Saturday, December 31, 2011

Elkhead Wranglers build shelters for bats, learn about animal’s role in ecosystem

Seth Morgan, 16, a member of the Elkhead Wranglers 4-H club,
holds up a bat box he and other club members made Thursday.
The boxes have a narrow opening to keep predators out
and are lined with screen so the bats can crawl inside.
Photo by Bridget Manley.
Children and teens in the local Elkhead Wranglers 4-H club got the real scoop on bats recently, and it has more to do with crops and flowers than one might think.

Bats are pollinators, like bees and hummingbirds, said Jennifer Maiolo, parent of Derek Maiolo, the club’s president.

As they go from plant to plant, collecting tasty nectar or pollen, they cross-pollinate, which leads to heartier and healthier plants.

“It helps diversify plants and keeps a good healthy plant population, as well,” Maiolo said.

So, it makes sense that the club, which is largely comprised of children raising livestock for the Moffat County Fair, would take on a project designed to protect the furry, flying mammals.


If you are interested in building your own bat shelter, you should check out the woodworking plans website, where you can download over 20 different plans for bat shelters.

Free Ebook: Weather and its Effect on Caves: a Guide for Cavers

Caving is a popular sport and is enjoyed by people of all ages, many of whom undertake the activity without incident. However, unless properly prepared a caving trip can be risky.

An important part of this preparation should be consideration of the weather and its effect on the selected cave. 

Caves are often wild places and situated in areas that are subject to the vagaries of the weather. This publication aims to help the caver to ‘read the weather’ and to understand how it may affect caves. 

By making this an essential part of planning any caving trip, it is hoped that people will enjoy a trip free from incidents caused by rising water levels in caves.

Friday, December 30, 2011

4 gold prospectors, 1 rescuer die from suffocation in Vietnam cave

Four gold prospectors and a rescuer have died from suffocation in a cave in the northeastern province of Cao Bang, online newspaper Dan Tri reported.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of around 10 gold prospectors sneaked into a deep cave in a rural village with the hope of finding gold.

Trieu Chong Hin, Trieu Ton Phan, Trieu Van Chieu and Dang Van Tinh then suffocated and died at the cave’s bottom.

One day later, Trieu Van Dung, a local militiaman, also suffocated to death while making his way into the cave to rescue the victims.

Local authorities said rescuers could not go deep into the cave given the high levels of toxic substances in the air.

The bodies of the dead victims have yet to be recovered

World's rarest bat finds a place at San Diego Zoo park

Two Rodrigues fruit bats hang out at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Thirteen Rodrigues fruit bats are featured in a new exhibit at the Safari Park. One goal is to repair bats' reputation. 'There are a lot of myths about bats,' senior keeper Todd Ryan says.

Pteropus rodricensis was hanging upside down, doing some squeaking. That's mostly his daily routine, with occasional breaks to eat slices of fruit.

He's primarily a dusk-and-night mammal. That's when members of his species spread their wings in a 30-inch span for some low-level flying and maybe some ritualistic courting.

Field notes from the search for bat survivors

Wildlife biologists Ryan Smith and Joel Flewelling examine
a dead bat in an abandoned mine in Bethel on Monday,
Feb. 21, 2011. They failed to find any living bats in
the mine, which has been infected with white nose syndrome,
a fungus blamed for killing a million bats in the Northeast
We slip off our snowshoes outside the slit-like entrance of an abandoned mine in central Vermont. The sky is bright blue, and the snow sparkles, but the temperature hovers around 10 degrees.

State wildlife biologists Ryan Smith and Joel Flewelling and I don roomy Tyvek suits and chest waders. We slide into the mine and begin wading down a narrow tunnel in water that rises from our ankles to our calves.

It’s warm in here, so warm that our headlamps spotlight flitting mosquitoes and a daddy-longlegs moving slowly on the wall.

Nearby, Flewelling’s light illuminates a mummified bat, its tiny bones like toothpicks. Then, in the water underfoot we see small blobs of gray: the dead bodies of other bats. We try not to step on them, but it is hard to tell with all the water sloshing around.

The biologists have come here as part of ongoing survey of Vermont caves where tens of thousands of bats once spent the winter. Since 2008, their numbers have been decimated by white-nose syndrome — a cold-loving fungus that kills the bats in ways scientists still are trying to understand.

White-nose syndrome has wiped out bats with frightening speed. In 2008, the little brown bat was one of the commonest bats in the Northeast. In 2011, Vermont added the bat to the endangered species list, along with the northern long-eared and tri-colored bats.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cave-Dwelling Invertebrates Enjoy Exotic Cuisine

Jenolan caves
While the deep-sea may be the final frontier for marine biologists, caves remain one of the most elusive frontiers on (or rather, under) the land. Some caves extend dozens of miles below the ground in endless, sinuous networks all but cut off from the grassy hills and tree-lined horizons above. It’s not an easy environment to access and many explorers have perished attempting to map these subterranean labyrinths. Yet, for the last couple decades in particular, investigations keep finding astonishing communities of invertebrates inhabiting caves and existing nowhere else.

Nestled in Australia’s stunning Blue Mountain range is the 350 million year old Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve. Here, the base of the invertebrate community consists of decaying leaf litter. Historically, eucalyptus trees, which are native to the area, contributed most to the leaf litter pool. Over the years, introduced trees – like European sycamore brought in to stabilize steep, rocky slopes and North American Monterey pine planted for the timber industry – have naturalized around the cave opening.

To understand what effects the differences in leaf little composition have on cave communities, Hills and colleagues measured the rate of leaf litter decay and invertebrate diversity among the 3 leaf litter pools in “twilight” areas (i.e. nearer to cave openings) and “deep” areas (i.e. where the cave is always dark). The most rapidly decayed leaves were of the introduced Sycamore, which suggests their leaves release more carbon and nutrients into the cave ecosystem. Additionally, there was no difference in leaf decay rate between “twilight” and “deep” leaf litter, so it appears it doesn’t matter how close the litter is to above-ground features like light, rain and wind.

Caver has lucky escape after being trapped in Easegill cave

Kendal rescue team leader Eddie Harrison
A caver was lucky to escape with his life after a large boulder landed on his leg trapping him hundreds of metres underground.

The 39-year-old sustained serious leg injuries when a giant piece of rock slid onto him while he was potholing at Molluscan Hall, in the Easegill cave system that spans the valley between Leck and Casterton Fells.

It is understood the man was potholing with two other friends when the boulder fell on him, pinning him to the floor.

His friends reacted quickly and managed to manhandle the boulder off him.

Around 30 members of Clapham Cave Rescue, along with nine volunteers from Kendal Mountain Rescue Team and The Upper Wharfedale Cave Rescue Team, attended the incident at around 6pm on Christmas Day.

"It was a big boulder which pinned him momentarily," said Tom Redfern, team leader for the Clapham Cave Rescue Team.

"He was very fortunate his friends were able to assist him. Once he was freed he walked a little way out of the cave but his injuries got too painful."

He added boulders were natural hazards which potholers have to expect if they ventured into the underground labyrinths. Once members found the group they quickly gave the injured caver pain relief,splinted his leg and stretchered him to safety via County Pot.

Kendal Mountain Rescue then carried him across remote moorland to a land ambulance waiting at Bull Pot Farm, Casterton.

Team leader for the KMRT Eddie Harrison said it was a 'challenging' mission.

"Given the wet weather and how misty and boggy it was, plus the time of night - it was past midnight when we got home- it was quite a challenging rescue," said Mr Harrison.

"I understand they were experienced cavers and from what I can gather it was a very unfortunate accident.

"It could have been a different story if his friends were not there. It took us about an hour to get him over the moors."

The Easegill system, which is located on the Cumbria Lancashire border, is 66,000 metres long and has some very difficult sections.

Source: The West Morland Gazette

Nepal's Mustang Cave: Study leads to peculiar discovery

Nepali experts digging into the mysteries of the famous Mhebrak cave in Lower Mustang in western Nepal have unearthed new clues, which could potentially unravel a significant portion of human history dating back to 450 BC.

A team of experts including those from the Department of Archaeology (DoA), who have been studying two unique corpses recovered from Mhebrak cave complex in Muktinath Valley of Lower Mustang, say shocking features of the corpses are drawing them closer to discovery of a peculiar culture of the prehistoric age.

They say the corpses—proved to have been of a mother and an infant—dating back to 450 BC were recovered in a sleeping posture where the mother seems to have protected her infant in every possible way. Interestingly, the body of the infant was found all compact, with steady bones and joints that were not detached. Even a layer of thin skin covering the infant’s bones is still intact.

Finding of a human body as old as 2,600 years in such a peculiar condition, says Mohan Singh Lama, an excavation officer at the DoA, challenges the conventional wisdom surrounding mummification of a corpse.

Some parts of the mother’s body including limbs were also intact.

Sagada spelunkers explore, evaluate Kiangan cave for tourism development

Thirteen spelunkers from Sagada, Mt. Province assisted by ten local tour guides from this municipality recently explored and evaluated the Panaggawan Caves located at Barangay Bolog here for the purpose of evaluating it for tourist and adventure destination.

The cave exploration was led by George Dapliyan, president of the Sagada Environmental Guides Association (Sega), in effort to help Kiangan develop its tourism industry potentials as it has numerous man-made and natural scenic sites and wonders.

Sagada is known for its cool climate and caves, foremost of which is the popular Balangabang Cave, a major tourist destination.

The group came up with findings and recommendations for the information and guidance of the Kiangan Tourism Council as basis for any project or endeavor relative to it.

On the trail for trekking, the group found out that some portions of the foot trail have been eroded and have unstable soil hence the installation of railings on most part of the trail and bedding in of rocks/stones in slippery and unstable parts is necessary since the area is wet most of the year.

Simple signboards are also needed to guide visitors to the cave area.

For camping or accommodation, the group advised that the grassland surrounding the small cottages should be maintained so campers may put up their tents around since it is also an ideal setting for bonfire and that water supply, pit latrine, sheds and benches are needed around the campsite.

For the flora and fauna, they discovered that there are skin-irritating and poisonous species of plants and fruits found in the forest like the poison ivy so guides should advise guests about these and that a forest catalogue should be given to the guides on the indigenous species along the trail.

Generally, the caves are ideal for a two-day adventure spending overnight in the campsite and the labyrinth could be done during the first day and the Bat Cave could be explored in the second day.

The group also strongly recommends that trainings should be conducted on tour guiding, environmental awareness, first aid and cave geology to the tour guides. (Dan B. Codamon)

Source: Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 28, 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Divers to study Lake Goluboe

“Goluboe” lake. Photo: RIA Novosti
Russian and foreign divers are planning to study Lake Goluboe, the deepest lake in the Caucasus. They will take first dive early next year in search for underwater caves and artifacts. Experts believe that there could be many artifacts owing to the fact that the lake is located at the crossroads of history, and that its extraordinary nature has preserved them.

The lake is described as a sapphire in a ring of green trees. It is light blue, and the colour remains unchanged even in bad weather. According to a myth, the lake’s floor is covered by lasurite. The reason for this is that its water contains hydrogen sulphide, says the director of the “Goluboe Ozero” research centre, Igor Galaida.

“The temperature of the lake’s water is constant throughout the year. It’s 9 degrees Celsius, and the water does not freeze. The lake emits hydrogen sulphide gas time and again, especially from spring to autumn. During this period, water has a peculiar odor and taste. The presence of hydrogen sulphide gives the lake its extraordinary blue colour, and this is the reason why the lake is called “Goluboe”, or “Blue” in Russian. However, in Blakar language, it’s named “Odoriferous”, Igor Galaida says.

Critically endangered bats found close to track

The long-tailed bats, and their short-tailed cousins,
are the country's only native land mammals.
A colony of rare native bats has been discovered beside one of the most popular walking tracks in the country.

Department of Conservation rangers found the long-tailed bats near the Kepler Track Great Walk in Fiordland after automatic recording devices led them to just the second known colony of the creatures in the region.

DoC ranger Warren Simpson said 60 of the critically endangered bats had been observed, and the colony was believed to number around 100.

Long- and short-tailed bats are the country's only native land mammals, and both are critically endangered.

In mid-December, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic students recorded hundreds of bat passes on automated recording equipment in the Iris Burn Valley. The "bat boxes" picked up the animal's high-frequency echo-location calls.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Three teams rescue injured Christmas Day caver

The injured caver was stretchered to Bull Pot Farm
Three rescue teams spent much of Christmas Day underground helping a caver who was injured by a falling rock.

The Cave Rescue Organisation was alerted about 5.40pm yesterday, Sunday, when the 39-year-old man suffered a serious leg injury in the Ease Gill system, on the western fringe of the Yorkshire Dales.

The caver was hit by the falling boulder in Molluscan Hall and members of the Clapham-based rescue team called in help from the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association and Kendal Mountain Rescue Team.

Rescuers gave the man pain relief and splinted his leg before bringing him to the surface via County Pot, 10 hours after he went underground.

Members of the Kendal team stretchered the man, described as a 6ft-tall, heavy casualty, across wet and boggy ground to an ambulance waiting at Bull Pot Farm.

The injured caver was then taken to hospital and rescuers were back home around midnight. The rescue was the CRO’s 82nd of the year.

Bedanu Cave Recreational Park a potential site for tourism

In its untouched natural scenery, blessed with flora and lush vegetation in its surroundings, the Bedanu Cave Recreational Park may serve as another refreshing and potential site for tourism in the Sultanate, as it is strategically located in the glades of the Tutong District forest and bounded by a cascading water stream to form a panoramic view, ideal for all sorts of eco-friendly activities.

