Monday, April 30, 2012

Stone-Age artists practised Flintstones-like animation

The art of the moving image may have been invented 30,000 years ago by Stone-Age artists, according to the latest research into early humans.

Anthropologists investigating caves in France have found artefacts that may have represented animated movement by using "flickering" images.

At the heart of cinematography is the principle of retinal persistence, the phenomenon whereby the human eye retains images of an event for fractionally longer than it actually happens. This is what lets us see movement in films as continuous, even though films are no more than a series of rapidly changing pictures.

Marc Azema, a researcher at the Prehistoric Art Research and Study Centre in Toulouse, said it appeared that Stone-Age humans had discovered retinal persistence and used it to make toys and artefacts that foreshadowed the modern cinema.

In a paper to be published in the academic journal Antiquity, Mr Azema and Florent Rivere, a co-researcher, said: "Paleolithic (Stone-Age) artists invented the principle of sequential animation, based on the properties of retinal persistence. This was achieved by showing a series of juxtaposed or superimposed images of the same animal."

The artefacts on which the researchers based their theory have been found in Stone-Age cave dwellings in France including the renowned Chauvet cave in the Ardeche and the Baume-Latrone cave in Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon.

Explorers find 41 new caves in Quang Binh Province

Forty-one caves have been discovered at the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park-World Heritage Site since March, said the park management board in the central province of Quang Binh on Tuesday.

The caves were discovered by explorers of the British Royal Cave Research Association, along a 20 kilometre stretch.

Of the 41 new caves, the Ky cave is the deepest one found in Vietnam. The widest is Cua Nho, though its entrance is so narrow that only one person can pass through. However, in its inside it widens to give a huge feeling of spaciousness.

Luu Minh Thanh, director of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, said that Japan’s National Television Station (NHK) will arrive by April 26 to make a film on Son Doong Cave, which will be widely broadcast in 200 nations and territories across the globe.





Quai Branly sheds further light on Chauvet cave art

Wall drawings of lions in the Chauvet cave complex
The Musée du Quai Branly, Paris’s museum of art and ethnography, has initiated a new cultural partnership with the Chauvet cave complex in the Pont d’Arc valley in Ardèche, southern France. The first exhibition under the new agreement is due to take place next May at the 17th-century Vogüé chateau in Ardèche.

Drawn from the Quai Branly’s permanent collection, the show will include religious and hunting objects. “This show is due to be the first [in the partnership] and will reflect the themes seen in the murals painted in the caves,” says a museum spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, the Quai Branly has beefed up its contemporary art programme with a major show on recent art’s relationship with shamanism opening this month as well as an important exhibition of Australian Aboriginal work of the 1970s, set to open in October.

As part of a cultural cooperation agreement with the National Museum of China in Beijing, a show focusing on Chinese dining traditions is due to open in June.

Source: The Art Newspaper

Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauaʻi -- Book Review


Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauaʻi: A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark.
David A. Burney. Yale University Press, New Haven; 2011.
6 by 9 inches, xv+198 pages. Hardbound
ISBN 978-0-300-15094-0, $28;
softbound ISBN 978-0-300-17209-6, $18.

In pursuit of his interest in paleoecology, or the study of how the arrival of humans has changed ecosystems worldwide, the author began an investigation in Makauwahi Cave on the southeastern coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi. A solution cave in eolianite limestone that also spent some time as a sea cave, it now consists mainly of a large, open collapse sinkhole. Excavation and coring of the deposits on the floor of the sink have disclosed a lot of information about the changes in the island's flora and fauna since the arrival of Polynesians about a thousand years ago and then Europeans in 1788. Before it's discovery by man, the only mammal on the island was a bat. A large fraction of the plants and animals on the Hawaiian islands were unable to cope with the the Polynesian's rats, dogs, and pigs and the European's goats, not to mention many invasive plants introduced accidentally or on purpose. Many have gone extinct, and hundreds of officially endangered species hang on only in remote and inaccessible areas.

More recently, the author and his wife have spearheaded restoration of the ancient ecology in the sinkhole and some of the surrounding area. The Makauwahi Cave Reserve is now a popular attraction due to the thriving native plants. The book is in a popular style, but has many references to the scientific literature. Very readable, if not exactly cavey in the usual sense.

Now available via Amazon with a $4 discount. Click here to buy.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 8.2 ka event: is it registered in Belgian speleothems?

Time-series of the Père Noël stalagmite
A new paper by S. Verheyden, , E. Keppens, M. Van Strydonck and Y. Quinif titled "The 8.2 ka event: is it registered in Belgian speleothems?" is published in the latest issue of the Speleogenesis Journal.

Abstract
The petrographic, isotopic and chemical changes occurring around 8.2 ka in two stalagmites, one from the Père Noël cave (Han-sur-lesse, Belgium) and one from the Hotton cave (nearby Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium) are presented.

