind people that one rarely experiences a cave lit-up like that. caves are mostly black, save for whatever your helmet lamps and flashlights might be shining on.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:40 AM on November 1, 2012


Is that a huge bat flying toward the camera on the left of this one?
posted by phl at 5:51 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Earth is an amazing place. In most of these I can't even get a sense of direction - it often looks like they're dangling up from a rope in some odd way, or flying out the side of a wall.
posted by odinsdream at 5:58 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


it had only chewed deep enough into the white to get to a blood vessel.

GGGGAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOHGODOHGODOHGODWHATAWORLD
What a world
What a world
what a world
what a world....oh, diarrhea
posted by nevercalm at 6:07 AM on November 1, 2012 [6 favorites]




Even if there were eye leech photos, the rest are so amazing that it would be worth it.
posted by drugstorefrog at 6:26 AM on November 1, 2012




if i had a do over, i'd study geology.
posted by echocollate at 6:44 AM on November 1, 2012


I braved the eye leech possibility and I am here to tell you those pictures (of caves) are amazing and gorgeous. No leeches. Plenty of awesome.
posted by scratch at 6:46 AM on November 1, 2012


If you don't see the eyeball leeches then its already too late.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:47 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is difficult to convey just how good Robbie is. These pics make it look easy. They are perfect. The passages and people are lovely. But, in reality, it is incredibly difficult to get these pictures. Some say it is easier to take pictures on the summit of Everest.

Cave photographers have to bring all the light. Robbie often uses large flash bulbs, the old-school style. They are very delicate and need to be packed carefully in rugged containers to survive the trip into the cave. The amount of gear required to get this quality shot is huge. I would not be surprised if there were a dozen on the support team.

For a pitiful comparison, here's most of the gear four of us took into a SW Virginia cave a few months ago. And, we are quite amateurish.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 6:48 AM on November 1, 2012 [14 favorites]


Is that a huge bat flying toward the camera on the left of this one?
I think it's a mineral deposit or seam.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:48 AM on November 1, 2012


"During that trip I even had a leech stuck to my eyeball for a couple of days."
...
Robbie Shone takes eye-popping cave photos.


I see what you did there. I do not approve.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:48 AM on November 1, 2012 [7 favorites]


blue_beetle: If you don't see the eyeball leeches then its already too late.

Yeah, they secrete a toxin in their saliva that damages your optic nerve in such a way that you can no longer see eyeball leeches. Basically, if you don't have an eyeball leech, then you see them pretty much everywhere, and then you have an eyeball leech, per my comment above.

The good news is most species of eyeball leech also eat Burrowing Eyeball Worm larvae, so they keep you from getting them.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:51 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Rock Steady: "Burrowing Eyeball Worm larvae"

aaaaaaaaaaaaand SCENE.

if you need me, i'll be in the fetal position near a fire
posted by lazaruslong at 7:02 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, Robbie's Flickr page. Sorry, no leeches.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 7:02 AM on November 1, 2012


Hey Metafilter, we need a pact, if you see me out at a bar or something and I have eyeball leeches, fucking tell me right away so I can get them off. Don't stand on ceremony and hem and haw and be like "no, you look great" just be like "motherfucker, you got eyeball leeches, get the meat and salt". I will do the same for you.

The caves look nice but I hope they brought a MOAB or something to blow them up because they are full of eyeball leeches.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:03 AM on November 1, 2012 [11 favorites]


nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope
posted by elizardbits at 7:19 AM on November 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


NO
posted by elizardbits at 7:19 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Flagged as nightmare fuel. Seriously.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:34 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was planning of making a post about this, and now you can enjoy it as a comment instead
posted by growabrain at 7:41 AM on November 1, 2012


In its own way, the majesty and beauty of of those caves is, to me anyway, just as terrifying as the eyeball leech derail in this thread.

Seriously, just looking at some of those photos made my pulse quicken. Amazing!
posted by gauche at 7:42 AM on November 1, 2012


meta
posted by leotrotsky at 7:44 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Say what you will about Daily Mail, I love that (like Boston.com) they post LARGE images, all in a single page.
Stunning stunning stuff. I'm saving a bunch for desktop pics.
posted by Theta States at 7:45 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Basically, if you don't have an eyeball leech, then you see them pretty much everywhere, and then you have an eyeball leech, per my comment above.

