Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Window Opens Into Moon's Past Volcanism

Lava tubes, underground cave-like channels through which lava once flowed, are commonly found on Earth. Scientists have debated whether these tubes could form on the Moon as well, but no studies have yet conclusively identified features that indicate the presence of lunar lava tubes.

Using images from the SELENE (also known as Kaguya) spacecraft's high-resolution cameras, Haruyama et al. have identified a vertical hole that they believe is a skylight in an intact lava tube. The hole is located in the Marius Hills region, a volcanic area on the Moon's nearside.

The authors find that the nearly circular hole is about 65 meters (213 feet) in diameter and about 80-88 m (262-289 ft) deep. They consider possible formation mechanisms and conclude that the skylight most likely formed when part of the lava tube roof collapsed. The authors believe that the discovery could have implications for studies of lunar volcanism.

In addition, because lava tubes are sheltered from the harsh environment on the Moon's surface, such tubes could one day be useful for lunar bases.

The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Source: Science Daily

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Exploring the Stone Age pantry

Julio Mercader at work in the Ngalue cave site, Mozambique

University of Calgary archaeologist unearths earliest evidence of modern humans using wild grains and tubers for food

The consumption of wild cereals among prehistoric hunters and gatherers appears to be far more ancient than previously thought, according to a University of Calgary archaeologist who has found the oldest example of extensive reliance on cereal and root staples in the diet of early Homo sapiens more than 100,000 years ago.

Julio Mercader, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Tropical Archaeology in the U of C's Department of Archaeology, recovered dozens of stone tools from a deep cave in Mozambique showing that wild sorghum, the ancestor of the chief cereal consumed today in sub-Saharan Africa for flours, breads, porridges and alcoholic beverages, was in Homo sapiens' pantry along with the African wine palm, the false banana, pigeon peas, wild oranges and the African "potato." This is the earliest direct evidence of humans using pre-domesticated cereals anywhere in the world. Mercader's findings are published in the December 18 issue of the prestigious research journal Science.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hells Bells Cenote

Located in the Yucatan Peninsula is a Cenote nicknamed Hells Bells.

The unique "bell shaped" stalactites make the dive unforgettable!

 Join Natalie Gibb from Diablo Divers along with Jeff Lindsay and Terry Irvine as they explore and video
"Hells Bells"

 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rock paintings reveal species that once roamed India

Sivatherium, a giraffe-like creature with two pairs of horns and extinct for 8,000 years, once roamed central and western India. So did the aardvark, an ant-eating creature now found only in Africa. The stunning finds have emerged from ancient rock paintings found along the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border.

They have been hidden away for centuries in 18 rock shelter paintings near Amravati in Maharashtra and have been discovered by a group of amateur explorers in the past three years - the latest find was in June. And research into them is now proving eye-opening.

A six-member group headed by V.T. Ingole, who is otherwise the principal of an engineering college in Amravati, chanced upon the paintings after seven years of digging in the Morshi tehsil of Amravati district.

'This is only the second of its kind in the country and dates back to 15,000 years or the Upper Palaeolithic era,' an excited Ingole told IANS here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Consultation - EuroSpeleo Protection - Charta - 10 points

Dear Caving Friends,

The Cave Protection Commission (ECPC) of the European Federation (FSE) organises a wide consultation of every European caver in order to build the European Charta of reference for Cave and Karst Protection. It has been brepared by the 30 members of the ECPC coming from more than 15 European countries, under the supervision of the ECPC President ad interim, Ioana Meleg. For the other countries (cf. list in post-scriptum) or for already participating countries, if you are motivated to contribute to the ECPC work or simply receive the information of the commission, please send an email with your data to protection@eurospeleo.org

This charta is made for the European cavers and general public. It is not made to replace the International Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection (65 pages) full document (3.5Mo) available on IUCN.

It is neither made to replace the national charta your federation might have, but rather to harmonise the existing national documents that all go in the same direction.

The aim is to get a short document in 10 points that fits in a half page and that all cavers can understand and make it their own.

So you can find here attached a version that is submitted to your remarks and observations. The file is also available on Eurospeleo.

You can make suggestions directly in the file, that is in correction mode, either on the content or on the used words.

Please send your remarks and modified files out of mailing-lists to protection@eurospeleo.org before the 18th of December 2009,

Thank you for your participation,

Best speleological regards,
Olivier Vidal
Secr. General FSE

Friday, November 27, 2009

Man dies after 28 hours stuck in cave

A US medical student has died after being stuck upside-down in a cave in Utah for more than 24 hours, officials said overnight.

John Jones, 26, was part of a group of 11 experienced cavers who set out to explore the Nutty Putty caves, around 100km south of Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah.

Nearly three hours after the group had entered the caves on Tuesday evening, Mr Jones became stuck in a feature inside Nutty Putty, known as Bob's Push, the Utah County sheriff's office said.

"This feature is very tightly confined, being about 45cm wide and 25cm high,'' the sheriff's office said.

"Jones was positioned with his head downhill and was unable to move further into the cave. He was also unable to move back up the Bob's Push area."

Nearly 100 rescuers using large amounts of technical and heavy rescue equipment worked around the clock to try to free Mr Jones, who was trapped 46m underground and 213m from the entrance of the cave.

At one point they freed Mr Jones, but a rope and pulley system failed and he became stuck a second time.

Jones's brother, Spencer Jones, said: "We all were very optimistic and hopeful. But it became increasingly clear last night after he got re-stuck that there weren't very many options left.

"We thought he was in the clear and then when we got the news that he had slipped again. That's when we started to get scared."

Mr Jones lost consciousness late Wednesday, 28 hours after being stuck in the cave. Crews are still trying to remove his body.

His death is the first known fatality at the cave, according to the sheriff's office. Nutty Putty is now closed until a decision can be made about its future.

Spencer Jones said the family of five boys and two girls was close, and his brother was a wonderful person.

"He would have done anything for you, so that's what makes it even harder. It's senseless," he said.

Mr Jones leaves behind a wife and 8-month-old daughter.

Source: Adelaide Now

Utah explorer dies in cave

A man stuck upside-down in a cave for more than a day died early Thursday, despite the efforts of dozens of rescuers, authorities said.

John Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park died about 12:30 a.m., nearly 28 hours after he became stuck 700 feet into the cave known as Nutty Putty, Utah County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.

Rescuers were next to Jones for much of the day but he was wedged in a small hole too tightly to pull him out or even reach through to assist him, Cannon told The Associated Press.

"They were right there with him, checking his vital signs," Cannon said. "They were able to get close enough to verify that he was deceased."

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To the Bat Cave: Researchers Reconstruct Evolution of Bat Migration With Aid of Mathematical Model

Evening or vesper bat (Vespertillo murinus).
Credit: Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell
Not just birds, but also a few species of bats face a long journey every year. Researchers at Princeton University in the U.S. and at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany studied the migratory behaviour of the largest extant family of bats, theVespertilionidae with the help of mathematical models. They discovered that the migration over short as well as long distances of various kinds of bats evolved independently within the family.

Most people know the term of "migrating bird" but "migrating bat" is not very established. However, some bat species migrate every year long or short distances. Whereas birds migrate to exploit seasonal food resources, the majority of bats migrate with the intention to find better hibernating conditions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Shangri-La" Caves Yield Treasures, Skeletons

Climber Renan Ozturk watches a local Tibetan look at
an illuminated manuscript found in 2008 in a cave in the
ancient kingdom of Mustang—today part of Nepal.
A treasure trove of Tibetan art and manuscripts uncovered in "sky high" Himalayan caves could be linked to the storybook paradise of Shangri-La, says the team that made the discovery.
The 15th-century religious texts and wall paintings were found in caves carved into sheer cliffs in the ancient kingdom of Mustang—today part of Nepal. (See pictures of the "Shangri-La" caves and their treasures.)

Few have been able to explore the mysterious caves, since Upper Mustang is a restricted area of Nepal that was long closed to outsiders. Today only a thousand foreigners a year are allowed into the region.

In 2007 a team co-led by U.S. researcher and Himalaya expert Broughton Coburn and veteran mountaineer Pete Athans scaled the crumbling cliffs on a mission to explore the human-made caves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cave study links climate change to California droughts

A cut in half stalagmite from McLean's Cave
(California) Photo: Isabel Montañez

California experienced centuries-long droughts in the past 20,000 years that coincided with the thawing of ice caps in the Arctic, according to a new study by UC Davis doctoral student Jessica Oster and geology professor Isabel Montañez.

The finding, which comes from analyzing stalagmites from Moaning Cavern in the central Sierra Nevada, was published online Nov. 5 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The sometimes spectacular mineral formations in caves such as Moaning Cavern and Black Chasm build up over centuries as water drips from the cave roof. Those drops of water pick up trace chemicals in their path through air, soil and rocks, and deposit the chemicals in the stalagmite.

"They're like tree rings made out of rock," Montañez said. "These are the only climate records of this type for California for this period when past global warming was occurring."

At the end of the last ice age about 15,000 years ago, climate records from Greenland show a warm period called the Bolling-Allerod period. Oster and Montanez's results show that at the same time, California became much drier. Episodes of relative cooling in the Arctic records, including the Younger Dryas period 13,000 years ago, were accompanied by wetter periods in California.

Cave rescuers' grants enable HQ refit

Members of the CRO receive the cheque from the Freemasons
A £30,000 grant to a Yorkshire rescue team has enabled the completion of a major redevelopment at its base.

The Cave Rescue Organisation is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its formation in the Yorkshire Dales and its headquarters have been completely redesigned to enable it to operate more efficiently. The latest grant, from Freemasons in the area, added to the £80,000 already raised for the project at its Clapham base.

A cheque was handed over by members of the Wenning Lodge at Bentham, as part of a larger handout from lodges throughout the West Riding of Yorkshire, which used to include much of the Dales before its disappearance from the maps in 1974.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Exley: Life of a Cave-Diving Pioneer

Sheck Exley is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of cave diving. He began diving in 1965 at the age of 16. That very year he entered his first cave and was hooked on cave diving for the remaining 29 years of his life. At the age of 23, Exley was the first diver in the world to log over 1,000 cave dives. During his diving career, he made over 4,000 cave dives and did set numerous depth and cave penetration records.

Exley was also one of the first divers to introduce Trimix to cave diving. While early experiments using mixed gases in the U.S. had tragic outcomes (Exley's friend Louis Holtzendorf died on one such dive), Exley's deep dives at Nacimiento del Rio Mante, a Mexican cave or cenote, proved the usefulness of Trimix for cave diving. Not only could these mixtures allow a diver to go deeper without succumbing to narcosis or oxygen poisoning, but they also reduced the amount of time spent at decompression stops during the ascent. In March of 1989, he descended to a depth of 881 feet using Trimix, a world record at the time. He returned to the surface after 14 hours of decompression with no side effects.

In August of 1993, Exley reached 863 feet when he touched bottom in Bushmansgat (Bushman's Hole) in South Africa, but not before experiencing a serious case of high pressure nervous syndrome (HPNS) that included blurred vision and intense, uncontrollable tremors. He joined Jim Bowden in focusing his efforts on a cave known as Zacatón (aka Pit 6350) just north of Tampico, Mexico. The cave is known to be at least 1,080 feet deep. In September, Bowden dove to 774 feet, Ann Kristovich, the team physician, reached 541 feet during a dive, a new depth record for women. The previous record had been set at Rio Mante by Mary Ellen Eckoff, Exley's wife.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Many Mysteries of Neanderthals


Some Neanderthals may have had pale skin
and red hair similar to that of some modern humans.
CREDIT: Michael Hofreiter and Kurt Fiusterweier
We are currently the only human species alive, but as recently as maybe 24,000 years ago another one walked the earth — the Neanderthals.

These extinct humans were the closest relatives we had, and tantalizing new hints from researchers suggest that we might have been intimately close indeed. The mystery of whether Neanderthals and us had sex might possibly get solved if the entire Neanderthal genome is reported soon as expected. The matter of why they died and we succeeded, however, remains an open question.

Maybe not nasty and brutish, but still short



First recognized in the Neander Valley in Germany in 1856, Neanderthals revealed that modern humans possess a rich and complex family tree that includes now-extinct relatives.

Neanderthals — also called Neandertals, due to changes in German spelling over the years — had robust skeletons that gave them wide bodies and short limbs compared to us. This made them more like wrestlers, while modern humans in comparison are more like long-distance runners.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Masons' cash will help cave rescue team

A Yorkshire rescue team will receive a cash boost this week with the donation of £30,000 to help it carry out its work.

The Cave Rescue Organisation, based in the Yorkshire Dales, was chosen by freemasons to mark their charity’s 150th anniversary in the West Riding. The CRO, based in Clapham, although now in North Yorkshire, falls within the historic West Riding of Yorkshire.

The rescue team, which operates both above and below ground, is one of five organisations to benefit from grants from the masons and was nominated by the Wenning Lodge at Bentham, 7km (4½ miles) from the organisation’s base. The masons have chosen organisations within the West Riding to benefit donations, including a Calderdale search-and-rescue vehicle and projects to help sports facilities, young people and disabled students.

The CRO cash will go towards its building and educational project.

A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Despite its name, CRO provides a ‘safety net’ for visitors and local people alike, not just those engaged in active outdoor pursuits, but casual strollers, people missing from home – even stranded animals.”

The grant will help improve training facilities and provide safety education for young people, for both local youth groups and visiting school parties. Clapham has a local-authority-run outdoor education centre.

Members of the masons’ Wenning lodge learned of their successful application at a presentation dinner in September at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

CRO chairman Jack Pickup said: “Our members often think that people see CRO only in terms of our claim to being the world’s first cave rescue team, but they underestimate people’s understanding of what we do.

“It is particularly gratifying that the masons, in common with several other community-based organisations and in celebrating 150 years of their own charitable works, should recognise the voluntary effort, made by CRO members for the benefit of the whole community, as we are in the run-up to our own 75th anniversary.”

In the last ten months, the Cave Rescue Organisation has helped 93 walkers, 34 cavers, four climbers, three mountain bikers, three people ‘at risk’ or missing from home, two canyoners, one fellrunner, one rock scrambler, three sheep and two dogs. The team also conducted a search of fields around a burned-out farm-house.

Source: Grough

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cave Diving Video: Reflections - Through a Mirror Darkly

Steve Bogaerts cave diving in sidemount tank configuration using the Razor Harness.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A 200,000-year-old cut of meat

This is a bone from the Qesem Cave in Israel showing irregular cutmarks.

