Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Could local bats be connected to fatal bat disease?

Bats are a fascinating part of the ecological chain here in south central Texas and Bracken Bat Cave, just north of San Antonio, is the home of the largest bat colony in the world. But wildlife experts are very alarmed at the spread of a disease that has already decimated the country's bat population by the millions. And local experts say they have some concerns here too.

Bracken Bat Cave is the home of up to 20-million bats. Now most have gone, they've migrated to warmer spots. But it's the migration that experts and are concerned about. Concerned because it may be transporting a deadly fungus that's responsible for the largest death of any wildlife in recorded history.

White Nose Syndrome kills hibernating bats by starvation and dehydration leaving the classic white color around the nose. While it has not been found here at Bracken or any of the Texas caves, some experts say it's very possible.

Estimates just released days ago by U.S. Fish and Wildlife say about six million bats died in the U.S. the last four years. Since 2007, White Nose has spread from New York state where it was first discovered, to the southwest-- most recently detected in Oklahoma.

Underwater Caves Reopened In Freeport

Ben's Cave, Lucayan National Park, Freeport.
Two historic underwater caves within the Lucayan National Park have been reopened.

Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound received more than $23,000 in structural upgrades as a result of donations to the Bahamas National Trust.

BNT branch chairman Lloyd Cheong said: “The Burial Mound platform and walkway have been completely renovated. We have also added much needed support to the Ben’s Cave viewing platform allowing us to open tours of these caves to visitors again.”

Ben’s Cave is named after legendary local diver Ben Rose, who co-discovered a new species there in 1982. The centipede-like organism was found swimming in the underwater cavern systems and was officially called Remipedia (meaning: “oar foot”).

The Burial Mound cave was named because of the skeletal remains of indigenous Lucayans found on the floor in a second chamber of this cave and has been featured in National Geographic magazines and television documentaries.

UA Student Explores Caves for Dissertation

University of Arkansas doctoral candidate Kathy Kneirim is doing an 18-month project studying water flow at Blowing Springs Cave in Bella Vista.

Part of her research involves testing the water on the outside of the cave. But Kneirim says, like any good mystery, you have to dig a little deeper to get the real story.

Kathy's research has led her into the Blowing Springs cave. To do this story I even had to put on a hard hat with a light and crawl in with her. It's not every day that your assignment exploring through a cave with a light and gloves.

Caving allows Kneirim to track water quality with specially designed meters a mile deep, and then track the changes as it flows out into Bella Vista and so many other areas in Northwest Arkansas.

Kathy says rain can cause some problems for our drinking water. “After it rains that water can get very quickly into the groundwater. Things like pesticides, manure, bacteria. All of that can be pushed into our groundwater.’’

Kathy is underground three to four hours at a time doing the research that will make up her doctoral dissertation.

She often puts on her coat and heads out during rainy weather to measure the quality of the water. “You can measure differences in chemistry throughout a rainstorm and find out what's coming out of the ground, the soil, and the bedrock and relate that to the water quality,’’ said Kathy.

The feat is not exactly simpe though. If you want to get back to the end of Blowing Springs Cave, you have to belly crawl in cold shallow water for about a half hour, then go through another knee bending walk for another half a mile.

It's a long way to go, but for our H2O it's worth every minute.


 

Source: 5 News

Deadly Bat Fungus Spreading in the Maritimes

White-nose syndrome on this bat has spread to the wings and ears.
The disease-causing fungus has been found at three new sites in New Brunswick.
A scientist in New Brunswick is sounding the alarm over a deadly fungus that is severely impacting bat populations in the province and could spread across the country.

During an inspection of the bats’ winter hibernation sites in recent weeks, Donald McAlpine, research curator of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum, found that the disease-causing fungus known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) has spread to three new sites.

This is despite the fact that it is still early in the hibernation season and WNS often doesn’t become evident until later in the winter.

McAlpine says the quick spread of the highly contagious disease is worrying and doesn’t bode well.

DNA Turning Human Story Into a Tell-All

A view above the Denisova cave, where clues to prehistoric
interbreeding were found. Faster technology is aiding research.
The tip of a girl’s 40,000-year-old pinky finger found in a cold Siberian cave, paired with faster and cheaper genetic sequencing technology, is helping scientists draw a surprisingly complex new picture of human origins.

The new view is fast supplanting the traditional idea that modern humans triumphantly marched out of Africa about 50,000 years ago, replacing all other types that had gone before.

Instead, the genetic analysis shows, modern humans encountered and bred with at least two groups of ancient humans in relatively recent times: the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia, dying out roughly 30,000 years ago, and a mysterious group known as the Denisovans, who lived in Asia and most likely vanished around the same time.

Their DNA lives on in us even though they are extinct. “In a sense, we are a hybrid species,” Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist who is the research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said in an interview.

The Denisovans (pronounced dun-EE-suh-vinz) were first described a year ago in a groundbreaking paper in the journal Nature made possible by genetic sequencing of the girl’s pinky bone and of an oddly shaped molar from a young adult.

Those findings have unleashed a spate of new analyses.

Snowboarder digs snow cave to survive night at Mount Baker

A snowboarder survived a night in the backcountry of Mount Baker Ski Area Saturday by digging a snow cave to stay warm.

Jakub Cink, 23, was in good health and uninjured when he trekked back into the ski area Sunday morning and flagged down a member of the ski patrol.

Cink told rescuers he snowboarded out of bounds Saturday afternoon thinking it would lead to the parking lot, but got lost. Cink is from the Czech Republic and visiting friends in Vancouver, B.C.

Despite climbing to the top of a ridge, Cink realized he was lost and dug a snow cave to shield him from the weather for the night.

During that time, Bellingham Mountain Rescue volunteers scoured the area of Lake Ann and the Shuksan Arm, where Cink's tracks were seen. By 2:00 a.m., avalanche hazards became too much for rescuers, who had to stop for the night.

The next morning, volunteers set out again, and Cink made his way back to the ski area where he was rescued.

Cink is is an experienced snowboarder but this was his first time to Mount Baker Ski Area.

Source: King5

Inquiry into salt cave therapy opens

A medical council inquiry into allegations that a Kildare-based doctor made false and misleading claims in relation to “Salt Cave Climate Therapy” which he used to treat bronchial illnesses, has opened in Dublin.

The fitness to practise inquiry was told Dr Tamas Bakonyi who qualified in Hungary in 1997 and came to Ireland in 2005, had made claims in relation to the therapy being effective in the treatment of chest infections, asthma and cystic fibrosis among patients from six to eighty years-of-age.

The “climatherapy clinic” set up in a unit in the Glenroyal Shopping Centre in Maynooth aimed to recreate the atmosphere of underground salt caves. It was claimed the caves were known in Eastern Europe for their therapeutic powers – particularly for respiratory conditions.

J P McDowell, solicitor for the medical council, said evidence would be given that Dr Bakonyi’s claims were not supported by an analysis undertaken by an eminent physician specialising in respiratory disorders.

Mr Mc Dowell said these claims had been made by the doctor in a number of newspaper articles including theLiffey Champion and The Irish Times as well as a website, a radio interview and advertisements in the print media.

The inquiry was told Dr Bakonyi operated his salt cave in addition to working as a general practitioner in Leixlip.

Among the allegations against Dr Bakonyi are that he made false and misleading claims about the efficacy of the treatments; that he raised unrealistic expectations of the process and that there was a risk his patients would discontinue mainstream medical treatments for their illnesses.

The hearing is continuing.

Source: Irish Times

As Bat Deaths Mount, So Does Urgency for a National Response

A mysterious, fatal disease is stealing North America's bats at a staggering rate.

Scientists just released a new estimate that white-nose syndrome has wiped out nearly 7 million bats in just six years. (Two years ago, the estimate was only 1 million bats.) Most of the bats have been killed in the Northeast, but this deadly disease is clearly marching west, raising the prospect that it could churn through bat populations from coast to coast.

The toll on bats is devastating -- but equally troubling has been the lack of a rapid, national response to what many scientists say is the worst wildlife disease outbreak in our country's history.

If we're going to stem the tide of this deadly outbreak, the Obama administration needs to convene our natural-resource agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey, to develop a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for understanding exactly how this disease spreads and taking every possible measure to stop it.

So far, federal agencies have yet to respond at a scale matching the magnitude of the crisis. It was heartening to see Congress direct $4 million to white-nose syndrome late last year, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has written a response plan, but the actual implementation has been sluggish.

Now that we know this crisis is far worse than previously thought, we need to move quickly.

The cost of sticking to a lax approach will be steep. Left unchecked, white-nose syndrome could kill millions more bats, drive some species extinct and fuel one of the biggest mass die-offs of wildlife since Europeans arrived on this continent.

That scenario is not far-fetched.

International Workshop on Speleology in Artificial Cavities

International Workshop on Speleology in Artificial Cavities
"Classification of the typologies of artificial cavities in the world"

Dates: 18-20 May 2012
Torino (Piedmont Region, Italy)

Organized by: - Commissione Nazionale Cavità Artificiali SSI
UIS Artificial Cavities Commission
Chairman: Mario Parise m.parise@ba.irpi.cnr.it
Secretary: Carla Galeazzi carla.galeazzi3@alice.it

What's the purpose of the Cadastre of Artificial Cavities?
The purpose of the Cadastre of Artificial Cavities (AC) is:
- the inventory and the cataloguing of the AC in accordance with procedures established and accepted at an international level;
- geographical documentation of each territory and its peculiarity;
- support and coordination during scientific research and exploration;
- to contribute in developing proper land management, integrating the tools and codes of the local governments;
- the protection and enhancement of the urban environment and the cultural heritage.
As an example of existing Cadastre of Artificial Cavities, link to the Italian website: http://catastoartificiali.speleo.it/applications/1.0/

Monday, January 30, 2012

French cave diver dies in Switzerland

Chaudanne resurgence, Switzerland
A 30-year-old French cave diver died this Sunday afternoon in Rossinière, Switzerland.

His identity was not yeat released by the police.

The guy was diving in the Chaudanne resurgence using a rebreather.

At about 14h30 his mates noticed a huge amount of bubbles rising to the surface and immediatly they knew there was a problem.

One of his companions discovered his unconscious body and brought it back to the surface where they started first aid. Alas, the fire and rescue team that arrived couldn't stabilize him and he passed away.

The local police seized his equipment and started an investigation.

Additional resources:
Pictures of Chaudanne resurgence

National Cave and Karst Research Institute 2010-2011 Annual Report


Water Cathedral design based on cave structures.

Designed by a team from the design collective GUN Arquitectos, the Water Cathedral is a stunning outdoor installation that features an overhang of eye-catching vertical elements.

These vertical components, which are done in varying lengths and shapes and seem suspended in the air, are meant to mimic the stalactites hanging from cave interiors. Indeed, the ground of the Water Cathedral also features rising, pointed elements that look like a cave’s stalagmites. While these “stalactites” and “stalagmites” provide an intriguing aesthetic to the space, they were actually designed to function as a cooling mechanism for visitors. Water is drawn from a hydraulic irrigation network to fill them, and when they’re filled, the water will drip down in droplets to cool the people below.




Source: Trendhunter

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eric Establie: Monograph, Info Plongée n°103

The latest issue of Info Plongée (a France cave diving magazine) is completely dedicated to the late Eriçc Establie, who died in a tragic cave diving accident in the "Source de la Dragonnière de la Bastide de Virac" in the Ardêche region in France in octobre 2010.

You can view the complete issue below:




21st International Radiocarbon Conference

The 21st International Radiocarbon Conference is co‐organized by the French Radiocarbon community and UNESCO. It will be hosted at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, from 9 to 13 July 2012. If you have any results related to past continental reconstructions and radiocarbon then you are encouraged to submit an abstract to the session number 11.

Session 11:
This session addresses multiple issues related to time series for continental palaeoclimatic records and palaeohydrological responses. It focuses on precisely dated continental records that shed light on climatic variability on all continents and its impact on hydrology and vegetation changes. Palaeoclimatic reconstructions from continental carbonates (speleothems, travertine, gastropods, ostracods, soils carbonates, calcified roots, etc.), from continental and coastal organic matter (peat, sediment, soil, vegetation, etc.) are welcome. Besides climatic reconstruction, processes involving carbon isotopes (12C, 13C, 14C) and bio indicators (pollen, diatoms, sponge spicules, phytolits, etc.) in above organic archives are welcome.

Keywords:
dating, paleoclimatic series, continental carbonates, speleothem, travertine, gastropod, ostracods, calcified roots, rhizoliths, organic matter, soil, vegetation, (paleo) climate, (paleo) hydrology

For registration and abstract submission, please go to the conference page.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Karst-O-Rama July 20-22, 2012


Greater Cincinnati Grotto is putting the “Karst” back into Karst-O-Rama for our 20th year at Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve in Mt. Vernon, KY!

Pre-registration is now open!! The first 50 adults to pre-register will be entered into a drawing for a nice carbide lamp (pics coming soon) so don’t delay, register today!!
Click here to open the mail-in form
Click here to Register Online through PayPal!

