Minutes for the October 26, 2021 TriTrogs General Meeting

Zoom participants included Jess Keeley, Taylor T. (Vice Chair), Stephan Francke, Michael Ehmke, Louis Le, April Nieuwkoop, Mark D., Mike B. (Treasurer), Diana G., Alec Payne, Peter H., Zeke vF (Chair), Lisa L., Jack Anderson, Ken Walsh (Secretary), and Susan Hudson.

During the introductions, we spoke about what we did and didn’t know about bats. One person wanted to know how many species had not yet been discovered and another how many cave species we know that are in NC. Diana described her boot-deep experience with the guano in Devils Sinkhole Cave in Texas where the mound is stories high. Bats and humans both use echolocation. In flight (not diving), a bat species (freetail?) is faster than any modern bird. 

When visiting a cave with vampire bats, use lime juice beneath your nose to block out the blood curdling smell. Pete is an ideal person to study bat guano. Oilbirds in Venezuela may be one of the best species for spreading tree seeds in the rainforests.

Discussion turned to replacing some of the grotto’s loaner gear. Three quarters of the lamps work but have small cracks. No one has priced out new gear yet, and we expect that any new LED lamps may be better than the ones in our current collection. A suggestion was made to possibly include small cave packs in the grotto supplies.

The TriTrogs have also donated to charities in the past (Bat Conservational International and Southeastern Cave Conservancy were the last two). Officers are soliciting suggestions from members about which groups deserve our donation this year. We are not restricted from donating to the same sources as in the past.

Discussion turned to the NSS charter of the Vertical Training Commission. The idea wouldn’t be to certify cavers as vertically competent but set up guidelines that would be followed by the trainers. The idea is to avoid vertical training schools like the one in France and would be divided into different skill levels: basic rope techniques, rigging, advanced techniques, expedition-style caving, and self rescue. Inexperienced cavers have recently been having more vertical issues and involved in accidents, and the feedback points to them being undertrained to handle underground situations.

Reams and reams of training materials already exist, and multiple groups are already offering weeklong classes (that amount of information can almost overload some students). The NSS charter is set up to choose the team that will train the trainers, and one TriTrog member advocated that the best place to train is locally. The charter talks about finding people who are adequately qualified to train the trainers in different regions around the country but does not address how they will secure these trainers without compensation. An online town hall for NSS members was set for October 28.

Ken shared the results from the 173-foot survey course from the September meeting; he compared the teams that finished the course. Emily and Stefan were the fastest, Zeke and Taylor came in second for their horizontal closure (2.5 feet), Alec and Mark managed second place for their vertical closure (2.5 feet), and Louis and Carlin were the slowest (but managed a vertical closure of 0.5 feet and a horizontal closure of 1.4 feet).

Mark D., Jessica, Jack, Laurel, and Carlin went to Worley’s Cave in Tennessee for a sport trip, along with two children. The kids had a great time in this easy walking passage. Formation colors weren’t astounding but were massive, covering large walls and mostly free of graffiti. The stream water on the return trip was mostly shallow, and they saw a great horned owl perched inside near the entrance. 

Pete Hertl described a drop down Grapevine Pit into Lost World Caverns and another trip into Buckeye Creek Cave. In an area with significant breakdown, they hope to find a human-sized exit from Buckeye Creek someday directly onto Todd Handley’s land.

Zeke knew nothing about upcoming trips.

Because members had backed out on sharing programs, Taylor shared a portion of a YouTube video entitled Virginia’s Beautiful Bats (https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=eAeLY7TV0TI) by Leslie Sturges. Starting the video around the 12:30 mark, we learned a lot about the bat species in Virginia (of which many are found in NC as well). Sturges’s slides used gummy bears to represent the bat species weights and Twizzlers to represent the wing spans.