The Père Noël stalagmite presents a particularly dense grey compact calcite around 8.2 ka, while the Hotton stalagmite presents a deposition hiatus of ca 1100 years. Besides the macroscopic aspect of the stalagmites, changes in their isotopic (δ18O and δ13С) composition and in their chemical (Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca) composition are observed. Regarding the early start and the duration of the climate deterioration, it is impossible to link the onset of the observed wet phase in the studied speleothems as directly related to the so-called 8.2 ka event. 

The question arises if the climate deterioration around 8.2 ka observed in both stalagmites is one among other deteriorations occurring during the early Holocene.

In the wake of white-nose syndrome, state asks Vermonters to help identify remaining bat populations

A scientist observes a bat in Greeley Mine, 2009
The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is enlisting Vermonters to help identify remnant bat populations that so far have survived the outbreak of white-nose syndrome in New England.

The department has launched “Got Bats?” a program that enables Vermonters to report bats roosting in the attics and rafters of houses. The initiative also is designed to educate homeowners on strategies to exclude bats out without killing them.

Scott Darling, a state bat biologist, says residents have been very engaged on the issue of white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection that has killed an estimated 6 million to 7 million bats. The fungus has wiped out some 85 percent to 90 percent of some species of hibernating bats in infected areas.

Since the fungus was first discovered in 2007, it has spread quickly throughout the Northeast, thriving in the moist caves of New England, said Dave Yates, mammal program director for the Biodiversity Research Institute. The fungus primarily has attacked six species of bats that hibernate in caves. In Vermont, it has cut down two species, the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat, by an estimated 90 percent. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is listing the two species as state-endangered.

The Got Bats? program will ask homeowners to help researchers find surviving bats, especially the state’s two so-called house bat species, the little brown bat and the big brown bat. Now that bat populations have been decimated, it’s vital to keep track of even small handfuls of survivors, said Ann Froschauer, national white-nose syndrome communicator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Even if there are just five or 10 bats in the house, it might be a big deal in terms of genetic diversity,” she said.

Newfound cave near Son Doong now has a name & Interview with Howard Limbert

One of the recently-discovered caves in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Binh has a name now: Thach Thuy or Water Stalagmite. The name was chosen among hundreds of suggestions put forth by Tuoi Tre readers. 

Thach Thuy is part of  7 caves discovered in March in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park - famous for its cavern system - by a group of UK explorers headed by Howard Limbert.

Instead of naming it, Howard left the honor to Tuoi Tre Newspaper which then launched a contest calling on its readers to suggest ideas for the name.

Four UK explorers including Howard plus a translator were responsible for picking out a winning entry and they selected Thach Thuy, which was recommended by four readers who therefore win a free trip worth VND10 million (US$500) each to the site.

(From L) Mong Tuyen, Phuong Thanh, Lai Xi Dieu, three readers selected Thach Thuy as a name of a new-found cave in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and won a free trip each to the site.

Winner Phuong Thanh (29) told Tuoi Tre she had been pondering long and hard at the marvel of nature that crafted such beautiful stalagmites rising up from sparkling water.

“Water and rocks seem intertwined”, she added, convinced that the name Water Stalagmite is a fitting description.

Britain's hibernating bats avoid deadly fungus killing their US cousins

The spread of white-nose syndrome in the US.
Scientists in Britain are monitoring the fatal 'white-nose' syndrome that has been devastating colonies of the flying mammals in the US

It has been a satisfying spring for bat expert Lisa Worledge. Reports sent to her from volunteers who have been monitoring Britain's bats as they emerge from hibernation have given a clean bill of health to the nation's flying mammals. In particular, their observations have found no sign of an epidemic of fungal disease that has wiped out almost seven million bats in the US over the past six years and threatens to leave many American species extinct.

Many biologists fear that the infection, known as white-nose syndrome, could spread to Britain, with devastating consequences. "It is a real worry and we keep a very close eye out for any sign of the disease, but so far, happily, we have not seen a sign," said Worledge, partnership officer for the UK Bat Conservation Trust.

Bats are at their most vulnerable from white-nose syndrome while they are hibernating. Hence the decision to have volunteers monitor major sites – caves, old railway tunnels and abandoned buildings – where Britain's 17 species of bat spend the winter. "To date, we have only had good news," said Worledge.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Survey to assess toll taken on Maine's bats

This summer in Maine and across the Northeast, an all-out effort will begin to survey and try to protect bat populations that were decimated by white-nose bat syndrome this winter.

Maine biologists confirmed in March that the disease now has a foothold here, just as it has throughout the Northeast. And after the disease was found in several more states, federal biologists have little optimism for the future of half of North America's bat species.

"It's not likely we'll see in the Northeast in our lifetime, or our great-grandchildren's lifetime, bat populations at pre-white-nose syndrome levels. We do have sites where there is up to 100 percent mortality. It's disheartening," said Ann Froschauer, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hadley, Mass.

Because so little is known about bats, scientists can't predict the possible impact of the disease, but seeing more insects where bats previously had thrived is one possible result.