Registration is limited to NSS/Grotto members only with the option to sponsor up to a total of three (3) non-member guests. Come enjoy a variety of cave trips and many-family friendly activities! Visit our website: http://karstorama.com and like us on facebook for more info and updates.

Do you have old pictures (you know, from before we all went digital)? Amber Yuellig is collecting all these old pieces of our KOR history. So dig through your closets and this time, pull out all those skeletons!!! And send what you can find so that we can celebrate 20 years of Karst-O-Rama!! Contact Amber (guanohunter@hotmail.com)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bats find shelter in Israeli bunkers

Bats are finding a surprising haven in abandoned Israeli bunkers, researchers say.

The bunkers, on the border with Jordan, have been turned into official bat caves, helping to save the endangered mammals from extinction.

Scientists say they have identified 12 indigenous bat species in the 100 kilometre (60 mile)-long tract between the Sea of Galilee in Israel and the Dead Sea's northern edge in the occupied West Bank.

"This place of all places, that man built and later left, they (bats) were wise enough to enter and live in," Aviam Atar, of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, said.

See the BBC link below for the video report.

Source: BBC News

Auckland's amazing cave network

Caver Peter Crossley in a cave beneath the
streets of Mt Albert. He's compiling a book
on Aucklands intricate caving system and
its history.
With pretty bungalows and grassy berms, it looks like any street in just about any Auckland suburb. But Peter Crossley knows better.

He lifts the rusty round lid from a manhole beside the footpath, attaches a skinny wire ladder to hooks and rolls it down into the darkness. This is the entrance to a massive cave that runs 250m under Kitenui Ave and surrounding streets in Mt Albert. Discovered accidentally by workers repairing gas pipes in 2006, it's considered Auckland's most significant lava cave find in a century.

Crossley is a speleologist (a cave scientist, rather than an adventurer or explorer) who worked at Auckland University's School of Environment until recently.

He arrived from England in the 1960s and since then has found 250 lava caves across the Auckland region. He's writing a book about them.

Aside from some in the Bay of Islands, lava caves are seldom found elsewhere in New Zealand. They're formed as a result of a specific type of lava being emitted in volcanic eruptions.

Uncovering the caves has always been an interesting task, says Crossley, because the best often have been found through legend or rumour. "I used to go round knocking on doors and I'd say, 'Excuse me sir (or madam), have you got a cave in your back garden?"'

20th International Karstological School

20TH INTERNATIONAL KARSTOLOGICAL SCHOOL "CLASSICAL KARST"

KARST FORMS AND PROCESSES

Postojna, June 18th to 23rd 2012

is organised by Karst Research Institute ZRC SAZU. 

Since 1993, International Karstological Schools have been organised, covering many aspects of karst research. The basic idea of the School has been to present the state of the art in selected topics and
promote discussion between participants via set of lectures, poster sessions and related field trips to the area of Slovene Classical karst.

Research in the last two decades has contributed new findings in many topics of these past schools. Therefore, the 20th IKS is an opportunity to review our current understanding of typical karst forms
and processes, stress the research advances in the last two decades and define challenges and perspectives for the next generation.

For more details visit: http://www.speleogenesis.info/news.php?id=167

Last chance to get a DistoX 1 board for Disto A3

Kevin Dixon writes to say that he is going to produce some DistoX1 boards for the A3, which will be the same as produced by Beat Heeb. See this paper for details about the DistoX 1.

Components have been found to make about 100 boards.

Final price will hopefully be GBP 160/board plus shipping but will depend on the cost of the obsolete parts, which have now been obtained. You will need to find your own Disto A3 to upgrade.

Boards are expected to be finished and ready for shipment around March/April.

Contact kdxn at yahoo dot com if your interested.

This is the final batch of boards to be produced for the Leica Disto A3.

Beat is however working on a replacement: the DistoX2 which will be fit for the Leica DXT. (See this post)

Currently the new DistoX2 unit is being field tested, but it will take a while before it can go into production as they are still trying to figure out all the different models (apparently Leica changed the design a few times) and to improve the calibration and robustness of the overall unit.

Source: UK Caving

NSS Director Candidates Needed!!

NSS members,

This is your chance to make a difference in the NSS! We're looking for NSS members who want to participate in leading their Society and managing it for enduring success. Now is the time to step forward to serve your Society on the Board of Governors.

The Nominating Committee is in *urgent* need of candidates for the 2012 Director Election. This year we need to elect five directors to fill the available seats, so I would like to have at least 10 candidates . Directors serve a three-year term and attend three meetings a year.

If you would like to run, or know someone who would make a good Board member, please contact me immediately! Persons with experience in leadership, business, marketing, management, law, fundraising, or other relevant areas are particularly sought.

Go to the Nominating Committee page from the NSS home page for more information.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NSS Says White Nose Syndrome Estimates Too High

The National Speleological Society today called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to publicly release its data a methodology for how the agency arrived at its recent estimate that “at least 5.7 to 6.7 million bats have now died from white-nose syndrome.”

In a six-page letter to USFWS Director Daniel Ashe, the NSS laid out its own research indicating the federal estimate is significantly higher than available information would support. Further, the Society said that simply releasing a raw number is not helpful in determining whether the disease spread is accelerating, remaining steady, or slowing down.

Peter Youngbaer, White Nose Syndrome Liaison for the NSS, said, “Public accountability and good science both demand transparency, so that the decisions we all make in our responses to WNS are evidence-based, and subject to scientific scrutiny.”

Life Beyond Earth? Underwater Caves in Bahamas Could Give Clues

Typical Bahamian Blue Hole entrance pool.
Credit: Photo by Tamara Thomsen
Discoveries made in some underwater caves by Texas &M University at Galveston researchers in the Bahamas could provide clues about how ocean life formed on Earth millions of years ago, and perhaps give hints of what types of marine life could be found on distant planets and moons.

Tom Iliffe, professor of marine biology at the Texas A&M-Galveston campus, and graduate student Brett Gonzalez of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., examined three "blue holes" in the Bahamas and found that layers of bacterial microbes exists in all three, but each cave had specialized forms of such life and at different depths, suggesting that microbial life in such caves is continually adapting to changes in available light, water chemistry and food sources. Their work, also done in conjunction with researchers from Penn State University, has been published in Hydrobiologia.

"Blue holes" are so named because from an aerial view, they appear circular in shape with different shades of blue in and around their entrances. There are estimated to be more than 1,000 such caves in the Bahamas, the largest concentration of blue holes in the world.

Attack on Akkar fruit bats threatens local ecology

The largest single colony of fruit bats in the Middle East, residing in a cave in the Akkar region of north Lebanon, was last weekend largely destroyed by vandals, with thousands of bats killed.

Dr. Mounir Abi-Said, founder of Animals Encounter, and a professor at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese University, conducted a routine check on the colony as part of research into the highly endangered animal begun in 2007.

“The cave was full of shotgun pellets, spent fireworks and AK-47 bullet casings and there was evidence that fires had been started in the cave,” Abi-Said told The Daily Star.

Fig trees, which had previously sheltered the entrance to the cave, have been burned down, exposing the bats to the light and elements. Bats roost in dark conditions.

Fruit bats, also known as megabats, are one of 20 species of bat native to Lebanon, and have a wingspan of up to 75cm. They are the only species of bat in Lebanon which does not hibernate, as their bodies, adapted to tropical climates, remain warm enough to stay awake all year long.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Man rescued after becoming trapped in Maryland cave

A man trapped about 200 feet into a cave off Cresspond Road north of Clear Spring was rescued Tuesday night after an almost four-hour ordeal, emergency officials said.

The man, who has not yet been identified, became trapped when he slid down an area in the cave, causing one of his legs to become wedged in some rocks

Advanced technical rescue units from Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties worked their way back to the man to rescue him after receiving the first call at 5:42 p.m.

Rescue crews were able to finally free the man, who was uninjured. He was brought out of the cave at about 10:15 p.m.

The man was taken to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore as a precaution, according to Fire Chief Oley Griffith of The First Hose Co. of Boonsboro.

Cave formations video

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Modern flint expert 'reverse engineers' Neanderthal stone axes - and says our ancestors were clever, elegant craftsmen

Dr Metin Eren flintknapping stone tools:
The researchers say that it's unlikely our
evolutionary predecessors shaped tools by accident
and instead shaped flint to be hard-wearing and
have a good centre of gravity.
Researchers at the University of Kent have recreated the processes Neanderthals used to produce sharp flint axes, and found that our ancestors were skilled engineers.

A modern-day 'flintknapper' replicated the sharpening processes that Neanderthals used to create tools - a sort of modern 'reverse engineering' of ancient techniques in use by three kinds of early 'hominin' including Neanderthals as early as 300,000 years ago.

The researchers found that Neanderthals could shape 'elegant' stone tools - shaping them to be hard-wearing, easily sharpened and with a perfectly balanced centre of gravity.

The reproduction of how Neanderthals worked shows that it is unlikely that stone flakes used in the tools could have been shaped by accident - and that our ancestors intentionally 'engineered' stone cores to create tools fit for their jobs.

Dr Metin Eren, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation and the flintknapper who crafted the tools, said: ‘The more we learn about the stone tool-making of the Neanderthals and their contemporaries, the more elegant it becomes.

Neanderthals and Their Contemporaries Engineered Stone Tools, Anthropologists Discover

Replica Levallois core (left) and flake (right)
knapped by Dr. Metin Eren.
New published research from anthropologists at the University of Kent supports the long-held theory that early human ancestors across Africa, Western Asia and Europe engineered their stone tools. For over a century, anthropologists have debated the significance of a group of stone age artifacts manufactured by at least three prehistoric hominin species, including the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). These artifacts, collectively known as ‘Levallois’, were manufactured across Europe, Western Asia and Africa as early as 300,000 years ago.

Levallois artifacts are flaked stone tools described by archaeologists as ‘prepared cores’ i.e. the stone core is shaped in a deliberate manner such that only after such specialised preparation could a prehistoric flintknapper remove a distinctive ‘Levallois flake’. Levallois flakes have long been suspected by researchers to be intentionally sought by prehistoric hominins for supposedly unique, standardised size and shape properties. However, such propositions were regarded as controversial by some, and in recent decades some researchers questioned whether Levallois tool production involved conscious, structured planning that resulted in predetermined, engineered products.

Now, an experimental study – in which a modern-day flintknapper replicated hundreds of Levallois artifacts – supports the notion that Levallois flakes were indeed engineered by prehistoric hominins. By combining experimental archaeology with morphometrics (the study of form) and multivariate statistical analysis, the Kent researchers have proved for the first time that Levallois flakes removed from these types of prepared cores are significantly more standardised than the flakes produced incidentally during Levallois core shaping (called ‘debitage flakes’). Importantly, they also identified the specific properties of Levallois flakes that would have made them preferable to past mobile hunter-gathering peoples.

International Conference on Cave-Roosting Bats: SpeleoBats

20-23. September 2012.
Miskolc – Bükk Mountains, Hungary


Ancient Domesticated Dog Skull Found in Siberian Cave: 33,000 Years Old

The 33,000-year-old skull of a domesticated dog was
extraordinarily well preserved in the Razboinichya cave
in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.
A 33,000-year-old dog skull unearthed in a Siberian mountain cave presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with an equally ancient find in a cave in Belgium, indicates that modern dogs may be descended from multiple ancestors.

If you think a Chihuahua doesn't have much in common with a Rottweiler, you might be on to something.

An ancient dog skull, preserved in a cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia for 33,000 years, presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with equally ancient dog remains from a cave in Belgium, indicates that domestication of dogs may have occurred repeatedly in different geographic locations rather than with a single domestication event.

In other words, man's best friends may have originated from more than one ancient ancestor, contrary to what some DNA evidence previously has indicated.

"Both the Belgian find and the Siberian find are domesticated species based on morphological characteristics," said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona's Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and co-author of the study that reports the find.

Bats may keep school gym closed until March

Officials say it could be March before anyone can use the gym at Clemson Elementary School, now closed because of bats.

On Friday, officials with the School District of Pickens County said the elementary school’s gym was closed on Jan. 13, when bats were discovered in the eaves of the building.

In a statement, released by district spokeswoman Julie Thompson, the district said it was looking at how many bats are in the gym, how they got there, how they can be removed and when they can be removed.

“All of the people we have consulted with so far have suggested a March date,” Thompson said. “We are trying to determine where they got in and whether or not they are in any other part of the building.”

Thompson said the gym and its heating and air conditioning unit are isolated from the rest of the building, but inspectors are working to make sure that is the only place the bats are located.

The bats may be endangered, Thompson said, so they may have to be relocated instead of killed.

“They’re still in the early stages of getting every one to verify everything,” she said. “We want to be confident we’ve taken the right steps to ensure the kids and staff are safe, and that the bats are handled appropriately.”

According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 10 species of bats in the country are considered endangered or threatened. In South Carolina, special roosts have been developed for the Indiana bat and the Rafinesque’s big eared bat.

Once the exact species of bat is determined, officials will know more about who to handle them, Thompson said.

A similar situation happened to the school district in 2009, Thompson said, when bats had to be trapped and removed from Gettys Middle School.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Devil's Den caves stay closed to protect bats from fungus

An infectious disease is killing more bats across the nation, forcing rangers at Devil's Den State Park in Arkansas to keep their caves closed. Millions of bats are dying from this foreign fungus.