During a 45-minute expedition led by members of the Kiudang-Mungkom Village Consultative Council to the location yesterday, the cave was situated over a slightly elevated ground measuring 10-feet high, while the overall length and width were estimated to be 50 and 13-feet respectively.

Inside the cave is a pool that contains fresh water, influenced by the downstream of a nearby waterfall. When it rains, the cave will overflow and turn into a watercourse for the stream to surge towards the river's tributary.

The course of the expedition, which was made known through local printed media, websites and Facebook, was also joined by many youths, village residents and a group from the Embassy of Pakistan in Brunei Darussalam, which made up a total of 50 individuals altogether.

According to Awang Imran bin Hj Johari, Assistant Chairman of Kiudang-Mungkom Village Consultative Council, the expedition was among others, part of a leisure pursuit for students during the year-end holidays and to further promote the cave which has the potential to be an ideal venue for vacationers and sightseers alike, should developments occur to improve the area.

Source: BruDirect

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Public welcome to join cave exploration at Wasai Bedanu

One of the scenes at Wasai Bedanu
Recreational Park in Kg Kiudang
Mungkom, Tutong District.
Kiudang Mungkom Village Consultative Council is organising a cave exploration expedition at Wasai Bedanu Recreational Park on Sunday, December 25, and is welcoming everyone to join.

Wasai Bedanu is one of the attractions for Kg Kiudang Mungkom located in the Tutong District 38 kilometres from Bandar Seri Begawan.

Muhammad Amir Hj Umarali, a member of the Kg Kiudang Mungkom Village Consultative Council in his email to The Brunei Times, said the expedition which is the first of its kind is aimed at introducing Wasai Bedanu recreational park to the public.

Discovered by one of the villagers, Muhammad Amir said exploring the cave was one interesting and challenging experience. He added Wasai Bedanu is filled with forest treasures.

The expedition aimed at creating community awareness on the importance of loving the forest and its beauty and highlighting its importance for the future.

He said the expedition is open to all who are interested.

The expedition will give the opportunity for participants to witness for themselves the beauty, flora and fauna of Wasai Bedanu.

The meeting point for participants is at the Wasai Bedanu recreational park at 8am on Sunday. Before the expedition, a briefing will be held by the organiser.

Muhammad Amir added the expedition will be quite challenging and is a 25 to 30 minute walk to reach the cave.

Participants are advised to wear appropriate attire and to bring with them enough water. For further information, participants can contact the organisers at 8865925 or 4230352.

Source: The Brunei Times

Friday, December 23, 2011

Video: Gouffre Berger expedition by Petzl team

 "Immersion" - Into the footstaps of Fernand Petzl

Team Petzl retraces the steps of the first explorers (Joe Berger, Fernand Petzl, Jean Lavigne, Georges Garby, Pierre Chevalier...) into the first cave to surpass the magic depth of 1000 m.

Thanks to extraordinary images from the film "Siphon-1122" (directed by Georges Marry in 1962 and produced by Jack Lesage) you can relive the intensity of the first descent in this now well-known, must see cave.





You can read more about the trip and discover some amazing photoghraphs in our september blog post here.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bats Occupy Times Square! Bacardi and Bat Conservation International Celebrate “The Year of the Bat” with Times Square Billboard Ringing in the New Year


Bat Conservation International (BCI) is pleased to announce it has teamed up with Bacardi to launch a public service announcement for its 2012 International Year of the Bat campaign. The electronic billboard, which will display the video PSA in New York City’s Times Square, will celebrate bats of the world starting on December 31.

“What a great way to kick-off International Year of the Bat,” said Nina Fascione, Executive Director of Bat Conservation International. “We are grateful to Bacardi for this generous gift and we’re certainly excited to see what the coming year will bring.”

The 15-second spot, which describes the many environmental and economic benefits of bats, will run on the 20-foot CBS jumbotron located on 42nd street once each hour for 18 hours a day until the end of March.

“As part of our upcoming 150th anniversary celebration, Bacardi is proud to support Bat Conservation International in raising public awareness for bats,” said Robert Furniss-Roe, President of Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. “With one of the most recognizable logos in the world featuring a bat, Bacardi has believed in the power of bats for 150 years. We have a real respect for the environment and the world we live in and are thrilled to be a part of a campaign focusing on bats in such an important milestone year for the company and brand.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Family sues federal government over girl's death at ice caves

Grace Tam, of Marysville,
was killed by falling ice at the
Big Four Ice Caves in July 2010.
VERLOT -- Lawyers representing the family of a Marysville girl who was killed by a falling chunk of ice in 2010 near the Big Four Ice Caves have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the federal government.

Grace Tam, 11, died July 31, 2010, from internal injuries. She was struck by an "enormous, truck-sized piece of ice," as she stood more than a dozen feet from a cave, according to the lawsuit.

Her parents, John Tam and Tamami Okauchi, answered questions during a news conference about the lawsuit on Tuesday.

They said that signs in the area do not adequately warn families of the dangers from snow and ice. They said they have tried to share concerns with the U.S. Forest Service since Grace's death but their attempts to highlight problems were ignored. The suit does not indicate the damages being sought.

Forest Service officials weren't immediately available for comment on Tuesday, but in recent months they have described their efforts to address safety in the area.

The ice caves are one of the most popular hiking attractions in Snohomish County and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The trail leading to the caves has a gentle slope, and is advertised as being family-friendly and accessible for people with disabilities, said James McCormick, one of the family's attorneys with Tacoma-based law firm Messina Bulzomi Christensen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Neanderthals built homes with mammoth bones

The researchers believe that the Neanderthals both hunted
and killed the mammoths for meat before usingtheir bones
but also collected some of the bones from animals that
had died of natural causes. Photo: ALAMY
Neanderthals were not quite the primitive cavemen they are often portrayed to be – new research has revealed that they built homes out of mammoth bones.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 44,000 year old Neanderthal building that was constructed using the bones from mammoths.

The circular building, which was up to 26 feet across at its widest point, is believed to be earliest example of domestic dwelling built from bone.

Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago, were initially thought to have been relatively primitive nomads that lived in natural caves for shelter.

The new findings, however, suggest these ancient human ancestors had settled in areas to the degree that they built structures where they lived for extended periods of time.

Analysis by researchers from the Muséum National d'Histories Naturelle in Paris also found that many of the bones had been decorated with carvings and ochre pigments.

Scientists Find Microbes in Lava Tube Living in Conditions Like Those On Mars

Amy Smith and Radu Popa collect samples of ice
with basalt chips containing olivine from
a lava tube in Oregon's Cascade Mountains.
Photo by Jane Boone
A team of scientists from Oregon has collected microbes from ice within a lava tube in the Cascade Mountains and found that they thrive in cold, Mars-like conditions.
The microbes tolerate temperatures near freezing and low levels of oxygen, and they can grow in the absence of organic food. Under these conditions their metabolism is driven by the oxidation of iron from olivine, a common volcanic mineral found in the rocks of the lava tube. These factors make the microbes capable of living in the subsurface of Mars and other planetary bodies, the scientists say.

The findings, supported by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are detailed in the journal Astrobiology.

"This microbe is from one of the most common genera of bacteria on Earth," said Amy Smith, a doctoral student at Oregon State University and one of the authors of the study. "You can find its cousins in caves, on your skin, at the bottom of the ocean and just about anywhere. What is different, in this case, is its unique qualities that allow it to grow in Mars-like conditions."



Friday, December 16, 2011

Cheryl Messenger recognized for excellence in environmental education

Cheryl Messenger, standing at the mouth of
Mammoth Cave, received the NPS Freeman
Tilden Award in November 2011 recognizing her
as the top interpreter/educator in the Southeast
Region of the NPS.
Mammoth Cave's award winning environmental education program received further accolades in November when its leader, Cheryl Messenger, received the regional Freeman Tilden award, recognizing Messenger as the best interpreter in the Southeast Region of the National Park Service (NPS).

"I am not bragging when I say that Mammoth Cave's environmental education program is second to none," said Superintendent Patrick Reed. "Past honors seem to fuel Cheryl and her staff on to greater endeavors and deeper partnerships that bring unparalleled opportunities to teachers and students in south central Kentucky."

The Freeman Tilden Award is an annual award recognizing outstanding public contributions in interpretation and visitor services by a NPS employee. Freeman Tilden, who wrote The National Parks, What They Mean to You and Me and Interpreting Our Heritage, greatly influenced the development of NPS interpretation and education programs.

By partnering with Western Kentucky University Education Department (WKU), Messenger received a National Park Foundation grant to initiate the largest inquiry-based outdoor learning training for education majors in the country. Focusing on students who are about to become teachers, it demonstrates the advantages of using outdoor settings and inquiry-based learning techniques to teach critical thinking skills in both science and social science subjects. Since the grant began two years ago, 400 WKU students have been immersed in the overnight, in-park learning experience.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Experimental infection of bats with Geomyces destructans causes white-nose syndrome

White-nose syndrome (WNS) has caused recent catastrophic declines among multiple species of bats in eastern North America. The disease’s name derives from a visually apparent white growth of the newly discovered fungus Geomyces destructans on the skin (including the muzzle) of hibernating bats. Colonization of skin by this fungus is associated with characteristic cutaneous lesions that are the only consistent pathological finding related to WNS. However, the role of G. destructans in WNS remains controversial because evidence to implicate the fungus as the primary cause of this disease is lacking. The debate is fuelled, in part, by the assumption that fungal infections in mammals are most commonly associated with immune system dysfunction. Additionally, the recent discovery that G. destructans commonly colonizes the skin of bats of Europe, where no unusual bat mortality events have been reported, has generated further speculation that the fungus is an opportunistic pathogen and that other unidentified factors are the primary cause of WNS. Here we demonstrate that exposure of healthy little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) to pure cultures of G. destructans causes WNS. Live G. destructans was subsequently cultured from diseased bats, successfully fulfilling established criteria for the determination ofG. destructans as a primary pathogen. We also confirmed that WNS can be transmitted from infected bats to healthy bats through direct contact. Our results provide the first direct evidence that G. destructans is the causal agent of WNS and that the recent emergence of WNS in North America may represent translocation of the fungus to a region with a naive population of animals. Demonstration of causality is an instrumental step in elucidating the pathogenesis and epidemiology of WNS and in guiding management actions to preserve bat populations against the novel threat posed by this devastating infectious disease.

Experimental infection of bats with Geomyces destructans causes white-nose syndrome, Jeffrey M. Lorch,
Carol U. Meteyer, Melissa J. Behr, Justin G. Boyles, Paul M. Cryan, Alan C. Hicks,Anne E. Ballmann,
Jeremy T. H. Coleman, David N. Redell, DeeAnn M. Reeder & David S. Blehert
, Nature (480), 376–378 (15 December 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10590





Tourist dies in cave near Shillong

Ujjal Ghosh, 54, a Baranagar resident, collapsed and died while trying to cross a cave in Meghalaya’s Cherrapunji on Wednesday. Ghosh had gone with a group from the city. “We have informed his family about the death. They are expected to arrive soon,” said a police officer in Shillong.

Suicide bid: Sulekha Singh, a Class IX student of a central Calcutta school, jumped from the first floor of a building on Eden Hospital Road on Wednesday afternoon after an altercation with her parents over her exam results. She was admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with an ankle fracture.

Death: Neville de Noronha, former principal of Nopany Vidyalaya and winner of The Telegraph School Awards, died in Bangalore at 4.30pm on Monday. He had been hospitalised after suffering a stroke on December 9.

Cuba: Speleological Finding in La Gegira, Gibara

The vice president of the Karst Speleological Group from the eastern province of Holguin , Jose Pino, heard of a peculiar natural pit in La Gegira, in the municipality of Gibara, from a friend that lives in Tierra Buena, a town in the nearby area.

As soon as he knew about it he got in touch with Arturo Rojas, the head of a team of speleologists and divers from the Speleological Committee of the province. By the end of November, a preliminary cartographic research had shown no known cavities or signals of it in the area suggested.

Then, Arturo summoned his team and by December 4 the "whole group", including Pavel Gonzalez, Walmer Perez, Celso Perez, Maikel Cordova, Yordanis de la Cruz, Osmel Silva and Orlay Leyva, were in the area.

"Very soon we walked into the woods to the get to the Poza de Martin, as it is called by the locals. We explored it and found nothing interesting. Hopeless, as we were getting ready to return, our guide Domingo Paz said that there was another similar opening in the ground about 50 meters from that place. We were already there so we decided to take a look".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stink? Neanderthal Noses Didn't Notice

A Neanderthal model at
Zagros Paleolithic Museum, Kermanshah
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Compared to Neanderthals, modern humans have a better sense of smell.

Differences in the temporal lobes and olfactory bulbs also suggest a combined use of brain functions related to cognition and olfaction.

The increase of brain size is intimately linked to the evolution of humanity. Two different human species, Neanderthals and modern humans, have independently evolved brains of roughly the same size but with differing shapes. This could indicate a difference in the underlying brain organization.

In a study published this week by Nature Communications, led by Markus Bastir and Antonio Rosas, of the Spanish Natural Science Museum (CSIC), high-tech medical imaging techniques were used to access internal structures of fossil human skulls. The researchers used sophisticated 3D methods to quantify the shape of the basal brain as reflected in the morphology of the skeletal cranial base. Their findings reveal that the human temporal lobes, involved in language, memory and social functions as well as the olfactory bulbs are relatively larger in Homo sapiens than in Neanderthals. "The structures which receive olfactory input are approximately 12% larger in modern humans than in Neanderthals", the authors explain.