Tel Aviv University archaeologists shed light on life, diet and society before the delicatessen

Contestants on TV shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen know that their meat-cutting skills will be scrutinized by a panel of unforgiving judges. Now, new archaeological evidence is getting the same scrutiny by scientists at Tel Aviv University and the University of Arizona.

Their research is providing new clues about how, where and when our communal habits of butchering meat developed, and they're changing the way anthropologists, zoologists and archaeologists think about our evolutionary development, economics and social behaviors through the millennia.

Presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, new finds unearthed at Qesem Cave in Israel suggest that during the late Lower Paleolithic period (between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago), people hunted and shared meat differently than they did in later times. Instead of a prey's carcass being prepared by just one or two persons resulting in clear and repeated cutting marks –– the forefathers of the modern butcher ― cut marks on ancient animal bones suggest something else.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Researchers Go Underground To Reveal 850 New Species In Australian Outback

Some of the 850 new species discovered in underground water,
caves and micro-caverns across outback Australia.
Australian researchers have discovered a huge number of new species of invertebrate animals living in underground water, caves and "micro-caverns" amid the harsh conditions of the Australian outback.

A national team of 18 researchers has discovered 850 new species of invertebrates, which include various insects, small crustaceans, spiders, worms and many others.

The team – led by Professor Andy Austin (University of Adelaide), Dr Steve Cooper (South Australian Museum) and Dr Bill Humphreys (Western Australian Museum) – has conducted a comprehensive four-year survey of underground water, caves and micro-caverns across arid and semi-arid Australia.

Researchers Go Underground To Reveal 850 New Species In Australian Outback

Some of the 850 new species discovered in underground
water, caves and micro-caverns across outback Australia
Australian researchers have discovered a huge number of new species of invertebrate animals living in underground water, caves and "micro-caverns" amid the harsh conditions of the Australian outback.


A national team of 18 researchers has discovered 850 new species of invertebrates, which include various insects, small crustaceans, spiders, worms and many others.

The team – led by Professor Andy Austin (University of Adelaide), Dr Steve Cooper (South Australian Museum) and Dr Bill Humphreys (Western Australian Museum) – has conducted a comprehensive four-year survey of underground water, caves and micro-caverns across arid and semi-arid Australia.

"What we've found is that you don't have to go searching in the depths of the ocean to discover new species of invertebrate animals – you just have to look in your own 'back yard'," says Professor Austin from the Australian Center for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity at the University of Adelaide.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Great Tits eat bats in times of need

Common pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) are eaten
in winter by great tits (Parus major).

During harsh winters, Great Tits extend their menu options to include bats.

Necessity is the mother of invention: Great Tits eat hibernating common pipistrelle bats under harsh conditions of snow cover. This remarkable newly-acquired behaviour was observed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen and their colleagues in a cave in Hungary. When the researchers offered the birds alternative feed, they ate it and showed little or no interest in flying into the cave again. (Biology Letters, online prepublication from September 9, 2009).

Reports on the ingenuity of birds of the tit family in their search for food go as far back as the 1940s when it was observed that Blue Tits in the British Isles had learned how to open the aluminium tops of milk bottles left on doorsteps by milkmen to get at the cream that had formed on top of the milk. Another astonishing acquired behaviour among Great Tits (Parus major) has now been observed by the researchers working with Björn Siemers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and their Hungarian colleagues. On 21 observation days over two winters, Great Tits flew a total of 18 times into a cave in north-east Hungary to look for and eat the Common Pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) hibernating there. The researchers explain this behaviour with the extreme necessity they faced in their search for food. Great Tits eat insects or arachnids in summer and usually look for seeds and berries in winter. Winters in north-east Hungary can be very harsh, however, with closed snow cover.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rincón Town Hall to expropriate the Cueva del Tesoro

The Sala de los Lagos in the Cueva del Tesoro
The only marine cave in Europe open to tourists is under private ownership

The Town Hall in Rincón de la Victoria has started the process to expropriate the town’s famous Cueva del Tesoro which, although managed by the council since 1991, Diario Sur reports, is in private ownership.

The Cueva del Tesoro is the only marine cave in Europe which is open to tourists and has been classified as a Cultural Asset since 1985. The Town Hall has a 30 year concession for its management, but now wants this natural monument to become municipal property.

There is however a vast difference in the three valuations of the 3,000 square metre area: the Laza family, which owns it, are asking 3.7 million €; a team of experts put its value at 350,000 €; and Town Hall technicians put its worth at a little below 100,000 €.

The Town Hall includes in its assessment the 11,500 € rent they must pay to the Laza family up until 2020 and the 24,000 € they have already spent on work to carry out improvements to the Cueva del Tesoro.

Source: Typically Spanish

Monday, September 21, 2009

In Memoriam: Maurizio Montalbini

Italian speleologist and sociologist Maurizio Montalbini
just after exiting the Grotta Fredda di Acquasanta cave
where he spent 236 days in total isolation, near Ascoli
Piceno, central Italy, Thursday, June 7, 2007
Maurizio Montalbini, who died on Saturday aged 56, was an Italian sociologist and part-time troglodyte who spent months at a time living in caves studying how the mind and body cope with total isolation; he held the world record for dwelling underground.

Since starting his experiments in the 1980s, Montalbini had spent a total of two years and eight months beneath the surface of the earth, according to a biography on his website.

In 1987 he claimed his first world record after spending 210 days alone in a cave in the Apennine mountains. A year later he led an international team of 14 cavers, including three women, to claim the world group record with an underground stay of 48 days.

During his endurance experiments Montalbini subsisted mostly on a high-calorie diet of powdered foods and pills similar to those used by astronauts on space flights. Scientists on the surface monitored him through instruments.

Montalbini's biography claimed his experiments were done in collaboration with Nasa and leading universities around the world. They yielded insights on the effects of long-term isolation, including weight loss, changes in the perception of time and in the sleep and menstrual cycles.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NOAA explorers Caves in Bermuda

The submerged entrance to Green Bay Cave (top center),
the longest known cave in Bermuda, is located at the end
of a small bay off Harrington Sound
The Green Bay Cave in Bermuda the longest known cave on the island and the target of a NOAA expedition running until September 30, 2009. Deep water marine caves represent one of the Earth's last largely unexplored frontiers of undiscovered fauna.

More than 150 limestone caves are known from the island of Bermuda, many of which have extensive, but relatively shallow submerged portions that connect to the sea via tidal springs along the coastline. These inland caves are inhabited by a number of diverse eyeless and colorless crustaceans and other invertebrates. Many of these organisms are “living fossils” and some are most closely related to deep-sea organisms, so a press release on NOAA’s ocean explorer website

The existence of ancient cave species and the fact that all known Bermuda caves were dry and air filled during Ice Age periods of lower sea level suggests that an alternate, now deep water cave habitat must have existed in Bermuda.

While previous investigations of marine caves have been limited to those within depths of up to 165 feet (50 meters), current research suggests that caves can occur at almost any depth within the sea. The geological history of Bermuda coupled with biological evidence indicates a strong possibility for the presence of deepwater caves near the island.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Archaeologists discover oldest-known fiber materials used by early humans

Flax fibers in microscopic soil samples (more than 34,000 years old)

A team of archaeologists and paleobiologists has discovered flax fibers that are more than 34,000 years old, making them the oldest fibers known to have been used by humans. The fibers, discovered during systematic excavations in a cave in the Republic of Georgia, are described in this week's issue of Science.

The flax, which would have been collected from the wild and not farmed, could have been used to make linen and thread, the researchers say. The cloth and thread would then have been used to fashion garments for warmth, sew leather pieces, make cloths, or tie together packs that might have aided the mobility of our ancient ancestors from one camp to another.

The excavation was jointly led by Ofer Bar-Yosef, George Grant MacCurdy and Janet G. B. MacCurdy Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, with Tengiz Meshveliani from the Georgian State Museum and Anna Belfer-Cohen from the Hebrew University. The microscopic research of the soil samples in which numerous flax fibers were discovered was done by Eliso Kvavadze of the Institute of Paleobiology, part of the National Museum of Georgia.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Largest-ever collection of coins from Bar-Kokhba revolt found

Coins that were found in the cave.
(Credit: Sasson Tiram)

The largest cache of rare coins ever found in a scientific excavation from the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt of the Jews against the Romans has been discovered in a cave by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University.

The coins were discovered in three batches in a deep cavern located in a nature reserve in the Judean hills. The treasure includes gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons.

The discovery was made in the framework of a comprehensive cave research and mapping project being carried out by Boaz Langford and Prof. Amos Frumkin of the Cave Research Unit in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University, along with Dr. Boaz Zissu and Prof. Hanan Eshel of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, and with the support of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The some 120 coins were discovered within a cave that has a "hidden wing," the slippery and dangerous approach to which is possible only via a narrow opening discovered many years ago by Dr. Gideon Mann, a physician who is one of the early cave explorers in modern Israel. The opening led to a small chamber which in turn opens into a hall that served as a hiding place for the Jewish fighters of Bar-Kokhba.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Texas A&M-Galveston professor discovers new species of marine life

Two tiny worms much smaller than a rice grain and a strange crustacean that has no eyes and poisonous fangs are among several new species of marine life discovered in an underwater cave by a Texas A&M University at Galveston researcher, who has had one of the new species named after him.

Tom Iliffe, professor of marine biology and one of the world's foremost cave researchers, was part of an international team that discovered the new species in a mile-long underwater cave in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic off the coast of North Africa.

Their findings are published in the current issue of "Marine Biodversity." The research project was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Iliffe, along with researchers from Pennsylvania State University, the University of La Laguna in Spain and two German universities – the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover and the University of Hamburg – found the new species while exploring the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Species Of Crustacean Discovered Near Canary Islands

During a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel
de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube
on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, a team of scientists
and cave divers have discovered a previously unknown
species of crustacean, belonging to the remipede
genus Speleonectes.
During a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, a team of scientists and cave divers have discovered a previously unknown species of crustacean, belonging to the remipede genus Speleonectes.

They gracefully swim through the complete darkness of submarine caves, constantly on the lookout for prey. Instead of eyes, predatory crustaceans of the class Remipedia rely on long antennae which search the lightless void in all directions. Like some type of science fiction monster, their head is equipped with powerful prehensile limbs and poisonous fangs.

Accordingly, the translations of their Latin names sound menacing. There is the "Secret Club Bearer"(Cryptocorynetes) or the "Beautiful Hairy Sea Monster" (Kaloketos pilosus). The names of some genera were inspired by Japanese movie monsters, for example, the "Swimming Mothra” (Pleomothra), the "Strong Godzilla"(Godzillius robustus) or the "Gnome Godzilla" (Godzilliognomus).

During a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world’s longest submarine lava tube on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, an international team of scientists and cave divers have discovered a previously unknown species of crustacean, belonging to the remipede genus Speleonectes, and two new species of annelid worms of the class Polychaeta.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

IU discovers stone tools, rare animal bones -- clues to Caribbean's earliest inhabitants

Jessica Keller holds the primate skull found
in the Padre Nuestro Cavern.

A prehistoric water-filled cave in the Dominican Republic has become a "treasure trove" with the announcement by Indiana University archaeologists of the discovery of stone tools, a small primate skull in remarkable condition, and the claws, jawbone and other bones of several species of sloths.

The discoveries extend by thousands of years the scope of investigations led Charles Beeker, director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science Programs at IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and his interdisciplinary team of collaborators. The researchers' focus has been on the era a mere 500 years ago when the Old World and New World first met after Christopher Columbus stepped ashore in the Caribbean -- and on scintillating pirate lore. This rare find is expected to give insights into the earliest inhabitants of the Greater Antilles and the animals they encountered.

"To be honest, I couldn't believe my eyes as I viewed each of these astonishing discoveries underwater," Beeker said. "The virtually intact extinct faunal skeletons really amazed me, but what may prove to be a fire pit from the first human occupation of the island just seems too good to be true. But now that the lithics (stone tools) are authenticated, I can't wait to direct another underwater expedition into what may prove to become one of the most important prehistoric sites in all the Caribbean."


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Utah salt caverns handy for energy storage

How's this for an energy trick?

A Utah company plans to use wind or solar power to pump hollowed-out salt caverns full of compressed air. Then, as daily demand for electricity peaks, the company would release the underground air to spin power-generating turbines.

That's just one way Salt Lake City-based Magnum Development plans to use a series of salt caverns near Delta in central Utah.

The caverns are primarily intended for storage of natural gas — as much as 45 billion cubic feet of gas. Gas producers need storage typically in summer when demand is low, so they can pull it out in winter when demand is high.

Magnum is collecting federal permits for its versatile "energy hub" and hopes to open the first cavern for business by 2012.

"It would be like a big storage battery for electricity," said Craig Broussard, a managing director for Magnum Development, a portfolio company of Houston-based private equity group Haddington Energy Partners III.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mammoth Cave National Park signs sister park agreement with Chinese site

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Patrick Reed (left) presents a commemorative plaque to Li Zhengping of Shilin Stone Forest in honor of the signing of a sister park agreement Aug. 13 in Shilin Stone Forest Scenic Area near Shilin, China. (Photo by Dr. Rickard Toomey)
Representatives of Mammoth Cave National Park, WKU and China’s Shilin Stone Forest participated in the signing of a sister park agreement Aug. 13 in Shilin Stone Forest Scenic Area near Shilin, China.

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Patrick Reed and Li Zhengping, director of administration for the Stone Forest Scenic Area, signed the agreement. Also attending the ceremony were Dr. Rickard Toomey, director of the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning; Dr. Chris Groves, director of director of WKU’s Hoffman Environment Research Institute and the China Environmental Health Project; Hoffman Institute staff members Pat Kambesis, Lee Anne Bledsoe and Priscilla Baker; WKU students Chrissie Hollon and Erin Lynch; and WKU photojournalism faculty members James Kenney and Tim Broekema.

The sister park agreement was the subject of a story earlier this week on America.gov.

Source: WKU News

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Early human hunters had fewer meat-sharing rituals


A University of Arizona anthropologist has discovered that humans living at a Paleolithic cave site in central Israel between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago were as successful at big-game hunting as were later stone-age hunters at the site, but that the earlier humans shared meat differently.

"The Lower Paleolithic (earlier) hunters were skilled hunters of large game animals, as were Upper Paleolithic (later) humans at this site," UA anthropology professor Mary C. Stiner said.

"This might not seem like a big deal to the uninitiated, but there's a lot of speculation as to whether people of the late Lower Paleolithic were able to hunt at all, or whether they were reduced to just scavenging," Stiner said. "Evidence from Qesem Cave says that just like later Paleolithic humans, the earlier Paleolithic humans focused on harvesting large game. They were really at the top of the food chain."