Hikers say the caves at Devil's Den State Park are a main attraction, but they've been closed since 2010. Joshua Johnson says, "I think it's good that they're closing the caves to protect the bats."

Park interpreter Rebekah Penny says caves are blocked off as a precaution. White Nose Syndrome is a deadly disease affecting bats throughout the country with cases confirmed in 17 states. She says, "It was believed to have killed a million bats until this week, they've upped that number to up to six to seven million."

Penny says rangers believe the fungus was transferred from Europe to the U.S. by a caver in 2006 and it's spread ever since. Penny says, "It uses the bats as a host. Right now, we don't know if it's waking them up during hibernation when they should be in that very deep sleep and that's causing them to starve to death or whether it is the fungal spores actually feeding on the bats."

Rangers say Devil's Den State Park has more than 1,000 bats in its caves including five different species, two of which are endangered. So far, she says Devil's Den bats appear to be unaffected. But as a precaution, the caves will remain closed. Penny says, "To lose our bats, no matter what your feeling on these little flying mammals, is going to be a huge ripple down effect on our ecosystem."

Without bats hunting insects that attack food crops, penny says farmers may have to start using more pesticides which they'll eventually feel in their pocket books.


Franklin County Grotto members put carbonate stalagmite back into West Virginia's Mystic Cave

Glen Sarvis, project initiator,
with “kidnapped” stalagmite.
A three-foot-tall stalagmite is back home in West Virginia after spending nearly 50 years in Franklin County.

The 100-pound chunk of calcium carbonate was displayed at a college, supported a bird bath and survived the Agnes flooding. But for most of its 48 years on the road, the rock has been hidden in storage.

Four members of the Franklin County Grotto returned the formation in October to Mystic Cave in Pendleton County, W.Va.

"When you own formations you might unintentionally encourage people to acquire one for themselves," said Grotto Chairman Kenneth Jones, Chambersburg. "That's why we prefer that people not own cave formations. It's a monkey-see, monkey-do thing."

Jones suggested that the organization of spelunkers return the stalagmite. Glen Sarvis told them he had stored the stalagmite about 20 years for a friend in his barn near Mechanicsburg and he was intending to sell the farm.

"When I brought up subject they were quite excited about doing that," Sarvis said. "It seemed the right thing to do from the ecological and conservation standpoint. Everybody is pleased the way it worked out. I'm thrilled we were able to do it."

Cave & Mountains Rescue teams presented with cheques

Cave & Mountains Rescue teams presented with cheques at Wanted Inn

It was Ho Ho Ho in the Wanted Inn at Sparrowpit the week before Christmas when Santa popped in to deliver a few presents. The locals packed the pub and were treated to a festive night of carols accompanied by Sparrowpit Brass Band. The hosts, Steve and Sheila Philips, provided magnificent mince pies and led the party games in a fun night enjoyed by all.

However, the evening also had the serious aim of raising money for two volunteer local rescue teams. Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation, and Buxton Mountain Rescue Team each received a generous £125 at an informal presentation night in the pub last Tuesday night.

Roger Bennett, Chairman of Buxton MRT, said: “Local support like this is really appreciated by the rescue teams. It is good to know that our voluntary work is valued. Both rescue teams are always looking for cash to keep the services operational and together offer a huge thank you to Sheila, Steve and all the Sparrowpit community.”

FSE 2012 : Creation - EuroSpeleo Magazine

Dear Caving Friends,

First of all the European Speleological Federation-FSE is happy to send you its best wishes to you and to the cavers of your club ; a New Year 2012 full of new explorations and speleological activities !
For the FSE it will be a year full of new projects that you'll discover all along the year, and especiually during the next EuroSpeleo Forum "Speleodiversity 2012" in Switzerland end of September.

And actually you can still take advantage of the "early-booking fee" up to the 31st of January with 66% of reduction !
For that we invite you to register now on : http://www.speleodiversity.ch/indexE.html
(see "Registration" button on the left colomn)
You will find the other next dealines of Speleodiversity at the end of this email.

The FSE Bureau wants to take the opportunity of this message to officially announce you the launching of the new FSE electronic publication destinated to the 2000 caving clubs all over Europe : "EUROSPELEO MAGAZINE"
It follows the 2 issues of the "EuroSpeleo Newsletter" in 2000-2001, and the 14 issues of the "FSE'mail" from 2005 to 2009.
So if you are motivated to be involved in the EuroSpeleo Magazine team, in order to concretly take part in the creation of this multilingual Speleological publication (English-French+other languages), please send us an email asap with your personal data (Full Name, Address, Telephones, Club, skills) to :
magazine@eurospeleo.eu

Tasks for the editorial committee will be numerous :
- design the graphic charter of the magazine
- build a multilingual architechture
- inform the European cavers in a "dynamic" way
- manage the reception of the articles
- manage the translations
- organise the page setup of each issue
- organise events like Photos, Surveys or Articles contests
- administrate information exchange as a board member
- etc

In the same way, if you wish to publish articles in it, please send them with your full data (postal address, federation, club, etc) to :
magazine@eurospeleo.eu
The articles are encouraged to include photos or illustrations (drawings, surveys, etc) even if this is not compulsary. The articles may include a summary and key-words (optional). The files should be sent in one of the following formats : .rtf; .doc; .docx.
The articles should be sent in English or French or both, and can also include other additional European national languages. Your article will be published quicker if it is sent directly in bilingual version English-French.
The magazine will be speleologically generalist and can include articles about all facets of Speleology such like : explorations, scientific articles, expeditions abroad, cave protection, trainings, cave rescue, speleo-arts, etc.

The EuroSpeleo Magazine FSE workgroup will work through an FSE mailing-list in English language.
Looking forward to reading you soon,
Should you have any further questions or suggestions, please let us know.
Again very best wishes to you and you relatives for 2012 !
Kind regards,


For the FSE, Olivier Vidal, Secr. General FSE, +33 681 61 16 70, contact@eurospeleo.org

The 2nd EuroSpeleo Protection Symposium

Best Practices for Cave and Karst Protection in Europe

will be held in Muotathal (Switzerland) from the 29th to the 30th of September 2012.

On behalf of the Organizing Committee we kindly invite all speleologists and scientists related to cave and karst protection, to participate at the 2nd EuroSpeleo Protection Symposium organized jointly by the Swiss Speleological Society and the European Cave Protection Commission/European Speleological Federation and supported by the Commission for Scientific Speleology (SSS and SCNAT).

New headlamp: Petzl Nao

The rechargeable NAO headlamp adapts its two high power LEDs instantly and automatically to the lighting needs for greater comfort, fewer manual interventions and longer battery life. NAO is the first Petzl headlamp with REACTIVE LIGHTING technology.


What is Reactive Lighting Technology?
"Reactive Lighting" technology  is a revolution in hands-free lighting. A built-in light sensor adapts the headlamp’s beam pattern and light output instantly and automatically to suit the user’s needs. This means the user gets an ideal amount of light with minimal manual adjustment required. This self-adjusting lighting mode also results in longer burn times, due to more efficient use of the rechargeable battery.
Adapted lighting


The shape of the beam and the power of the headlamp instantly adapt to the need (lighting for close, medium or long-range vision), so the user always has the right amount of light.
A minimum of manual adjustments

The headlamp automatically adapts to changes in surrounding light conditions, allowing the user to remain focused on the activity at hand without worrying about adjusting the headlamp.
Longer burn times

"Reactive Lighting" technology  increases burn time, due to more efficient use of the rechargeable battery. Lighting adapts to suit the need, reducing the use of wasteful, unnecessarily powerful lighting.

How It Works For You!


On the headlamp the integrated light sensor is oriented in the same direction as the eyes; it measures and analyzes reflected light in order to instantly and automatically adjust the headlamp’s beam pattern (wide and/or focused) and light output to the user’s needs. Volia! No need to fumble around and try to adjust the switch- the Nao will automatically do it for you!

When looking at an object at close range, for example when reading a map, tying a knot or setting up a tent, the beam is very wide and less powerful. When you are walking, running, or skiing, the beam is wide and has medium strength in order to illuminate obstacles in the path.

When raising the head to see into the distance, looking for a trail marker or an anchor on a climb, for example, the light output increases and becomes more focused.






Price: ~$175

BCRA Cave Technology Symposium - New Date

*** change of date from that previously announced ***

BCRA's Cave Technology Symposium will be held in the vicinity of Priddy, Somerset, over the weekend of 9th/10th June 2012. As a companion to the Cave Science Symposium, this event concentrates on areas of cave technology including, but not limited to, lighting, photography and video, cave radio and other forms of communications, surveying, data logging, explosives, electronics, radio location, and rescue.

With the growing popularity of the Cave Technology Symposium, now in its sixth year, we have decided to extend the event from one to two days to provide opportunity for practical demonstrations in addition to talks. The practical sessions will take place on Saturday 9th June and the formal presentations will be on Sunday 10th June. Admission is free to BCRA members and speakers or GBP 3.00 for non-members for either or both days.

Since the venue(s) for the practical sessions will depend on what demonstrations are offered, if you would like to attend, please contact the Lecture Secretary, Mike Bedford, who will provide you with details closer to the date. On the Sunday we will meet at the Hunter's Lodge pub, Priddy (postcode BA5 3AR) at 9:00 and will finish at 16:00. Coffee and tea will be provided at nominal cost and meals are available in the pub at lunch time. Accommodation has been reserved at the nearby Wessex Caving club (postcode BA5 3AX) for the Friday and Saturday nights. If you'd like to book accommodation, please contact Allan Richardson at a.richardson@bcra.org.uk .

For further information or to offer a talk, poster presentation or practical demonstration, please contact the Lecture Secretary, Mike Bedford, at BedfordMD@aol.com .

If you haven't already done so, you might also like to consider subscribing to the mailing list for the Technology Symposium - see http://list.bcra.org.uk - or check the CREG forum, http://bcra.org.uk/cregf for further announcements.

Please note that the dates referred to in this announcement replace the earlier advised dates in April.

David Gibson, pp Mike Bedford, Lecture Secretary
BedfordMD@aol.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Greensburg couple files suit against Laurel Caverns

An attorney for a Greensburg couple has filed a lawsuit against Laurel Caverns Conservancy Inc., claiming the man was injured during a visit to Laurel Caverns in 2010.

The suit claims Michael J. Pierce was hurt in the caverns while chaperoning his daughter on a Girl Scouts trip. It was filed Jan. 12 in Fayette County by attorney D. Aaron Rhin on behalf of Michael J. and Carrie Pierce.

Pierce visited the site east of Uniontown on Sept. 26 and signed an "Upper Caving Release Form."

The release contained no language referring to "rock climbing" or "rappelling," according to the suit, and Pierce signed it "not expecting to participate in rock climbing, rappelling, or any strenuous activity for that matter."

The form, which is available on the tourist spot's website, notes that it is not possible for "exploring directors" to "watch every movement and every step of every caving participant."

It also notes it is "impossible for the Laurel Caverns staff to know the physical abilities of each participant."

Laurel Caverns is now closed for the season. Messages left there to seek comment on the suit were not returned.

Advantages of Living in the Dark: Multiple Evolution Events of 'Blind' Cavefish

Blind Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus).
The blind Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) have not only lost their sight but have adapted to perpetual darkness by also losing their pigment (albinism) and having altered sleep patterns. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology shows that the cavefish are an example of convergent evolution, with several populations repeatedly, and independently, losing their sight and pigmentation.

The blind cavefish and the surface dwelling Mexican tetra, despite appearances, are the same species and can interbreed. The cavefish are simply a variant of the Mexican tetra, albeit one adapted to living in complete darkness. A team of researchers from Portugal, America, and Mexico studied the DNA from 11 populations of cavefish (from three geographic regions) and 10 populations of their surface dwelling cousins to help understand the evolutionary origin of the physical differences between them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wakulla Springs Cave Diving Debate

In a Thursday night meeting that lasted over three hours, people expressed concern for the wildlife and visitors to a park rich in history. Others said their desire to dive at the spring is being misinterpreted.

"I thought we had a good turnout. Had 253 people on the sign-in sheet, so, I think it was excellent representation of the public," said Brian Fugate, Park Manager at Wakulla Springs.

Now, officials say they will review all of the comments and decide what the next step will be.

Casey McKinlay is against the proposal. He said, "How do you weigh, or balance expert testimony from researchers and archaeologists against people who just want to come and dive?"

Many people in the dive industry say the key would be to allow regulated diving.

"People could safely open water dive in Wakulla Springs and not have a problem as long as they stick to diving within their certification and training limits," said Travis Kersting, an area diver.

As for concerns about divers disrupting swimmers who enjoy the park, divers say it is a non-issue.

"There are other state parks where cave diving and swimmers, they all coexist and there's really been no problems," said diver Mike Poucher.

The park's busy season begins in March and all parties hope to have an answer by then.