This image shows the shape differences in the brains of an adult Homo sapiens (blue) and an adult Neanderthal (red).
Credit: MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology/Phillip Gunz

Man rescued after falling into cave

A Boise man remains in fair condition after he fell into a cave near Tipanuk on Tuesday.Jordan Jones and a friend were on their lunch break when they decided to stop by the cave, located just off the Old Oregon Trail Highway near Tipanuk, said Steve Raber from the Elmore County Search and Rescue team.

"They were simply curious" and went to take a look in the cave, Raber said.

As he was climbing out, Jones apparently lost his footing on an icy patch of rock and fell nearly 25 feet back down into the cave, said Alan Roberts from the Mountain Home extrication team. Jones, who stands near six and a half feet and weighs nearly 300 pounds, fractured a leg bone just above his ankle from the force of the impact.

Bulging Brain Structures Separate Us from Neanderthals

Modern humans possess brain structures larger than their Neanderthal counterparts, suggesting we are distinguished from them by different mental capacities, scientists find.

We are currently the only extant human lineage, but Neanderthals, our closest-known evolutionary relatives, still walked the Earth as recently as maybe 24,000 years ago. Neanderthals were close enough to the modern human lineage to interbreed, calling into question how different they really were from us and whether they comprise a different species.

To find out more, researchers used CT scanners to map the interiors of five Neanderthal skulls as well as four fossil and 75 contemporary human skulls to determine the shapes of their brains in 3D. Like modern humans, Neanderthals had larger brains than both our living ape relatives and other extinct human lineages.

The investigators discovered modern humans possess larger olfactory bulbs at the base of their brains. This area is linked primarily with smell, but also with other key mental functions such as memory and learning — central olfactory brain circuitry is physically very close to structures related to memory.

Ebook: Tech Diving Mag n° 5 out now

The fifth issue of Tech Diving Mag is available for download at http://www.techdivingmag.com/

Tech Diving Mag - issue 5


Content:
  • The use of trial exhibits by expert witnesses in litigation
  • VPM-B Variations: /E, /GFS and /U
  • Liquids as a hole: nucleation in diving
  • Polish CCR
  • Decompression calculations for trimix dives with pc software
  • Diving Pioneers & Innovators: A Series of In Depth Interviews (Howard Hall)


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bats won't halt rail plans

The threat of bats in a railway tunnel near Wolvercote holding up a new Rail service from Oxford to London Marylebone looks to have been lifted.

Chiltern Railways and Natural England have told the Government they are close to solving the bat problem to get the £130m scheme back on track.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening last month revealed the risk to bats and great crested newts presented a major obstacle to Evergreen 3’s scheme to create a fast Oxford-Bicester-London service.

Chiltern Railways and Natural England were given until today to set out measures to resolve the problem, that had resulted in the scheme being denied approval by a planning inspector.

The rail company and environment group told the Oxford Mail they had met the deadline with new proposals submitted to the Government, although the details have not been made public.

Video: Karst Topography


Karst Topography is a 17:30 minute long educational presentation on the unique environmental issues of karst limestone regions, polluted rain runoff, and the fragility of cave ecosystems.

Produced by Dr. Albert Ogden at Middle Tennessee State University.

Karst Topography was awarded Best of Show by the National Speleological Society.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Cave spider Meta Menardi elected to be next European Spider of the Year

Dear friends,

2012 will be the year of the first European cave animal.

The European Society of Archnology elected the cave spider Meta Menardi to the next European Spider of the Year. Meta Menardi was suggested by the German Speleological Federation VdHK.

Since 2009 VdHK promotes the German cave animal of the year with great success and recommends publicity to protect subterranean biodiversity with this very easy tool. All we do is a homepage (www.hoehlentier.de) with download material as flyer, poster and press release. VdHK offers posters and flyers to members and showcaves.

Print media follow the idea "nature of the year" and pick information from the internet. Today you can find the German cave animal of the year not only in newspapers and magazines but also in school material and calendars.

It would be great if other speleo federations join this project, it is less work and good outcome.

VdHK will be pleased to assist (you could use our texts, layout etc.)

The European Society of Archnology present Meta Menardi in several languages.

http://www.european-arachnology.org/esy/esy12/english.shtml

You may contact the national arachnology organisation in your country aswell.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch,

hope to hear from you soon

with German underground regards

happy holiday and a good speleo 2012

Baerbel


Baerbel Vogel President German Speleological Federation Verband der deutschen Höhlen- und Karstforscher e.V. www.vdhk.de www.hoehlentier.de www.karstinstitut.org Graßlergasse 24 D - 83486 Ramsau ++49-(0)8657-98b.w.vogel@gmx.de 

Mammoth Cave is one of Kentucky’s greenest fleets

Mammoth Cave NP Safety Officer Mark Rich holds awards
the park received for being a pioneer in using alternative
fuels in its vehicle fleet.
On December 7, the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition named Mammoth Cave National Park one of the commonwealth's greenest vehicle fleets and a pioneer in alternative fuels.

Mammoth Cave received one of twelve Pioneer Fleets of the Green Fleets of the Bluegrass Program awards at the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition winter meeting at Bernheim Forest. Each "pioneer" is working to improve the environmental performance of their vehicle fleets by reducing petroleum fuel use.

Mammoth Cave National Park is a Pioneer Member of the Green Fleets of the Bluegrass program. Mammoth Cave is the first national park in the country to utilize 100 percent alternative fuels and advanced technologies in their fleet. Biodiesel is used with all heavy duty equipment, including the Green River ferry boats. Low speed electric vehicles are utilized by campground staff, and all cave tour buses use propane. More than 90 percent of the vehicles used by Mammoth Cave run on either E10 or E85. The park partners with concessionaire Forever Resorts to enable both park and hotel vehicles to share the park's refueling station. Mammoth Cave is a member of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition.

The other recipients of the Pioneer Fleets award:
Breathitt County Board of Education; Jefferson County Public Schools; Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection; Kentucky Division of Fleet Management; Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government; Louisville Regional Airport Authority; Mercer Transportation Company; Murray State University; Transit Authority of River City UPS Waste Management of Kentucky.

Did You Know?
In 1841, cave owner Dr. John Croghan believed the cave air might cure his patients suffering from tuberculosis. He brought 16 patients into Mammoth Cave that winter and housed them in stone and wood huts. After some perished, they left the cave, for of course the cave air offered no cure.

Source: Mammoth Cave National Park

Bats Died in Bulgarian Cave over 'Expendables 2' Filming

The Devetashka cave is considered to be one of the
most important natural habitats of bats in Europe.
Photo by evgenidinev.com
The bats inside Bulgarian Devetashka cave, a key spot for spending the winter season, have come out of hibernation much earlier than usual and it is unclear how many will survive until spring.

The conclusion was made by the Center for Bat Studies and Protection after a check of the cave.

Experts, cited by the TV channel bTV, say that all colonies are active at times they must be in hibernation over the noise and being disturbed during the recent filmingof Hollywood blockbuster "Expendables 2."

Several dead bats have been found inside the cave and the cause is in the process of being established.

The probe also revealed numerous tire marks, even in protected areas.

The environmentalists conclude the filming had been in violation of the law since under current legislation the cave can be used only for tourism and scientific research.

At the end of December, Nikolay Simov, a Bulgarian zoologist from the Center for Bat Studies and Protection at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, reported that the bat population in the Devetashka Cave has been reduced to 1/4, after the shooting of the movie.

"The shooting harms the bat habitat - with the placement of props, the cutting down of vegetation, as well as disturbance by the presence of large numbers of people and the noise they make," said Simov, pointing out the special check conducted after the session showed that at present there are some 8,000 inDevetashka Cave, while last year they were 30 000.

"What is even more alarming for us is that the legal regulations were not respected. The regional environmental inspectorate has no authority to give a permit for filmingin this protected area," the expert explained.

Simov added that the shooting was also in breach of the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats.

Earlier in November environmentalists protested against the planned filming of "Expendables 2" in the cave, saying this will disturb and chase away the animals.

The coming of an all-star team, including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, and others, has been a media sensation in Bulgaria.

At the same time, the Devetashka Cave in central northern Bulgaria, LovechRegion, is considered one of the most important bat habitats in Europe.

Source: Novinite

Sunday, December 11, 2011

3D-printed spider robot skitters where humans can't

Roboticists from German research group Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have used a 3D printing process to create a terrifying spider-like octoped that skitters over hurdles and jumps over gaps.

It's intended to get where humans can't -- especially in natural catastrophes and industrial accidents. By using its itty-bitty frame, agile legs and keen jumping ability, the spider takes obstacles like chemical spills and tight gaps in its eight-legged stride.

Just like a real arachnid, the robot keeps four legs on the ground at all time, while the other four move to ready themselves for the next step. This allows the articulate critter to confidently step over unstable ground without toppling over.

Some models can even jump into the air. This is thanks to the hydraulically operated bellows drives in the robot's legs -- by shooting fluid into its limbs the spider's legs can extend with a jolt to propel it upwards.

The control unit, valves and compressor pump are all nestled inside the creature's body. The robot spider can also carry measuring devices, sensors and a camera, depending on the task at hand.

The best bit about this arachnobot is how easy and cheap it is to produce. By using typical 3D printing processes (selective laser sintering, to be specific) a fine polyamide powder is turned into thin layers which are then melted together with a laser beam.

Plus, by making a few tweaks to the algorithm the end result can be altered. For example, spiders can be produced with infinitely variable load-bearing abilities in their legs. Because the design is modular, different bits can be swapped with other robots, to make the perfect bot for the job.

"Our robot is so cheap to produce that it can be discarded after being used just once," said researcher Ralf Becker, "like a disposable rubber glove."

Here's hoping those discarded spider-bots don't come back to haunt us.

Source: Wired | Fraunhofer




Friday, December 9, 2011

Antarctic Cave Microbes Shed Light on Life's Diversity

The entrance to Warren Cave, on Antarctica's
Moun. Erebus, requires a 50- to 60-foot rappel.
Climbing out is sometimes eased by a rope ladder.
CREDIT: Brian Hasebe
Biologists are using volcanic ice caves at the bottom of the world as windows into the mysterious biosphere found deep beneath Earth's crust.

The caves are found on the summit plateau of Antarctica's Mount Erebus, a dormant volcano that rises 12,448 feet (3,794 meters) into the frigid antipodean air. The caves harbor microbes that are isolated from their surface brethren, and they make a living in entirely different ways.

With virtually no organic matter to munch on, many of the cave dwellers "eat" rock. They draw sustenance from metals such as iron and manganese, as any microbes found far below Earth's surface must do.

"Caves are a great thing, and mining shafts are a great thing, because they give you access to the deep crust," Hubert Staudigel, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, said during a presentation here Thursday (Dec. 8) at the winter meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make no bones about it, this is Britain’s scariest cave! Photographer captures eerie skull in reflection of remote rock face

The photo of the cave, when turned
on its side, displays an ominous image of a skull
Only the bravest would tackle a cave whose icy waters have already claimed the lives of several divers.

But if there was any doubt about the peril that awaits at Hodge Close Quarry, one need only look at this picture

The lake at the abandoned slate quarry is an eerie enough site - but as this image shows if you turn your head you are greeted with the terrifying sight of a giant skull.

The image was taken by a diver who had just been into the waters of the quarry near Coniston in Cumbria.

The pool is accessed through a 25-metre long a two-metre-square tunnel.

The spot, which is popular with divers, has claimed the lives of at least three over the years.

Photographer Peter Bardsley said: 'Have a look at this photograph. It's taken at a slate quarry called Hodge Close, near Coniston in the Lake District.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ice Age Hominins And Their Adaptability To Climate Change

Complex computational modeling provides clues to Neanderthal extinction

Computational modeling that examines evidence of how hominin groups evolved culturally and biologically in response to climate change during the last Ice Age also bears new insights into the extinction of Neanderthals. Details of the complex modeling experiments conducted at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Denver will be published in the December issue of the journal Human Ecology, available online Nov. 17.

“To better understand human ecology, and especially how human culture and biology co-evolved among hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia (ca. 128,000-11,500 years ago) we designed theoretical and methodological frameworks that incorporated feedback across three evolutionary systems: biological, cultural and environmental,” said Michael Barton, a pioneer in the area of archaeological applications of computational modeling at Arizona State University.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New articles in Speleogenesis Journal‏

Two new articles has been published in the current (#11, 2011) issue of the journal "Speleogenesis and Evolution of Karst Aquifers":

Many articles from recent karst/cave and other geoscience journals have been recently featured by posting their bibliography information with respective web links.

Check regularly: http://www.speleogenesis.info/content/

All previous issues of the journal are available from the left panel on the main page.

The UIS Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis kindly invites the Speleogenesis community to submit articles to the journal.

See previous post for more articles.


New NCKRI website

Dear Friends,

I’m delighted to announce that the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) has launched its new website at www.nckri.org

In it you’ll find much information about NCKRI, its programs and projects, how to join or support NCKRI, its staff and board, and more. And even more is coming! In the next few months we’ll add information on conferences we are leading and hosting, plus other news and information. Now that we’ve finished giving the website a great new look and better structure, we will keep building and updating it for years to come.