So they're Fnords, then ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:47 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Is that a huge bat flying toward the camera on the left of this one?

I think it's a mineral deposit or seam.

I hope you're right, Thorzdad. A colony of giant bats down there could only mean that there are also vast numbers of the eyeball leeches they feed on.
posted by phl at 8:10 AM on November 1, 2012


I can't fathom how he manages to light these huge chambers. I mean, it's not like you can just drive a truck full of floodlights down there.
posted by simen at 8:47 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scrolling down into the first picture, I thought it was going to be an eye.....with EYE LEECHES.

(It wasn't.)


Cave photographers have to bring all the light.

Yeah, I didn't even think about that...it's pitch black in there, and these look like they were taken outside in sunlight. Amazing.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:55 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


This makes me wonder why they don't wear safety goggles.
posted by jaduncan at 8:56 AM on November 1, 2012


This cave looks like it has a shower designed by Dr. Seuss.
posted by beau jackson at 9:19 AM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's very nice of the Great White Worm's ritual sacrifice to dress up like a delicious baked potato.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:38 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also: I think we've just discovered where David Cronenberg comes from.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:39 AM on November 1, 2012


This cave she is funny.
posted by Mister_A at 9:40 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is totally a bat. Zoom the pic up. It's unmistakable.

Which brings me to my own particular cringing enjoyment of these absolutely stunning, superbly astonishing photos: human presence in caves is thought to be the prime vector for White Nose Syndrome, the fungus that is killing entire bat colonies in the US, and because it's so poorly understood, there's the possibility it could be introduced in other places from spelunkers who travel widely with no recourse until it's far too late.

Aside from that, though, even with the eyeball leech story (no pics, thankfully), these pics are just jaw-dropping.

I disagree that the Sheffield giant storm drain is the best of the bunch, though. Crazy DailyMail.
posted by batmonkey at 9:42 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


> This cave looks like it has a shower designed by Dr. Seuss.

That's much nicer than the thing it reminded me of.
posted by hot soup girl at 9:43 AM on November 1, 2012


unSane: "We tried coaxing it off with some raw meat and salt."
WHY ON EARTH were they carrying raw meat into a cave? Winning a bear-dare contest, or summoning Ancient Ones?
posted by IAmBroom at 9:51 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug: Cave photographers have to bring all the light.

Yeah, I didn't even think about that...it's pitch black in there, and these look like they were taken outside in sunlight. Amazing.
To be fair, caves don't tend to move very fast, so longer exposures are possible.

But to freeze water movement requires light.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:52 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's also when I discovered I had a bit of claustrophobia...and squeezing through a two-foot high crawlway is not a good time to discover this fact about yourself.

I can relate. I’m completely fascinated by caves, love them and thought I wasn’t claustrophobic. And I’m not, until I’m squeezing through a tight space where I can’t move my arms, at which point I have to work to keep myself from going out of my mind.

These pictures are amazing. I would love to see these places in person.
posted by bongo_x at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2012


IAmBroom said:
"caves don't tend to move very fast"

I don't know why this tripped my giggle box, but even just passing my eyes over it sets it off again.
posted by batmonkey at 10:07 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's nothing like crawling through a space so tight that your chest catches on the walls, and you have to expel the air from your lungs and wriggle through before you can take another breath.
posted by Jpfed at 10:09 AM on November 1, 2012


IAmBroom: To be fair, caves don't tend to move very fast, so longer exposures are possible.

I dunno, IAmBroom. Some of those caves look like they could be sneaky quick.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:12 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


WHY ON EARTH were they carrying raw meat into a cave? Winning a bear-dare contest, or summoning Ancient Ones?