The Qesem Cave people hunted cooperatively, then carried the highest quality body parts of their prey to the cave, where they cut the meat with stone blade cutting tools and cooked it with fire.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Underwater photography: Workshop for cave divers in France

The famous French caves Ressel and Landenouse will provide a demanding stage for two underwater photography-workshops.

J.-P. Bresser, a Dutch photographer and cave diver, invites fellow divers to join him from September 26 to 29, and from October 5 to 8, 2009 in the French Department Lot. The four-day workshop will be held in English and German. Topics covered will include dive planning, communication, and digital finishes on computers using Adobe Photoshop and other software.

Divers interested to participate need a full cave certification from an international recognized agency (such as NACD, NSS-CDS, GUE and IANTD) and proof of a valid dive accident insurance. The costs for the workshop is Euro 550 (approximately $793), plus flight, accommodation, and gases.

More info is available at jp@regel1.com



Monday, August 3, 2009

British potholers rescued from Spanish cave

The rescue in the Picos de Europa
The four cavers were brought to safety after spending Saturday night trapped in the Picos de Europa

A group of British potholers had to be rescued this Sunday after spending Saturday night trapped 100 metres below ground in the Picos de Europa. They were exploring the Asopladeru La Texa cave, on the south eastern face of Cabeza Muxa in Onís, Asturias, when flooding from heavy rainfall left them unable to find the guide rope which would lead them back to the surface.

The rescue team reached the first two members of the group at around 11am on Sunday, who EFE reports were then able to continue on to the surface themselves after being helped past the flooded area. Their team members, found further inside the cave some 20 minutes later, were exhausted and needed time to recover after being given food and drink before they could attempt the journey to safety.

It was the second rescue from the same cave in the space of a week, after another incident when two members of the British group were trapped for 3 hours after losing their guide rope. It’s understood there were no injuries suffered, except exhaustion, on either of the two occasions.

The group is reported by El Comercio Digital to have been carrying out a topographical survey of Asopladeru La Texa

Source: Typically Spanish

Is Bat White-Nose Syndrome An Emerging Fungal Pathogen?

Little brown bats in NY hibernation cave. Note that
most of the bats exhibit fungal growth on their muzzles.
Credit: Nancy Heaslip
An emerging fungal pathogen? New research provides even more evidence that a previously undescribed, cold-loving fungus is associated with white-nose syndrome, a condition linked to the deaths of up to 1,000,000 cave-hibernating bats in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. Since the winter of 2006-2007, bat populations plummeted from 80 to 97 percent at surveyed bat-hibernation caves, called hibernacula.

USGS microbiologist Dr. David Blehert and his colleagues identified the fungus last year, and have followed up by trying to determine if the fungus may be responsible for the deaths or if it is simply a side effect of another underlying disease.

The researchers found that 90 percent of all bats they examined from suspected WNS sites had a severe fungal skin infection that did not just occur on the skin, but below it as well. The growth temperature requirements of the fungus are consistent with the core temperatures of cave-hibernating bat species throughout temperate regions of the world.

Given the hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats found throughout the WNS-affected region, as well as the potential for the spread of this disease to other parts of the United States and Canada, white-nose syndrome represents an unprecedented threat to bats of the northeastern United States and potentially beyond.

This research was presented at the 58th annual meeting of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) held on August 2-7, 2009, in Blaine, Wash.

Source: Science Daily

Saturday, August 1, 2009

'Ebola Cousin' Marburg Virus Isolated From African Fruit Bats

A team of scientists have reported the successful isolation of genetically diverse Marburg viruses from a common species of African fruit bat (Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus). A paper published in the open-access science journal PLoS Pathogens provides new insight into the identity of the natural host of this deadly disease.

Infection with Marburg virus and the related Ebola virus can produce severe disease in people, with fever and bleeding. During outbreaks, as many as 90 percent of those infected have died. The natural reservoir for Marburg virus, and its cousin Ebola virus, has been the subject of much speculation and scientific investigation.

The study provides the strongest evidence to date of the species′ capacity to host Marburg virus. While previous investigations have found antibodies to Marburg virus and virus genetic fragments in bats, the recent study goes significantly further by isolating actual infectious virus directly from bat tissues in otherwise healthy-appearing bats. The new study shows unambiguously that this bat species can carry live Marburg virus. In addition, this study identifies a genetic link between the viruses carried in bats and the viruses found in sick workers in the mine colonized by the bats.

Genetic sequences of Marburg viruses obtained from the infected bats exhibit broad genetic diversity, suggesting that Marburg infection in Egyptian fruit bats is not a recent phenomenon. R. aegyptiacus isgenerally cave-dwelling and widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa.

Many caves and mines are inhabited by large populations of R. aegyptiacus. Caves, as popular tourist attractions, and active mines can invite potential close contact between bats and humans. By identifying the natural source of this virus, appropriate public health resources can be directed to prevent future outbreaks. Additionally, the study takes scientists one step closer to identifying the reservoir host for Ebola virus.

Source: Science Daily

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Speleologists from All Over the World Tour and Study National Park Caves

ICS participants enjoy a guided tour of
Slaughter Canyon (New) Cave
The 15th International Congress of Speleology, themed “Karst Horizons,” has been going on all week in Kerrsville, Texas, and will conclude Sunday. The Park Service not only co-sponsored this year’s meeting, but also offered visiting cave enthusiasts and scientists the option to participate in field camps and guided excursions in various NPS units with caves.

Sponsored by the International Union of Speleology, an organization with 62 member nations, the ICS is a once-every-four-years gathering that attracts people from all over the world who have a passionate interest in caves and karst landscapes. Scientists and other serious cave enthusiasts know that ICS programs and activities give them outstanding opportunities to learn more about caves and to swap stories and promote and share ideas about all aspects of cave research and enjoyment. There’s cave exploration, cave mapping, cave science, cave microbiology, cave management, caving equipment and techniques, cave diving, cave rescue, cave photography, caving sociology, and … well, you get the picture. If you want details, have a look at the master schedule for the 15th ICS.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Door to Hell – Burning Gas Crater in Darvaza, Turkmenistan

There are several places around the world that locals believe are a door to hell.

Endless catacombs beneath the city of Paris, France for example or Dimmuborgir  lava formations in Iceland. When it comes to sheer jaw-dropping effect, however, The Door to Hell by Darvaza in Turkmenistan takes the cake. I would also classify Darvaza as one of the places that should be on the must-visit list of every serious explorer who likes to visit Earth’s most breath-taking sites. Darvaza is a gas crater the burning gates of which have been flaming for upwards of 37 years.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The last supper of the hominids establishes the times they lived at the sites

This is the site of the entry of Arago's cave (in the circle)
in the south of France (near Perpiñán).

In the French cave of Arago, an international team of scientists has analyzed the dental wear of the fossils of herbivorous animals hunted by Homo heidelbergensis. It is the first time that an analytical method has allowed the establishment of the length of human occupations at archaeological sites. The key is the last food that these hominids consumed.

For many years, the mobility of the groups of hominids and how long they spent in caves or outdoors has been a subject of discussion among scientists. Now, an international team headed by researchers from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona has based its studies on the dental fossils of animals hunted by hominids in order to determine the vegetation in the environment and the way of life of Homo heidelbergensis.

Florent Rivals is the main author and a researcher from the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), attached to the IPHES in Tarragona. "For the first time, a method has been put forward which allows us to establish the relative length of the human occupations at archaeological sites as, up until now, it was difficult to ascertain the difference between, for example, a single long-term occupation and a succession of shorter seasonal occupations in the same place", he explained to SINC.

In the study, recently published in the Journal of Human Evolution, the researchers analyze the dental wear of the ungulates (herbivorous mammals) caused by microscopic particles of opaline silica in plants. These marks appear when eating takes place and erase the previous ones. This is why they are so useful.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fish on the menu of our ancestors

This is the lower mandible of the 40,000-year-old human
skeleton, found in the Tianyuan Cave near Beijing.
Analyses of collagen extracted from this bone prove that
this individual was a regular consumer of fish.

The isotopic analysis of a bone from one of the earliest modern humans in Asia, the 40,000 year old skeleton from Tianyuan Cave in the Zhoukoudian region of China (near Beijing), by an international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Washington University in Saint Louis has shown that this individual was a regular fish consumer (PNAS, 07.07.2009).

Freshwater fish are a major part of the diet of many peoples around the world, but it has been unclear when fish became a significant part of the year-round diet for early humans. Chemical analysis of the protein collagen, using ratios of the isotopes of nitrogen and sulphur in particular, can show whether such fish consumption was an occasional treat or part of the staple diet.

The isotopic analysis of the diet of one of the earliest modern humans in Asia, the 40,000 year old skeleton from Tianyuan Cave near Beijing, has shown that at least this individual was a regular fish consumer. Michael Richards of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explains "Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of the human and associated faunal remains indicate a diet high in animal protein, and the high nitrogen isotope values suggest the consumption of freshwater fish." To confirm this inference the researchers measured the sulphur isotope values of terrestrial and freshwater animals around the Zhoukoudian area and of the Tianyuan human.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bulgarian Speleologists Discover Unique Thracian Sanctuary

A Thracian cave sanctuary has been discovered in northern Bulgaria.
Speleologists from the city of Veliko Tarnovo have discovered an absolutely unique Thracian sanctuary in Northern Bulgaria.

The news has been announced by Evgeni Koev from the speleological club "Dervent" based in Veliko Tarnovo. The speleologists came across the Thracian sanctuaryseveral days ago as they were studying cavern objects along the Danube.

Koev has preferred not to reveal the exact location of the sanctuary, which in his words is similar to the so called "Womb Cave" near the southern city of Kardzhali. It includes tombs, niches, and an altar.

There also drawings of humans on the walls of the cave which look differently depending on the intensity of the sunlight falling on them.

Koev believes that the fact that the sanctuary is located in a very inaccessible area has saved it from treasure hunters; in his words, the complex is in an excellent condition.

Source: Novonite

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rare petroglyphs found in Cuban caves

Cuban archaeologists are studying the strange drawings found in caves in eastern Cuba, Prensa Latina reported.
The petroglyphs, discovered in the Sierra del Rosario reserve located in Pinar del Rio province, have now motivated large-scale research in the area to establish the origin of the asymmetric carvings in the stalagmites.

According to Cuba’s renowned historian Luis Formigo, the carvings were made by pre-tribal aboriginal people who also carved stone to make fire, track time and follow the course of events between the years 5,000 and 3,000 B.C.

The Cuban Anthropology Institute called the 2 cm X 7 cm discovery as extraordinary and linked it to the Banwari-Trace tradition of Trinidad, East Caribbean, leading cave stone carving sites in the area.

The discoveries include caves used for housing and others used for ceremonies, plus several others considered graveyards, Formigo said.

In La Lechuza, one of the largest caves, food remains, tools and pieces of human skeletons were also found.

Source: Tha Indian

Monday, June 22, 2009

Underground cave dating from the year 1 A.D. exposed in Jordan Valley


The cave was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and was one of its kind; various engravings were uncovered in the cave, including cross markings, and it is assumed that this could have been an early monastery.

An artificial underground cave, the largest in Israel, has been exposed in the Jordan Valley in the course of a survey carried out by the University of Haifa's Department of Archaeology. Prof. Adam Zertal, who headed the excavating team, reckons that this cave was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and was one of its kind. Various engravings were uncovered in the cave, including cross markings, and it is assumed that this could have been an early monastery. "It is probably the site of "Galgala" from the historical Madaba Map," Prof. Zertal says.

The enormous and striking cave covers an area of approximately 1 acre: it is some 100 meters long and about 40 meters wide. The cave is located 4 km north of Jericho. The cave, which is the largest excavated by man to be discovered in Israel, was exposed in the course of an archaeological survey that the University of Haifa has been carrying out since 1978.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Serrat and Carreras top the bill at the Nerja Cave Festival

The event celebrates its 50th edition this year

The Nerja Caves festival, held between July 21 and 27, reaches its 50th edition this year, and brings top headline stars to the dramatic underground stage.

Catalan singer songwriter, Joan Manuel Serrat, heads the festival with his show ‘100 por 100 Serrat’ on July 21.

Josep Carreras will bring his ‘Mediterranean Passion’ to the cave on July 23, when Italian songs dominate, but there is also space for Spanish Zarzuelaas. Carerras will be joined on stage by the Soprano, Ofelia Sala, and the Italian pianist Lorenzo Bavaj.

Flamenco lovers will be thrilled to hear the voice of the moment in the genre, Miguel Poveda, on July 22, who promises a wide range of musical styles including local malagueñas.

Stars and soloists from the Paris Opera Ballet also perform in the festival this year on the 24th and 25th of the month, and the event is closed on the 26th by the flamenco dancer, Sara Baras, who will perform a work in honour of Juana la Loca.

Ticket prices range between 50 and 60 € and are available only through the Nerja Cave office.

Source: Typically Spanish

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Abrupt Global Warming Could Shift Monsoon Patterns, Hurt Agriculture

At times in the distant past, an abrupt change in climate has been associated with a shift of seasonal monsoons to the south, a new study concludes, causing more rain to fall over the oceans than in the Earth's tropical regions, and leading to a dramatic drop in global vegetation growth.

If similar changes were to happen to the Earth's climate today as a result of global warming – as scientists believe is possible - this might lead to drier tropics, more wildfires and declines in agricultural production in some of the world's most heavily populated regions.

The findings were based on oxygen isotopes in air from ice cores, and supported by previously published data from ancient stalagmites found in caves. They will be published Friday in the journal Science by researchers from Oregon State University, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Desert Research Institute in Nevada. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

The data confirming these effects were unusually compelling, researchers said.

"Changes of this type have been theorized in climate models, but we've never before had detailed and precise data showing such a widespread impact of abrupt climate change," said Ed Brook, an OSU professor of geosciences. "We didn't really expect to find such large, fast environmental changes recorded by the whole atmosphere. The data are pretty hard to ignore."

The researchers used oxygen measurements, as recorded in air bubbles in ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland, to gauge the changes taking place in vegetation during the past 100,000 years. Increases or decreases in vegetation growth can be determined by measuring the ratio of two different oxygen isotopes in air.