The website also has our new Annual Report, which covers NCKRI’s activities from July 2010 through June 2010. You’ll find it on our publications page (in our “About NCKRI” tab).

George Veni, Ph.D.
Executive Director
National Cave and Karst Research Institute

Monday, November 21, 2011

Therion 5.3.9 (beta) released



Therion is a complete package which processes survey data and generates maps or 3D models of caves.

A new beta version (5.3.9) has been released and is available here.

Therion solves the most annoying problem of cave cartography – how to keep a map of large and complicated cave system always up-to-date. 

Main features include:
Complete maps with all the detail. No additional ink stroke is needed.
  • Maps are dynamic, always up-to-date – i.e. they are automatically re-drawn after loop closure, blunder fix, scale or symbol set change
  • 3D models are created using 2D maps
It runs on wide variety of platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac OS X. It is completely free, released under the terms of GNU GPL, with source code available. It doesn't require any other commercial software to run.

The latest version includes following additions/bug fixes:
Therion:
* added new point types: ice-stalactite, ice-stalagmite, ice-pillar,
clay-choke, clay-tree
* added new wall subtypes: pit, flowstone, moonmilk, overlying
* added new symbol groups: ice, sediments
* added -height option for pit/wall:pit
* added new layout option: color map-bg transparent
* Austrian symbol set added (thanks to Georg Pacher)
* updated German translation (thanks to Georg Pacher)
* updated Italian translation (thanks to Marco Corvi)
* added bulgarian translation (thanks to Alexander Yanev)
* added possibility to define own coordinate system in therion.ini (cs-def)
* updated survex img library to version 1.1.15
* added option -enable/disable splay-shots to 3d model export
* bugs fixed:
- fixed huge coordinate numbers in extended elevation xvi
- xvi with sketches export
- unnecessary warningcheck changes eliminated from metapost code
- fixed bug with 3d model generation from scraps without outline
- fixed bug with missing patterns in symbols.xhtml
- fixed bug - direction point not working with line secion
- fixed inaccurate clipping of coloured scrap background
- fixed placement of surface bitmaps with larger offset
- fixed alignment of some point symbols in AUT symbol set
- missing white fill below cave passages in transparent PDFs if background
colour is white (needed if the map is included into other map with
non-white background)
- fixed incorrect line width conversion in some patterns
- hide white background of scraps when the PDF layer containing them
is invisible
- constrained Delaunay triangulation engine replaced by poly2tri
- passage outline scanning algorithm improved
- "nosurvey" shots allowed between unfixed stations
- added missing area flowstone and moonmilk into legend
- fixed xvi export of extended elevation
- fixed symbol-hide/show point remark bug
- fixed wall:debris bug in AUT symbol set (thanks to Georg Pacher)
- fixed layout color map-bg transparent bug
- LRUD area dimensions is drawn for all shots before these shots are drawn
(centerline is compact when map is exported from centerline only)

xtherion:
* bugs fixed:
-

loch:
* VTK file export changed to binary type (problem with coordinate systems)
* bugs fixed:
- vthreshold should work now for LRUD modelling
Source: Therion

Floyd Collins To Open at The Vault, Southwark Playhouse For Six Week Run

Peter Huntley Productions in association with Southwark Playhouse is set to present Floyd Collins, featuring a book by Tina Landau.

The play features music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, and additional lyrics by Tina Landau.

Directed by Derek Bond.

22nd February to 31st March 2012

Kentucky, 1925. Floyd Collins, soon to be acclaimed as the ‘greatest caver ever known', dreams of finding fame and fortune underground. When a cave-in leaves him trapped 55 feet below the earth's surface, the media circus above ground makes a very personal tragedy a national sensation.

Emergence Exhibit Video: Extremophiles in Caves


Extremophiles are organisms that thrive in all kinds of extreme environments. They are found throughout New Mexico—on the surfaces of desert rocks, cave walls, lava tubes, and mineshafts. In these environments, scientists have discovered thousands of species of microorganisms whose genes have remained virtually unchanged over billions of years. Going back so far in time, these organisms may harbor important clues to how life originated.

This same research into extremophiles is being tapped to help our space program decide what to look for while searching for life on other planets.

or the 3D version:


Source: New Mexico museum of Natural History and Science

Darkness calls cave art expert

Leslie Van Gelder
A Glenorchy-based archaeologist, having just completed 11 years studying ancient art in two French caves, is itching to return to the darkness next year.

Dr Leslie Van Gelder - one of only two cave art experts in New Zealand - specialises in the study of Paleolithic finger-flutings, man-made lines left in soft stone surfaces up to 32,000 years ago.

She spoke to 60 people recently at a screening of documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which follows an expedition into France's Chauvet Cave, and man's most ancient visual art.

Many of the researchers featured in the documentary were Dr Van Gelder's contemporaries from research in the caves of Rouffignac and Gargas with her late husband Kevin Sharpe.

The couple's development of ways to identify individual artists showed women's and children's roles in cave art, and, in the Rouffignac cave, was the first to show symbolic work from children. Among the swirling swathes of parallel finger flutings across the walls and ceilings of the caves were symbolic tectiform drawings. She hopes to have finished a book on their findings in a year.

For now Dr Gelder works from home as programme director for Walden University - a distance-learning institution - as well as working on a documentary about the history of the road to Glenorchy.

The documentary continues at Dorothy Browns.

Source: Otago daily Times

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bats stop high-speed train in its tracks: Work stopped after rare colony is found

A new £130 million high-speed rail link from Oxford to London has been halted by bats.

Commuters had been looking forward to the faster service within three years, following a public inquiry into the scheme.

Proposals for the development, which will go through Bicester, were put forward by Chiltern Railways and the project is expected to cost £130 million.

But the planning inspector has withheld approval due to concerns the faster trains could destroy a colony of rare bats roosting in Wolvercote Tunnel in Oxford.

And Chiltern Railways and environment body Natural England also need to agree on a scheme to stop possible pollution of nearby ponds inhabited by endangered great-crested newts.

The two organisations have been given four weeks to find a solution.

The Department for Transport said if measures to protect the species were agreed, Transport Secretary Justine Greening would be ‘minded to approve the scheme’.

Jonathan Gittos of the Engage Oxford group, which raised fears about noise and vibrations from the service, said: ‘It’s a completely mad world when the inspector seems to pay more attention to the needs of bats and newts than people.’

Source: Daily Mail

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Second rescue for Devon caver in underground fall drama

A caving enthusiast from the Westcountry who was rescued from 300ft underground after a fall, escaped from a similar accident five years ago, it has emerged.

Emily Sellick, from Kingsbridge in Devon, was exploring a disused lead mine in Shropshire with six friends when she suffered an epileptic fit and fell.

Emily Sellick pictured after her rescue from Pridhamsleigh Cavern in June 2006. She was so impressed by the work of the cave rescuers who helped her that she later volunteered to join the Devon Cave Rescue Organisation

Message to Obama: Save the Bats!

Do you want to help save America’s insect-eating bats from extinction? Then tell President Obama.

People who love bats — or at least the multi-billion dollar agricultural benefits they provide — are urging Obama to include in his 2013 budget research on White Nose Syndrome, the disease that’s annihilating insect-eating bats across much of the eastern United States and Canada.

Caused by a fungus that was first identified less than a decade ago, scientists are racing to learn how to fight WNS. Federal research funding, however, has been minimal, with bat supporters scratching and clawing for the Beltway equivalent of couch change.

To ask for direct White House support, Bat Conservation International has set up a We the People online petition. We the People is the formal White House petition site, with a response promised to any plea with at least 25,000 signatures to back it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bats are key to biosafety - study

Bats coexist with so many lethal viruses scientists hope they can show us how to fend off deadly diseases.

Researchers at the world's most advanced biosecurity research facility, CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory, are keeping the nation safe by studying RNA viruses that come from bats - Hendra, SARS, Ebola, and Nipah.

Dr Alex Hyatt says the Geelong lab's state-of-the art microscopy technology allows research with infectious disease agents that require the highest levels of biocontainment.

'We are talking about viruses here that if you are infected you are a gonner,' he said.

'There are no vaccines, they are pathogenic, they are deadly ... so we can look at the interactions in real time, live viruses in cells without risk of infection or death. And come to understand how viruses replicate in cells.'

Dr Linfa Wang says bats, the second most abundant animals on earth after rodents, are key to their research.

'Bats have been around for 60 million years so they somehow developed this symbiotic relationship with a virus and they can co-exist happily. The virus won't cause any disease in bats.'

Some scientists believe there is an ancestor form in bats of most of the modern viruses infecting humans and livestock.

The scientists want to watch live interaction in bats with viruses and how bat cells behave to see why they co-exist with the viruses without getting sick.

'We consider bats almost like a black hole, we have very limited understanding of this interesting group of mammal species,' Dr Wang said.

Professor Martyn Jeggo says their aim is to diagnose and respond to an emergency disease as fast as possible and research to mitigate or protect against disease.

But some viruses are just too risky to let in, including live foot and mouth virus, because it has the potential to devastate the livestock industry.

So the researchers are studying it in pigs in Vietnam, in sheep work in South Africa and in cattle work in Argentina.

The laboratory allows scientists around the world to work together in real time.

Source: Big Pond News

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Video: Orphaned baby bats nursed back to health

Brisbane has welcomed the arrival of almost 100 baby bats, after conservationists flew the tiny flying foxes over from Cairns, where extreme weather has left many of them orphaned
Check out the video at  The Globe and Mail.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Video: 5000 Pieds sous Terre


Made by : Didier Philippe
Actors : Anthony Bédard, Cyril Fonck

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cathedral Cove cave has shave

Spiderman: Geotechnical specialist Adam Warren descends
after chipping away loose rock from Cathedral Cove archway
Wielding a hefty sledgehammer Adam Warren worked with the finesse of a surgeon as he chipped away at the face of Coromandel's Cathedral Cove archway yesterday.

Thuds resonated through the majestic cave as pieces of ignimbrite rock fell about 15 metres to the bleached sand below.

Hard hats were compulsory inside the cave's exclusion zone as Warren and colleague Raphael Lemgruber, suspended from ropes, scanned the rock face for loose rock to remove.

The cave was closed in April last year because of falling rock, and yesterday the geotechnical specialists assessed the risk of more falls, "scaling" loose rock inside and out.

75th Anniversary of the MCR on 18th /19th November

Celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Mendip Cave Rescue (MCR) will start on the Friday night in the Hunters where we will be showing rescue related videos and clips in the back room. 

 Saturday's programme (details below) will involve, videos, kit displays and various activities such as pitch hauling on a climbing wall, an underground practice rescue and the Speleo Olympics course for a “rescue” race event. 

The activities in the evening will include a talk on the Mendip Cave Rescue, an auction of caving related objects and the JRat Digging Award for 2011. This will be followed by a Stomp later in the evening 

Food will be available at lunchtime and in the evening and celebratory T- shirts will be on sale. The bar will be open all afternoon and evening.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

CSI Wisconsin: Are Wind Turbines Killing Bats?

It’s a little Animal Planet, a little CSI. A new study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Madison looked into the cause of death of countless numbers of bats found near wind turbines. The study was funded by Invenergy and Wisconsin Focus on Energy and recently discussed on the University of Wisconsin’s news site.

Researchers conducting the study had two culprits in mind for the cause of death: barotrauma, caused by bats flying through different pressures created by the turbines which causes the bats internal organs to explode and blunt-force trauma from bats colliding directly with turbine blades or poles. While bats are able to fly around non-moving objects, the speed of the blades makes reaction time difficult for bats to avoid.

Researches used veterinary diagnostic techniques along with x-rays, tissue analysis, and gross necropsy to support or rule out their assumptions. Three-quarters of the bats studied had broken bones and ruptured organs. About half of the bats examined had middle and/or inner eardrum ruptures.

“We still don’t know exactly why bats are being killed — why the bats can’t see such a large thing protruding from the landscape, or what is possibly attracting the bats,” UW Professor David Drake said in the new article, “but now that we know direct causes of death we can start thinking about how to redesign turbine blades to have a smaller pressure differential or identify other cost-effective mitigation strategies that would minimize damage to bats.”

The full study, “Investigating the causes of death for wind-turbine associated bat fatalities,” is published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of Mammalogy. It also isn’t the first study to look into this matter – one last year found that a slight alteration in turbine operation practices can have a big effect in reducing bat fatalities.

Source: Earthechling

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Route in Peak Cavern

Pitch 1 (wet 7c+) of Ring of Fire during the first ascent in Peak Cavern. All pics Triple Echo Productions.

The other shoot I just finished with Triple Echo for the BBC was even weirder than the Handa adventure! The director Richard Else managed to get special permission to climb in the show cave Peak Cavern near Castleton right in the middle of the Peak District. The idea was for myself and Alan Cassidy to see if we could find a route out of it!

Peak Cavern, otherwise known as 'The Devil's Arse' is one of the biggest and most impressive limestone crags in the Peak. In a region where every other inch of rock has a route on it, it’s pretty amazing that there are no free routes on this crag at all. It comes down to access. The crag has been banned for climbing forever as it’s a tourist attraction on private land - paying public walking around below climbs etc. Of course it’s a massive shame since I’m certain a way round it could be found with the help of the BMC. The cave is only open to the public until 5pm and then it’s locked. Climber’s lock-in? Sadly I don’t think a change is likely any time soon. We appealed as best we could.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Elkhead Wranglers build shelters for bats, learn about animal’s role in ecosystem

Seth Morgan, 16, a member of the Elkhead Wranglers 4-H club,
holds up a bat box he and other club members made Thursday.
The boxes have a narrow opening to keep predators out
and are lined with screen so the bats can crawl inside.
Photo by Bridget Manley.
Children and teens in the local Elkhead Wranglers 4-H club got the real scoop on bats recently, and it has more to do with crops and flowers than one might think.