By "raw meat" I think they meant the members of the expedition who didn't survive the ear-biting cave bats, or the knee-eating cave spiders.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:33 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think we're all missing the point here. What is the process for coaxing a leech out of your eye with meat and salt? I'm assuming you can't just set some hamburger down on the table and say, "Hey leech, let's make a deal." One must actually apply raw meat to the eye, I'm assuming. Is that like holding a steak up to your eye when you get a shiner? Do you have to hold your eyelid open so that the meat is in contact with the eye itself? How does this work? And what about the salt? How on earth does one try to rid oneself of an eye leech -- with salt -- without making the eye problem exponentially worse??
posted by mudpuppie at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, I fancy myself a bit of a cave photographer, but this guy is amazing, & despite the fact that I've caved with some of the folks that opened up the Gunug Buda karst to caving in the 90s, I've never heard of him or seen his work. Inspiring & lovely.

Also, I know a guy who had a botfly between his eyeball & lid. His campfire retelling of its emergence is absolutely rivetting.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, caves don't tend to move very fast, so longer exposures are possible.

But to freeze water movement requires light.


Multiple flashes. Strobes are very fast & will absolutely freeze water. The older flash bulbs were longer-burning, and lots of cave phtographers prefer them because of that. Strobes are also more directional & bulbs spread the light out more, but they're getting really rare.

The way I work is to distribute flashes to several people, send them off to various spots in the room, have them test-fire the flashes, & adjust their positions based on what I see, then set the camera on a tripod on the bulb setting. I usual tell every one to fire on three, then count one... two... *open shutter* three! *close shutter*. Some people use slaves that will fire flashes remotely, (a sensor picks up the light from another flash & fires the one attached to it) which are handy when you want to deploy more flashes than you've got hands for, but they take a LOT more time to set up. Some photographers will spend literally hours composing a shot, adjusting flashes, adjusting apertures, re-taking, etc. till they get exactly what they're after.

Surveyors & explorers tend to hate having these guys along on trips though, so I've developed more of a commando attitude & can usually get a decent shot in less than five minutes worth of unpacking, setting up & re-packing. Once in a great while, there will be a "photography trip" where I can take my time, but it's rare, so a lot of my shots are snapshotty because I'm in a hurry to set up while trying to read compasses & clinometers as well.

Sometimes in larger rooms, I'll have a person fire a flash two or three times, panning around the room. In this shot, there's only one person. She fired the flash three times from each location, panning up the wall each time. I draped a black cloth over the front of the camera so she could turn her headlamp on to walk form one spot to the next. The lens was open for maybe 10 minutes while we put that one together.

My personal favorite is this one -- the camera was hand held, and I got lucky that the two guys firing flashes did so at the exact moment of "three!" so there's no double imaging from me moving. On guy stood just to my right & fired more or less straight ahead, & the other was out of the picture about 5 feet to the left, firing back towards the subject at about a 90 degree angle to the camera. Kodachrome & a 28 mm lens on my old K-1000. And a LOT of luck. I really like the natural light of cave entrances a lot, too.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:39 AM on November 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


See also: The Ballroom Under the Lake.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 12:03 PM on November 1, 2012


I like that shot with the one person in triplicate, Devils Rancher, but none of your pictures achieve the kind of even illumination seen, for example, in this shot.
posted by simen at 12:03 PM on November 1, 2012


Yeah, that's well lit, to say the least. It only looks like 2 strobes to me, though I'd have to guess they're many times more powerful than anything I own. Also, a good F2.4 lens is worth its weight in gold as far as gathering light. I'm not by any stretch a well-equiped or world class cave photographer -- I was just trying to illustrate some of the concepts.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:13 PM on November 1, 2012


I like to shoot in caves, but I pick well lit caves. (now with fewer leeches)
posted by DaddyNewt at 12:14 PM on November 1, 2012


Then again, there's also an aesthetic. Caves are dark. I kind of like a lot of black in my shots, because that's what they really look like. Although I am jealous of the guys who have the sheer power to light stuff like that. That's also what I mean by multiple hours-worth of work per shot. I'm rarely afforded that sort of opportunity.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:16 PM on November 1, 2012


Has caving ever sounded even vaguely appealing before now? No. Does it sound even less appealing than I had ever imagined? I had never considered eye leeches as one of the risks. I can't even concentrate on the presumably neat photos because eye leeches. This is not a derail. It was posted above the fold.
posted by jeather at 2:29 PM on November 1, 2012


I have no idea where I heard this story but it goes that a traveler returned from a tropical place and was dining in London. He relayed his order to the waiter who stared at him as if he were looking at a demon. The waiter then ran from the restaurant screaming.

