Wanta Buy a Hammer?

A bad cold, the flu, eight inches of rain. The odds were again against me being able to finish the survey of Hancock Cave on October 13, 2007. I had even proposed to Dave Duguid that I would trade survey dates with him with the hopes that water levels in Hancock Cave would drop down after last week’s drenching. Mark Little, Melanie McCullough, and I woke up Saturday morning at Tanya’s house to a much clearer day than we had seen all week. Still I had plans to take photographs in the front part of the cave and maybe dig above Which Glob Pit because the rain had been so severe.

My plans to dig required tools, none of which anyone brought to Tanya’s house that weekend. After a leisurely breakfast, we stopped at the local hardware store where we bought a four-pound hammer, cold chisels, and center punches to help with the dig. Then we drove out to the cave. Apparently the drought had been more severe than the rain. I noticed that Bear Creek was still way down, and I returned to my original plans. Mark, Melanie, and I found the creek outside Hancock Cave to be dry, so we headed for the Funnel Tunnel.

I was utterly amazed that the Funnel Tunnel hadn’t changed since our last visit there in August. It was still dug open over ten inches high, and I opened it up even more to make it easy for everyone to get through. I think Melanie could’ve gone through on her hands and knees. We had gotten a late start because we expected so little, but now we had some goals to meet.

I dragged Mark and Melanie back to the Tortoise Shell Room and our first leads. We lucked out again because the lower lead (would’ve been six shots) tied right into the upper lead and saved a painful survey start. Although the survey dropped us down to a five-foot belly crawl, it opened back up into walking passage that tied back into the known passage after eight shots total.

We headed back to the Chocolate Wall, and I found the next lead (a two-foot high crawl into a flowstone mound). On the second long shot in, Mark was already standing. This lead had opened up into big walking passage. Too bad Mark and Melanie wanted to drive back to Cary that evening. In this new passage we found rimstone dams, cave coral, and a four-foot long strip of cave bacon. It also had Hancock’s signature pendants and large breakdown, but the really amazing thing was the flowstone shelf suspended four feet off the floor by the pendants. No one else may have noticed it, but I saw it form the outline of a viking ship with an unexplored passage beneath.

Our goal was to knock off the seven remaining leads. Instead on Saturday we surveyed 310 feet (cave length now 2.39 miles with 56 loops–38th longest in Virginia), knocked off three leads, and created two more. Too bad I couldn’t have kept Mark and Melanie in there all night long.

On Sunday I joined Dave Duguid’s survey trip to Rowland Springs Cave. We surveyed a lot of footage through fins and formations but never seemed to get far from the big room where we started. There I discovered that my new frog system falls into the class of “sit-stand-bang your shoulder-repeat” single rope techniques.