Bats are pollinators, like bees and hummingbirds, said Jennifer Maiolo, parent of Derek Maiolo, the club’s president.

As they go from plant to plant, collecting tasty nectar or pollen, they cross-pollinate, which leads to heartier and healthier plants.

“It helps diversify plants and keeps a good healthy plant population, as well,” Maiolo said.

So, it makes sense that the club, which is largely comprised of children raising livestock for the Moffat County Fair, would take on a project designed to protect the furry, flying mammals.


If you are interested in building your own bat shelter, you should check out the woodworking plans website, where you can download over 20 different plans for bat shelters.

Free Ebook: Weather and its Effect on Caves: a Guide for Cavers

Caving is a popular sport and is enjoyed by people of all ages, many of whom undertake the activity without incident. However, unless properly prepared a caving trip can be risky.

An important part of this preparation should be consideration of the weather and its effect on the selected cave. 

Caves are often wild places and situated in areas that are subject to the vagaries of the weather. This publication aims to help the caver to ‘read the weather’ and to understand how it may affect caves. 

By making this an essential part of planning any caving trip, it is hoped that people will enjoy a trip free from incidents caused by rising water levels in caves.

Friday, December 30, 2011

4 gold prospectors, 1 rescuer die from suffocation in Vietnam cave

Four gold prospectors and a rescuer have died from suffocation in a cave in the northeastern province of Cao Bang, online newspaper Dan Tri reported.

On Tuesday afternoon, a group of around 10 gold prospectors sneaked into a deep cave in a rural village with the hope of finding gold.

Trieu Chong Hin, Trieu Ton Phan, Trieu Van Chieu and Dang Van Tinh then suffocated and died at the cave’s bottom.

One day later, Trieu Van Dung, a local militiaman, also suffocated to death while making his way into the cave to rescue the victims.

Local authorities said rescuers could not go deep into the cave given the high levels of toxic substances in the air.

The bodies of the dead victims have yet to be recovered

World's rarest bat finds a place at San Diego Zoo park

Two Rodrigues fruit bats hang out at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Thirteen Rodrigues fruit bats are featured in a new exhibit at the Safari Park. One goal is to repair bats' reputation. 'There are a lot of myths about bats,' senior keeper Todd Ryan says.

Pteropus rodricensis was hanging upside down, doing some squeaking. That's mostly his daily routine, with occasional breaks to eat slices of fruit.

He's primarily a dusk-and-night mammal. That's when members of his species spread their wings in a 30-inch span for some low-level flying and maybe some ritualistic courting.

Field notes from the search for bat survivors

Wildlife biologists Ryan Smith and Joel Flewelling examine
a dead bat in an abandoned mine in Bethel on Monday,
Feb. 21, 2011. They failed to find any living bats in
the mine, which has been infected with white nose syndrome,
a fungus blamed for killing a million bats in the Northeast
We slip off our snowshoes outside the slit-like entrance of an abandoned mine in central Vermont. The sky is bright blue, and the snow sparkles, but the temperature hovers around 10 degrees.

State wildlife biologists Ryan Smith and Joel Flewelling and I don roomy Tyvek suits and chest waders. We slide into the mine and begin wading down a narrow tunnel in water that rises from our ankles to our calves.

It’s warm in here, so warm that our headlamps spotlight flitting mosquitoes and a daddy-longlegs moving slowly on the wall.

Nearby, Flewelling’s light illuminates a mummified bat, its tiny bones like toothpicks. Then, in the water underfoot we see small blobs of gray: the dead bodies of other bats. We try not to step on them, but it is hard to tell with all the water sloshing around.

The biologists have come here as part of ongoing survey of Vermont caves where tens of thousands of bats once spent the winter. Since 2008, their numbers have been decimated by white-nose syndrome — a cold-loving fungus that kills the bats in ways scientists still are trying to understand.

White-nose syndrome has wiped out bats with frightening speed. In 2008, the little brown bat was one of the commonest bats in the Northeast. In 2011, Vermont added the bat to the endangered species list, along with the northern long-eared and tri-colored bats.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cave-Dwelling Invertebrates Enjoy Exotic Cuisine

Jenolan caves
While the deep-sea may be the final frontier for marine biologists, caves remain one of the most elusive frontiers on (or rather, under) the land. Some caves extend dozens of miles below the ground in endless, sinuous networks all but cut off from the grassy hills and tree-lined horizons above. It’s not an easy environment to access and many explorers have perished attempting to map these subterranean labyrinths. Yet, for the last couple decades in particular, investigations keep finding astonishing communities of invertebrates inhabiting caves and existing nowhere else.

Nestled in Australia’s stunning Blue Mountain range is the 350 million year old Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve. Here, the base of the invertebrate community consists of decaying leaf litter. Historically, eucalyptus trees, which are native to the area, contributed most to the leaf litter pool. Over the years, introduced trees – like European sycamore brought in to stabilize steep, rocky slopes and North American Monterey pine planted for the timber industry – have naturalized around the cave opening.

To understand what effects the differences in leaf little composition have on cave communities, Hills and colleagues measured the rate of leaf litter decay and invertebrate diversity among the 3 leaf litter pools in “twilight” areas (i.e. nearer to cave openings) and “deep” areas (i.e. where the cave is always dark). The most rapidly decayed leaves were of the introduced Sycamore, which suggests their leaves release more carbon and nutrients into the cave ecosystem. Additionally, there was no difference in leaf decay rate between “twilight” and “deep” leaf litter, so it appears it doesn’t matter how close the litter is to above-ground features like light, rain and wind.

Caver has lucky escape after being trapped in Easegill cave

Kendal rescue team leader Eddie Harrison
A caver was lucky to escape with his life after a large boulder landed on his leg trapping him hundreds of metres underground.

The 39-year-old sustained serious leg injuries when a giant piece of rock slid onto him while he was potholing at Molluscan Hall, in the Easegill cave system that spans the valley between Leck and Casterton Fells.

It is understood the man was potholing with two other friends when the boulder fell on him, pinning him to the floor.

His friends reacted quickly and managed to manhandle the boulder off him.

Around 30 members of Clapham Cave Rescue, along with nine volunteers from Kendal Mountain Rescue Team and The Upper Wharfedale Cave Rescue Team, attended the incident at around 6pm on Christmas Day.

"It was a big boulder which pinned him momentarily," said Tom Redfern, team leader for the Clapham Cave Rescue Team.

"He was very fortunate his friends were able to assist him. Once he was freed he walked a little way out of the cave but his injuries got too painful."

He added boulders were natural hazards which potholers have to expect if they ventured into the underground labyrinths. Once members found the group they quickly gave the injured caver pain relief,splinted his leg and stretchered him to safety via County Pot.

Kendal Mountain Rescue then carried him across remote moorland to a land ambulance waiting at Bull Pot Farm, Casterton.

Team leader for the KMRT Eddie Harrison said it was a 'challenging' mission.

"Given the wet weather and how misty and boggy it was, plus the time of night - it was past midnight when we got home- it was quite a challenging rescue," said Mr Harrison.

"I understand they were experienced cavers and from what I can gather it was a very unfortunate accident.

"It could have been a different story if his friends were not there. It took us about an hour to get him over the moors."

The Easegill system, which is located on the Cumbria Lancashire border, is 66,000 metres long and has some very difficult sections.

Source: The West Morland Gazette

Nepal's Mustang Cave: Study leads to peculiar discovery

Nepali experts digging into the mysteries of the famous Mhebrak cave in Lower Mustang in western Nepal have unearthed new clues, which could potentially unravel a significant portion of human history dating back to 450 BC.

A team of experts including those from the Department of Archaeology (DoA), who have been studying two unique corpses recovered from Mhebrak cave complex in Muktinath Valley of Lower Mustang, say shocking features of the corpses are drawing them closer to discovery of a peculiar culture of the prehistoric age.

They say the corpses—proved to have been of a mother and an infant—dating back to 450 BC were recovered in a sleeping posture where the mother seems to have protected her infant in every possible way. Interestingly, the body of the infant was found all compact, with steady bones and joints that were not detached. Even a layer of thin skin covering the infant’s bones is still intact.

Finding of a human body as old as 2,600 years in such a peculiar condition, says Mohan Singh Lama, an excavation officer at the DoA, challenges the conventional wisdom surrounding mummification of a corpse.

Some parts of the mother’s body including limbs were also intact.

Sagada spelunkers explore, evaluate Kiangan cave for tourism development

Thirteen spelunkers from Sagada, Mt. Province assisted by ten local tour guides from this municipality recently explored and evaluated the Panaggawan Caves located at Barangay Bolog here for the purpose of evaluating it for tourist and adventure destination.

The cave exploration was led by George Dapliyan, president of the Sagada Environmental Guides Association (Sega), in effort to help Kiangan develop its tourism industry potentials as it has numerous man-made and natural scenic sites and wonders.

Sagada is known for its cool climate and caves, foremost of which is the popular Balangabang Cave, a major tourist destination.

The group came up with findings and recommendations for the information and guidance of the Kiangan Tourism Council as basis for any project or endeavor relative to it.

On the trail for trekking, the group found out that some portions of the foot trail have been eroded and have unstable soil hence the installation of railings on most part of the trail and bedding in of rocks/stones in slippery and unstable parts is necessary since the area is wet most of the year.

Simple signboards are also needed to guide visitors to the cave area.

For camping or accommodation, the group advised that the grassland surrounding the small cottages should be maintained so campers may put up their tents around since it is also an ideal setting for bonfire and that water supply, pit latrine, sheds and benches are needed around the campsite.

For the flora and fauna, they discovered that there are skin-irritating and poisonous species of plants and fruits found in the forest like the poison ivy so guides should advise guests about these and that a forest catalogue should be given to the guides on the indigenous species along the trail.

Generally, the caves are ideal for a two-day adventure spending overnight in the campsite and the labyrinth could be done during the first day and the Bat Cave could be explored in the second day.

The group also strongly recommends that trainings should be conducted on tour guiding, environmental awareness, first aid and cave geology to the tour guides. (Dan B. Codamon)

Source: Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on December 28, 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Divers to study Lake Goluboe

“Goluboe” lake. Photo: RIA Novosti
Russian and foreign divers are planning to study Lake Goluboe, the deepest lake in the Caucasus. They will take first dive early next year in search for underwater caves and artifacts. Experts believe that there could be many artifacts owing to the fact that the lake is located at the crossroads of history, and that its extraordinary nature has preserved them.

The lake is described as a sapphire in a ring of green trees. It is light blue, and the colour remains unchanged even in bad weather. According to a myth, the lake’s floor is covered by lasurite. The reason for this is that its water contains hydrogen sulphide, says the director of the “Goluboe Ozero” research centre, Igor Galaida.

“The temperature of the lake’s water is constant throughout the year. It’s 9 degrees Celsius, and the water does not freeze. The lake emits hydrogen sulphide gas time and again, especially from spring to autumn. During this period, water has a peculiar odor and taste. The presence of hydrogen sulphide gives the lake its extraordinary blue colour, and this is the reason why the lake is called “Goluboe”, or “Blue” in Russian. However, in Blakar language, it’s named “Odoriferous”, Igor Galaida says.

Critically endangered bats found close to track

The long-tailed bats, and their short-tailed cousins,
are the country's only native land mammals.
A colony of rare native bats has been discovered beside one of the most popular walking tracks in the country.

Department of Conservation rangers found the long-tailed bats near the Kepler Track Great Walk in Fiordland after automatic recording devices led them to just the second known colony of the creatures in the region.

DoC ranger Warren Simpson said 60 of the critically endangered bats had been observed, and the colony was believed to number around 100.

Long- and short-tailed bats are the country's only native land mammals, and both are critically endangered.

In mid-December, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic students recorded hundreds of bat passes on automated recording equipment in the Iris Burn Valley. The "bat boxes" picked up the animal's high-frequency echo-location calls.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Three teams rescue injured Christmas Day caver

The injured caver was stretchered to Bull Pot Farm
Three rescue teams spent much of Christmas Day underground helping a caver who was injured by a falling rock.

The Cave Rescue Organisation was alerted about 5.40pm yesterday, Sunday, when the 39-year-old man suffered a serious leg injury in the Ease Gill system, on the western fringe of the Yorkshire Dales.

The caver was hit by the falling boulder in Molluscan Hall and members of the Clapham-based rescue team called in help from the Upper Wharfedale Fell Rescue Association and Kendal Mountain Rescue Team.

Rescuers gave the man pain relief and splinted his leg before bringing him to the surface via County Pot, 10 hours after he went underground.

Members of the Kendal team stretchered the man, described as a 6ft-tall, heavy casualty, across wet and boggy ground to an ambulance waiting at Bull Pot Farm.

The injured caver was then taken to hospital and rescuers were back home around midnight. The rescue was the CRO’s 82nd of the year.

Bedanu Cave Recreational Park a potential site for tourism

In its untouched natural scenery, blessed with flora and lush vegetation in its surroundings, the Bedanu Cave Recreational Park may serve as another refreshing and potential site for tourism in the Sultanate, as it is strategically located in the glades of the Tutong District forest and bounded by a cascading water stream to form a panoramic view, ideal for all sorts of eco-friendly activities.