The diner chased him and confronted him on the street. The waiter pointed at the diner's face, said Snake, and booked off down the street.

Confused, the man went home and sat in front of a mirror and waited. Eventually, he watched in horror as a snake-like creature crawled partway out his nose, looked around, and then tucked back into safety.

Eyeball leeches reminded me of that story.
posted by dobbs at 2:34 PM on November 1, 2012


Allow me to introduce myself. I am The Eyeball Leach Hero (aka the only freakin' adult for miles when a young friend found himself eyeball to sucker with a leach). Sorry, no pics.

if it should happen to you, here is my advice:
Calm the leach host. Explain that the salty water is like tears and won't sting.
No more than 1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass / mug / or any small suitable sized water holding recepticle.
Cup the salted water recepticle to the eye socket and tip back for a moment to bathe the eye in salted water.
Repeat and repeat until the leach drops off @ 4 minutes.
Voila, Hero!
posted by the fish at 4:00 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is the raw meat just for a celebratory cook out later, then?
posted by flaterik at 4:32 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Devils Rancher, but none of your pictures achieve the kind of even illumination seen, for example, in this shot.

The caption under the picture is a little ambiguous, but I assumed it was taken outside in natural sunlight: Luxurious: This plunge pool is a place halfway along a streamway leading to Sarawak Chamber in Borneo.
posted by carsonb at 5:05 PM on November 1, 2012


I can't fathom how he manages to light these huge chambers.
Why not link to Robbie Shone's site? He talks about his equipment there. Here is his post about the Sarawak Chamber. He offers cave photography day courses too, for £40.
posted by unliteral at 6:07 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


if i had a do over, i'd study geology.

It's never too late, says someone doing a do-over and studying geology. AND OMG THE PRETTY CAAAAVES.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:05 PM on November 1, 2012


Those pictures give me claustrophobic twinges just looking at them, as awesome as they are.

I was huge on caving - did it all my life. There's a neat cave complex close by my hometown, and I did caving trips in high school and caving club in college. Haven't been in one since I made the mistake of going on a caving trip in China...

Some guy we met in a bar invited us along to this totally awesome cave near Yangshuo. We saw Silver Cave, which was cool and a bit too built up. Here, he said, my friends and I have a cave we are exploring, let's go there! Off we went, on bumpy back roads sitting on front-platform mopeds, to some hidden away no-name cave. There was one rope, and one string of regular light bulbs far apart, and loads of mud, and some really terrific caves that we couldn't capture on our paper cameras. And an awesome underground lake at the end where we swam the mud off.

Then the lightbulb string dimmed, and we had to fight our way through tiny little areas to get back out, with two working flashlights, I think. And I had my very first claustrophobic attack in a tight section, leading to hyperventilation and shivering all the way back to our hotel. Cool experience in hindsight (wtf were we thinking?!). But I don't think will ever do it again, sadly...
posted by gemmy at 10:28 PM on November 1, 2012


Because of this thread (and the MeTa, and Mudpuppie's query, and my own curiosity) I found out how one might remove an eye leech - saline solution.

If you have none handy, use The Fish's method, but be sure that the salt is completely dissolved.


I have no idea what the meat was for.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:09 AM on November 2, 2012


The caption under the picture is a little ambiguous, but I assumed it was taken outside in natural sunlight:

It's just really brightly lit. From looking at the map, that appears to be part of the cave passage in Good Luck Cave that you've got to traverse to reach the Sarawak Chamber, wich is a mile or two upstream from the entrance along a river passage. It's pretty hard to even imagine the scale of the Mulu caves.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:32 AM on November 2, 2012


IAmBroom: "
unSane: "We tried coaxing it off with some raw meat and salt."
WHY ON EARTH were they carrying raw meat into a cave? Winning a bear-dare contest, or summoning Ancient Ones?

Well to be fair, if they were going for a win in the bear-dare contest, they should have used cheese. Depending on your accent, camembert can be effective.
posted by lazaruslong at 8:09 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


« Older “I have a hard time with historians, because they...   |   Librarians are doing it for themselves Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post