They were also able to verify and confirm these measurements with data from studies of ancient stalagmites on the floors of caves in China, which can reveal rainfall levels over hundreds of thousands of years.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cantabrian Cornice in Spain Has Experienced Seven Cooling And Warming Phases Over Past 41,000 Years

The examination of the fossil remains of rodents
and insectivores from deposits in the cave of El Mirón,
Cantabria, has made it possible to determine
the climatic conditions of this region between the late
Pleistocene and the present day.
Credit: Gloria Cuenca-Bescós / SINC
The examination of the fossil remains of rodents and insectivores from deposits in the cave of El Mirón, Cantabria, has made it possible to determine the climatic conditions of this region between the late Pleistocene and the present day. In total, researchers have pinpointed seven periods of climatic change, with glacial cold dominating during some of them, and heat in others.

In 1996, an international team of scientists led by the University of Zaragoza (UNIZAR) started to carry out a paleontological survey in the cave of El Mirón. Since then they have focused on analysing the fossil remains of the bones and teeth of small vertebrates that lived in the Cantabrian region over the past 41,000 years, at the end of the Quaternary. The richness, great diversity and good conservation status of the fossils have enabled the researchers to carry out a paleoclimatic study, which has been published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

"We carried out every kind of statistical analysis over a six-month period at the University of New Mexico, analysing around 100,000 remains, of which 4,000 were specifically identified, and catalogued according to species and the number of individuals in each stratum", Gloria Cuenca-Bescós, lead author of the study and a researcher in the Paleontology Department of the UNIZAR's Institute for Scientific Research (IUCA), tells SINC.

The resulting study involves climatic inferences being drawn on the basis of the fossil associations of small mammals whose remains have been deposited in El Mirón over the past 41,000 years. The fossil associations of these mammals reveal the composition of fauna living around the cave at the time, and have made it possible to develop a paleoclimatological and paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the environment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Serrat to open 50th Nerja Caves Festival

Joan Manuel Serrat
The singer songwriter plays in Fuengirola on 10th July and the Caves on the 21st

The Nerja Caves Festival celebrates its 50th edition this summer, and it’s been confirmed that one of Spain’s top singer songwriters will be opening this year’s event. Joan Manuel Serrat will play at the Festival on Tuesday 21st July as part of his tour, ‘100x100 Serrat’. Prior to that, Serrat, now 65, plays another festival in Málaga: the 14th Festival Ciudad de Fuengirola in Sohail Castle on 10th July.

He’s in the mediaeval castle of Peralada, Gerona, for their international music festival on the 27th, La Opinión de Málaga reports.

Serrate is currently working on a new tribute record to the Orihuela poet, Miguel Hernández, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth. He made a previous recording of Hernández’s poems in 1972.




Source: Typically Spanish

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peruvian Stalagmites Hold Clues To Climate Change

How will the Netherlands, dominated by water, be affected by future climate change? Dutch researcher Martin van Breukelen hopes to answer that question by analyzing stalagmites from the South American Amazon tributaries in Peru as a way to reconstruct climate changes in the past.

Information that can be used to test climate models is stored in various forms: in ice formations, plant remnants, oceans and caves. Limestone formations in caves, so-called speleothemes, provide insights into the land climate. The best-known speleothemes are stalagmites, standing formations and stalactites, hanging formations. Van Breukelen discovered stalagmites in South America that provide information about the climate over the past 13,000 years.

In order to study climate change, Van Breukelen analyzed the accumulation of oxygen isotopes in both the cave water and the stalagmite. A small quantity of fossil cave water is enclosed in the core of the stalagmite, so-called fluid inclusions. The entrapped water is just as old as the carbonate of the stalagmite in which it is trapped. The isotope ratio of this fossil water can be measured using an extraction technique. As this water has been entrapped for thousands of years it provides unique information about the climatic history.

Much climate research on the land and sea is based on the measurement of subtle changes in the ratio between stable oxygen isotopes in, for example, ice or stone formations. Isotopes of an element can have different numbers of neutrons but always contain the same number of protons. Light isotopes (16O) respond differently to climate change than heavier isotopes (18O). Climate changes result in an altered ratio of the16O and 18O isotopes. The ratio of the different isotopic elements oxygen, carbon and hydrogen provides a lot of useful information about the climatic history. Van Breukelen uses this information to reconstruct the changes in temperature and precipitation.

Climate research reveals that even without human influence the Earth's climate was changeable in the past. To what extent humans have influenced climate change since the industrial revolution remains unclear. It should be remembered that studies into climatic history can provide insights into the natural behaviour of the climate in the past. Additionally current climate models can only be improved if more historical data become available so that the accuracy of these models can be tested. The research method used by Van Breukelen that examines stalagmites is vitally important for climate research. This method allows the accurate reconstruction of independent temperature changes and precipitation patterns from thousands of years ago.

Van Breukelen's research was funded by a grant from the NWO division WOTRO Science for Global Development. WOTRO focuses on funding innovative scientific research into development issues, especially sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

Source: Science Daily

Monday, May 11, 2009

5 speleologists from St. Petersburg were rescued in Crimea

Rescuers helped to get out a group of speleologists from St. Petersburg from a flooded cave in Crimea. QHA is informed about this by the press-cutting service of the Main Department of the Emergencies Ministry in the ARC.

As reported, ignoring the warning of possible elevation of water level a group of 5 people walked down to Red Caves.

Due to heavy rains the entry to the caves was flooded (he waterlevel rose about 1,5-2 m). As a result, 5 speleologists were blocked in this cave.

The Russian tourists were rescued by scuba divers one by one. 

Rescuers had to dive at a depth of two metres and into a corridor of 30 m long. The rescue operation started at 11.15 p.m. and it ended at 5.00 a.m. Altogether 6 rescuers and 8 employees of Qızıl-Qoba enterprise were involved in the operation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Caves Closed In U.S. To Slow Bat Disease Spread

Little brown bats with white-nose syndrome, New York.
Credit: Nancy Heaslip
Caves on state properties in a number of states will temporarily close as a precaution against the uncontrolled spread of white-nosed syndrome (WNS), which is killing bats in record numbers in the eastern United States.

There is no known human health risk associated with WNS in bats. While the actual cause of WNS is unknown, scientists are reasonably certain that WNS is transmitted from bat to bat. However, WNS has been found in caves a significant distance from WNS-affected hibernacula, leading scientists to suspect humans may inadvertently carry the fungus from cave to cave where bats hibernate.

"Although we have not seen this disease in Indiana, the responsible thing to do is close our caves to help slow expansion of WNS," said DNR director Robert E. Carter Jr. in announcing the decision. "Scientists need time to get a handle on the problem and solve it."

The voluntary action is effective May 1 and closes public access to all caves, sinkholes, tunnels and abandoned mines on DNR-owned land, except Twin Caves at Spring Mill State Park. Twin Caves is able to remain open because it is a water cave with controlled boat access only and the WNS fungus settles in soil.

The closure extends through April 2010 and follows similar steps taken elsewhere in response to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service advisory asking cavers to curtail cave activities in WNS-affected states and adjoining states. The Hoosier National Forest has closed all caves, as has Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

List of closed caves.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cave Activity Discouraged To Help Protect Bats From Deadly White-Nose Syndrome

White-nose syndrome, a wildlife crisis of unprecedented proportions, has killed hundreds of thousands of bats from Vermont to West Virginia and continues unchecked. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking those who use caves where bats hibernate - called hibernacula - to take extra precautions and to curtail activities to help prevent the spread of WNS.

There is no known human health risk associated with white-nose syndrome in bats. While the actual cause of WNS is unknown, scientists are reasonably certain that WNS is transmitted from bat-to-bat. However, WNS has been found in caves a significant distance from WNS-affected hibernacula, leading scientists to believe that something else is moving WNS.

"We suspect that white-nose syndrome may be transmitted by humans inadvertently carrying WNS from cave to cave where bats hibernate," said Northeast Regional Director Marvin Moriarty of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Service's cave advisory asks that cavers curtail all caving activity in WNS-affected states and adjoining states to protect bats from the spread of WNS. The advisory also asks that cavers beyond WNS-affected states and adjacent states use clothing and gear that has never been in affected and adjacent states. And finally, cavers everywhere should avoid caves and mines during the bat hibernation period (winter) to avoid disturbing bats.

In addition, federal and state scientists will evaluate all scientific activities in hibernacula for their potential to spread WNS, weighing potential benefits of the research against the risk to bats.

"We are working closely with state natural resource agencies, the caving community, conservation organizations and other federal agencies on this issue," Moriarty said. "We understand that following these recommendations will inconvenience recreational cavers, but we believe this is the most responsible course of action as we face this unknown threat to bats, which play an important role in our world."

Source: Science Daily

Friday, May 1, 2009

DNR closes caves to slow bat disease spread

Caves on state properties will temporarily close as a precaution against the uncontrolled spread of white-nosed syndrome (WNS), which is killing bats in record numbers in the eastern United States.

There is no known human health risk associated with WNS in bats. While the actual cause of WNS is unknown, scientists are reasonably certain that WNS is transmitted from bat to bat. However, WNS has been found in caves a significant distance from WNS-affected hibernacula, leading scientists to suspect humans may inadvertently carry the fungus from cave to cave where bats hibernate.

"Although we have not seen this disease in Indiana, the responsible thing to do is close our caves to help slow expansion of WNS," said DNR director Robert E. Carter Jr. in announcing the decision. "Scientists need time to get a handle on the problem and solve it."

The voluntary action is effective May 1 and closes public access to all caves, sinkholes, tunnels and abandoned mines on DNR-owned land, except Twin Caves at Spring Mill State Park. Twin Caves is able to remain open because it is a water cave with controlled boat access only and the WNS fungus settles in soil.

World's largest cave

British explorers have discovered what they claim is the world's largest cave passage, measuring 650-ft high and 500-ft wide, in Vietnamese jungle.

According to the British team, the Hang Son Doong is larger than the Deer Cave in Sarawak, Malaysia, which at more than 100 yards high and 90 yards wide is currently recognised as the world's largest cave passage.

"It is a truly amazing sized cave and one of the most significant discoveries by a British caving team. The complete survey is at present being drawn up but initial estimates show the main passage to be 200 metres (656 ft) high in places and possibly greater in some sections.

"Much of the passage width is over 100 metres (328 ft) but certain sections are over 150 metres wide (492 ft)," 'The Daily Telegraph' quoted Adam Spillane, a member of the 13-man expedition, as saying.

The British team, which has discovered the cave in mid -April with help from representatives of the Hanoi University of Science, is now in the UK to analyse its findings.

The team spent six hours trekking through the jungle to reach the cave. Climbing down into a large chamber, they had to negotiate two rivers before reaching the main passage of the Hang Son Doong.

Spillane said that the entrance to the cave was first found by a local man, Ho Khanh, in 1991. "Khanh has been a guide for the team in many expeditions to jungle to explore caves and this year he took a team to the cave which had never been entered before by anyone including local jungle men.

"This was because the entrance which is small by Vietnamese cave standards and emitted a frightful wind and noise which was due to a large underground river," he said.

Source: Zeenews

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cave rave teen killed by rock

Tragic ... cop guards caves after roof collapse
A schoolboy partying in a cave was crushed to death when a huge chunk of rock fell from the roof on to him.

Aiden Brookes had been celebrating the Easter holidays at a "cave rave" with pals — drinking beer and listening to music.

But the 16-year-old and about 20 other teens were asleep around their campfire when the heat and 7ft flames dislodged a suitcase-sized lump of sandstone.

The A-level student — whose mum gave birth to her second child last week — suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.

An 18-year-old girl called Jessie was also hurt, suffering back, neck and rib injuries.

The friends called 999 and desperately tried to revive Aiden, guided by the operator.

Paramedics scaled rocks to reach Hermitage Caves in Bridgnorth, Shrops, where they took over from the "traumatised" youngsters but were unable to save Aiden.

The historic caverns are a regular haunt for local teens despite being fenced off after they began crumbling.

There are also "Danger — Keep Out" signs.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ancient human unearthed in China

The remains include a lower jaw as well as leg bones
The remains of one of the earliest modern humans to inhabit eastern Asia have been unearthed in a cave in China.

The find could shed light on how our ancestors colonised the East, a movement that is only poorly understood by anthropologists.

Researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual at the Tianyuan Cave, near Beijing.

Details of the discovery appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Radiocarbon dates, obtained directly from the bones, show the person lived between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago.

"For this time period, which is critical for understanding the spread of modern humans around the world, we have two well-dated human fossils from eastern Asia," said co-author Professor Erik Trinkaus, from Washington University in St Louis, US.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cave Expedition sets off in Siberia

A scientific expedition is setting out to the mountains in Russia’s Siberia to explore the recent reports of Bigfoot sightings, Itar Tass reports Monday, March 23.

The two-day expedition will take scientists to the cave located 120 km off Tashtagol town in Kemerovo Region, where local hunters spotted huge human-like creatures.

“We intend to find certain proofs, study the landscape, and conclude whether Bigfoot {Snowmen} could live there,” Director of the International Center for Hominology, Igor Burtsev, told journalists ahead of the trip.

Burtsev, who has been looking for the relict hominid for over forty years, said he was sure that “Bigfoot were reality”.

The local administration has so far received 14 written reports from residents of far-off villages who allegedly saw Yetis near the Azasskaya cave. According to the reports, the creatures were heavyset, about two meters’ tall and looking a lot like bears. Their bodies were covered in red and black fur, and they could climb trees.

The cave that is to be examined during the expedition is several kilometers long, passing under a riverbed. Burtsev will be accompanied by ethnography professor Valery Kimeyev, representatives of local administration, and several of the hunters who reported the sightings.

Source: MOS-news

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

'Peking Man' older than thought

Original Peking Man fossils were lost in World War II
Iconic ancient human fossils from China are 200,000 years older than had previously been thought, a study shows.

The new dating analysis suggests the "Peking Man" fossils, unearthed in the caves of Zhoukoudian are some 750,000 years old.

The discovery should help define a more accurate timeline for early humans arriving in North-East Asia.

A US-Chinese team of researchers has published its findings in the prestigious journal Nature.

The cave system of Zhoukoudian, near Beijing, is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in the world.

Between 1921 and 1966, archaeologists working at the site unearthed tens of thousands of stone tools and hundreds of fragmentary remains from about 40 early humans.

Palaeontologists later assigned these members of the human lineage to the species Homo erectus.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Window Opens Into Moon's Past Volcanism

Lava tubes, underground cave-like channels through which lava once flowed, are commonly found on Earth. Scientists have debated whether these tubes could form on the Moon as well, but no studies have yet conclusively identified features that indicate the presence of lunar lava tubes.

