With a date having been set, a crew of cavers found, caves and objectives known, the wait began. There had been little rain all summer and very little this fall, perfect conditions for the caves planned (though the local citizens of Marion would disagree).
· Hancock – Funnel Tunnel sumps after it rains
· Atwells Tunnel – hoping the low water levels would reveal a passage through the sump
· Rowland Spring – surveying the mud passage would be slightly more pleasant without having to get wet as well as muddy.
With heavy rain resulting from a low passing through the southeast, all plans seemed in jeopardy; there was talk of not going, rescheduling, of mutiny before Ken even got anyone underground…could it even be possible? Fortunately we had some hearty cavers, or just cavers desperate to get out of town. The plan progressed forward, though backup plans were quickly being assembled.
A group of cavers left Friday and caved Hancock cave Saturday, their report can be read in a different posting. I left Saturday morning; my plans were to check out Atwells Tunnel. I had initially planned on bringing my dive gear along as a backup if the water levels were not low enough. I was certain I’d need it now given the inches of rain received.
I met up with Brian, Tanya, and Dale in Marion; after lunch we drove over the mountain and to the cave. It had been two years since I had been there; it seemed much further away than I remembered it. We walked to the cave and found the water level to be the same it has been on previous trips. It wasn’t worth hiking to the sump; I knew there would be no visible duck under.
Gear assembled and hauled to the sump within the cave; here it was donned, return time agreed to, I started the swim down the visible part of the sump. The silt was heavy and suspended in the water column, tying line along the way the sump was inspected for a duck under. None was found; instead the sump progressed to the depth of 23ft where the roof and floor pinched to less than 10 inches. Given the visibility, the plowing of mud to continue forward, the dive was stopped.
Mystery solved; the idea of a quick duck-under and continued dry passage found to be completely untrue. The rumors of school-aged kids traversing the entire cave now suddenly didn’t seem all that realistic…just rumors.
After packing up Tanya mentioned a sink on the property she had been meaning to investigate. With the weather being sunny, bright, and warm who could pass up an offer to walk. The sink was clearly evident; better yet it has to natural drains in the basin. Some digging would be in order, but with the amount of water that must collect off the surrounding landscape there is probably cave there.
Afterward we hiked more of the property; Brian found a small cave while I found a dead cow. The cave entrance was small and looked like a bear den (given the proximity of the carcass further entrenched that thought). Brian scooped his find; the cave was only 35ft or so in length, ending in a small room.
No further caves were found; the relaxing hour hike was a spectacular consolation prize. We then drove over to Hancock to see how the other team was doing. Finding the hand line in the main entrance signaled the team must have gotten back the Funnel Tunnel. Not knowing their timeline we didn’t suit up to join them; but rather went and had a delicious Mexican meal.
Sunday at Rowland Spring consisted of Brian, Ken, Robbie, and myself. The objective was to finish surveying the large room. The cave was dry; the stream that runs through the cave had no water.
We managed to finally get the exterior wall completed and then preceded to fill in the interior content. In addition, we dropped into the breakdown and found a few smaller passages underneath; this area is the lowest spot in the cave by 4ft. Good thing the cave was as dry as it was.
Brian brought his camera, he had time to explore and photo document a majority of the big room and its splendor. I have yet to see the pictures, but will try to post a few on the web page.
The statistics for the day:
· 40 stations for 535ft
· We closed four leads
· Have two new leads.
There are a few promising leads for the next trip. The date for the next trip is not yet known, but hopefully we can locate a few additional cavers to assist with this beautiful cave.