Source: WCTV

Friday, January 20, 2012

725 feet: Craig Challen sets cave diving record in Pearse River

Australian cave divers did set a new depth record. Dr. Craig Challen, a technical diver and veterinary surgeon by profession, reached 725 feet (221 meters) in the Pearse River resurgence in the remote Motueka Valley on the South Island of New Zealand. During the dive, he was able to proof that the cave system is linked to Mt Arthur's Nettlebed Cave system, a limestone cave located in the Mount Arthur region of New Zealand’s South Island.

The Nettlebed Cave was thought to be the deepest cave system in the southern hemisphere until explorers found the nearby Ellis Basin cave system to be deeper, making it the deepest known cave in New Zealand. It has been explored to a depth of 3.360 feet (1,024 meters). Its 20.75 miles (33.4 kilometers) of cave passages make it New Zealand's second longest.

The six-member cave explorer team returned to the Pearse River cave system for the third time in the last three years, pushing the limits a bit further each year. During the 17-hour record breaking dive, Challen was able to break his own depth record set at 636.5 feet (194 meters) in 2010. He and his team of support divers used a total of four underwater habitats for decompression.

Natural underground spaces called caves are found throughout the world, but only a portion of them have been explored and documented by cavers. With 390 miles (628 kilometers) of surveyed passage, the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is currently the longest known cave system. The picture shows the entrance to the Little River cave system in Florida.

Carlsbad Caverns visitors face further delays as back-up elevators need maintenance, repairs

Zipping down 750 feet below the surface to see the world-famous Carlsbad Caverns is going to take a little longer in the coming weeks.

Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park are being asked for patience and understanding while waiting to get on an elevator in the Visitor Center.

The park's two large elevators generally used to ferry passengers into the cave continue to be out of commission due to a renovation project that is months over schedule. Now, park officials have found the two smaller secondary elevators that were pressed into service need the cables replaced.

To replace the cables, a contingency plan has been put it place by park official to get visitors into the cave.

A mission underground

he 82nd CST rescue team works to rescue an “injured” Staff
Sgt. Dustin Clement during a training exercise deep within
Jewel Cave National Monument
Staff Sgt. Dustin Clement has a compound fracture. He tripped, fell and broke his leg — nearly in two, or at least that’s what the training scenario dictated.

Staff Sgt. Clement and Sgt. Eric Haivala were searching for potential radioactive material in the cave when it happened. Tourists were getting ill down there and the symptoms sounded a lot like exposure to radiation. So Jewel Cave officials called in the South Dakota Air and Army National Guard's 82nd Civil Support Team. They specialize in dealing with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Clement and Haivala discovered some potentially radioactive material in a trashcan in a section of the cave affectionately referred to as the torture chamber.

But Clement's unbelievably broken leg has changed the mission from an investigation to a rescue.

“Ouch,” Clement said, prone on a corrugated steel staircase more than 300 feet underground in Jewel Cave. “It smells like almonds.”

That's a clever joke for a man this busted up — exposed broken bones reportedly smell a lot like almonds. The pain must not be that great for the man on the floor.

Chinese Child Appears To Have Nigth Vision

A Chinese boy surprised the doctors and researchers for his incredible ability to see in the dark, with his "blue eyes" that glow in the dark, like cats.



Australian divers reach record depths in caves

Australian diver David Bardi at the "habitat"
(-38 m) in the Pearse River resurgence.
A group of Australian divers has broken yet another cave diving record in the depths of the Pearse River resurgence and revealed the underwater cave system is linked to Mt Arthur's Nettlebed Cave system.

The group returned from the remote Motueka Valley river head this week after spending a fortnight exploring the intricate underwater cave system.

Diver and explorer Craig Challen pushed the human limit, reaching 221m, breaking the 194m record he set in the river cave last January and setting an Australasian record.

The Western Australian vet said delving to a dark depth felt like "a long way from home".

The 17-hour dive saw him stop four times at underwater "habitats" which were filled with trapped air. They provided a base for divers to rest and decompress before continuing their return to the surface.

Bats Found At Upstate Elementary School

Gym Building Closed Until Bats Can Be Removed

The School District of Pickens County is working to remove bats that have invaded the gym at Clemson Elementary.

District spokeswoman Julie Thompson told News 4 the gym was closed to everyone on Jan. 13 after the bats were discovered in the eaves of the building.

In a statement, Thompson said, "District officials are actively exploring options to determine the number of bats, how they have entered the gym, when they can be removed, and how they can be removed. We assure everyone that the health and safety of our students and staff are priorities as we find the best solution to dealing with the situation. We are also committed to keeping Clemson Elementary parents fully informed at all times."

Researchers to check health of Illinois bats

Researchers will survey Illinois caves that hold hibernating bats next month to check for evidence of white-nose syndrome, a disease that has decimated bat populations in 16 states and four Canadian provinces.

The disease has not been found in Illinois, although it has been documented in Indiana and Kentucky.

A suspected occurrence in Missouri, just across the Mississippi River from Illinois, has not been confirmed yet.

“I am trying to remain optimistic and hope that perhaps we have dodged the WNS bullet for yet another year,” said Joe Kath, Illinois Department of Natural Resources endangered species program manager.

White-nose syndrome gets its name from a powdery white substance found on the ears, noses and wings of infected bats. The fungus causes bats to rouse from hibernation every few days and consume critical energy reserves.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Concordia accident: More pictures of the cavedivers at work

See our previous blog entry for the complete story.



Malaysian cave believed to be 1500 million years old

Datuk Hamidah Osman with Chinese students in Gua Tempurung.
Pic by L. Manimaran
A Chinese geologist's findings has revealed that Gua Tempurung is more than 1,500 million years old.

The findings by Zhou Shunbin, head of geology department of the Guangzhou Province's Education Association, has prompted the Perak state government to conduct further studies on the cave which is a popular tourist destination.

Previous studies by the state authorities had shown that the cave was only 400 million years.

Zhou led a delegation of 93 students from Guangzhou to visit the cave recently.

The visit was arranged by the Global Institute of Tourism and Tourism Perak.

Zhou said one of the rocks known as "meat rock" spotted by in Gua Tempurung would have taken at least 1,500 million years to form. He said a similar rock was exhibited in a museum in Taiwan but it was not in its natural form.

Up to 6.7 million bats dead from fungus: US

Between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats have died in North America due to a fungus known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) since the disease first appeared in 2006, US authorities said on Tuesday.

The count is a vast increase over the one million bats believed dead according to the last estimate in 2009, and in some areas has meant that nearly all of the bat population is gone, wildlife expert Jeremy Coleman told AFP.

"In states like New York and Vermont and southern Ontario, we anticipate that the overall population is probably impacted on the order of 90-plus percent," said Coleman, national white-nose syndrome coordinator at the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The figures were compiled using data from state biologists and mathematical models to project losses across geographical areas where the disease is known to have spread.

Prehistoric bear skulls found underwater in Mexico

A total of four skulls were found some
50 metres deep within the cenote  
In the dark depths of an underwater cave in eastern Mexico, archaeologists uncovered the ancient remains of four prehistoric bears in the Yucatan Peninsula. Officials believe they could date back to the ice age.

Investigators from Mexico City's National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and officials at the National Institute of Anthropology (INAH) uncovered the precious 11,000-year-old skulls in the ancient sinkhole, or cenote, in 2011.

Well-known as a diverse and rich site for archaeologists, the ancient Mayan stamping ground has provided officials with a variety of prized historical finds in recent years.

"This area is very big and deep and we have not finished exploring," said archaeological, Guillermo de Anda Alanis.

A total of four skulls were found some 50 metres deep within the cenote, which had provided ideal conditions for the preservation of the remains for thousands of years.

"We have found a large quantity of [bear] remains," said Anda Alanis. "Some of them are clearly of Mayan origin."

Water level markings in the underwater cave suggests the cenote was not filled with water during the bear's lifetime, providing crucial insights into the effects of climate change and the end of the ice age for scientists.

With further tests expected at the site, officials are hopeful the ancient region will reveal further secrets.



French Women Live in Cave to Escape Electro-Magnetic Rays

Anne Cautain and Bernadette Touloumond suffer from hypersensitive reactions to electro-magnetic radiations.

The symptoms include unbearable burning and terrible headaches, so bad that they couldn’t stand to live in the outside world anymore. After trying several other options, a cave has become their ultimate refuge.

Anne and Bernadette’s cave is located outside the town of Beaumugne, on the edge of the Vercors plateau range, in France.

To gain access to the area, a small ladder needs to be scaled while clinging to a rope. A sign reading “Mobile Phones Prohibited” is displayed on the hillside. 52-year-old Anne says, “I can’t take any sort of electro-magnetic waves, whatever they may be: Wi-Fi, mobile phones or high-tension wires.” She was the first to settle down in the cave, and is now spending her third winter there.

Conduit 11 released

The Conduit is the electronic newsletter of the Karst Waters Institute.
The latest issue (volume 11, issue 2) can be downloaded here (Pdf / 1.84 MB). This issue provides news of past activities and future events, as well as other announcements:
  • Upcoming 2012 Karst Award Banquet
  • Wilson Scholarship Funding Available
  • KWI Happenings
  • Upcoming Karst-Related Conferences and News
  • A Karst Session at the Fall AGU meeting
  • 2013 KWI Conference – Carbon and Boundaries in Karst
  • Recent KWI Conference – “Carbonate Geochemistry”
  • Photo mosaic from “Carbonate Geochemistry” conference

Source: www.karstwaters.org

Wind Cave Seeks Comments on Plan for New Airlock

Wind Cave National Park is soliciting comments on a draft environmental assessment (EA) written to replace the existing revolving door at the cave's Walk-In Entrance. The park's preferred alternative is to replace the current door with a small two-door structure.

"The existing revolving door was constructed in 1992 and after twenty years it has deteriorated to the point where there are numerous air leaks," said park superintendent Vidal Davila. "This project proposes to replace the revolving door with an airlock structure that can accommodate a 40-person tour and create a two-door airlock system that would reduce airflow in and out of the cave through this man-made entrance."

The public is invited to attend an informal open house at the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center on Tuesday, February 21, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss the plan with park staff and to comment on the alternatives.

For more information, and for an on-line copy of the EA, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/wica. Comments can be submitted via that website or they can be mailed to Superintendent; Wind Cave National Park; 26611 U.S. Highway 385; Hot Springs, SD 57747-9430.

Printed copies of the EA are available by visiting or writing the park. Copies are also on review at the Custer, Hot Springs, and Rapid City public libraries. The comment period runs through Thursday, March 8th.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

II International Symposium on mine caves


26-29 april 2012 
Iglesias (Sardinia, Italy)

Since the early stages in the development of human kind, caves were used as mines to extract minerals impossible to find at the surface. Later, mining activities, digging galleries underground, allowed to reach a peculiar type of natural cavities, the so called "mine caves", that would otherwise be impossible to explore and study.
These cavities, which are particularly widespread within carbonate formations, were known since the antiquity but they started to be studied only very recently.

Mine caves have shown to be extremely important in several research fields: from speleogenesis to cave mineralogy, from history of mining activities to cave tourism, just to cite the most important ones.

A first Symposium on mine caves was held in Iglesias in 2004 giving a strong impulse to the research, which flourished in the following years not only in Italy but also in many Countries abroad. For these reasons the Sardinian Geomining and Historical Environmental Park, together with the Sardinian Speleological Federation and the Italian Institute of Speleology decided to organize a Second International Symposium on Mine Caves to discuss the latest achieved results in this field all around the World.

More information on the conference, including registration and accommodations can be found at  the official website: www.international-symposium-on-mine-caves.org

Abstracts can be sent until January 31, 2012.


Evidence of Past Southern Hemisphere Rainfall Cycles Related to Antarctic Temperatures

Stalagmites in Pacupuhuain Cave in the Andes of Peru
similar to ones sampled by Stephen Burns, Lisa Kanner
and colleagues for their study of tropical rainfall
cycles in the Southern Hemisphere. Analysis of oxygen
isotopes in such features provide a 34,000-year record
of rainfall variation in the Amazon Basin.
Geoscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Minnesota this week published the first evidence that warm-cold climate oscillations well known in the Northern Hemisphere over the most recent glacial period also appear as tropical rainfall variations in the Amazon Basin of South America. It is the first clear expression of these cycles in the Southern Hemisphere.

The work by Stephen Burns and his doctoral student Lisa Kanner at UMass Amherst is reported in the current issue of Science. Burns says, "The study also demonstrates that rainfall in the Southern Hemisphere of South America is, though to a lesser extent, also influenced by temperature changes in the Antarctic, which has not been previously observed."

The last glacial period, from about 10,000 to about 120,000 years ago, saw North America and Western Europe covered in a thick continental ice sheet, the geoscientist points out. Yet climate was also highly unstable during the period, cycling every few thousand years between warm and cold, dry periods in the high northern latitudes. Temperatures could change by as much as 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.

Known as Dansgaard/Oeschger (D/O) cycles, these millennial-scale rapid climate events were first recognized in the Greenland ice cores, but have since been found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, Burns points out.

New website for French Caving Federation


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Could local bats be connected to fatal bat disease?