Using images from the SELENE (also known as Kaguya) spacecraft's high-resolution cameras, Haruyama et al. have identified a vertical hole that they believe is a skylight in an intact lava tube. The hole is located in the Marius Hills region, a volcanic area on the Moon's nearside.

The authors find that the nearly circular hole is about 65 meters (213 feet) in diameter and about 80-88 m (262-289 ft) deep. They consider possible formation mechanisms and conclude that the skylight most likely formed when part of the lava tube roof collapsed. The authors believe that the discovery could have implications for studies of lunar volcanism.

In addition, because lava tubes are sheltered from the harsh environment on the Moon's surface, such tubes could one day be useful for lunar bases.

The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Source: Science Daily

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Exploring the Stone Age pantry

Julio Mercader at work in the Ngalue cave site, Mozambique

University of Calgary archaeologist unearths earliest evidence of modern humans using wild grains and tubers for food

The consumption of wild cereals among prehistoric hunters and gatherers appears to be far more ancient than previously thought, according to a University of Calgary archaeologist who has found the oldest example of extensive reliance on cereal and root staples in the diet of early Homo sapiens more than 100,000 years ago.

Julio Mercader, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Tropical Archaeology in the U of C's Department of Archaeology, recovered dozens of stone tools from a deep cave in Mozambique showing that wild sorghum, the ancestor of the chief cereal consumed today in sub-Saharan Africa for flours, breads, porridges and alcoholic beverages, was in Homo sapiens' pantry along with the African wine palm, the false banana, pigeon peas, wild oranges and the African "potato." This is the earliest direct evidence of humans using pre-domesticated cereals anywhere in the world. Mercader's findings are published in the December 18 issue of the prestigious research journal Science.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hells Bells Cenote

Located in the Yucatan Peninsula is a Cenote nicknamed Hells Bells.

The unique "bell shaped" stalactites make the dive unforgettable!

 Join Natalie Gibb from Diablo Divers along with Jeff Lindsay and Terry Irvine as they explore and video
"Hells Bells"

 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rock paintings reveal species that once roamed India

Sivatherium, a giraffe-like creature with two pairs of horns and extinct for 8,000 years, once roamed central and western India. So did the aardvark, an ant-eating creature now found only in Africa. The stunning finds have emerged from ancient rock paintings found along the Maharashtra-Madhya Pradesh border.

They have been hidden away for centuries in 18 rock shelter paintings near Amravati in Maharashtra and have been discovered by a group of amateur explorers in the past three years - the latest find was in June. And research into them is now proving eye-opening.

A six-member group headed by V.T. Ingole, who is otherwise the principal of an engineering college in Amravati, chanced upon the paintings after seven years of digging in the Morshi tehsil of Amravati district.

'This is only the second of its kind in the country and dates back to 15,000 years or the Upper Palaeolithic era,' an excited Ingole told IANS here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Consultation - EuroSpeleo Protection - Charta - 10 points

Dear Caving Friends,

The Cave Protection Commission (ECPC) of the European Federation (FSE) organises a wide consultation of every European caver in order to build the European Charta of reference for Cave and Karst Protection. It has been brepared by the 30 members of the ECPC coming from more than 15 European countries, under the supervision of the ECPC President ad interim, Ioana Meleg. For the other countries (cf. list in post-scriptum) or for already participating countries, if you are motivated to contribute to the ECPC work or simply receive the information of the commission, please send an email with your data to protection@eurospeleo.org

This charta is made for the European cavers and general public. It is not made to replace the International Guidelines for Cave and Karst Protection (65 pages) full document (3.5Mo) available on IUCN.

It is neither made to replace the national charta your federation might have, but rather to harmonise the existing national documents that all go in the same direction.

The aim is to get a short document in 10 points that fits in a half page and that all cavers can understand and make it their own.

So you can find here attached a version that is submitted to your remarks and observations. The file is also available on Eurospeleo.

You can make suggestions directly in the file, that is in correction mode, either on the content or on the used words.

Please send your remarks and modified files out of mailing-lists to protection@eurospeleo.org before the 18th of December 2009,

Thank you for your participation,

Best speleological regards,
Olivier Vidal
Secr. General FSE

Friday, November 27, 2009

Man dies after 28 hours stuck in cave

A US medical student has died after being stuck upside-down in a cave in Utah for more than 24 hours, officials said overnight.

John Jones, 26, was part of a group of 11 experienced cavers who set out to explore the Nutty Putty caves, around 100km south of Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah.

Nearly three hours after the group had entered the caves on Tuesday evening, Mr Jones became stuck in a feature inside Nutty Putty, known as Bob's Push, the Utah County sheriff's office said.

"This feature is very tightly confined, being about 45cm wide and 25cm high,'' the sheriff's office said.

"Jones was positioned with his head downhill and was unable to move further into the cave. He was also unable to move back up the Bob's Push area."

Nearly 100 rescuers using large amounts of technical and heavy rescue equipment worked around the clock to try to free Mr Jones, who was trapped 46m underground and 213m from the entrance of the cave.

At one point they freed Mr Jones, but a rope and pulley system failed and he became stuck a second time.

Jones's brother, Spencer Jones, said: "We all were very optimistic and hopeful. But it became increasingly clear last night after he got re-stuck that there weren't very many options left.

"We thought he was in the clear and then when we got the news that he had slipped again. That's when we started to get scared."

Mr Jones lost consciousness late Wednesday, 28 hours after being stuck in the cave. Crews are still trying to remove his body.

His death is the first known fatality at the cave, according to the sheriff's office. Nutty Putty is now closed until a decision can be made about its future.

Spencer Jones said the family of five boys and two girls was close, and his brother was a wonderful person.

"He would have done anything for you, so that's what makes it even harder. It's senseless," he said.

Mr Jones leaves behind a wife and 8-month-old daughter.

Source: Adelaide Now

Utah explorer dies in cave

A man stuck upside-down in a cave for more than a day died early Thursday, despite the efforts of dozens of rescuers, authorities said.

John Jones, 26, of Stansbury Park died about 12:30 a.m., nearly 28 hours after he became stuck 700 feet into the cave known as Nutty Putty, Utah County Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.

Rescuers were next to Jones for much of the day but he was wedged in a small hole too tightly to pull him out or even reach through to assist him, Cannon told The Associated Press.

"They were right there with him, checking his vital signs," Cannon said. "They were able to get close enough to verify that he was deceased."

Source: Orlando Sentinel

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To the Bat Cave: Researchers Reconstruct Evolution of Bat Migration With Aid of Mathematical Model

Evening or vesper bat (Vespertillo murinus).
Credit: Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell
Not just birds, but also a few species of bats face a long journey every year. Researchers at Princeton University in the U.S. and at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany studied the migratory behaviour of the largest extant family of bats, theVespertilionidae with the help of mathematical models. They discovered that the migration over short as well as long distances of various kinds of bats evolved independently within the family.

Most people know the term of "migrating bird" but "migrating bat" is not very established. However, some bat species migrate every year long or short distances. Whereas birds migrate to exploit seasonal food resources, the majority of bats migrate with the intention to find better hibernating conditions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Shangri-La" Caves Yield Treasures, Skeletons

Climber Renan Ozturk watches a local Tibetan look at
an illuminated manuscript found in 2008 in a cave in the
ancient kingdom of Mustang—today part of Nepal.
A treasure trove of Tibetan art and manuscripts uncovered in "sky high" Himalayan caves could be linked to the storybook paradise of Shangri-La, says the team that made the discovery.
The 15th-century religious texts and wall paintings were found in caves carved into sheer cliffs in the ancient kingdom of Mustang—today part of Nepal. (See pictures of the "Shangri-La" caves and their treasures.)

Few have been able to explore the mysterious caves, since Upper Mustang is a restricted area of Nepal that was long closed to outsiders. Today only a thousand foreigners a year are allowed into the region.

In 2007 a team co-led by U.S. researcher and Himalaya expert Broughton Coburn and veteran mountaineer Pete Athans scaled the crumbling cliffs on a mission to explore the human-made caves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cave study links climate change to California droughts

A cut in half stalagmite from McLean's Cave
(California) Photo: Isabel Montañez

California experienced centuries-long droughts in the past 20,000 years that coincided with the thawing of ice caps in the Arctic, according to a new study by UC Davis doctoral student Jessica Oster and geology professor Isabel Montañez.

The finding, which comes from analyzing stalagmites from Moaning Cavern in the central Sierra Nevada, was published online Nov. 5 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

The sometimes spectacular mineral formations in caves such as Moaning Cavern and Black Chasm build up over centuries as water drips from the cave roof. Those drops of water pick up trace chemicals in their path through air, soil and rocks, and deposit the chemicals in the stalagmite.

"They're like tree rings made out of rock," Montañez said. "These are the only climate records of this type for California for this period when past global warming was occurring."

At the end of the last ice age about 15,000 years ago, climate records from Greenland show a warm period called the Bolling-Allerod period. Oster and Montanez's results show that at the same time, California became much drier. Episodes of relative cooling in the Arctic records, including the Younger Dryas period 13,000 years ago, were accompanied by wetter periods in California.

Cave rescuers' grants enable HQ refit

Members of the CRO receive the cheque from the Freemasons
A £30,000 grant to a Yorkshire rescue team has enabled the completion of a major redevelopment at its base.

The Cave Rescue Organisation is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its formation in the Yorkshire Dales and its headquarters have been completely redesigned to enable it to operate more efficiently. The latest grant, from Freemasons in the area, added to the £80,000 already raised for the project at its Clapham base.

A cheque was handed over by members of the Wenning Lodge at Bentham, as part of a larger handout from lodges throughout the West Riding of Yorkshire, which used to include much of the Dales before its disappearance from the maps in 1974.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Exley: Life of a Cave-Diving Pioneer

Sheck Exley is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of cave diving. He began diving in 1965 at the age of 16. That very year he entered his first cave and was hooked on cave diving for the remaining 29 years of his life. At the age of 23, Exley was the first diver in the world to log over 1,000 cave dives. During his diving career, he made over 4,000 cave dives and did set numerous depth and cave penetration records.

Exley was also one of the first divers to introduce Trimix to cave diving. While early experiments using mixed gases in the U.S. had tragic outcomes (Exley's friend Louis Holtzendorf died on one such dive), Exley's deep dives at Nacimiento del Rio Mante, a Mexican cave or cenote, proved the usefulness of Trimix for cave diving. Not only could these mixtures allow a diver to go deeper without succumbing to narcosis or oxygen poisoning, but they also reduced the amount of time spent at decompression stops during the ascent. In March of 1989, he descended to a depth of 881 feet using Trimix, a world record at the time. He returned to the surface after 14 hours of decompression with no side effects.

In August of 1993, Exley reached 863 feet when he touched bottom in Bushmansgat (Bushman's Hole) in South Africa, but not before experiencing a serious case of high pressure nervous syndrome (HPNS) that included blurred vision and intense, uncontrollable tremors. He joined Jim Bowden in focusing his efforts on a cave known as Zacatón (aka Pit 6350) just north of Tampico, Mexico. The cave is known to be at least 1,080 feet deep. In September, Bowden dove to 774 feet, Ann Kristovich, the team physician, reached 541 feet during a dive, a new depth record for women. The previous record had been set at Rio Mante by Mary Ellen Eckoff, Exley's wife.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Many Mysteries of Neanderthals


Some Neanderthals may have had pale skin
and red hair similar to that of some modern humans.
CREDIT: Michael Hofreiter and Kurt Fiusterweier
We are currently the only human species alive, but as recently as maybe 24,000 years ago another one walked the earth — the Neanderthals.

These extinct humans were the closest relatives we had, and tantalizing new hints from researchers suggest that we might have been intimately close indeed. The mystery of whether Neanderthals and us had sex might possibly get solved if the entire Neanderthal genome is reported soon as expected. The matter of why they died and we succeeded, however, remains an open question.

Maybe not nasty and brutish, but still short



First recognized in the Neander Valley in Germany in 1856, Neanderthals revealed that modern humans possess a rich and complex family tree that includes now-extinct relatives.

Neanderthals — also called Neandertals, due to changes in German spelling over the years — had robust skeletons that gave them wide bodies and short limbs compared to us. This made them more like wrestlers, while modern humans in comparison are more like long-distance runners.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Masons' cash will help cave rescue team

A Yorkshire rescue team will receive a cash boost this week with the donation of £30,000 to help it carry out its work.

The Cave Rescue Organisation, based in the Yorkshire Dales, was chosen by freemasons to mark their charity’s 150th anniversary in the West Riding. The CRO, based in Clapham, although now in North Yorkshire, falls within the historic West Riding of Yorkshire.

The rescue team, which operates both above and below ground, is one of five organisations to benefit from grants from the masons and was nominated by the Wenning Lodge at Bentham, 7km (4½ miles) from the organisation’s base. The masons have chosen organisations within the West Riding to benefit donations, including a Calderdale search-and-rescue vehicle and projects to help sports facilities, young people and disabled students.

The CRO cash will go towards its building and educational project.

A spokesperson for the organisation said: “Despite its name, CRO provides a ‘safety net’ for visitors and local people alike, not just those engaged in active outdoor pursuits, but casual strollers, people missing from home – even stranded animals.”

The grant will help improve training facilities and provide safety education for young people, for both local youth groups and visiting school parties. Clapham has a local-authority-run outdoor education centre.

Members of the masons’ Wenning lodge learned of their successful application at a presentation dinner in September at the Royal Armouries in Leeds.

CRO chairman Jack Pickup said: “Our members often think that people see CRO only in terms of our claim to being the world’s first cave rescue team, but they underestimate people’s understanding of what we do.

“It is particularly gratifying that the masons, in common with several other community-based organisations and in celebrating 150 years of their own charitable works, should recognise the voluntary effort, made by CRO members for the benefit of the whole community, as we are in the run-up to our own 75th anniversary.”

In the last ten months, the Cave Rescue Organisation has helped 93 walkers, 34 cavers, four climbers, three mountain bikers, three people ‘at risk’ or missing from home, two canyoners, one fellrunner, one rock scrambler, three sheep and two dogs. The team also conducted a search of fields around a burned-out farm-house.

Source: Grough

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cave Diving Video: Reflections - Through a Mirror Darkly

Steve Bogaerts cave diving in sidemount tank configuration using the Razor Harness.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A 200,000-year-old cut of meat

This is a bone from the Qesem Cave in Israel showing irregular cutmarks.

Tel Aviv University archaeologists shed light on life, diet and society before the delicatessen

Contestants on TV shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen know that their meat-cutting skills will be scrutinized by a panel of unforgiving judges. Now, new archaeological evidence is getting the same scrutiny by scientists at Tel Aviv University and the University of Arizona.