During a 45-minute expedition led by members of the Kiudang-Mungkom Village Consultative Council to the location yesterday, the cave was situated over a slightly elevated ground measuring 10-feet high, while the overall length and width were estimated to be 50 and 13-feet respectively.

Inside the cave is a pool that contains fresh water, influenced by the downstream of a nearby waterfall. When it rains, the cave will overflow and turn into a watercourse for the stream to surge towards the river's tributary.

The course of the expedition, which was made known through local printed media, websites and Facebook, was also joined by many youths, village residents and a group from the Embassy of Pakistan in Brunei Darussalam, which made up a total of 50 individuals altogether.

According to Awang Imran bin Hj Johari, Assistant Chairman of Kiudang-Mungkom Village Consultative Council, the expedition was among others, part of a leisure pursuit for students during the year-end holidays and to further promote the cave which has the potential to be an ideal venue for vacationers and sightseers alike, should developments occur to improve the area.

Source: BruDirect

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Public welcome to join cave exploration at Wasai Bedanu

One of the scenes at Wasai Bedanu
Recreational Park in Kg Kiudang
Mungkom, Tutong District.
Kiudang Mungkom Village Consultative Council is organising a cave exploration expedition at Wasai Bedanu Recreational Park on Sunday, December 25, and is welcoming everyone to join.

Wasai Bedanu is one of the attractions for Kg Kiudang Mungkom located in the Tutong District 38 kilometres from Bandar Seri Begawan.

Muhammad Amir Hj Umarali, a member of the Kg Kiudang Mungkom Village Consultative Council in his email to The Brunei Times, said the expedition which is the first of its kind is aimed at introducing Wasai Bedanu recreational park to the public.

Discovered by one of the villagers, Muhammad Amir said exploring the cave was one interesting and challenging experience. He added Wasai Bedanu is filled with forest treasures.

The expedition aimed at creating community awareness on the importance of loving the forest and its beauty and highlighting its importance for the future.

He said the expedition is open to all who are interested.

The expedition will give the opportunity for participants to witness for themselves the beauty, flora and fauna of Wasai Bedanu.

The meeting point for participants is at the Wasai Bedanu recreational park at 8am on Sunday. Before the expedition, a briefing will be held by the organiser.

Muhammad Amir added the expedition will be quite challenging and is a 25 to 30 minute walk to reach the cave.

Participants are advised to wear appropriate attire and to bring with them enough water. For further information, participants can contact the organisers at 8865925 or 4230352.

Source: The Brunei Times

Friday, December 23, 2011

Video: Gouffre Berger expedition by Petzl team

 "Immersion" - Into the footstaps of Fernand Petzl

Team Petzl retraces the steps of the first explorers (Joe Berger, Fernand Petzl, Jean Lavigne, Georges Garby, Pierre Chevalier...) into the first cave to surpass the magic depth of 1000 m.

Thanks to extraordinary images from the film "Siphon-1122" (directed by Georges Marry in 1962 and produced by Jack Lesage) you can relive the intensity of the first descent in this now well-known, must see cave.





You can read more about the trip and discover some amazing photoghraphs in our september blog post here.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bats Occupy Times Square! Bacardi and Bat Conservation International Celebrate “The Year of the Bat” with Times Square Billboard Ringing in the New Year


Bat Conservation International (BCI) is pleased to announce it has teamed up with Bacardi to launch a public service announcement for its 2012 International Year of the Bat campaign. The electronic billboard, which will display the video PSA in New York City’s Times Square, will celebrate bats of the world starting on December 31.

“What a great way to kick-off International Year of the Bat,” said Nina Fascione, Executive Director of Bat Conservation International. “We are grateful to Bacardi for this generous gift and we’re certainly excited to see what the coming year will bring.”

The 15-second spot, which describes the many environmental and economic benefits of bats, will run on the 20-foot CBS jumbotron located on 42nd street once each hour for 18 hours a day until the end of March.

“As part of our upcoming 150th anniversary celebration, Bacardi is proud to support Bat Conservation International in raising public awareness for bats,” said Robert Furniss-Roe, President of Bacardi U.S.A., Inc. “With one of the most recognizable logos in the world featuring a bat, Bacardi has believed in the power of bats for 150 years. We have a real respect for the environment and the world we live in and are thrilled to be a part of a campaign focusing on bats in such an important milestone year for the company and brand.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Family sues federal government over girl's death at ice caves

Grace Tam, of Marysville,
was killed by falling ice at the
Big Four Ice Caves in July 2010.
VERLOT -- Lawyers representing the family of a Marysville girl who was killed by a falling chunk of ice in 2010 near the Big Four Ice Caves have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the federal government.

Grace Tam, 11, died July 31, 2010, from internal injuries. She was struck by an "enormous, truck-sized piece of ice," as she stood more than a dozen feet from a cave, according to the lawsuit.

Her parents, John Tam and Tamami Okauchi, answered questions during a news conference about the lawsuit on Tuesday.

They said that signs in the area do not adequately warn families of the dangers from snow and ice. They said they have tried to share concerns with the U.S. Forest Service since Grace's death but their attempts to highlight problems were ignored. The suit does not indicate the damages being sought.

Forest Service officials weren't immediately available for comment on Tuesday, but in recent months they have described their efforts to address safety in the area.

The ice caves are one of the most popular hiking attractions in Snohomish County and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The trail leading to the caves has a gentle slope, and is advertised as being family-friendly and accessible for people with disabilities, said James McCormick, one of the family's attorneys with Tacoma-based law firm Messina Bulzomi Christensen.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Neanderthals built homes with mammoth bones

The researchers believe that the Neanderthals both hunted
and killed the mammoths for meat before usingtheir bones
but also collected some of the bones from animals that
had died of natural causes. Photo: ALAMY
Neanderthals were not quite the primitive cavemen they are often portrayed to be – new research has revealed that they built homes out of mammoth bones.

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 44,000 year old Neanderthal building that was constructed using the bones from mammoths.

The circular building, which was up to 26 feet across at its widest point, is believed to be earliest example of domestic dwelling built from bone.

Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago, were initially thought to have been relatively primitive nomads that lived in natural caves for shelter.

The new findings, however, suggest these ancient human ancestors had settled in areas to the degree that they built structures where they lived for extended periods of time.

Analysis by researchers from the Muséum National d'Histories Naturelle in Paris also found that many of the bones had been decorated with carvings and ochre pigments.

Scientists Find Microbes in Lava Tube Living in Conditions Like Those On Mars

Amy Smith and Radu Popa collect samples of ice
with basalt chips containing olivine from
a lava tube in Oregon's Cascade Mountains.
Photo by Jane Boone
A team of scientists from Oregon has collected microbes from ice within a lava tube in the Cascade Mountains and found that they thrive in cold, Mars-like conditions.
The microbes tolerate temperatures near freezing and low levels of oxygen, and they can grow in the absence of organic food. Under these conditions their metabolism is driven by the oxidation of iron from olivine, a common volcanic mineral found in the rocks of the lava tube. These factors make the microbes capable of living in the subsurface of Mars and other planetary bodies, the scientists say.

The findings, supported by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are detailed in the journal Astrobiology.

"This microbe is from one of the most common genera of bacteria on Earth," said Amy Smith, a doctoral student at Oregon State University and one of the authors of the study. "You can find its cousins in caves, on your skin, at the bottom of the ocean and just about anywhere. What is different, in this case, is its unique qualities that allow it to grow in Mars-like conditions."



Friday, December 16, 2011

Cheryl Messenger recognized for excellence in environmental education

Cheryl Messenger, standing at the mouth of
Mammoth Cave, received the NPS Freeman
Tilden Award in November 2011 recognizing her
as the top interpreter/educator in the Southeast
Region of the NPS.
Mammoth Cave's award winning environmental education program received further accolades in November when its leader, Cheryl Messenger, received the regional Freeman Tilden award, recognizing Messenger as the best interpreter in the Southeast Region of the National Park Service (NPS).

"I am not bragging when I say that Mammoth Cave's environmental education program is second to none," said Superintendent Patrick Reed. "Past honors seem to fuel Cheryl and her staff on to greater endeavors and deeper partnerships that bring unparalleled opportunities to teachers and students in south central Kentucky."

The Freeman Tilden Award is an annual award recognizing outstanding public contributions in interpretation and visitor services by a NPS employee. Freeman Tilden, who wrote The National Parks, What They Mean to You and Me and Interpreting Our Heritage, greatly influenced the development of NPS interpretation and education programs.

By partnering with Western Kentucky University Education Department (WKU), Messenger received a National Park Foundation grant to initiate the largest inquiry-based outdoor learning training for education majors in the country. Focusing on students who are about to become teachers, it demonstrates the advantages of using outdoor settings and inquiry-based learning techniques to teach critical thinking skills in both science and social science subjects. Since the grant began two years ago, 400 WKU students have been immersed in the overnight, in-park learning experience.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Experimental infection of bats with Geomyces destructans causes white-nose syndrome

White-nose syndrome (WNS) has caused recent catastrophic declines among multiple species of bats in eastern North America. The disease’s name derives from a visually apparent white growth of the newly discovered fungus Geomyces destructans on the skin (including the muzzle) of hibernating bats. Colonization of skin by this fungus is associated with characteristic cutaneous lesions that are the only consistent pathological finding related to WNS. However, the role of G. destructans in WNS remains controversial because evidence to implicate the fungus as the primary cause of this disease is lacking. The debate is fuelled, in part, by the assumption that fungal infections in mammals are most commonly associated with immune system dysfunction. Additionally, the recent discovery that G. destructans commonly colonizes the skin of bats of Europe, where no unusual bat mortality events have been reported, has generated further speculation that the fungus is an opportunistic pathogen and that other unidentified factors are the primary cause of WNS. Here we demonstrate that exposure of healthy little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) to pure cultures of G. destructans causes WNS. Live G. destructans was subsequently cultured from diseased bats, successfully fulfilling established criteria for the determination ofG. destructans as a primary pathogen. We also confirmed that WNS can be transmitted from infected bats to healthy bats through direct contact. Our results provide the first direct evidence that G. destructans is the causal agent of WNS and that the recent emergence of WNS in North America may represent translocation of the fungus to a region with a naive population of animals. Demonstration of causality is an instrumental step in elucidating the pathogenesis and epidemiology of WNS and in guiding management actions to preserve bat populations against the novel threat posed by this devastating infectious disease.

Experimental infection of bats with Geomyces destructans causes white-nose syndrome, Jeffrey M. Lorch,
Carol U. Meteyer, Melissa J. Behr, Justin G. Boyles, Paul M. Cryan, Alan C. Hicks,Anne E. Ballmann,
Jeremy T. H. Coleman, David N. Redell, DeeAnn M. Reeder & David S. Blehert
, Nature (480), 376–378 (15 December 2011) doi:10.1038/nature10590





Tourist dies in cave near Shillong

Ujjal Ghosh, 54, a Baranagar resident, collapsed and died while trying to cross a cave in Meghalaya’s Cherrapunji on Wednesday. Ghosh had gone with a group from the city. “We have informed his family about the death. They are expected to arrive soon,” said a police officer in Shillong.

Suicide bid: Sulekha Singh, a Class IX student of a central Calcutta school, jumped from the first floor of a building on Eden Hospital Road on Wednesday afternoon after an altercation with her parents over her exam results. She was admitted to Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with an ankle fracture.

Death: Neville de Noronha, former principal of Nopany Vidyalaya and winner of The Telegraph School Awards, died in Bangalore at 4.30pm on Monday. He had been hospitalised after suffering a stroke on December 9.

Cuba: Speleological Finding in La Gegira, Gibara

The vice president of the Karst Speleological Group from the eastern province of Holguin , Jose Pino, heard of a peculiar natural pit in La Gegira, in the municipality of Gibara, from a friend that lives in Tierra Buena, a town in the nearby area.

As soon as he knew about it he got in touch with Arturo Rojas, the head of a team of speleologists and divers from the Speleological Committee of the province. By the end of November, a preliminary cartographic research had shown no known cavities or signals of it in the area suggested.

Then, Arturo summoned his team and by December 4 the "whole group", including Pavel Gonzalez, Walmer Perez, Celso Perez, Maikel Cordova, Yordanis de la Cruz, Osmel Silva and Orlay Leyva, were in the area.

"Very soon we walked into the woods to the get to the Poza de Martin, as it is called by the locals. We explored it and found nothing interesting. Hopeless, as we were getting ready to return, our guide Domingo Paz said that there was another similar opening in the ground about 50 meters from that place. We were already there so we decided to take a look".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stink? Neanderthal Noses Didn't Notice

A Neanderthal model at
Zagros Paleolithic Museum, Kermanshah
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Compared to Neanderthals, modern humans have a better sense of smell.

Differences in the temporal lobes and olfactory bulbs also suggest a combined use of brain functions related to cognition and olfaction.

The increase of brain size is intimately linked to the evolution of humanity. Two different human species, Neanderthals and modern humans, have independently evolved brains of roughly the same size but with differing shapes. This could indicate a difference in the underlying brain organization.

In a study published this week by Nature Communications, led by Markus Bastir and Antonio Rosas, of the Spanish Natural Science Museum (CSIC), high-tech medical imaging techniques were used to access internal structures of fossil human skulls. The researchers used sophisticated 3D methods to quantify the shape of the basal brain as reflected in the morphology of the skeletal cranial base. Their findings reveal that the human temporal lobes, involved in language, memory and social functions as well as the olfactory bulbs are relatively larger in Homo sapiens than in Neanderthals. "The structures which receive olfactory input are approximately 12% larger in modern humans than in Neanderthals", the authors explain.

