Spelunkers, Ho!
January 14, 2006 9:19 AM   Subscribe

The site design is somewhat unfortunate, but The Virtual Cave features lots of photos and information on, well, caves and cave formations. We've all heard of stalagmites and stalactites, but I'd never heard of cave draperies or cave pearls before. Then you've got your helictites, your aragonite, and your splash stalactites (found in lava tubes). And they've got a Show Caves Directory of caves in the United States that are open to the public, with addresses and contact information by state.
posted by Gator (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Great post!
posted by arcticwoman at 9:34 AM on January 14, 2006

Very cool post. Thank you, Gator.
posted by interrobang at 9:41 AM on January 14, 2006

Neato! Thanks!
(my gf is a geologist. She'll love it, too.)
posted by notsnot at 9:46 AM on January 14, 2006

Because I just found it..... 'Journal of Cave and Karst Studies' from the National Speleological Society: 3 issues a year since '96. All articles are pdfs.

And..good post, thanks Gator.
posted by peacay at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2006

Cool! They even have The Black Chasm! We were visiting the teeny little town of Volcano, CA and kept seeing funky signs up about the Black Chasm cave we had to visit. We finally strolled up there, expecting a muddy hole in the ground with a redneck taking tickets.

Suffice it to say, we were wrong on all counts. I love me some helictites! Great post!
posted by freebird at 10:16 AM on January 14, 2006

This is great, thanks!
posted by amro at 10:56 AM on January 14, 2006

I've been to Crystal Cave, and can tell you it's worth visiting. Low commercialism, just a guy and his cave.
posted by ilsa at 11:05 AM on January 14, 2006

The world is a strange and beautiful place.
posted by sour cream at 1:00 PM on January 14, 2006

Interesting site, Gator. I investigated as far as possible and will return when I recover from an attack of claustrophobia.
posted by Cranberry at 1:35 PM on January 14, 2006

There aren't any caves in Massachussetts? I wanna spelunk!
posted by painquale at 2:12 PM on January 14, 2006

painquale, contact the Boston Grotto. All the real caves in MA are out in the Berkshires, and the ones you can go into (because the owners haven't closed them) are very tight. Mostly, people from MA go to NY or points south for caving. (Spelunker is a derogatory term now.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:20 PM on January 14, 2006

Here are some 3D cave maps I was going to make a FPP out of.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:31 PM on January 14, 2006

Thanks, Kirth. Spelunker is a derogatory term? I had no idea. How did that happen?

Those 3D cave maps are great. They give a good sense of scale and make the caves seem terrifying.
posted by painquale at 4:51 PM on January 14, 2006

I'm not really sure how spelunker came to be derogatory. The term was coined in New England back in the 1940s, and became popular. Sometime in the '60s or '70s, cavers came to dislike it, and now use it most often as a put-down, as in "Cavers rescue spelunkers." This sense of the word has not been adopted by the general public, of course, who enjoy using it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:13 PM on January 14, 2006

Interesting. I didn't know the word had fallen out of favor, but I did notice that the word doesn't appear on the site I linked to -- he only says "caver" and "caving." I just sort of assumed that it's similar to birdwatchers wanting to be called birders, and Trekkies wanting to be called Trekkers.
posted by Gator at 5:21 PM on January 14, 2006

Free Floyd Collins!
posted by mwhybark at 8:58 PM on January 14, 2006

I just found this other site listing show caves around the world, ShowCaves.com. Again, some unfortunate site design, but it has clickable maps. Apparently Bulgaria, South Korea, and Papua New Guinea are all riddled with caves. You know, in case anyone was wondering....
posted by Gator at 9:32 PM on January 14, 2006

I used to go down in one out in the woods just south of Ellenville, NY.

Definitely NOT an 'open to the public' cave, the entrance was just a hole in the dirt under a huge flat rock. You had to enter feet first prone on your back and shuffle yourself through the first 20 or so feet with the big rock against your chest and in your face. Good test of your resistance to claustrophobia panic.

Once inside there's a small series of caverns until a spiral down shaft. That leads down into a big cavern with a stream in the middle and all the bats.
posted by HTuttle at 10:47 PM on January 14, 2006

Mainland China also has a ton of caves, from the famous cockpit karst area in Guilin all the way up to Beijing. Big ones, too. Some East European flew a light plane though one during an air show a few years ago.

Most impressive show caves in the U.S.: Carlsbad, Luray, Mammoth, maybe Kartchner.

It's too late for Floyd,I'm afraid.

HTuttle, was there ice in the cave?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:25 AM on January 15, 2006


There is also a Crystal Cave in Yanchep, not far from Perth, West Oz. I've been there on many a school excursion/family picnic. Great memories.

Interestingly, gator, it is featured in the ShowCaves site you mentioned.

The reason I mention this is not because of the coincidence, but the fact that some FUCKING SHIT-FOR-BRAINS VANDAL(S) irreparably damaged a huge "drapery" formation.

They've since had to cover it with an ugly assed wired mesh fence. What an absolute crying shame. Even as a very immature 10 year old I remember thinking "you absolute fucking asshats."

I tried to Google for info on this vandalism to no avail. There is a chance I'm getting mixed up with some caves I've visited down south such as Jewel Cave.

I did find this West Oz cave vandalism-related site which will possibly make you cringe.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:54 AM on January 15, 2006

Unfortunately, vandalism of caves is not rare, or restricted to West Austtralia. Its most pernicious expression is mineral-collecting. Caves that were once heavily decorated with the most beautiful and delicate formations have been stripped bare in the space of a couple of decades. In most states and parts of Canada, removing formation from a cave is now a felony. If the cave is in a national park, it is a Federal case. Ebay will not list cave formations for sale.

For many caves, as for Floyd Collins, it's too late.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:36 PM on January 15, 2006

That's not a bad site. I see now after looking through my bookmarks, there's a real dearth of good caving sites on the web. The NSS website has some good general info, but there's precious little else that's done well. As a member of the TSA, I've got to say I'm a little embarrassed by our website.

There's precious little on Mexico caving either, though Bill Stone's Nat'l Geographic diary form 2004's Cheve expedition was pretty good reading.

I won't flog my homepage in a post, buy I've got a few galleries up on my site, should anybody be interested.

Caves are fascinating, and the allure is visceral, and all encompassing, sometimes. It's a strange obsesion, but I'm hooked.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:40 PM on January 15, 2006

Rancher, I suspect the lack of knock-your-socks-off caving Websites has to do with the inclination toward secrecy that's prevalent in caving. And the fact that most of those who are really passionate about caving spend all their free time doing it. The secrecy is a reaction to the vandalism, of course.

I like your caving site, but the my Firefox cursor says the photo thumbnails are links, but clicking does nothing.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:44 AM on January 16, 2006

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