Their research is providing new clues about how, where and when our communal habits of butchering meat developed, and they're changing the way anthropologists, zoologists and archaeologists think about our evolutionary development, economics and social behaviors through the millennia.

Presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, new finds unearthed at Qesem Cave in Israel suggest that during the late Lower Paleolithic period (between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago), people hunted and shared meat differently than they did in later times. Instead of a prey's carcass being prepared by just one or two persons resulting in clear and repeated cutting marks –– the forefathers of the modern butcher ― cut marks on ancient animal bones suggest something else.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Researchers Go Underground To Reveal 850 New Species In Australian Outback

Some of the 850 new species discovered in underground water,
caves and micro-caverns across outback Australia.
Australian researchers have discovered a huge number of new species of invertebrate animals living in underground water, caves and "micro-caverns" amid the harsh conditions of the Australian outback.

A national team of 18 researchers has discovered 850 new species of invertebrates, which include various insects, small crustaceans, spiders, worms and many others.

The team – led by Professor Andy Austin (University of Adelaide), Dr Steve Cooper (South Australian Museum) and Dr Bill Humphreys (Western Australian Museum) – has conducted a comprehensive four-year survey of underground water, caves and micro-caverns across arid and semi-arid Australia.

Researchers Go Underground To Reveal 850 New Species In Australian Outback

Some of the 850 new species discovered in underground
water, caves and micro-caverns across outback Australia
Australian researchers have discovered a huge number of new species of invertebrate animals living in underground water, caves and "micro-caverns" amid the harsh conditions of the Australian outback.


A national team of 18 researchers has discovered 850 new species of invertebrates, which include various insects, small crustaceans, spiders, worms and many others.

The team – led by Professor Andy Austin (University of Adelaide), Dr Steve Cooper (South Australian Museum) and Dr Bill Humphreys (Western Australian Museum) – has conducted a comprehensive four-year survey of underground water, caves and micro-caverns across arid and semi-arid Australia.

"What we've found is that you don't have to go searching in the depths of the ocean to discover new species of invertebrate animals – you just have to look in your own 'back yard'," says Professor Austin from the Australian Center for Evolutionary Biology & Biodiversity at the University of Adelaide.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Great Tits eat bats in times of need

Common pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) are eaten
in winter by great tits (Parus major).

During harsh winters, Great Tits extend their menu options to include bats.

Necessity is the mother of invention: Great Tits eat hibernating common pipistrelle bats under harsh conditions of snow cover. This remarkable newly-acquired behaviour was observed by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen and their colleagues in a cave in Hungary. When the researchers offered the birds alternative feed, they ate it and showed little or no interest in flying into the cave again. (Biology Letters, online prepublication from September 9, 2009).

Reports on the ingenuity of birds of the tit family in their search for food go as far back as the 1940s when it was observed that Blue Tits in the British Isles had learned how to open the aluminium tops of milk bottles left on doorsteps by milkmen to get at the cream that had formed on top of the milk. Another astonishing acquired behaviour among Great Tits (Parus major) has now been observed by the researchers working with Björn Siemers from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and their Hungarian colleagues. On 21 observation days over two winters, Great Tits flew a total of 18 times into a cave in north-east Hungary to look for and eat the Common Pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) hibernating there. The researchers explain this behaviour with the extreme necessity they faced in their search for food. Great Tits eat insects or arachnids in summer and usually look for seeds and berries in winter. Winters in north-east Hungary can be very harsh, however, with closed snow cover.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rincón Town Hall to expropriate the Cueva del Tesoro

The Sala de los Lagos in the Cueva del Tesoro
The only marine cave in Europe open to tourists is under private ownership

The Town Hall in Rincón de la Victoria has started the process to expropriate the town’s famous Cueva del Tesoro which, although managed by the council since 1991, Diario Sur reports, is in private ownership.

The Cueva del Tesoro is the only marine cave in Europe which is open to tourists and has been classified as a Cultural Asset since 1985. The Town Hall has a 30 year concession for its management, but now wants this natural monument to become municipal property.

There is however a vast difference in the three valuations of the 3,000 square metre area: the Laza family, which owns it, are asking 3.7 million €; a team of experts put its value at 350,000 €; and Town Hall technicians put its worth at a little below 100,000 €.

The Town Hall includes in its assessment the 11,500 € rent they must pay to the Laza family up until 2020 and the 24,000 € they have already spent on work to carry out improvements to the Cueva del Tesoro.

Source: Typically Spanish

Monday, September 21, 2009

In Memoriam: Maurizio Montalbini

Italian speleologist and sociologist Maurizio Montalbini
just after exiting the Grotta Fredda di Acquasanta cave
where he spent 236 days in total isolation, near Ascoli
Piceno, central Italy, Thursday, June 7, 2007
Maurizio Montalbini, who died on Saturday aged 56, was an Italian sociologist and part-time troglodyte who spent months at a time living in caves studying how the mind and body cope with total isolation; he held the world record for dwelling underground.

Since starting his experiments in the 1980s, Montalbini had spent a total of two years and eight months beneath the surface of the earth, according to a biography on his website.

In 1987 he claimed his first world record after spending 210 days alone in a cave in the Apennine mountains. A year later he led an international team of 14 cavers, including three women, to claim the world group record with an underground stay of 48 days.

During his endurance experiments Montalbini subsisted mostly on a high-calorie diet of powdered foods and pills similar to those used by astronauts on space flights. Scientists on the surface monitored him through instruments.

Montalbini's biography claimed his experiments were done in collaboration with Nasa and leading universities around the world. They yielded insights on the effects of long-term isolation, including weight loss, changes in the perception of time and in the sleep and menstrual cycles.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NOAA explorers Caves in Bermuda

The submerged entrance to Green Bay Cave (top center),
the longest known cave in Bermuda, is located at the end
of a small bay off Harrington Sound
The Green Bay Cave in Bermuda the longest known cave on the island and the target of a NOAA expedition running until September 30, 2009. Deep water marine caves represent one of the Earth's last largely unexplored frontiers of undiscovered fauna.

More than 150 limestone caves are known from the island of Bermuda, many of which have extensive, but relatively shallow submerged portions that connect to the sea via tidal springs along the coastline. These inland caves are inhabited by a number of diverse eyeless and colorless crustaceans and other invertebrates. Many of these organisms are “living fossils” and some are most closely related to deep-sea organisms, so a press release on NOAA’s ocean explorer website

The existence of ancient cave species and the fact that all known Bermuda caves were dry and air filled during Ice Age periods of lower sea level suggests that an alternate, now deep water cave habitat must have existed in Bermuda.

While previous investigations of marine caves have been limited to those within depths of up to 165 feet (50 meters), current research suggests that caves can occur at almost any depth within the sea. The geological history of Bermuda coupled with biological evidence indicates a strong possibility for the presence of deepwater caves near the island.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Archaeologists discover oldest-known fiber materials used by early humans

Flax fibers in microscopic soil samples (more than 34,000 years old)

A team of archaeologists and paleobiologists has discovered flax fibers that are more than 34,000 years old, making them the oldest fibers known to have been used by humans. The fibers, discovered during systematic excavations in a cave in the Republic of Georgia, are described in this week's issue of Science.

The flax, which would have been collected from the wild and not farmed, could have been used to make linen and thread, the researchers say. The cloth and thread would then have been used to fashion garments for warmth, sew leather pieces, make cloths, or tie together packs that might have aided the mobility of our ancient ancestors from one camp to another.

The excavation was jointly led by Ofer Bar-Yosef, George Grant MacCurdy and Janet G. B. MacCurdy Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, with Tengiz Meshveliani from the Georgian State Museum and Anna Belfer-Cohen from the Hebrew University. The microscopic research of the soil samples in which numerous flax fibers were discovered was done by Eliso Kvavadze of the Institute of Paleobiology, part of the National Museum of Georgia.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Largest-ever collection of coins from Bar-Kokhba revolt found

Coins that were found in the cave.
(Credit: Sasson Tiram)

The largest cache of rare coins ever found in a scientific excavation from the period of the Bar-Kokhba revolt of the Jews against the Romans has been discovered in a cave by researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University.

The coins were discovered in three batches in a deep cavern located in a nature reserve in the Judean hills. The treasure includes gold, silver and bronze coins, as well as some pottery and weapons.

The discovery was made in the framework of a comprehensive cave research and mapping project being carried out by Boaz Langford and Prof. Amos Frumkin of the Cave Research Unit in the Department of Geography at the Hebrew University, along with Dr. Boaz Zissu and Prof. Hanan Eshel of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, and with the support of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The some 120 coins were discovered within a cave that has a "hidden wing," the slippery and dangerous approach to which is possible only via a narrow opening discovered many years ago by Dr. Gideon Mann, a physician who is one of the early cave explorers in modern Israel. The opening led to a small chamber which in turn opens into a hall that served as a hiding place for the Jewish fighters of Bar-Kokhba.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Texas A&M-Galveston professor discovers new species of marine life

Two tiny worms much smaller than a rice grain and a strange crustacean that has no eyes and poisonous fangs are among several new species of marine life discovered in an underwater cave by a Texas A&M University at Galveston researcher, who has had one of the new species named after him.

Tom Iliffe, professor of marine biology and one of the world's foremost cave researchers, was part of an international team that discovered the new species in a mile-long underwater cave in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic off the coast of North Africa.

Their findings are published in the current issue of "Marine Biodversity." The research project was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Iliffe, along with researchers from Pennsylvania State University, the University of La Laguna in Spain and two German universities – the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover and the University of Hamburg – found the new species while exploring the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Species Of Crustacean Discovered Near Canary Islands

During a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel
de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube
on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, a team of scientists
and cave divers have discovered a previously unknown
species of crustacean, belonging to the remipede
genus Speleonectes.
During a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, a team of scientists and cave divers have discovered a previously unknown species of crustacean, belonging to the remipede genus Speleonectes.

They gracefully swim through the complete darkness of submarine caves, constantly on the lookout for prey. Instead of eyes, predatory crustaceans of the class Remipedia rely on long antennae which search the lightless void in all directions. Like some type of science fiction monster, their head is equipped with powerful prehensile limbs and poisonous fangs.

Accordingly, the translations of their Latin names sound menacing. There is the "Secret Club Bearer"(Cryptocorynetes) or the "Beautiful Hairy Sea Monster" (Kaloketos pilosus). The names of some genera were inspired by Japanese movie monsters, for example, the "Swimming Mothra” (Pleomothra), the "Strong Godzilla"(Godzillius robustus) or the "Gnome Godzilla" (Godzilliognomus).

During a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world’s longest submarine lava tube on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, an international team of scientists and cave divers have discovered a previously unknown species of crustacean, belonging to the remipede genus Speleonectes, and two new species of annelid worms of the class Polychaeta.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

IU discovers stone tools, rare animal bones -- clues to Caribbean's earliest inhabitants

Jessica Keller holds the primate skull found
in the Padre Nuestro Cavern.

A prehistoric water-filled cave in the Dominican Republic has become a "treasure trove" with the announcement by Indiana University archaeologists of the discovery of stone tools, a small primate skull in remarkable condition, and the claws, jawbone and other bones of several species of sloths.

The discoveries extend by thousands of years the scope of investigations led Charles Beeker, director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science Programs at IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, and his interdisciplinary team of collaborators. The researchers' focus has been on the era a mere 500 years ago when the Old World and New World first met after Christopher Columbus stepped ashore in the Caribbean -- and on scintillating pirate lore. This rare find is expected to give insights into the earliest inhabitants of the Greater Antilles and the animals they encountered.

"To be honest, I couldn't believe my eyes as I viewed each of these astonishing discoveries underwater," Beeker said. "The virtually intact extinct faunal skeletons really amazed me, but what may prove to be a fire pit from the first human occupation of the island just seems too good to be true. But now that the lithics (stone tools) are authenticated, I can't wait to direct another underwater expedition into what may prove to become one of the most important prehistoric sites in all the Caribbean."


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Utah salt caverns handy for energy storage

How's this for an energy trick?

A Utah company plans to use wind or solar power to pump hollowed-out salt caverns full of compressed air. Then, as daily demand for electricity peaks, the company would release the underground air to spin power-generating turbines.

That's just one way Salt Lake City-based Magnum Development plans to use a series of salt caverns near Delta in central Utah.

The caverns are primarily intended for storage of natural gas — as much as 45 billion cubic feet of gas. Gas producers need storage typically in summer when demand is low, so they can pull it out in winter when demand is high.

Magnum is collecting federal permits for its versatile "energy hub" and hopes to open the first cavern for business by 2012.

"It would be like a big storage battery for electricity," said Craig Broussard, a managing director for Magnum Development, a portfolio company of Houston-based private equity group Haddington Energy Partners III.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mammoth Cave National Park signs sister park agreement with Chinese site

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Patrick Reed (left) presents a commemorative plaque to Li Zhengping of Shilin Stone Forest in honor of the signing of a sister park agreement Aug. 13 in Shilin Stone Forest Scenic Area near Shilin, China. (Photo by Dr. Rickard Toomey)
Representatives of Mammoth Cave National Park, WKU and China’s Shilin Stone Forest participated in the signing of a sister park agreement Aug. 13 in Shilin Stone Forest Scenic Area near Shilin, China.

Mammoth Cave National Park Superintendent Patrick Reed and Li Zhengping, director of administration for the Stone Forest Scenic Area, signed the agreement. Also attending the ceremony were Dr. Rickard Toomey, director of the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning; Dr. Chris Groves, director of director of WKU’s Hoffman Environment Research Institute and the China Environmental Health Project; Hoffman Institute staff members Pat Kambesis, Lee Anne Bledsoe and Priscilla Baker; WKU students Chrissie Hollon and Erin Lynch; and WKU photojournalism faculty members James Kenney and Tim Broekema.

The sister park agreement was the subject of a story earlier this week on America.gov.

Source: WKU News

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Early human hunters had fewer meat-sharing rituals


A University of Arizona anthropologist has discovered that humans living at a Paleolithic cave site in central Israel between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago were as successful at big-game hunting as were later stone-age hunters at the site, but that the earlier humans shared meat differently.

"The Lower Paleolithic (earlier) hunters were skilled hunters of large game animals, as were Upper Paleolithic (later) humans at this site," UA anthropology professor Mary C. Stiner said.

"This might not seem like a big deal to the uninitiated, but there's a lot of speculation as to whether people of the late Lower Paleolithic were able to hunt at all, or whether they were reduced to just scavenging," Stiner said. "Evidence from Qesem Cave says that just like later Paleolithic humans, the earlier Paleolithic humans focused on harvesting large game. They were really at the top of the food chain."