This image shows the shape differences in the brains of an adult Homo sapiens (blue) and an adult Neanderthal (red).
Credit: MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology/Phillip Gunz

Man rescued after falling into cave

A Boise man remains in fair condition after he fell into a cave near Tipanuk on Tuesday.Jordan Jones and a friend were on their lunch break when they decided to stop by the cave, located just off the Old Oregon Trail Highway near Tipanuk, said Steve Raber from the Elmore County Search and Rescue team.

"They were simply curious" and went to take a look in the cave, Raber said.

As he was climbing out, Jones apparently lost his footing on an icy patch of rock and fell nearly 25 feet back down into the cave, said Alan Roberts from the Mountain Home extrication team. Jones, who stands near six and a half feet and weighs nearly 300 pounds, fractured a leg bone just above his ankle from the force of the impact.

Bulging Brain Structures Separate Us from Neanderthals

Modern humans possess brain structures larger than their Neanderthal counterparts, suggesting we are distinguished from them by different mental capacities, scientists find.

We are currently the only extant human lineage, but Neanderthals, our closest-known evolutionary relatives, still walked the Earth as recently as maybe 24,000 years ago. Neanderthals were close enough to the modern human lineage to interbreed, calling into question how different they really were from us and whether they comprise a different species.

To find out more, researchers used CT scanners to map the interiors of five Neanderthal skulls as well as four fossil and 75 contemporary human skulls to determine the shapes of their brains in 3D. Like modern humans, Neanderthals had larger brains than both our living ape relatives and other extinct human lineages.

The investigators discovered modern humans possess larger olfactory bulbs at the base of their brains. This area is linked primarily with smell, but also with other key mental functions such as memory and learning — central olfactory brain circuitry is physically very close to structures related to memory.

Ebook: Tech Diving Mag n° 5 out now

The fifth issue of Tech Diving Mag is available for download at http://www.techdivingmag.com/

Tech Diving Mag - issue 5


Content:
  • The use of trial exhibits by expert witnesses in litigation
  • VPM-B Variations: /E, /GFS and /U
  • Liquids as a hole: nucleation in diving
  • Polish CCR
  • Decompression calculations for trimix dives with pc software
  • Diving Pioneers & Innovators: A Series of In Depth Interviews (Howard Hall)


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bats won't halt rail plans

The threat of bats in a railway tunnel near Wolvercote holding up a new Rail service from Oxford to London Marylebone looks to have been lifted.

Chiltern Railways and Natural England have told the Government they are close to solving the bat problem to get the £130m scheme back on track.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening last month revealed the risk to bats and great crested newts presented a major obstacle to Evergreen 3’s scheme to create a fast Oxford-Bicester-London service.

Chiltern Railways and Natural England were given until today to set out measures to resolve the problem, that had resulted in the scheme being denied approval by a planning inspector.

The rail company and environment group told the Oxford Mail they had met the deadline with new proposals submitted to the Government, although the details have not been made public.

Video: Karst Topography


Karst Topography is a 17:30 minute long educational presentation on the unique environmental issues of karst limestone regions, polluted rain runoff, and the fragility of cave ecosystems.

Produced by Dr. Albert Ogden at Middle Tennessee State University.

Karst Topography was awarded Best of Show by the National Speleological Society.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Cave spider Meta Menardi elected to be next European Spider of the Year

Dear friends,

2012 will be the year of the first European cave animal.

The European Society of Archnology elected the cave spider Meta Menardi to the next European Spider of the Year. Meta Menardi was suggested by the German Speleological Federation VdHK.

Since 2009 VdHK promotes the German cave animal of the year with great success and recommends publicity to protect subterranean biodiversity with this very easy tool. All we do is a homepage (www.hoehlentier.de) with download material as flyer, poster and press release. VdHK offers posters and flyers to members and showcaves.

Print media follow the idea "nature of the year" and pick information from the internet. Today you can find the German cave animal of the year not only in newspapers and magazines but also in school material and calendars.

It would be great if other speleo federations join this project, it is less work and good outcome.

VdHK will be pleased to assist (you could use our texts, layout etc.)

The European Society of Archnology present Meta Menardi in several languages.

http://www.european-arachnology.org/esy/esy12/english.shtml

You may contact the national arachnology organisation in your country aswell.

If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch,

hope to hear from you soon

with German underground regards

happy holiday and a good speleo 2012

Baerbel


Baerbel Vogel President German Speleological Federation Verband der deutschen Höhlen- und Karstforscher e.V. www.vdhk.de www.hoehlentier.de www.karstinstitut.org Graßlergasse 24 D - 83486 Ramsau ++49-(0)8657-98b.w.vogel@gmx.de 

Mammoth Cave is one of Kentucky’s greenest fleets

Mammoth Cave NP Safety Officer Mark Rich holds awards
the park received for being a pioneer in using alternative
fuels in its vehicle fleet.
On December 7, the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition named Mammoth Cave National Park one of the commonwealth's greenest vehicle fleets and a pioneer in alternative fuels.

Mammoth Cave received one of twelve Pioneer Fleets of the Green Fleets of the Bluegrass Program awards at the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition winter meeting at Bernheim Forest. Each "pioneer" is working to improve the environmental performance of their vehicle fleets by reducing petroleum fuel use.

Mammoth Cave National Park is a Pioneer Member of the Green Fleets of the Bluegrass program. Mammoth Cave is the first national park in the country to utilize 100 percent alternative fuels and advanced technologies in their fleet. Biodiesel is used with all heavy duty equipment, including the Green River ferry boats. Low speed electric vehicles are utilized by campground staff, and all cave tour buses use propane. More than 90 percent of the vehicles used by Mammoth Cave run on either E10 or E85. The park partners with concessionaire Forever Resorts to enable both park and hotel vehicles to share the park's refueling station. Mammoth Cave is a member of the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition.

The other recipients of the Pioneer Fleets award:
Breathitt County Board of Education; Jefferson County Public Schools; Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection; Kentucky Division of Fleet Management; Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government; Louisville Regional Airport Authority; Mercer Transportation Company; Murray State University; Transit Authority of River City UPS Waste Management of Kentucky.

Did You Know?
In 1841, cave owner Dr. John Croghan believed the cave air might cure his patients suffering from tuberculosis. He brought 16 patients into Mammoth Cave that winter and housed them in stone and wood huts. After some perished, they left the cave, for of course the cave air offered no cure.

Source: Mammoth Cave National Park

Bats Died in Bulgarian Cave over 'Expendables 2' Filming

The Devetashka cave is considered to be one of the
most important natural habitats of bats in Europe.
Photo by evgenidinev.com
The bats inside Bulgarian Devetashka cave, a key spot for spending the winter season, have come out of hibernation much earlier than usual and it is unclear how many will survive until spring.

The conclusion was made by the Center for Bat Studies and Protection after a check of the cave.

Experts, cited by the TV channel bTV, say that all colonies are active at times they must be in hibernation over the noise and being disturbed during the recent filmingof Hollywood blockbuster "Expendables 2."

Several dead bats have been found inside the cave and the cause is in the process of being established.

The probe also revealed numerous tire marks, even in protected areas.

The environmentalists conclude the filming had been in violation of the law since under current legislation the cave can be used only for tourism and scientific research.

At the end of December, Nikolay Simov, a Bulgarian zoologist from the Center for Bat Studies and Protection at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, reported that the bat population in the Devetashka Cave has been reduced to 1/4, after the shooting of the movie.

"The shooting harms the bat habitat - with the placement of props, the cutting down of vegetation, as well as disturbance by the presence of large numbers of people and the noise they make," said Simov, pointing out the special check conducted after the session showed that at present there are some 8,000 inDevetashka Cave, while last year they were 30 000.

"What is even more alarming for us is that the legal regulations were not respected. The regional environmental inspectorate has no authority to give a permit for filmingin this protected area," the expert explained.

Simov added that the shooting was also in breach of the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats.

Earlier in November environmentalists protested against the planned filming of "Expendables 2" in the cave, saying this will disturb and chase away the animals.

The coming of an all-star team, including Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, and others, has been a media sensation in Bulgaria.

At the same time, the Devetashka Cave in central northern Bulgaria, LovechRegion, is considered one of the most important bat habitats in Europe.

Source: Novinite

Sunday, December 11, 2011

3D-printed spider robot skitters where humans can't

Roboticists from German research group Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft have used a 3D printing process to create a terrifying spider-like octoped that skitters over hurdles and jumps over gaps.

It's intended to get where humans can't -- especially in natural catastrophes and industrial accidents. By using its itty-bitty frame, agile legs and keen jumping ability, the spider takes obstacles like chemical spills and tight gaps in its eight-legged stride.

Just like a real arachnid, the robot keeps four legs on the ground at all time, while the other four move to ready themselves for the next step. This allows the articulate critter to confidently step over unstable ground without toppling over.

Some models can even jump into the air. This is thanks to the hydraulically operated bellows drives in the robot's legs -- by shooting fluid into its limbs the spider's legs can extend with a jolt to propel it upwards.

The control unit, valves and compressor pump are all nestled inside the creature's body. The robot spider can also carry measuring devices, sensors and a camera, depending on the task at hand.

The best bit about this arachnobot is how easy and cheap it is to produce. By using typical 3D printing processes (selective laser sintering, to be specific) a fine polyamide powder is turned into thin layers which are then melted together with a laser beam.

Plus, by making a few tweaks to the algorithm the end result can be altered. For example, spiders can be produced with infinitely variable load-bearing abilities in their legs. Because the design is modular, different bits can be swapped with other robots, to make the perfect bot for the job.

"Our robot is so cheap to produce that it can be discarded after being used just once," said researcher Ralf Becker, "like a disposable rubber glove."

Here's hoping those discarded spider-bots don't come back to haunt us.

Source: Wired | Fraunhofer




Friday, December 9, 2011

Antarctic Cave Microbes Shed Light on Life's Diversity

The entrance to Warren Cave, on Antarctica's
Moun. Erebus, requires a 50- to 60-foot rappel.
Climbing out is sometimes eased by a rope ladder.
CREDIT: Brian Hasebe
Biologists are using volcanic ice caves at the bottom of the world as windows into the mysterious biosphere found deep beneath Earth's crust.

The caves are found on the summit plateau of Antarctica's Mount Erebus, a dormant volcano that rises 12,448 feet (3,794 meters) into the frigid antipodean air. The caves harbor microbes that are isolated from their surface brethren, and they make a living in entirely different ways.

With virtually no organic matter to munch on, many of the cave dwellers "eat" rock. They draw sustenance from metals such as iron and manganese, as any microbes found far below Earth's surface must do.

"Caves are a great thing, and mining shafts are a great thing, because they give you access to the deep crust," Hubert Staudigel, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, said during a presentation here Thursday (Dec. 8) at the winter meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make no bones about it, this is Britain’s scariest cave! Photographer captures eerie skull in reflection of remote rock face

The photo of the cave, when turned
on its side, displays an ominous image of a skull
Only the bravest would tackle a cave whose icy waters have already claimed the lives of several divers.

But if there was any doubt about the peril that awaits at Hodge Close Quarry, one need only look at this picture

The lake at the abandoned slate quarry is an eerie enough site - but as this image shows if you turn your head you are greeted with the terrifying sight of a giant skull.

The image was taken by a diver who had just been into the waters of the quarry near Coniston in Cumbria.

The pool is accessed through a 25-metre long a two-metre-square tunnel.

The spot, which is popular with divers, has claimed the lives of at least three over the years.

Photographer Peter Bardsley said: 'Have a look at this photograph. It's taken at a slate quarry called Hodge Close, near Coniston in the Lake District.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ice Age Hominins And Their Adaptability To Climate Change

Complex computational modeling provides clues to Neanderthal extinction

Computational modeling that examines evidence of how hominin groups evolved culturally and biologically in response to climate change during the last Ice Age also bears new insights into the extinction of Neanderthals. Details of the complex modeling experiments conducted at Arizona State University and the University of Colorado Denver will be published in the December issue of the journal Human Ecology, available online Nov. 17.

“To better understand human ecology, and especially how human culture and biology co-evolved among hunter-gatherers in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia (ca. 128,000-11,500 years ago) we designed theoretical and methodological frameworks that incorporated feedback across three evolutionary systems: biological, cultural and environmental,” said Michael Barton, a pioneer in the area of archaeological applications of computational modeling at Arizona State University.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New articles in Speleogenesis Journal‏

Two new articles has been published in the current (#11, 2011) issue of the journal "Speleogenesis and Evolution of Karst Aquifers":

Many articles from recent karst/cave and other geoscience journals have been recently featured by posting their bibliography information with respective web links.

Check regularly: http://www.speleogenesis.info/content/

All previous issues of the journal are available from the left panel on the main page.

The UIS Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis kindly invites the Speleogenesis community to submit articles to the journal.

See previous post for more articles.


New NCKRI website

Dear Friends,

I’m delighted to announce that the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) has launched its new website at www.nckri.org

In it you’ll find much information about NCKRI, its programs and projects, how to join or support NCKRI, its staff and board, and more. And even more is coming! In the next few months we’ll add information on conferences we are leading and hosting, plus other news and information. Now that we’ve finished giving the website a great new look and better structure, we will keep building and updating it for years to come.