Bats are a fascinating part of the ecological chain here in south central Texas and Bracken Bat Cave, just north of San Antonio, is the home of the largest bat colony in the world. But wildlife experts are very alarmed at the spread of a disease that has already decimated the country's bat population by the millions. And local experts say they have some concerns here too.

Bracken Bat Cave is the home of up to 20-million bats. Now most have gone, they've migrated to warmer spots. But it's the migration that experts and are concerned about. Concerned because it may be transporting a deadly fungus that's responsible for the largest death of any wildlife in recorded history.

White Nose Syndrome kills hibernating bats by starvation and dehydration leaving the classic white color around the nose. While it has not been found here at Bracken or any of the Texas caves, some experts say it's very possible.

Estimates just released days ago by U.S. Fish and Wildlife say about six million bats died in the U.S. the last four years. Since 2007, White Nose has spread from New York state where it was first discovered, to the southwest-- most recently detected in Oklahoma.

Underwater Caves Reopened In Freeport

Ben's Cave, Lucayan National Park, Freeport.
Two historic underwater caves within the Lucayan National Park have been reopened.

Ben’s Cave and Burial Mound received more than $23,000 in structural upgrades as a result of donations to the Bahamas National Trust.

BNT branch chairman Lloyd Cheong said: “The Burial Mound platform and walkway have been completely renovated. We have also added much needed support to the Ben’s Cave viewing platform allowing us to open tours of these caves to visitors again.”

Ben’s Cave is named after legendary local diver Ben Rose, who co-discovered a new species there in 1982. The centipede-like organism was found swimming in the underwater cavern systems and was officially called Remipedia (meaning: “oar foot”).

The Burial Mound cave was named because of the skeletal remains of indigenous Lucayans found on the floor in a second chamber of this cave and has been featured in National Geographic magazines and television documentaries.

UA Student Explores Caves for Dissertation

University of Arkansas doctoral candidate Kathy Kneirim is doing an 18-month project studying water flow at Blowing Springs Cave in Bella Vista.

Part of her research involves testing the water on the outside of the cave. But Kneirim says, like any good mystery, you have to dig a little deeper to get the real story.

Kathy's research has led her into the Blowing Springs cave. To do this story I even had to put on a hard hat with a light and crawl in with her. It's not every day that your assignment exploring through a cave with a light and gloves.

Caving allows Kneirim to track water quality with specially designed meters a mile deep, and then track the changes as it flows out into Bella Vista and so many other areas in Northwest Arkansas.

Kathy says rain can cause some problems for our drinking water. “After it rains that water can get very quickly into the groundwater. Things like pesticides, manure, bacteria. All of that can be pushed into our groundwater.’’

Kathy is underground three to four hours at a time doing the research that will make up her doctoral dissertation.

She often puts on her coat and heads out during rainy weather to measure the quality of the water. “You can measure differences in chemistry throughout a rainstorm and find out what's coming out of the ground, the soil, and the bedrock and relate that to the water quality,’’ said Kathy.

The feat is not exactly simpe though. If you want to get back to the end of Blowing Springs Cave, you have to belly crawl in cold shallow water for about a half hour, then go through another knee bending walk for another half a mile.

It's a long way to go, but for our H2O it's worth every minute.


 

Source: 5 News

Deadly Bat Fungus Spreading in the Maritimes

White-nose syndrome on this bat has spread to the wings and ears.
The disease-causing fungus has been found at three new sites in New Brunswick.
A scientist in New Brunswick is sounding the alarm over a deadly fungus that is severely impacting bat populations in the province and could spread across the country.

During an inspection of the bats’ winter hibernation sites in recent weeks, Donald McAlpine, research curator of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum, found that the disease-causing fungus known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) has spread to three new sites.

This is despite the fact that it is still early in the hibernation season and WNS often doesn’t become evident until later in the winter.

McAlpine says the quick spread of the highly contagious disease is worrying and doesn’t bode well.

DNA Turning Human Story Into a Tell-All

A view above the Denisova cave, where clues to prehistoric
interbreeding were found. Faster technology is aiding research.
The tip of a girl’s 40,000-year-old pinky finger found in a cold Siberian cave, paired with faster and cheaper genetic sequencing technology, is helping scientists draw a surprisingly complex new picture of human origins.

The new view is fast supplanting the traditional idea that modern humans triumphantly marched out of Africa about 50,000 years ago, replacing all other types that had gone before.

Instead, the genetic analysis shows, modern humans encountered and bred with at least two groups of ancient humans in relatively recent times: the Neanderthals, who lived in Europe and Asia, dying out roughly 30,000 years ago, and a mysterious group known as the Denisovans, who lived in Asia and most likely vanished around the same time.

Their DNA lives on in us even though they are extinct. “In a sense, we are a hybrid species,” Chris Stringer, a paleoanthropologist who is the research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, said in an interview.

The Denisovans (pronounced dun-EE-suh-vinz) were first described a year ago in a groundbreaking paper in the journal Nature made possible by genetic sequencing of the girl’s pinky bone and of an oddly shaped molar from a young adult.

Those findings have unleashed a spate of new analyses.

Snowboarder digs snow cave to survive night at Mount Baker

A snowboarder survived a night in the backcountry of Mount Baker Ski Area Saturday by digging a snow cave to stay warm.

Jakub Cink, 23, was in good health and uninjured when he trekked back into the ski area Sunday morning and flagged down a member of the ski patrol.

Cink told rescuers he snowboarded out of bounds Saturday afternoon thinking it would lead to the parking lot, but got lost. Cink is from the Czech Republic and visiting friends in Vancouver, B.C.

Despite climbing to the top of a ridge, Cink realized he was lost and dug a snow cave to shield him from the weather for the night.

During that time, Bellingham Mountain Rescue volunteers scoured the area of Lake Ann and the Shuksan Arm, where Cink's tracks were seen. By 2:00 a.m., avalanche hazards became too much for rescuers, who had to stop for the night.

The next morning, volunteers set out again, and Cink made his way back to the ski area where he was rescued.

Cink is is an experienced snowboarder but this was his first time to Mount Baker Ski Area.

Source: King5

Inquiry into salt cave therapy opens

A medical council inquiry into allegations that a Kildare-based doctor made false and misleading claims in relation to “Salt Cave Climate Therapy” which he used to treat bronchial illnesses, has opened in Dublin.

The fitness to practise inquiry was told Dr Tamas Bakonyi who qualified in Hungary in 1997 and came to Ireland in 2005, had made claims in relation to the therapy being effective in the treatment of chest infections, asthma and cystic fibrosis among patients from six to eighty years-of-age.

The “climatherapy clinic” set up in a unit in the Glenroyal Shopping Centre in Maynooth aimed to recreate the atmosphere of underground salt caves. It was claimed the caves were known in Eastern Europe for their therapeutic powers – particularly for respiratory conditions.

J P McDowell, solicitor for the medical council, said evidence would be given that Dr Bakonyi’s claims were not supported by an analysis undertaken by an eminent physician specialising in respiratory disorders.

Mr Mc Dowell said these claims had been made by the doctor in a number of newspaper articles including theLiffey Champion and The Irish Times as well as a website, a radio interview and advertisements in the print media.

The inquiry was told Dr Bakonyi operated his salt cave in addition to working as a general practitioner in Leixlip.

Among the allegations against Dr Bakonyi are that he made false and misleading claims about the efficacy of the treatments; that he raised unrealistic expectations of the process and that there was a risk his patients would discontinue mainstream medical treatments for their illnesses.

The hearing is continuing.

Source: Irish Times

As Bat Deaths Mount, So Does Urgency for a National Response

A mysterious, fatal disease is stealing North America's bats at a staggering rate.

Scientists just released a new estimate that white-nose syndrome has wiped out nearly 7 million bats in just six years. (Two years ago, the estimate was only 1 million bats.) Most of the bats have been killed in the Northeast, but this deadly disease is clearly marching west, raising the prospect that it could churn through bat populations from coast to coast.

The toll on bats is devastating -- but equally troubling has been the lack of a rapid, national response to what many scientists say is the worst wildlife disease outbreak in our country's history.

If we're going to stem the tide of this deadly outbreak, the Obama administration needs to convene our natural-resource agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey, to develop a comprehensive, coordinated strategy for understanding exactly how this disease spreads and taking every possible measure to stop it.

So far, federal agencies have yet to respond at a scale matching the magnitude of the crisis. It was heartening to see Congress direct $4 million to white-nose syndrome late last year, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has written a response plan, but the actual implementation has been sluggish.

Now that we know this crisis is far worse than previously thought, we need to move quickly.

The cost of sticking to a lax approach will be steep. Left unchecked, white-nose syndrome could kill millions more bats, drive some species extinct and fuel one of the biggest mass die-offs of wildlife since Europeans arrived on this continent.

That scenario is not far-fetched.

International Workshop on Speleology in Artificial Cavities

International Workshop on Speleology in Artificial Cavities
"Classification of the typologies of artificial cavities in the world"

Dates: 18-20 May 2012
Torino (Piedmont Region, Italy)

Organized by: - Commissione Nazionale Cavità Artificiali SSI
UIS Artificial Cavities Commission
Chairman: Mario Parise m.parise@ba.irpi.cnr.it
Secretary: Carla Galeazzi carla.galeazzi3@alice.it

What's the purpose of the Cadastre of Artificial Cavities?
The purpose of the Cadastre of Artificial Cavities (AC) is:
- the inventory and the cataloguing of the AC in accordance with procedures established and accepted at an international level;
- geographical documentation of each territory and its peculiarity;
- support and coordination during scientific research and exploration;
- to contribute in developing proper land management, integrating the tools and codes of the local governments;
- the protection and enhancement of the urban environment and the cultural heritage.
As an example of existing Cadastre of Artificial Cavities, link to the Italian website: http://catastoartificiali.speleo.it/applications/1.0/

Monday, January 30, 2012

French cave diver dies in Switzerland

Chaudanne resurgence, Switzerland
A 30-year-old French cave diver died this Sunday afternoon in Rossinière, Switzerland.

His identity was not yeat released by the police.

The guy was diving in the Chaudanne resurgence using a rebreather.

At about 14h30 his mates noticed a huge amount of bubbles rising to the surface and immediatly they knew there was a problem.

One of his companions discovered his unconscious body and brought it back to the surface where they started first aid. Alas, the fire and rescue team that arrived couldn't stabilize him and he passed away.

The local police seized his equipment and started an investigation.

Additional resources:
Pictures of Chaudanne resurgence

National Cave and Karst Research Institute 2010-2011 Annual Report


Water Cathedral design based on cave structures.

Designed by a team from the design collective GUN Arquitectos, the Water Cathedral is a stunning outdoor installation that features an overhang of eye-catching vertical elements.

These vertical components, which are done in varying lengths and shapes and seem suspended in the air, are meant to mimic the stalactites hanging from cave interiors. Indeed, the ground of the Water Cathedral also features rising, pointed elements that look like a cave’s stalagmites. While these “stalactites” and “stalagmites” provide an intriguing aesthetic to the space, they were actually designed to function as a cooling mechanism for visitors. Water is drawn from a hydraulic irrigation network to fill them, and when they’re filled, the water will drip down in droplets to cool the people below.




Source: Trendhunter

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eric Establie: Monograph, Info Plongée n°103

The latest issue of Info Plongée (a France cave diving magazine) is completely dedicated to the late Eriçc Establie, who died in a tragic cave diving accident in the "Source de la Dragonnière de la Bastide de Virac" in the Ardêche region in France in octobre 2010.

You can view the complete issue below:




21st International Radiocarbon Conference

The 21st International Radiocarbon Conference is co‐organized by the French Radiocarbon community and UNESCO. It will be hosted at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, from 9 to 13 July 2012. If you have any results related to past continental reconstructions and radiocarbon then you are encouraged to submit an abstract to the session number 11.

Session 11:
This session addresses multiple issues related to time series for continental palaeoclimatic records and palaeohydrological responses. It focuses on precisely dated continental records that shed light on climatic variability on all continents and its impact on hydrology and vegetation changes. Palaeoclimatic reconstructions from continental carbonates (speleothems, travertine, gastropods, ostracods, soils carbonates, calcified roots, etc.), from continental and coastal organic matter (peat, sediment, soil, vegetation, etc.) are welcome. Besides climatic reconstruction, processes involving carbon isotopes (12C, 13C, 14C) and bio indicators (pollen, diatoms, sponge spicules, phytolits, etc.) in above organic archives are welcome.

Keywords:
dating, paleoclimatic series, continental carbonates, speleothem, travertine, gastropod, ostracods, calcified roots, rhizoliths, organic matter, soil, vegetation, (paleo) climate, (paleo) hydrology

For registration and abstract submission, please go to the conference page.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Karst-O-Rama July 20-22, 2012


Greater Cincinnati Grotto is putting the “Karst” back into Karst-O-Rama for our 20th year at Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve in Mt. Vernon, KY!

Pre-registration is now open!! The first 50 adults to pre-register will be entered into a drawing for a nice carbide lamp (pics coming soon) so don’t delay, register today!!
Click here to open the mail-in form
Click here to Register Online through PayPal!