The Qesem Cave people hunted cooperatively, then carried the highest quality body parts of their prey to the cave, where they cut the meat with stone blade cutting tools and cooked it with fire.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Underwater photography: Workshop for cave divers in France

The famous French caves Ressel and Landenouse will provide a demanding stage for two underwater photography-workshops.

J.-P. Bresser, a Dutch photographer and cave diver, invites fellow divers to join him from September 26 to 29, and from October 5 to 8, 2009 in the French Department Lot. The four-day workshop will be held in English and German. Topics covered will include dive planning, communication, and digital finishes on computers using Adobe Photoshop and other software.

Divers interested to participate need a full cave certification from an international recognized agency (such as NACD, NSS-CDS, GUE and IANTD) and proof of a valid dive accident insurance. The costs for the workshop is Euro 550 (approximately $793), plus flight, accommodation, and gases.

More info is available at jp@regel1.com



Monday, August 3, 2009

British potholers rescued from Spanish cave

The rescue in the Picos de Europa
The four cavers were brought to safety after spending Saturday night trapped in the Picos de Europa

A group of British potholers had to be rescued this Sunday after spending Saturday night trapped 100 metres below ground in the Picos de Europa. They were exploring the Asopladeru La Texa cave, on the south eastern face of Cabeza Muxa in Onís, Asturias, when flooding from heavy rainfall left them unable to find the guide rope which would lead them back to the surface.

The rescue team reached the first two members of the group at around 11am on Sunday, who EFE reports were then able to continue on to the surface themselves after being helped past the flooded area. Their team members, found further inside the cave some 20 minutes later, were exhausted and needed time to recover after being given food and drink before they could attempt the journey to safety.

It was the second rescue from the same cave in the space of a week, after another incident when two members of the British group were trapped for 3 hours after losing their guide rope. It’s understood there were no injuries suffered, except exhaustion, on either of the two occasions.

The group is reported by El Comercio Digital to have been carrying out a topographical survey of Asopladeru La Texa

Source: Typically Spanish

Is Bat White-Nose Syndrome An Emerging Fungal Pathogen?

Little brown bats in NY hibernation cave. Note that
most of the bats exhibit fungal growth on their muzzles.
Credit: Nancy Heaslip
An emerging fungal pathogen? New research provides even more evidence that a previously undescribed, cold-loving fungus is associated with white-nose syndrome, a condition linked to the deaths of up to 1,000,000 cave-hibernating bats in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. Since the winter of 2006-2007, bat populations plummeted from 80 to 97 percent at surveyed bat-hibernation caves, called hibernacula.

USGS microbiologist Dr. David Blehert and his colleagues identified the fungus last year, and have followed up by trying to determine if the fungus may be responsible for the deaths or if it is simply a side effect of another underlying disease.

The researchers found that 90 percent of all bats they examined from suspected WNS sites had a severe fungal skin infection that did not just occur on the skin, but below it as well. The growth temperature requirements of the fungus are consistent with the core temperatures of cave-hibernating bat species throughout temperate regions of the world.

Given the hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats found throughout the WNS-affected region, as well as the potential for the spread of this disease to other parts of the United States and Canada, white-nose syndrome represents an unprecedented threat to bats of the northeastern United States and potentially beyond.

This research was presented at the 58th annual meeting of the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) held on August 2-7, 2009, in Blaine, Wash.

Source: Science Daily

Saturday, August 1, 2009

'Ebola Cousin' Marburg Virus Isolated From African Fruit Bats

A team of scientists have reported the successful isolation of genetically diverse Marburg viruses from a common species of African fruit bat (Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus). A paper published in the open-access science journal PLoS Pathogens provides new insight into the identity of the natural host of this deadly disease.

Infection with Marburg virus and the related Ebola virus can produce severe disease in people, with fever and bleeding. During outbreaks, as many as 90 percent of those infected have died. The natural reservoir for Marburg virus, and its cousin Ebola virus, has been the subject of much speculation and scientific investigation.

The study provides the strongest evidence to date of the species′ capacity to host Marburg virus. While previous investigations have found antibodies to Marburg virus and virus genetic fragments in bats, the recent study goes significantly further by isolating actual infectious virus directly from bat tissues in otherwise healthy-appearing bats. The new study shows unambiguously that this bat species can carry live Marburg virus. In addition, this study identifies a genetic link between the viruses carried in bats and the viruses found in sick workers in the mine colonized by the bats.

Genetic sequences of Marburg viruses obtained from the infected bats exhibit broad genetic diversity, suggesting that Marburg infection in Egyptian fruit bats is not a recent phenomenon. R. aegyptiacus isgenerally cave-dwelling and widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa.

Many caves and mines are inhabited by large populations of R. aegyptiacus. Caves, as popular tourist attractions, and active mines can invite potential close contact between bats and humans. By identifying the natural source of this virus, appropriate public health resources can be directed to prevent future outbreaks. Additionally, the study takes scientists one step closer to identifying the reservoir host for Ebola virus.

Source: Science Daily

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Speleologists from All Over the World Tour and Study National Park Caves

ICS participants enjoy a guided tour of
Slaughter Canyon (New) Cave
The 15th International Congress of Speleology, themed “Karst Horizons,” has been going on all week in Kerrsville, Texas, and will conclude Sunday. The Park Service not only co-sponsored this year’s meeting, but also offered visiting cave enthusiasts and scientists the option to participate in field camps and guided excursions in various NPS units with caves.

Sponsored by the International Union of Speleology, an organization with 62 member nations, the ICS is a once-every-four-years gathering that attracts people from all over the world who have a passionate interest in caves and karst landscapes. Scientists and other serious cave enthusiasts know that ICS programs and activities give them outstanding opportunities to learn more about caves and to swap stories and promote and share ideas about all aspects of cave research and enjoyment. There’s cave exploration, cave mapping, cave science, cave microbiology, cave management, caving equipment and techniques, cave diving, cave rescue, cave photography, caving sociology, and … well, you get the picture. If you want details, have a look at the master schedule for the 15th ICS.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Door to Hell – Burning Gas Crater in Darvaza, Turkmenistan

There are several places around the world that locals believe are a door to hell.

Endless catacombs beneath the city of Paris, France for example or Dimmuborgir  lava formations in Iceland. When it comes to sheer jaw-dropping effect, however, The Door to Hell by Darvaza in Turkmenistan takes the cake. I would also classify Darvaza as one of the places that should be on the must-visit list of every serious explorer who likes to visit Earth’s most breath-taking sites. Darvaza is a gas crater the burning gates of which have been flaming for upwards of 37 years.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The last supper of the hominids establishes the times they lived at the sites

This is the site of the entry of Arago's cave (in the circle)
in the south of France (near Perpiñán).

In the French cave of Arago, an international team of scientists has analyzed the dental wear of the fossils of herbivorous animals hunted by Homo heidelbergensis. It is the first time that an analytical method has allowed the establishment of the length of human occupations at archaeological sites. The key is the last food that these hominids consumed.

For many years, the mobility of the groups of hominids and how long they spent in caves or outdoors has been a subject of discussion among scientists. Now, an international team headed by researchers from the Catalan Institute of Human Paleoecology and Social Evolution (IPHES) in Tarragona has based its studies on the dental fossils of animals hunted by hominids in order to determine the vegetation in the environment and the way of life of Homo heidelbergensis.

Florent Rivals is the main author and a researcher from the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), attached to the IPHES in Tarragona. "For the first time, a method has been put forward which allows us to establish the relative length of the human occupations at archaeological sites as, up until now, it was difficult to ascertain the difference between, for example, a single long-term occupation and a succession of shorter seasonal occupations in the same place", he explained to SINC.

In the study, recently published in the Journal of Human Evolution, the researchers analyze the dental wear of the ungulates (herbivorous mammals) caused by microscopic particles of opaline silica in plants. These marks appear when eating takes place and erase the previous ones. This is why they are so useful.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fish on the menu of our ancestors

This is the lower mandible of the 40,000-year-old human
skeleton, found in the Tianyuan Cave near Beijing.
Analyses of collagen extracted from this bone prove that
this individual was a regular consumer of fish.

The isotopic analysis of a bone from one of the earliest modern humans in Asia, the 40,000 year old skeleton from Tianyuan Cave in the Zhoukoudian region of China (near Beijing), by an international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and Washington University in Saint Louis has shown that this individual was a regular fish consumer (PNAS, 07.07.2009).

Freshwater fish are a major part of the diet of many peoples around the world, but it has been unclear when fish became a significant part of the year-round diet for early humans. Chemical analysis of the protein collagen, using ratios of the isotopes of nitrogen and sulphur in particular, can show whether such fish consumption was an occasional treat or part of the staple diet.

The isotopic analysis of the diet of one of the earliest modern humans in Asia, the 40,000 year old skeleton from Tianyuan Cave near Beijing, has shown that at least this individual was a regular fish consumer. Michael Richards of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology explains "Carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of the human and associated faunal remains indicate a diet high in animal protein, and the high nitrogen isotope values suggest the consumption of freshwater fish." To confirm this inference the researchers measured the sulphur isotope values of terrestrial and freshwater animals around the Zhoukoudian area and of the Tianyuan human.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bulgarian Speleologists Discover Unique Thracian Sanctuary

A Thracian cave sanctuary has been discovered in northern Bulgaria.
Speleologists from the city of Veliko Tarnovo have discovered an absolutely unique Thracian sanctuary in Northern Bulgaria.

The news has been announced by Evgeni Koev from the speleological club "Dervent" based in Veliko Tarnovo. The speleologists came across the Thracian sanctuaryseveral days ago as they were studying cavern objects along the Danube.

Koev has preferred not to reveal the exact location of the sanctuary, which in his words is similar to the so called "Womb Cave" near the southern city of Kardzhali. It includes tombs, niches, and an altar.

There also drawings of humans on the walls of the cave which look differently depending on the intensity of the sunlight falling on them.

Koev believes that the fact that the sanctuary is located in a very inaccessible area has saved it from treasure hunters; in his words, the complex is in an excellent condition.

Source: Novonite

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rare petroglyphs found in Cuban caves

Cuban archaeologists are studying the strange drawings found in caves in eastern Cuba, Prensa Latina reported.
The petroglyphs, discovered in the Sierra del Rosario reserve located in Pinar del Rio province, have now motivated large-scale research in the area to establish the origin of the asymmetric carvings in the stalagmites.

According to Cuba’s renowned historian Luis Formigo, the carvings were made by pre-tribal aboriginal people who also carved stone to make fire, track time and follow the course of events between the years 5,000 and 3,000 B.C.

The Cuban Anthropology Institute called the 2 cm X 7 cm discovery as extraordinary and linked it to the Banwari-Trace tradition of Trinidad, East Caribbean, leading cave stone carving sites in the area.

The discoveries include caves used for housing and others used for ceremonies, plus several others considered graveyards, Formigo said.

In La Lechuza, one of the largest caves, food remains, tools and pieces of human skeletons were also found.

Source: Tha Indian

Monday, June 22, 2009

Underground cave dating from the year 1 A.D. exposed in Jordan Valley


The cave was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and was one of its kind; various engravings were uncovered in the cave, including cross markings, and it is assumed that this could have been an early monastery.

An artificial underground cave, the largest in Israel, has been exposed in the Jordan Valley in the course of a survey carried out by the University of Haifa's Department of Archaeology. Prof. Adam Zertal, who headed the excavating team, reckons that this cave was originally a large quarry during the Roman and Byzantine era and was one of its kind. Various engravings were uncovered in the cave, including cross markings, and it is assumed that this could have been an early monastery. "It is probably the site of "Galgala" from the historical Madaba Map," Prof. Zertal says.

The enormous and striking cave covers an area of approximately 1 acre: it is some 100 meters long and about 40 meters wide. The cave is located 4 km north of Jericho. The cave, which is the largest excavated by man to be discovered in Israel, was exposed in the course of an archaeological survey that the University of Haifa has been carrying out since 1978.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Serrat and Carreras top the bill at the Nerja Cave Festival

The event celebrates its 50th edition this year

The Nerja Caves festival, held between July 21 and 27, reaches its 50th edition this year, and brings top headline stars to the dramatic underground stage.

Catalan singer songwriter, Joan Manuel Serrat, heads the festival with his show ‘100 por 100 Serrat’ on July 21.

Josep Carreras will bring his ‘Mediterranean Passion’ to the cave on July 23, when Italian songs dominate, but there is also space for Spanish Zarzuelaas. Carerras will be joined on stage by the Soprano, Ofelia Sala, and the Italian pianist Lorenzo Bavaj.

Flamenco lovers will be thrilled to hear the voice of the moment in the genre, Miguel Poveda, on July 22, who promises a wide range of musical styles including local malagueñas.

Stars and soloists from the Paris Opera Ballet also perform in the festival this year on the 24th and 25th of the month, and the event is closed on the 26th by the flamenco dancer, Sara Baras, who will perform a work in honour of Juana la Loca.

Ticket prices range between 50 and 60 € and are available only through the Nerja Cave office.

Source: Typically Spanish

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Abrupt Global Warming Could Shift Monsoon Patterns, Hurt Agriculture

At times in the distant past, an abrupt change in climate has been associated with a shift of seasonal monsoons to the south, a new study concludes, causing more rain to fall over the oceans than in the Earth's tropical regions, and leading to a dramatic drop in global vegetation growth.

If similar changes were to happen to the Earth's climate today as a result of global warming – as scientists believe is possible - this might lead to drier tropics, more wildfires and declines in agricultural production in some of the world's most heavily populated regions.

The findings were based on oxygen isotopes in air from ice cores, and supported by previously published data from ancient stalagmites found in caves. They will be published Friday in the journal Science by researchers from Oregon State University, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Desert Research Institute in Nevada. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.

The data confirming these effects were unusually compelling, researchers said.

"Changes of this type have been theorized in climate models, but we've never before had detailed and precise data showing such a widespread impact of abrupt climate change," said Ed Brook, an OSU professor of geosciences. "We didn't really expect to find such large, fast environmental changes recorded by the whole atmosphere. The data are pretty hard to ignore."

The researchers used oxygen measurements, as recorded in air bubbles in ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland, to gauge the changes taking place in vegetation during the past 100,000 years. Increases or decreases in vegetation growth can be determined by measuring the ratio of two different oxygen isotopes in air.