The website also has our new Annual Report, which covers NCKRI’s activities from July 2010 through June 2010. You’ll find it on our publications page (in our “About NCKRI” tab).

George Veni, Ph.D.
Executive Director
National Cave and Karst Research Institute

Monday, November 21, 2011

Therion 5.3.9 (beta) released



Therion is a complete package which processes survey data and generates maps or 3D models of caves.

A new beta version (5.3.9) has been released and is available here.

Therion solves the most annoying problem of cave cartography – how to keep a map of large and complicated cave system always up-to-date. 

Main features include:
Complete maps with all the detail. No additional ink stroke is needed.
  • Maps are dynamic, always up-to-date – i.e. they are automatically re-drawn after loop closure, blunder fix, scale or symbol set change
  • 3D models are created using 2D maps
It runs on wide variety of platforms: Linux, Windows, Mac OS X. It is completely free, released under the terms of GNU GPL, with source code available. It doesn't require any other commercial software to run.

The latest version includes following additions/bug fixes:
Therion:
* added new point types: ice-stalactite, ice-stalagmite, ice-pillar,
clay-choke, clay-tree
* added new wall subtypes: pit, flowstone, moonmilk, overlying
* added new symbol groups: ice, sediments
* added -height option for pit/wall:pit
* added new layout option: color map-bg transparent
* Austrian symbol set added (thanks to Georg Pacher)
* updated German translation (thanks to Georg Pacher)
* updated Italian translation (thanks to Marco Corvi)
* added bulgarian translation (thanks to Alexander Yanev)
* added possibility to define own coordinate system in therion.ini (cs-def)
* updated survex img library to version 1.1.15
* added option -enable/disable splay-shots to 3d model export
* bugs fixed:
- fixed huge coordinate numbers in extended elevation xvi
- xvi with sketches export
- unnecessary warningcheck changes eliminated from metapost code
- fixed bug with 3d model generation from scraps without outline
- fixed bug with missing patterns in symbols.xhtml
- fixed bug - direction point not working with line secion
- fixed inaccurate clipping of coloured scrap background
- fixed placement of surface bitmaps with larger offset
- fixed alignment of some point symbols in AUT symbol set
- missing white fill below cave passages in transparent PDFs if background
colour is white (needed if the map is included into other map with
non-white background)
- fixed incorrect line width conversion in some patterns
- hide white background of scraps when the PDF layer containing them
is invisible
- constrained Delaunay triangulation engine replaced by poly2tri
- passage outline scanning algorithm improved
- "nosurvey" shots allowed between unfixed stations
- added missing area flowstone and moonmilk into legend
- fixed xvi export of extended elevation
- fixed symbol-hide/show point remark bug
- fixed wall:debris bug in AUT symbol set (thanks to Georg Pacher)
- fixed layout color map-bg transparent bug
- LRUD area dimensions is drawn for all shots before these shots are drawn
(centerline is compact when map is exported from centerline only)

xtherion:
* bugs fixed:
-

loch:
* VTK file export changed to binary type (problem with coordinate systems)
* bugs fixed:
- vthreshold should work now for LRUD modelling
Source: Therion

Floyd Collins To Open at The Vault, Southwark Playhouse For Six Week Run

Peter Huntley Productions in association with Southwark Playhouse is set to present Floyd Collins, featuring a book by Tina Landau.

The play features music and lyrics by Adam Guettel, and additional lyrics by Tina Landau.

Directed by Derek Bond.

22nd February to 31st March 2012

Kentucky, 1925. Floyd Collins, soon to be acclaimed as the ‘greatest caver ever known', dreams of finding fame and fortune underground. When a cave-in leaves him trapped 55 feet below the earth's surface, the media circus above ground makes a very personal tragedy a national sensation.

Emergence Exhibit Video: Extremophiles in Caves


Extremophiles are organisms that thrive in all kinds of extreme environments. They are found throughout New Mexico—on the surfaces of desert rocks, cave walls, lava tubes, and mineshafts. In these environments, scientists have discovered thousands of species of microorganisms whose genes have remained virtually unchanged over billions of years. Going back so far in time, these organisms may harbor important clues to how life originated.

This same research into extremophiles is being tapped to help our space program decide what to look for while searching for life on other planets.

or the 3D version:


Source: New Mexico museum of Natural History and Science

Darkness calls cave art expert

Leslie Van Gelder
A Glenorchy-based archaeologist, having just completed 11 years studying ancient art in two French caves, is itching to return to the darkness next year.

Dr Leslie Van Gelder - one of only two cave art experts in New Zealand - specialises in the study of Paleolithic finger-flutings, man-made lines left in soft stone surfaces up to 32,000 years ago.

She spoke to 60 people recently at a screening of documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which follows an expedition into France's Chauvet Cave, and man's most ancient visual art.

Many of the researchers featured in the documentary were Dr Van Gelder's contemporaries from research in the caves of Rouffignac and Gargas with her late husband Kevin Sharpe.

The couple's development of ways to identify individual artists showed women's and children's roles in cave art, and, in the Rouffignac cave, was the first to show symbolic work from children. Among the swirling swathes of parallel finger flutings across the walls and ceilings of the caves were symbolic tectiform drawings. She hopes to have finished a book on their findings in a year.

For now Dr Gelder works from home as programme director for Walden University - a distance-learning institution - as well as working on a documentary about the history of the road to Glenorchy.

The documentary continues at Dorothy Browns.

Source: Otago daily Times

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bats stop high-speed train in its tracks: Work stopped after rare colony is found

A new £130 million high-speed rail link from Oxford to London has been halted by bats.

Commuters had been looking forward to the faster service within three years, following a public inquiry into the scheme.

Proposals for the development, which will go through Bicester, were put forward by Chiltern Railways and the project is expected to cost £130 million.

But the planning inspector has withheld approval due to concerns the faster trains could destroy a colony of rare bats roosting in Wolvercote Tunnel in Oxford.

And Chiltern Railways and environment body Natural England also need to agree on a scheme to stop possible pollution of nearby ponds inhabited by endangered great-crested newts.

The two organisations have been given four weeks to find a solution.

The Department for Transport said if measures to protect the species were agreed, Transport Secretary Justine Greening would be ‘minded to approve the scheme’.

Jonathan Gittos of the Engage Oxford group, which raised fears about noise and vibrations from the service, said: ‘It’s a completely mad world when the inspector seems to pay more attention to the needs of bats and newts than people.’

Source: Daily Mail

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Second rescue for Devon caver in underground fall drama

A caving enthusiast from the Westcountry who was rescued from 300ft underground after a fall, escaped from a similar accident five years ago, it has emerged.

Emily Sellick, from Kingsbridge in Devon, was exploring a disused lead mine in Shropshire with six friends when she suffered an epileptic fit and fell.

Emily Sellick pictured after her rescue from Pridhamsleigh Cavern in June 2006. She was so impressed by the work of the cave rescuers who helped her that she later volunteered to join the Devon Cave Rescue Organisation

Message to Obama: Save the Bats!

Do you want to help save America’s insect-eating bats from extinction? Then tell President Obama.

People who love bats — or at least the multi-billion dollar agricultural benefits they provide — are urging Obama to include in his 2013 budget research on White Nose Syndrome, the disease that’s annihilating insect-eating bats across much of the eastern United States and Canada.

Caused by a fungus that was first identified less than a decade ago, scientists are racing to learn how to fight WNS. Federal research funding, however, has been minimal, with bat supporters scratching and clawing for the Beltway equivalent of couch change.

To ask for direct White House support, Bat Conservation International has set up a We the People online petition. We the People is the formal White House petition site, with a response promised to any plea with at least 25,000 signatures to back it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bats are key to biosafety - study

Bats coexist with so many lethal viruses scientists hope they can show us how to fend off deadly diseases.

Researchers at the world's most advanced biosecurity research facility, CSIRO's Australian Animal Health Laboratory, are keeping the nation safe by studying RNA viruses that come from bats - Hendra, SARS, Ebola, and Nipah.

Dr Alex Hyatt says the Geelong lab's state-of-the art microscopy technology allows research with infectious disease agents that require the highest levels of biocontainment.

'We are talking about viruses here that if you are infected you are a gonner,' he said.

'There are no vaccines, they are pathogenic, they are deadly ... so we can look at the interactions in real time, live viruses in cells without risk of infection or death. And come to understand how viruses replicate in cells.'

Dr Linfa Wang says bats, the second most abundant animals on earth after rodents, are key to their research.

'Bats have been around for 60 million years so they somehow developed this symbiotic relationship with a virus and they can co-exist happily. The virus won't cause any disease in bats.'

Some scientists believe there is an ancestor form in bats of most of the modern viruses infecting humans and livestock.

The scientists want to watch live interaction in bats with viruses and how bat cells behave to see why they co-exist with the viruses without getting sick.

'We consider bats almost like a black hole, we have very limited understanding of this interesting group of mammal species,' Dr Wang said.

Professor Martyn Jeggo says their aim is to diagnose and respond to an emergency disease as fast as possible and research to mitigate or protect against disease.

But some viruses are just too risky to let in, including live foot and mouth virus, because it has the potential to devastate the livestock industry.

So the researchers are studying it in pigs in Vietnam, in sheep work in South Africa and in cattle work in Argentina.

The laboratory allows scientists around the world to work together in real time.

Source: Big Pond News

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Video: Orphaned baby bats nursed back to health

Brisbane has welcomed the arrival of almost 100 baby bats, after conservationists flew the tiny flying foxes over from Cairns, where extreme weather has left many of them orphaned
Check out the video at  The Globe and Mail.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Video: 5000 Pieds sous Terre


Made by : Didier Philippe
Actors : Anthony Bédard, Cyril Fonck

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cathedral Cove cave has shave

Spiderman: Geotechnical specialist Adam Warren descends
after chipping away loose rock from Cathedral Cove archway
Wielding a hefty sledgehammer Adam Warren worked with the finesse of a surgeon as he chipped away at the face of Coromandel's Cathedral Cove archway yesterday.

Thuds resonated through the majestic cave as pieces of ignimbrite rock fell about 15 metres to the bleached sand below.

Hard hats were compulsory inside the cave's exclusion zone as Warren and colleague Raphael Lemgruber, suspended from ropes, scanned the rock face for loose rock to remove.

The cave was closed in April last year because of falling rock, and yesterday the geotechnical specialists assessed the risk of more falls, "scaling" loose rock inside and out.

75th Anniversary of the MCR on 18th /19th November

Celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the Mendip Cave Rescue (MCR) will start on the Friday night in the Hunters where we will be showing rescue related videos and clips in the back room. 

 Saturday's programme (details below) will involve, videos, kit displays and various activities such as pitch hauling on a climbing wall, an underground practice rescue and the Speleo Olympics course for a “rescue” race event. 

The activities in the evening will include a talk on the Mendip Cave Rescue, an auction of caving related objects and the JRat Digging Award for 2011. This will be followed by a Stomp later in the evening 

Food will be available at lunchtime and in the evening and celebratory T- shirts will be on sale. The bar will be open all afternoon and evening.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

CSI Wisconsin: Are Wind Turbines Killing Bats?

It’s a little Animal Planet, a little CSI. A new study conducted by the University of Wisconsin Madison looked into the cause of death of countless numbers of bats found near wind turbines. The study was funded by Invenergy and Wisconsin Focus on Energy and recently discussed on the University of Wisconsin’s news site.

Researchers conducting the study had two culprits in mind for the cause of death: barotrauma, caused by bats flying through different pressures created by the turbines which causes the bats internal organs to explode and blunt-force trauma from bats colliding directly with turbine blades or poles. While bats are able to fly around non-moving objects, the speed of the blades makes reaction time difficult for bats to avoid.

Researches used veterinary diagnostic techniques along with x-rays, tissue analysis, and gross necropsy to support or rule out their assumptions. Three-quarters of the bats studied had broken bones and ruptured organs. About half of the bats examined had middle and/or inner eardrum ruptures.

“We still don’t know exactly why bats are being killed — why the bats can’t see such a large thing protruding from the landscape, or what is possibly attracting the bats,” UW Professor David Drake said in the new article, “but now that we know direct causes of death we can start thinking about how to redesign turbine blades to have a smaller pressure differential or identify other cost-effective mitigation strategies that would minimize damage to bats.”

The full study, “Investigating the causes of death for wind-turbine associated bat fatalities,” is published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of Mammalogy. It also isn’t the first study to look into this matter – one last year found that a slight alteration in turbine operation practices can have a big effect in reducing bat fatalities.

Source: Earthechling

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Route in Peak Cavern

Pitch 1 (wet 7c+) of Ring of Fire during the first ascent in Peak Cavern. All pics Triple Echo Productions.

The other shoot I just finished with Triple Echo for the BBC was even weirder than the Handa adventure! The director Richard Else managed to get special permission to climb in the show cave Peak Cavern near Castleton right in the middle of the Peak District. The idea was for myself and Alan Cassidy to see if we could find a route out of it!

Peak Cavern, otherwise known as 'The Devil's Arse' is one of the biggest and most impressive limestone crags in the Peak. In a region where every other inch of rock has a route on it, it’s pretty amazing that there are no free routes on this crag at all. It comes down to access. The crag has been banned for climbing forever as it’s a tourist attraction on private land - paying public walking around below climbs etc. Of course it’s a massive shame since I’m certain a way round it could be found with the help of the BMC. The cave is only open to the public until 5pm and then it’s locked. Climber’s lock-in? Sadly I don’t think a change is likely any time soon. We appealed as best we could.