Registration is limited to NSS/Grotto members only with the option to sponsor up to a total of three (3) non-member guests. Come enjoy a variety of cave trips and many-family friendly activities! Visit our website: http://karstorama.com and like us on facebook for more info and updates.

Do you have old pictures (you know, from before we all went digital)? Amber Yuellig is collecting all these old pieces of our KOR history. So dig through your closets and this time, pull out all those skeletons!!! And send what you can find so that we can celebrate 20 years of Karst-O-Rama!! Contact Amber (guanohunter@hotmail.com)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bats find shelter in Israeli bunkers

Bats are finding a surprising haven in abandoned Israeli bunkers, researchers say.

The bunkers, on the border with Jordan, have been turned into official bat caves, helping to save the endangered mammals from extinction.

Scientists say they have identified 12 indigenous bat species in the 100 kilometre (60 mile)-long tract between the Sea of Galilee in Israel and the Dead Sea's northern edge in the occupied West Bank.

"This place of all places, that man built and later left, they (bats) were wise enough to enter and live in," Aviam Atar, of the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority, said.

See the BBC link below for the video report.

Source: BBC News

Auckland's amazing cave network

Caver Peter Crossley in a cave beneath the
streets of Mt Albert. He's compiling a book
on Aucklands intricate caving system and
its history.
With pretty bungalows and grassy berms, it looks like any street in just about any Auckland suburb. But Peter Crossley knows better.

He lifts the rusty round lid from a manhole beside the footpath, attaches a skinny wire ladder to hooks and rolls it down into the darkness. This is the entrance to a massive cave that runs 250m under Kitenui Ave and surrounding streets in Mt Albert. Discovered accidentally by workers repairing gas pipes in 2006, it's considered Auckland's most significant lava cave find in a century.

Crossley is a speleologist (a cave scientist, rather than an adventurer or explorer) who worked at Auckland University's School of Environment until recently.

He arrived from England in the 1960s and since then has found 250 lava caves across the Auckland region. He's writing a book about them.

Aside from some in the Bay of Islands, lava caves are seldom found elsewhere in New Zealand. They're formed as a result of a specific type of lava being emitted in volcanic eruptions.

Uncovering the caves has always been an interesting task, says Crossley, because the best often have been found through legend or rumour. "I used to go round knocking on doors and I'd say, 'Excuse me sir (or madam), have you got a cave in your back garden?"'

20th International Karstological School

20TH INTERNATIONAL KARSTOLOGICAL SCHOOL "CLASSICAL KARST"

KARST FORMS AND PROCESSES

Postojna, June 18th to 23rd 2012

is organised by Karst Research Institute ZRC SAZU. 

Since 1993, International Karstological Schools have been organised, covering many aspects of karst research. The basic idea of the School has been to present the state of the art in selected topics and
promote discussion between participants via set of lectures, poster sessions and related field trips to the area of Slovene Classical karst.

Research in the last two decades has contributed new findings in many topics of these past schools. Therefore, the 20th IKS is an opportunity to review our current understanding of typical karst forms
and processes, stress the research advances in the last two decades and define challenges and perspectives for the next generation.

For more details visit: http://www.speleogenesis.info/news.php?id=167

Last chance to get a DistoX 1 board for Disto A3

Kevin Dixon writes to say that he is going to produce some DistoX1 boards for the A3, which will be the same as produced by Beat Heeb. See this paper for details about the DistoX 1.

Components have been found to make about 100 boards.

Final price will hopefully be GBP 160/board plus shipping but will depend on the cost of the obsolete parts, which have now been obtained. You will need to find your own Disto A3 to upgrade.

Boards are expected to be finished and ready for shipment around March/April.

Contact kdxn at yahoo dot com if your interested.

This is the final batch of boards to be produced for the Leica Disto A3.

Beat is however working on a replacement: the DistoX2 which will be fit for the Leica DXT. (See this post)

Currently the new DistoX2 unit is being field tested, but it will take a while before it can go into production as they are still trying to figure out all the different models (apparently Leica changed the design a few times) and to improve the calibration and robustness of the overall unit.

Source: UK Caving

NSS Director Candidates Needed!!

NSS members,

This is your chance to make a difference in the NSS! We're looking for NSS members who want to participate in leading their Society and managing it for enduring success. Now is the time to step forward to serve your Society on the Board of Governors.

The Nominating Committee is in *urgent* need of candidates for the 2012 Director Election. This year we need to elect five directors to fill the available seats, so I would like to have at least 10 candidates . Directors serve a three-year term and attend three meetings a year.

If you would like to run, or know someone who would make a good Board member, please contact me immediately! Persons with experience in leadership, business, marketing, management, law, fundraising, or other relevant areas are particularly sought.

Go to the Nominating Committee page from the NSS home page for more information.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NSS Says White Nose Syndrome Estimates Too High

The National Speleological Society today called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to publicly release its data a methodology for how the agency arrived at its recent estimate that “at least 5.7 to 6.7 million bats have now died from white-nose syndrome.”

In a six-page letter to USFWS Director Daniel Ashe, the NSS laid out its own research indicating the federal estimate is significantly higher than available information would support. Further, the Society said that simply releasing a raw number is not helpful in determining whether the disease spread is accelerating, remaining steady, or slowing down.

Peter Youngbaer, White Nose Syndrome Liaison for the NSS, said, “Public accountability and good science both demand transparency, so that the decisions we all make in our responses to WNS are evidence-based, and subject to scientific scrutiny.”

Life Beyond Earth? Underwater Caves in Bahamas Could Give Clues

Typical Bahamian Blue Hole entrance pool.
Credit: Photo by Tamara Thomsen
Discoveries made in some underwater caves by Texas &M University at Galveston researchers in the Bahamas could provide clues about how ocean life formed on Earth millions of years ago, and perhaps give hints of what types of marine life could be found on distant planets and moons.

Tom Iliffe, professor of marine biology at the Texas A&M-Galveston campus, and graduate student Brett Gonzalez of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., examined three "blue holes" in the Bahamas and found that layers of bacterial microbes exists in all three, but each cave had specialized forms of such life and at different depths, suggesting that microbial life in such caves is continually adapting to changes in available light, water chemistry and food sources. Their work, also done in conjunction with researchers from Penn State University, has been published in Hydrobiologia.

"Blue holes" are so named because from an aerial view, they appear circular in shape with different shades of blue in and around their entrances. There are estimated to be more than 1,000 such caves in the Bahamas, the largest concentration of blue holes in the world.

Attack on Akkar fruit bats threatens local ecology

The largest single colony of fruit bats in the Middle East, residing in a cave in the Akkar region of north Lebanon, was last weekend largely destroyed by vandals, with thousands of bats killed.

Dr. Mounir Abi-Said, founder of Animals Encounter, and a professor at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese University, conducted a routine check on the colony as part of research into the highly endangered animal begun in 2007.

“The cave was full of shotgun pellets, spent fireworks and AK-47 bullet casings and there was evidence that fires had been started in the cave,” Abi-Said told The Daily Star.

Fig trees, which had previously sheltered the entrance to the cave, have been burned down, exposing the bats to the light and elements. Bats roost in dark conditions.

Fruit bats, also known as megabats, are one of 20 species of bat native to Lebanon, and have a wingspan of up to 75cm. They are the only species of bat in Lebanon which does not hibernate, as their bodies, adapted to tropical climates, remain warm enough to stay awake all year long.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Man rescued after becoming trapped in Maryland cave

A man trapped about 200 feet into a cave off Cresspond Road north of Clear Spring was rescued Tuesday night after an almost four-hour ordeal, emergency officials said.

The man, who has not yet been identified, became trapped when he slid down an area in the cave, causing one of his legs to become wedged in some rocks

Advanced technical rescue units from Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties worked their way back to the man to rescue him after receiving the first call at 5:42 p.m.

Rescue crews were able to finally free the man, who was uninjured. He was brought out of the cave at about 10:15 p.m.

The man was taken to the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore as a precaution, according to Fire Chief Oley Griffith of The First Hose Co. of Boonsboro.

Cave formations video

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Modern flint expert 'reverse engineers' Neanderthal stone axes - and says our ancestors were clever, elegant craftsmen

Dr Metin Eren flintknapping stone tools:
The researchers say that it's unlikely our
evolutionary predecessors shaped tools by accident
and instead shaped flint to be hard-wearing and
have a good centre of gravity.
Researchers at the University of Kent have recreated the processes Neanderthals used to produce sharp flint axes, and found that our ancestors were skilled engineers.

A modern-day 'flintknapper' replicated the sharpening processes that Neanderthals used to create tools - a sort of modern 'reverse engineering' of ancient techniques in use by three kinds of early 'hominin' including Neanderthals as early as 300,000 years ago.

The researchers found that Neanderthals could shape 'elegant' stone tools - shaping them to be hard-wearing, easily sharpened and with a perfectly balanced centre of gravity.

The reproduction of how Neanderthals worked shows that it is unlikely that stone flakes used in the tools could have been shaped by accident - and that our ancestors intentionally 'engineered' stone cores to create tools fit for their jobs.

Dr Metin Eren, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University’s School of Anthropology and Conservation and the flintknapper who crafted the tools, said: ‘The more we learn about the stone tool-making of the Neanderthals and their contemporaries, the more elegant it becomes.

Neanderthals and Their Contemporaries Engineered Stone Tools, Anthropologists Discover

Replica Levallois core (left) and flake (right)
knapped by Dr. Metin Eren.
New published research from anthropologists at the University of Kent supports the long-held theory that early human ancestors across Africa, Western Asia and Europe engineered their stone tools. For over a century, anthropologists have debated the significance of a group of stone age artifacts manufactured by at least three prehistoric hominin species, including the Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis). These artifacts, collectively known as ‘Levallois’, were manufactured across Europe, Western Asia and Africa as early as 300,000 years ago.

Levallois artifacts are flaked stone tools described by archaeologists as ‘prepared cores’ i.e. the stone core is shaped in a deliberate manner such that only after such specialised preparation could a prehistoric flintknapper remove a distinctive ‘Levallois flake’. Levallois flakes have long been suspected by researchers to be intentionally sought by prehistoric hominins for supposedly unique, standardised size and shape properties. However, such propositions were regarded as controversial by some, and in recent decades some researchers questioned whether Levallois tool production involved conscious, structured planning that resulted in predetermined, engineered products.

Now, an experimental study – in which a modern-day flintknapper replicated hundreds of Levallois artifacts – supports the notion that Levallois flakes were indeed engineered by prehistoric hominins. By combining experimental archaeology with morphometrics (the study of form) and multivariate statistical analysis, the Kent researchers have proved for the first time that Levallois flakes removed from these types of prepared cores are significantly more standardised than the flakes produced incidentally during Levallois core shaping (called ‘debitage flakes’). Importantly, they also identified the specific properties of Levallois flakes that would have made them preferable to past mobile hunter-gathering peoples.

International Conference on Cave-Roosting Bats: SpeleoBats

20-23. September 2012.
Miskolc – Bükk Mountains, Hungary


Ancient Domesticated Dog Skull Found in Siberian Cave: 33,000 Years Old

The 33,000-year-old skull of a domesticated dog was
extraordinarily well preserved in the Razboinichya cave
in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.
A 33,000-year-old dog skull unearthed in a Siberian mountain cave presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with an equally ancient find in a cave in Belgium, indicates that modern dogs may be descended from multiple ancestors.

If you think a Chihuahua doesn't have much in common with a Rottweiler, you might be on to something.

An ancient dog skull, preserved in a cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia for 33,000 years, presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with equally ancient dog remains from a cave in Belgium, indicates that domestication of dogs may have occurred repeatedly in different geographic locations rather than with a single domestication event.

In other words, man's best friends may have originated from more than one ancient ancestor, contrary to what some DNA evidence previously has indicated.

"Both the Belgian find and the Siberian find are domesticated species based on morphological characteristics," said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona's Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and co-author of the study that reports the find.

Bats may keep school gym closed until March

Officials say it could be March before anyone can use the gym at Clemson Elementary School, now closed because of bats.

On Friday, officials with the School District of Pickens County said the elementary school’s gym was closed on Jan. 13, when bats were discovered in the eaves of the building.

In a statement, released by district spokeswoman Julie Thompson, the district said it was looking at how many bats are in the gym, how they got there, how they can be removed and when they can be removed.

“All of the people we have consulted with so far have suggested a March date,” Thompson said. “We are trying to determine where they got in and whether or not they are in any other part of the building.”

Thompson said the gym and its heating and air conditioning unit are isolated from the rest of the building, but inspectors are working to make sure that is the only place the bats are located.

The bats may be endangered, Thompson said, so they may have to be relocated instead of killed.

“They’re still in the early stages of getting every one to verify everything,” she said. “We want to be confident we’ve taken the right steps to ensure the kids and staff are safe, and that the bats are handled appropriately.”

According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 10 species of bats in the country are considered endangered or threatened. In South Carolina, special roosts have been developed for the Indiana bat and the Rafinesque’s big eared bat.

Once the exact species of bat is determined, officials will know more about who to handle them, Thompson said.