They were also able to verify and confirm these measurements with data from studies of ancient stalagmites on the floors of caves in China, which can reveal rainfall levels over hundreds of thousands of years.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cantabrian Cornice in Spain Has Experienced Seven Cooling And Warming Phases Over Past 41,000 Years

The examination of the fossil remains of rodents
and insectivores from deposits in the cave of El Mirón,
Cantabria, has made it possible to determine
the climatic conditions of this region between the late
Pleistocene and the present day.
Credit: Gloria Cuenca-Bescós / SINC
The examination of the fossil remains of rodents and insectivores from deposits in the cave of El Mirón, Cantabria, has made it possible to determine the climatic conditions of this region between the late Pleistocene and the present day. In total, researchers have pinpointed seven periods of climatic change, with glacial cold dominating during some of them, and heat in others.

In 1996, an international team of scientists led by the University of Zaragoza (UNIZAR) started to carry out a paleontological survey in the cave of El Mirón. Since then they have focused on analysing the fossil remains of the bones and teeth of small vertebrates that lived in the Cantabrian region over the past 41,000 years, at the end of the Quaternary. The richness, great diversity and good conservation status of the fossils have enabled the researchers to carry out a paleoclimatic study, which has been published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

"We carried out every kind of statistical analysis over a six-month period at the University of New Mexico, analysing around 100,000 remains, of which 4,000 were specifically identified, and catalogued according to species and the number of individuals in each stratum", Gloria Cuenca-Bescós, lead author of the study and a researcher in the Paleontology Department of the UNIZAR's Institute for Scientific Research (IUCA), tells SINC.

The resulting study involves climatic inferences being drawn on the basis of the fossil associations of small mammals whose remains have been deposited in El Mirón over the past 41,000 years. The fossil associations of these mammals reveal the composition of fauna living around the cave at the time, and have made it possible to develop a paleoclimatological and paleoenvironmental reconstruction of the environment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Serrat to open 50th Nerja Caves Festival

Joan Manuel Serrat
The singer songwriter plays in Fuengirola on 10th July and the Caves on the 21st

The Nerja Caves Festival celebrates its 50th edition this summer, and it’s been confirmed that one of Spain’s top singer songwriters will be opening this year’s event. Joan Manuel Serrat will play at the Festival on Tuesday 21st July as part of his tour, ‘100x100 Serrat’. Prior to that, Serrat, now 65, plays another festival in Málaga: the 14th Festival Ciudad de Fuengirola in Sohail Castle on 10th July.

He’s in the mediaeval castle of Peralada, Gerona, for their international music festival on the 27th, La Opinión de Málaga reports.

Serrate is currently working on a new tribute record to the Orihuela poet, Miguel Hernández, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the poet’s birth. He made a previous recording of Hernández’s poems in 1972.




Source: Typically Spanish

Friday, May 15, 2009

Peruvian Stalagmites Hold Clues To Climate Change

How will the Netherlands, dominated by water, be affected by future climate change? Dutch researcher Martin van Breukelen hopes to answer that question by analyzing stalagmites from the South American Amazon tributaries in Peru as a way to reconstruct climate changes in the past.

Information that can be used to test climate models is stored in various forms: in ice formations, plant remnants, oceans and caves. Limestone formations in caves, so-called speleothemes, provide insights into the land climate. The best-known speleothemes are stalagmites, standing formations and stalactites, hanging formations. Van Breukelen discovered stalagmites in South America that provide information about the climate over the past 13,000 years.

In order to study climate change, Van Breukelen analyzed the accumulation of oxygen isotopes in both the cave water and the stalagmite. A small quantity of fossil cave water is enclosed in the core of the stalagmite, so-called fluid inclusions. The entrapped water is just as old as the carbonate of the stalagmite in which it is trapped. The isotope ratio of this fossil water can be measured using an extraction technique. As this water has been entrapped for thousands of years it provides unique information about the climatic history.

Much climate research on the land and sea is based on the measurement of subtle changes in the ratio between stable oxygen isotopes in, for example, ice or stone formations. Isotopes of an element can have different numbers of neutrons but always contain the same number of protons. Light isotopes (16O) respond differently to climate change than heavier isotopes (18O). Climate changes result in an altered ratio of the16O and 18O isotopes. The ratio of the different isotopic elements oxygen, carbon and hydrogen provides a lot of useful information about the climatic history. Van Breukelen uses this information to reconstruct the changes in temperature and precipitation.

Climate research reveals that even without human influence the Earth's climate was changeable in the past. To what extent humans have influenced climate change since the industrial revolution remains unclear. It should be remembered that studies into climatic history can provide insights into the natural behaviour of the climate in the past. Additionally current climate models can only be improved if more historical data become available so that the accuracy of these models can be tested. The research method used by Van Breukelen that examines stalagmites is vitally important for climate research. This method allows the accurate reconstruction of independent temperature changes and precipitation patterns from thousands of years ago.

Van Breukelen's research was funded by a grant from the NWO division WOTRO Science for Global Development. WOTRO focuses on funding innovative scientific research into development issues, especially sustainable development and poverty alleviation.

Source: Science Daily

Monday, May 11, 2009

5 speleologists from St. Petersburg were rescued in Crimea

Rescuers helped to get out a group of speleologists from St. Petersburg from a flooded cave in Crimea. QHA is informed about this by the press-cutting service of the Main Department of the Emergencies Ministry in the ARC.

As reported, ignoring the warning of possible elevation of water level a group of 5 people walked down to Red Caves.

Due to heavy rains the entry to the caves was flooded (he waterlevel rose about 1,5-2 m). As a result, 5 speleologists were blocked in this cave.

The Russian tourists were rescued by scuba divers one by one. 

Rescuers had to dive at a depth of two metres and into a corridor of 30 m long. The rescue operation started at 11.15 p.m. and it ended at 5.00 a.m. Altogether 6 rescuers and 8 employees of Qızıl-Qoba enterprise were involved in the operation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Caves Closed In U.S. To Slow Bat Disease Spread

Little brown bats with white-nose syndrome, New York.
Credit: Nancy Heaslip
Caves on state properties in a number of states will temporarily close as a precaution against the uncontrolled spread of white-nosed syndrome (WNS), which is killing bats in record numbers in the eastern United States.

There is no known human health risk associated with WNS in bats. While the actual cause of WNS is unknown, scientists are reasonably certain that WNS is transmitted from bat to bat. However, WNS has been found in caves a significant distance from WNS-affected hibernacula, leading scientists to suspect humans may inadvertently carry the fungus from cave to cave where bats hibernate.

"Although we have not seen this disease in Indiana, the responsible thing to do is close our caves to help slow expansion of WNS," said DNR director Robert E. Carter Jr. in announcing the decision. "Scientists need time to get a handle on the problem and solve it."

The voluntary action is effective May 1 and closes public access to all caves, sinkholes, tunnels and abandoned mines on DNR-owned land, except Twin Caves at Spring Mill State Park. Twin Caves is able to remain open because it is a water cave with controlled boat access only and the WNS fungus settles in soil.

The closure extends through April 2010 and follows similar steps taken elsewhere in response to a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service advisory asking cavers to curtail cave activities in WNS-affected states and adjoining states. The Hoosier National Forest has closed all caves, as has Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

List of closed caves.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cave Activity Discouraged To Help Protect Bats From Deadly White-Nose Syndrome

White-nose syndrome, a wildlife crisis of unprecedented proportions, has killed hundreds of thousands of bats from Vermont to West Virginia and continues unchecked. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking those who use caves where bats hibernate - called hibernacula - to take extra precautions and to curtail activities to help prevent the spread of WNS.

There is no known human health risk associated with white-nose syndrome in bats. While the actual cause of WNS is unknown, scientists are reasonably certain that WNS is transmitted from bat-to-bat. However, WNS has been found in caves a significant distance from WNS-affected hibernacula, leading scientists to believe that something else is moving WNS.

"We suspect that white-nose syndrome may be transmitted by humans inadvertently carrying WNS from cave to cave where bats hibernate," said Northeast Regional Director Marvin Moriarty of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Service's cave advisory asks that cavers curtail all caving activity in WNS-affected states and adjoining states to protect bats from the spread of WNS. The advisory also asks that cavers beyond WNS-affected states and adjacent states use clothing and gear that has never been in affected and adjacent states. And finally, cavers everywhere should avoid caves and mines during the bat hibernation period (winter) to avoid disturbing bats.

In addition, federal and state scientists will evaluate all scientific activities in hibernacula for their potential to spread WNS, weighing potential benefits of the research against the risk to bats.

"We are working closely with state natural resource agencies, the caving community, conservation organizations and other federal agencies on this issue," Moriarty said. "We understand that following these recommendations will inconvenience recreational cavers, but we believe this is the most responsible course of action as we face this unknown threat to bats, which play an important role in our world."

Source: Science Daily

Friday, May 1, 2009

DNR closes caves to slow bat disease spread

Caves on state properties will temporarily close as a precaution against the uncontrolled spread of white-nosed syndrome (WNS), which is killing bats in record numbers in the eastern United States.

There is no known human health risk associated with WNS in bats. While the actual cause of WNS is unknown, scientists are reasonably certain that WNS is transmitted from bat to bat. However, WNS has been found in caves a significant distance from WNS-affected hibernacula, leading scientists to suspect humans may inadvertently carry the fungus from cave to cave where bats hibernate.

"Although we have not seen this disease in Indiana, the responsible thing to do is close our caves to help slow expansion of WNS," said DNR director Robert E. Carter Jr. in announcing the decision. "Scientists need time to get a handle on the problem and solve it."

The voluntary action is effective May 1 and closes public access to all caves, sinkholes, tunnels and abandoned mines on DNR-owned land, except Twin Caves at Spring Mill State Park. Twin Caves is able to remain open because it is a water cave with controlled boat access only and the WNS fungus settles in soil.

World's largest cave

British explorers have discovered what they claim is the world's largest cave passage, measuring 650-ft high and 500-ft wide, in Vietnamese jungle.

According to the British team, the Hang Son Doong is larger than the Deer Cave in Sarawak, Malaysia, which at more than 100 yards high and 90 yards wide is currently recognised as the world's largest cave passage.

"It is a truly amazing sized cave and one of the most significant discoveries by a British caving team. The complete survey is at present being drawn up but initial estimates show the main passage to be 200 metres (656 ft) high in places and possibly greater in some sections.

"Much of the passage width is over 100 metres (328 ft) but certain sections are over 150 metres wide (492 ft)," 'The Daily Telegraph' quoted Adam Spillane, a member of the 13-man expedition, as saying.

The British team, which has discovered the cave in mid -April with help from representatives of the Hanoi University of Science, is now in the UK to analyse its findings.

The team spent six hours trekking through the jungle to reach the cave. Climbing down into a large chamber, they had to negotiate two rivers before reaching the main passage of the Hang Son Doong.

Spillane said that the entrance to the cave was first found by a local man, Ho Khanh, in 1991. "Khanh has been a guide for the team in many expeditions to jungle to explore caves and this year he took a team to the cave which had never been entered before by anyone including local jungle men.

"This was because the entrance which is small by Vietnamese cave standards and emitted a frightful wind and noise which was due to a large underground river," he said.

Source: Zeenews

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cave rave teen killed by rock

Tragic ... cop guards caves after roof collapse
A schoolboy partying in a cave was crushed to death when a huge chunk of rock fell from the roof on to him.

Aiden Brookes had been celebrating the Easter holidays at a "cave rave" with pals — drinking beer and listening to music.

But the 16-year-old and about 20 other teens were asleep around their campfire when the heat and 7ft flames dislodged a suitcase-sized lump of sandstone.

The A-level student — whose mum gave birth to her second child last week — suffered a cardiac arrest and stopped breathing.

An 18-year-old girl called Jessie was also hurt, suffering back, neck and rib injuries.

The friends called 999 and desperately tried to revive Aiden, guided by the operator.

Paramedics scaled rocks to reach Hermitage Caves in Bridgnorth, Shrops, where they took over from the "traumatised" youngsters but were unable to save Aiden.

The historic caverns are a regular haunt for local teens despite being fenced off after they began crumbling.

There are also "Danger — Keep Out" signs.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ancient human unearthed in China

The remains include a lower jaw as well as leg bones
The remains of one of the earliest modern humans to inhabit eastern Asia have been unearthed in a cave in China.

The find could shed light on how our ancestors colonised the East, a movement that is only poorly understood by anthropologists.

Researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual at the Tianyuan Cave, near Beijing.

Details of the discovery appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Radiocarbon dates, obtained directly from the bones, show the person lived between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago.

"For this time period, which is critical for understanding the spread of modern humans around the world, we have two well-dated human fossils from eastern Asia," said co-author Professor Erik Trinkaus, from Washington University in St Louis, US.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cave Expedition sets off in Siberia

A scientific expedition is setting out to the mountains in Russia’s Siberia to explore the recent reports of Bigfoot sightings, Itar Tass reports Monday, March 23.

The two-day expedition will take scientists to the cave located 120 km off Tashtagol town in Kemerovo Region, where local hunters spotted huge human-like creatures.

“We intend to find certain proofs, study the landscape, and conclude whether Bigfoot {Snowmen} could live there,” Director of the International Center for Hominology, Igor Burtsev, told journalists ahead of the trip.

Burtsev, who has been looking for the relict hominid for over forty years, said he was sure that “Bigfoot were reality”.

The local administration has so far received 14 written reports from residents of far-off villages who allegedly saw Yetis near the Azasskaya cave. According to the reports, the creatures were heavyset, about two meters’ tall and looking a lot like bears. Their bodies were covered in red and black fur, and they could climb trees.

The cave that is to be examined during the expedition is several kilometers long, passing under a riverbed. Burtsev will be accompanied by ethnography professor Valery Kimeyev, representatives of local administration, and several of the hunters who reported the sightings.

Source: MOS-news

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

'Peking Man' older than thought

Original Peking Man fossils were lost in World War II
Iconic ancient human fossils from China are 200,000 years older than had previously been thought, a study shows.

The new dating analysis suggests the "Peking Man" fossils, unearthed in the caves of Zhoukoudian are some 750,000 years old.

The discovery should help define a more accurate timeline for early humans arriving in North-East Asia.

A US-Chinese team of researchers has published its findings in the prestigious journal Nature.

The cave system of Zhoukoudian, near Beijing, is one of the most important Palaeolithic sites in the world.

Between 1921 and 1966, archaeologists working at the site unearthed tens of thousands of stone tools and hundreds of fragmentary remains from about 40 early humans.

Palaeontologists later assigned these members of the human lineage to the species Homo erectus.