A similar situation happened to the school district in 2009, Thompson said, when bats had to be trapped and removed from Gettys Middle School.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Devil's Den caves stay closed to protect bats from fungus

An infectious disease is killing more bats across the nation, forcing rangers at Devil's Den State Park in Arkansas to keep their caves closed. Millions of bats are dying from this foreign fungus.

Hikers say the caves at Devil's Den State Park are a main attraction, but they've been closed since 2010. Joshua Johnson says, "I think it's good that they're closing the caves to protect the bats."

Park interpreter Rebekah Penny says caves are blocked off as a precaution. White Nose Syndrome is a deadly disease affecting bats throughout the country with cases confirmed in 17 states. She says, "It was believed to have killed a million bats until this week, they've upped that number to up to six to seven million."

Penny says rangers believe the fungus was transferred from Europe to the U.S. by a caver in 2006 and it's spread ever since. Penny says, "It uses the bats as a host. Right now, we don't know if it's waking them up during hibernation when they should be in that very deep sleep and that's causing them to starve to death or whether it is the fungal spores actually feeding on the bats."

Rangers say Devil's Den State Park has more than 1,000 bats in its caves including five different species, two of which are endangered. So far, she says Devil's Den bats appear to be unaffected. But as a precaution, the caves will remain closed. Penny says, "To lose our bats, no matter what your feeling on these little flying mammals, is going to be a huge ripple down effect on our ecosystem."

Without bats hunting insects that attack food crops, penny says farmers may have to start using more pesticides which they'll eventually feel in their pocket books.


Franklin County Grotto members put carbonate stalagmite back into West Virginia's Mystic Cave

Glen Sarvis, project initiator,
with “kidnapped” stalagmite.
A three-foot-tall stalagmite is back home in West Virginia after spending nearly 50 years in Franklin County.

The 100-pound chunk of calcium carbonate was displayed at a college, supported a bird bath and survived the Agnes flooding. But for most of its 48 years on the road, the rock has been hidden in storage.

Four members of the Franklin County Grotto returned the formation in October to Mystic Cave in Pendleton County, W.Va.

"When you own formations you might unintentionally encourage people to acquire one for themselves," said Grotto Chairman Kenneth Jones, Chambersburg. "That's why we prefer that people not own cave formations. It's a monkey-see, monkey-do thing."

Jones suggested that the organization of spelunkers return the stalagmite. Glen Sarvis told them he had stored the stalagmite about 20 years for a friend in his barn near Mechanicsburg and he was intending to sell the farm.

"When I brought up subject they were quite excited about doing that," Sarvis said. "It seemed the right thing to do from the ecological and conservation standpoint. Everybody is pleased the way it worked out. I'm thrilled we were able to do it."

Cave & Mountains Rescue teams presented with cheques

Cave & Mountains Rescue teams presented with cheques at Wanted Inn

It was Ho Ho Ho in the Wanted Inn at Sparrowpit the week before Christmas when Santa popped in to deliver a few presents. The locals packed the pub and were treated to a festive night of carols accompanied by Sparrowpit Brass Band. The hosts, Steve and Sheila Philips, provided magnificent mince pies and led the party games in a fun night enjoyed by all.

However, the evening also had the serious aim of raising money for two volunteer local rescue teams. Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation, and Buxton Mountain Rescue Team each received a generous £125 at an informal presentation night in the pub last Tuesday night.

Roger Bennett, Chairman of Buxton MRT, said: “Local support like this is really appreciated by the rescue teams. It is good to know that our voluntary work is valued. Both rescue teams are always looking for cash to keep the services operational and together offer a huge thank you to Sheila, Steve and all the Sparrowpit community.”

FSE 2012 : Creation - EuroSpeleo Magazine

Dear Caving Friends,

First of all the European Speleological Federation-FSE is happy to send you its best wishes to you and to the cavers of your club ; a New Year 2012 full of new explorations and speleological activities !
For the FSE it will be a year full of new projects that you'll discover all along the year, and especiually during the next EuroSpeleo Forum "Speleodiversity 2012" in Switzerland end of September.

And actually you can still take advantage of the "early-booking fee" up to the 31st of January with 66% of reduction !
For that we invite you to register now on : http://www.speleodiversity.ch/indexE.html
(see "Registration" button on the left colomn)
You will find the other next dealines of Speleodiversity at the end of this email.

The FSE Bureau wants to take the opportunity of this message to officially announce you the launching of the new FSE electronic publication destinated to the 2000 caving clubs all over Europe : "EUROSPELEO MAGAZINE"
It follows the 2 issues of the "EuroSpeleo Newsletter" in 2000-2001, and the 14 issues of the "FSE'mail" from 2005 to 2009.
So if you are motivated to be involved in the EuroSpeleo Magazine team, in order to concretly take part in the creation of this multilingual Speleological publication (English-French+other languages), please send us an email asap with your personal data (Full Name, Address, Telephones, Club, skills) to :
magazine@eurospeleo.eu

Tasks for the editorial committee will be numerous :
- design the graphic charter of the magazine
- build a multilingual architechture
- inform the European cavers in a "dynamic" way
- manage the reception of the articles
- manage the translations
- organise the page setup of each issue
- organise events like Photos, Surveys or Articles contests
- administrate information exchange as a board member
- etc

In the same way, if you wish to publish articles in it, please send them with your full data (postal address, federation, club, etc) to :
magazine@eurospeleo.eu
The articles are encouraged to include photos or illustrations (drawings, surveys, etc) even if this is not compulsary. The articles may include a summary and key-words (optional). The files should be sent in one of the following formats : .rtf; .doc; .docx.
The articles should be sent in English or French or both, and can also include other additional European national languages. Your article will be published quicker if it is sent directly in bilingual version English-French.
The magazine will be speleologically generalist and can include articles about all facets of Speleology such like : explorations, scientific articles, expeditions abroad, cave protection, trainings, cave rescue, speleo-arts, etc.

The EuroSpeleo Magazine FSE workgroup will work through an FSE mailing-list in English language.
Looking forward to reading you soon,
Should you have any further questions or suggestions, please let us know.
Again very best wishes to you and you relatives for 2012 !
Kind regards,


For the FSE, Olivier Vidal, Secr. General FSE, +33 681 61 16 70, contact@eurospeleo.org

The 2nd EuroSpeleo Protection Symposium

Best Practices for Cave and Karst Protection in Europe

will be held in Muotathal (Switzerland) from the 29th to the 30th of September 2012.

On behalf of the Organizing Committee we kindly invite all speleologists and scientists related to cave and karst protection, to participate at the 2nd EuroSpeleo Protection Symposium organized jointly by the Swiss Speleological Society and the European Cave Protection Commission/European Speleological Federation and supported by the Commission for Scientific Speleology (SSS and SCNAT).

New headlamp: Petzl Nao

The rechargeable NAO headlamp adapts its two high power LEDs instantly and automatically to the lighting needs for greater comfort, fewer manual interventions and longer battery life. NAO is the first Petzl headlamp with REACTIVE LIGHTING technology.


What is Reactive Lighting Technology?
"Reactive Lighting" technology  is a revolution in hands-free lighting. A built-in light sensor adapts the headlamp’s beam pattern and light output instantly and automatically to suit the user’s needs. This means the user gets an ideal amount of light with minimal manual adjustment required. This self-adjusting lighting mode also results in longer burn times, due to more efficient use of the rechargeable battery.
Adapted lighting


The shape of the beam and the power of the headlamp instantly adapt to the need (lighting for close, medium or long-range vision), so the user always has the right amount of light.
A minimum of manual adjustments

The headlamp automatically adapts to changes in surrounding light conditions, allowing the user to remain focused on the activity at hand without worrying about adjusting the headlamp.
Longer burn times

"Reactive Lighting" technology  increases burn time, due to more efficient use of the rechargeable battery. Lighting adapts to suit the need, reducing the use of wasteful, unnecessarily powerful lighting.

How It Works For You!


On the headlamp the integrated light sensor is oriented in the same direction as the eyes; it measures and analyzes reflected light in order to instantly and automatically adjust the headlamp’s beam pattern (wide and/or focused) and light output to the user’s needs. Volia! No need to fumble around and try to adjust the switch- the Nao will automatically do it for you!

When looking at an object at close range, for example when reading a map, tying a knot or setting up a tent, the beam is very wide and less powerful. When you are walking, running, or skiing, the beam is wide and has medium strength in order to illuminate obstacles in the path.

When raising the head to see into the distance, looking for a trail marker or an anchor on a climb, for example, the light output increases and becomes more focused.






Price: ~$175

BCRA Cave Technology Symposium - New Date

*** change of date from that previously announced ***

BCRA's Cave Technology Symposium will be held in the vicinity of Priddy, Somerset, over the weekend of 9th/10th June 2012. As a companion to the Cave Science Symposium, this event concentrates on areas of cave technology including, but not limited to, lighting, photography and video, cave radio and other forms of communications, surveying, data logging, explosives, electronics, radio location, and rescue.

With the growing popularity of the Cave Technology Symposium, now in its sixth year, we have decided to extend the event from one to two days to provide opportunity for practical demonstrations in addition to talks. The practical sessions will take place on Saturday 9th June and the formal presentations will be on Sunday 10th June. Admission is free to BCRA members and speakers or GBP 3.00 for non-members for either or both days.

Since the venue(s) for the practical sessions will depend on what demonstrations are offered, if you would like to attend, please contact the Lecture Secretary, Mike Bedford, who will provide you with details closer to the date. On the Sunday we will meet at the Hunter's Lodge pub, Priddy (postcode BA5 3AR) at 9:00 and will finish at 16:00. Coffee and tea will be provided at nominal cost and meals are available in the pub at lunch time. Accommodation has been reserved at the nearby Wessex Caving club (postcode BA5 3AX) for the Friday and Saturday nights. If you'd like to book accommodation, please contact Allan Richardson at a.richardson@bcra.org.uk .

For further information or to offer a talk, poster presentation or practical demonstration, please contact the Lecture Secretary, Mike Bedford, at BedfordMD@aol.com .

If you haven't already done so, you might also like to consider subscribing to the mailing list for the Technology Symposium - see http://list.bcra.org.uk - or check the CREG forum, http://bcra.org.uk/cregf for further announcements.

Please note that the dates referred to in this announcement replace the earlier advised dates in April.

David Gibson, pp Mike Bedford, Lecture Secretary
BedfordMD@aol.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Greensburg couple files suit against Laurel Caverns

An attorney for a Greensburg couple has filed a lawsuit against Laurel Caverns Conservancy Inc., claiming the man was injured during a visit to Laurel Caverns in 2010.

The suit claims Michael J. Pierce was hurt in the caverns while chaperoning his daughter on a Girl Scouts trip. It was filed Jan. 12 in Fayette County by attorney D. Aaron Rhin on behalf of Michael J. and Carrie Pierce.

Pierce visited the site east of Uniontown on Sept. 26 and signed an "Upper Caving Release Form."

The release contained no language referring to "rock climbing" or "rappelling," according to the suit, and Pierce signed it "not expecting to participate in rock climbing, rappelling, or any strenuous activity for that matter."

The form, which is available on the tourist spot's website, notes that it is not possible for "exploring directors" to "watch every movement and every step of every caving participant."

It also notes it is "impossible for the Laurel Caverns staff to know the physical abilities of each participant."

Laurel Caverns is now closed for the season. Messages left there to seek comment on the suit were not returned.

Advantages of Living in the Dark: Multiple Evolution Events of 'Blind' Cavefish

Blind Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus).
The blind Mexican cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus) have not only lost their sight but have adapted to perpetual darkness by also losing their pigment (albinism) and having altered sleep patterns. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology shows that the cavefish are an example of convergent evolution, with several populations repeatedly, and independently, losing their sight and pigmentation.

The blind cavefish and the surface dwelling Mexican tetra, despite appearances, are the same species and can interbreed. The cavefish are simply a variant of the Mexican tetra, albeit one adapted to living in complete darkness. A team of researchers from Portugal, America, and Mexico studied the DNA from 11 populations of cavefish (from three geographic regions) and 10 populations of their surface dwelling cousins to help understand the evolutionary origin of the physical differences between them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wakulla Springs Cave Diving Debate

In a Thursday night meeting that lasted over three hours, people expressed concern for the wildlife and visitors to a park rich in history. Others said their desire to dive at the spring is being misinterpreted.

"I thought we had a good turnout. Had 253 people on the sign-in sheet, so, I think it was excellent representation of the public," said Brian Fugate, Park Manager at Wakulla Springs.

Now, officials say they will review all of the comments and decide what the next step will be.

Casey McKinlay is against the proposal. He said, "How do you weigh, or balance expert testimony from researchers and archaeologists against people who just want to come and dive?"

Many people in the dive industry say the key would be to allow regulated diving.

"People could safely open water dive in Wakulla Springs and not have a problem as long as they stick to diving within their certification and training limits," said Travis Kersting, an area diver.

As for concerns about divers disrupting swimmers who enjoy the park, divers say it is a non-issue.

"There are other state parks where cave diving and swimmers, they all coexist and there's really been no problems," said diver Mike Poucher.

The park's busy season begins in March and all parties hope to have an answer by then.

Source: WCTV

Friday, January 20, 2012

725 feet: Craig Challen sets cave diving record in Pearse River

Australian cave divers did set a new depth record. Dr. Craig Challen, a technical diver and veterinary surgeon by profession, reached 725 feet (221 meters) in the Pearse River resurgence in the remote Motueka Valley on the South Island of New Zealand. During the dive, he was able to proof that the cave system is linked to Mt Arthur's Nettlebed Cave system, a limestone cave located in the Mount Arthur region of New Zealand’s South Island.

The Nettlebed Cave was thought to be the deepest cave system in the southern hemisphere until explorers found the nearby Ellis Basin cave system to be deeper, making it the deepest known cave in New Zealand. It has been explored to a depth of 3.360 feet (1,024 meters). Its 20.75 miles (33.4 kilometers) of cave passages make it New Zealand's second longest.

The six-member cave explorer team returned to the Pearse River cave system for the third time in the last three years, pushing the limits a bit further each year. During the 17-hour record breaking dive, Challen was able to break his own depth record set at 636.5 feet (194 meters) in 2010. He and his team of support divers used a total of four underwater habitats for decompression.

Natural underground spaces called caves are found throughout the world, but only a portion of them have been explored and documented by cavers. With 390 miles (628 kilometers) of surveyed passage, the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is currently the longest known cave system. The picture shows the entrance to the Little River cave system in Florida.

Carlsbad Caverns visitors face further delays as back-up elevators need maintenance, repairs

Zipping down 750 feet below the surface to see the world-famous Carlsbad Caverns is going to take a little longer in the coming weeks.

Visitors to Carlsbad Caverns National Park are being asked for patience and understanding while waiting to get on an elevator in the Visitor Center.

The park's two large elevators generally used to ferry passengers into the cave continue to be out of commission due to a renovation project that is months over schedule. Now, park officials have found the two smaller secondary elevators that were pressed into service need the cables replaced.

To replace the cables, a contingency plan has been put it place by park official to get visitors into the cave.

A mission underground

he 82nd CST rescue team works to rescue an “injured” Staff
Sgt. Dustin Clement during a training exercise deep within
Jewel Cave National Monument
Staff Sgt. Dustin Clement has a compound fracture. He tripped, fell and broke his leg — nearly in two, or at least that’s what the training scenario dictated.

Staff Sgt. Clement and Sgt. Eric Haivala were searching for potential radioactive material in the cave when it happened. Tourists were getting ill down there and the symptoms sounded a lot like exposure to radiation. So Jewel Cave officials called in the South Dakota Air and Army National Guard's 82nd Civil Support Team. They specialize in dealing with chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Clement and Haivala discovered some potentially radioactive material in a trashcan in a section of the cave affectionately referred to as the torture chamber.

But Clement's unbelievably broken leg has changed the mission from an investigation to a rescue.

“Ouch,” Clement said, prone on a corrugated steel staircase more than 300 feet underground in Jewel Cave. “It smells like almonds.”

That's a clever joke for a man this busted up — exposed broken bones reportedly smell a lot like almonds. The pain must not be that great for the man on the floor.

Chinese Child Appears To Have Nigth Vision

A Chinese boy surprised the doctors and researchers for his incredible ability to see in the dark, with his "blue eyes" that glow in the dark, like cats.



Australian divers reach record depths in caves

Australian diver David Bardi at the "habitat"
(-38 m) in the Pearse River resurgence.
A group of Australian divers has broken yet another cave diving record in the depths of the Pearse River resurgence and revealed the underwater cave system is linked to Mt Arthur's Nettlebed Cave system.

The group returned from the remote Motueka Valley river head this week after spending a fortnight exploring the intricate underwater cave system.

Diver and explorer Craig Challen pushed the human limit, reaching 221m, breaking the 194m record he set in the river cave last January and setting an Australasian record.

The Western Australian vet said delving to a dark depth felt like "a long way from home".

The 17-hour dive saw him stop four times at underwater "habitats" which were filled with trapped air. They provided a base for divers to rest and decompress before continuing their return to the surface.

Bats Found At Upstate Elementary School

Gym Building Closed Until Bats Can Be Removed

The School District of Pickens County is working to remove bats that have invaded the gym at Clemson Elementary.

District spokeswoman Julie Thompson told News 4 the gym was closed to everyone on Jan. 13 after the bats were discovered in the eaves of the building.

In a statement, Thompson said, "District officials are actively exploring options to determine the number of bats, how they have entered the gym, when they can be removed, and how they can be removed. We assure everyone that the health and safety of our students and staff are priorities as we find the best solution to dealing with the situation. We are also committed to keeping Clemson Elementary parents fully informed at all times."

Researchers to check health of Illinois bats

Researchers will survey Illinois caves that hold hibernating bats next month to check for evidence of white-nose syndrome, a disease that has decimated bat populations in 16 states and four Canadian provinces.

The disease has not been found in Illinois, although it has been documented in Indiana and Kentucky.

A suspected occurrence in Missouri, just across the Mississippi River from Illinois, has not been confirmed yet.

“I am trying to remain optimistic and hope that perhaps we have dodged the WNS bullet for yet another year,” said Joe Kath, Illinois Department of Natural Resources endangered species program manager.

White-nose syndrome gets its name from a powdery white substance found on the ears, noses and wings of infected bats. The fungus causes bats to rouse from hibernation every few days and consume critical energy reserves.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Concordia accident: More pictures of the cavedivers at work

See our previous blog entry for the complete story.



Malaysian cave believed to be 1500 million years old

Datuk Hamidah Osman with Chinese students in Gua Tempurung.
Pic by L. Manimaran
A Chinese geologist's findings has revealed that Gua Tempurung is more than 1,500 million years old.

The findings by Zhou Shunbin, head of geology department of the Guangzhou Province's Education Association, has prompted the Perak state government to conduct further studies on the cave which is a popular tourist destination.

Previous studies by the state authorities had shown that the cave was only 400 million years.

Zhou led a delegation of 93 students from Guangzhou to visit the cave recently.

The visit was arranged by the Global Institute of Tourism and Tourism Perak.

Zhou said one of the rocks known as "meat rock" spotted by in Gua Tempurung would have taken at least 1,500 million years to form. He said a similar rock was exhibited in a museum in Taiwan but it was not in its natural form.

Up to 6.7 million bats dead from fungus: US

Between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats have died in North America due to a fungus known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) since the disease first appeared in 2006, US authorities said on Tuesday.

The count is a vast increase over the one million bats believed dead according to the last estimate in 2009, and in some areas has meant that nearly all of the bat population is gone, wildlife expert Jeremy Coleman told AFP.

"In states like New York and Vermont and southern Ontario, we anticipate that the overall population is probably impacted on the order of 90-plus percent," said Coleman, national white-nose syndrome coordinator at the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The figures were compiled using data from state biologists and mathematical models to project losses across geographical areas where the disease is known to have spread.

Prehistoric bear skulls found underwater in Mexico

A total of four skulls were found some
50 metres deep within the cenote  
In the dark depths of an underwater cave in eastern Mexico, archaeologists uncovered the ancient remains of four prehistoric bears in the Yucatan Peninsula. Officials believe they could date back to the ice age.

Investigators from Mexico City's National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and officials at the National Institute of Anthropology (INAH) uncovered the precious 11,000-year-old skulls in the ancient sinkhole, or cenote, in 2011.

Well-known as a diverse and rich site for archaeologists, the ancient Mayan stamping ground has provided officials with a variety of prized historical finds in recent years.

"This area is very big and deep and we have not finished exploring," said archaeological, Guillermo de Anda Alanis.

A total of four skulls were found some 50 metres deep within the cenote, which had provided ideal conditions for the preservation of the remains for thousands of years.

"We have found a large quantity of [bear] remains," said Anda Alanis. "Some of them are clearly of Mayan origin."

Water level markings in the underwater cave suggests the cenote was not filled with water during the bear's lifetime, providing crucial insights into the effects of climate change and the end of the ice age for scientists.

With further tests expected at the site, officials are hopeful the ancient region will reveal further secrets.



French Women Live in Cave to Escape Electro-Magnetic Rays

Anne Cautain and Bernadette Touloumond suffer from hypersensitive reactions to electro-magnetic radiations.

The symptoms include unbearable burning and terrible headaches, so bad that they couldn’t stand to live in the outside world anymore. After trying several other options, a cave has become their ultimate refuge.

Anne and Bernadette’s cave is located outside the town of Beaumugne, on the edge of the Vercors plateau range, in France.

To gain access to the area, a small ladder needs to be scaled while clinging to a rope. A sign reading “Mobile Phones Prohibited” is displayed on the hillside. 52-year-old Anne says, “I can’t take any sort of electro-magnetic waves, whatever they may be: Wi-Fi, mobile phones or high-tension wires.” She was the first to settle down in the cave, and is now spending her third winter there.

Conduit 11 released

The Conduit is the electronic newsletter of the Karst Waters Institute.
The latest issue (volume 11, issue 2) can be downloaded here (Pdf / 1.84 MB). This issue provides news of past activities and future events, as well as other announcements:
  • Upcoming 2012 Karst Award Banquet
  • Wilson Scholarship Funding Available
  • KWI Happenings
  • Upcoming Karst-Related Conferences and News
  • A Karst Session at the Fall AGU meeting
  • 2013 KWI Conference – Carbon and Boundaries in Karst
  • Recent KWI Conference – “Carbonate Geochemistry”
  • Photo mosaic from “Carbonate Geochemistry” conference

Source: www.karstwaters.org

Wind Cave Seeks Comments on Plan for New Airlock

Wind Cave National Park is soliciting comments on a draft environmental assessment (EA) written to replace the existing revolving door at the cave's Walk-In Entrance. The park's preferred alternative is to replace the current door with a small two-door structure.

"The existing revolving door was constructed in 1992 and after twenty years it has deteriorated to the point where there are numerous air leaks," said park superintendent Vidal Davila. "This project proposes to replace the revolving door with an airlock structure that can accommodate a 40-person tour and create a two-door airlock system that would reduce airflow in and out of the cave through this man-made entrance."

The public is invited to attend an informal open house at the Wind Cave National Park Visitor Center on Tuesday, February 21, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss the plan with park staff and to comment on the alternatives.

For more information, and for an on-line copy of the EA, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/wica. Comments can be submitted via that website or they can be mailed to Superintendent; Wind Cave National Park; 26611 U.S. Highway 385; Hot Springs, SD 57747-9430.

Printed copies of the EA are available by visiting or writing the park. Copies are also on review at the Custer, Hot Springs, and Rapid City public libraries. The comment period runs through Thursday, March 8th.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

II International Symposium on mine caves


26-29 april 2012 
Iglesias (Sardinia, Italy)

Since the early stages in the development of human kind, caves were used as mines to extract minerals impossible to find at the surface. Later, mining activities, digging galleries underground, allowed to reach a peculiar type of natural cavities, the so called "mine caves", that would otherwise be impossible to explore and study.
These cavities, which are particularly widespread within carbonate formations, were known since the antiquity but they started to be studied only very recently.

Mine caves have shown to be extremely important in several research fields: from speleogenesis to cave mineralogy, from history of mining activities to cave tourism, just to cite the most important ones.

A first Symposium on mine caves was held in Iglesias in 2004 giving a strong impulse to the research, which flourished in the following years not only in Italy but also in many Countries abroad. For these reasons the Sardinian Geomining and Historical Environmental Park, together with the Sardinian Speleological Federation and the Italian Institute of Speleology decided to organize a Second International Symposium on Mine Caves to discuss the latest achieved results in this field all around the World.

More information on the conference, including registration and accommodations can be found at  the official website: www.international-symposium-on-mine-caves.org

Abstracts can be sent until January 31, 2012.


Evidence of Past Southern Hemisphere Rainfall Cycles Related to Antarctic Temperatures

Stalagmites in Pacupuhuain Cave in the Andes of Peru
similar to ones sampled by Stephen Burns, Lisa Kanner
and colleagues for their study of tropical rainfall
cycles in the Southern Hemisphere. Analysis of oxygen
isotopes in such features provide a 34,000-year record
of rainfall variation in the Amazon Basin.
Geoscientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Minnesota this week published the first evidence that warm-cold climate oscillations well known in the Northern Hemisphere over the most recent glacial period also appear as tropical rainfall variations in the Amazon Basin of South America. It is the first clear expression of these cycles in the Southern Hemisphere.

The work by Stephen Burns and his doctoral student Lisa Kanner at UMass Amherst is reported in the current issue of Science. Burns says, "The study also demonstrates that rainfall in the Southern Hemisphere of South America is, though to a lesser extent, also influenced by temperature changes in the Antarctic, which has not been previously observed."

The last glacial period, from about 10,000 to about 120,000 years ago, saw North America and Western Europe covered in a thick continental ice sheet, the geoscientist points out. Yet climate was also highly unstable during the period, cycling every few thousand years between warm and cold, dry periods in the high northern latitudes. Temperatures could change by as much as 10 to 15 degrees Celsius.

Known as Dansgaard/Oeschger (D/O) cycles, these millennial-scale rapid climate events were first recognized in the Greenland ice cores, but have since been found throughout the Northern Hemisphere, Burns points out.

New website for French Caving Federation