The disease that was first documented in bats in New York in 2007 was found this winter in states as far south as Alabama and as far west as Missouri. It is now confirmed in 19 states and four Canadian provinces, and is estimated by the service to have killed 5.5 million bats in North America.

New cracks found at Ashland's Devil’s Den

New cracks found below Devil’s Den have some fearful the cave is yet again in danger of collapsing, and have prompted the Historical Commission to take matters into its own hands.

Field Study Committee member Mark Juitt told the School Committee on Thursday that workers at the field complex construction site recently found deep cracks beneath the cave, from blasting.

“Unfortunately the rock underneath…does not look like it’s supportive enough to support that area,” Juitt said.

Devil’s Den is a rock structure some claim is historic, located near the athletic field construction site, on a hill behind the high school. Damage to the cave earlier this year during construction infuriated some residents and prompted the town to modify construction plans to save the cave.

Assistant Town Manager Mark Purple yesterday said there are cracks below the cave, but it is too early to guess whether they might endanger the den until a geotechnical engineer studies the area.

“It may look fractured but it may be stable,” he said.

Purple said workers have excavated to ground level but still need to dig down another nine feet to install pipes and electrical wires.

Field Study Committee Chairman Dave Barrett said the committee will meet on Wednesday night before Town Meeting, but won’t make decisions about the cave until they get a report from the geotechnical engineer.

“It’ll be up to the geotech to decide what impact these cracks have,” Barrett said.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Shore Spelunker Billings Explores Around World

He’s known in Long Beach as the man with his name on the circa-1941 Billings Ace Hardware, but Doug Billings, 47, has a second vocation that few people have heard about — once a year, he travels to Belize as a volunteer cave surveyor and mapper.

Billings, who returned last month from his latest trip to South America, said he feels like Indiana Jones as he and a team of cavers explore caverns that have never been seen by humans.

“We go deep enough, or dig into openings, that no one has ever been into before,” Billings said. “It’s something, it feels like I’m an astronaut, to be the first person to ever step on that ground.”

His team, armed with helmets, ropes, backpacks and machetes (to cut through the jungle), is responsible for mapping caves as well as recovering or taking inventory of archaeological (from Mayan pottery, petroglyphs and sacrificial tools) or biological findings (from human skeletons to new insect species). Because many cave systems in Belize were used by the Mayans as places of worship, Billings’ team regularly finds Mayan artifacts that have been sitting undisturbed for more than a thousand years.

“Mayans associated caves with the underworld,” Billings said. “They both feared and worshipped these caves and rarely went inside except for rituals — because of that, the artifacts we find are usually in great condition. On this last trip, we found a tomb filled with Mayan artifacts.”

White-Nose Syndrome Detected In Bats At Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is the latest unit of the National Park System to have bats infected with white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that already has killed about 7 million bats in the country.

Earlier this year the disease was detected in bat populations at both Acadia and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, and it also has been found at New River Gorge National River in West Virginia, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and Russell Cave National Monument in Alabama.

It has not been found at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

The C&O Canal, a popular respite for Washington, D.C., residents, is also home to Maryland’s largest group of hibernating bats, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The appearance of this terrible bat-killing disease on the outskirts of the nation's capital should be a wake-up call to the White House, members of Congress and agency leaders to do more to address what’s shaping up to be the worst wildlife catastrophe of the century,” said Mollie Matteson, a bat specialist with the Center. “Much more can be done to address this disease, including providing more funding for research, restricting access to caves on federal lands and passing the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, now under consideration in Congress.”

Marines and Norwegians open caves to test Marine Corps Prepositioning Program during Exercise Cold Response

Of the U.S. Cold War assets, six caves and two storage facilities in central Norway exist as if a part of an action-movie film set. However, they are part of a remote Marine Corps program known as the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway.

Although the Soviet threat is gone and there is an improved security posture across Europe, MCPP-N still plays a vital role in the Marine Corps. That was demonstrated during Exercise Cold Response 2012, where Marines validated the prepositioning concept as well as the interoperability between the United States and Norway.

“With 10 years of the war on terror, this is one of those parts of the Marine Corps not well-known to the people outside the program,” said Col. Mark A. Smith, deputy commander of the 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

The caves, formally part of the Norway Air-Landed Marine Expeditionary Brigade, have been in operational capability since January 1990. Following a bottom-up review in 2004 directed by Gen. Michael W. Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, the program was refocused for today’s use. Whereas the caves in Norway were designed to hold a large portion of equipment and 30 days of supply for the NALMEB of about 15,000 Marines, the focus in recent years has turned more to theater security cooperation engagements across multiple theaters.

Treyarnon Bay sewage opponents gather at cave

Cornwall councillors visited the Treyarnon Bay
as part of a site visit for the proposed plans
Nearly 100 people against plans for treated sewage to be deposited into a cave at a north Cornwall beach gathered nearby as councillors visited the site.

The Youth Hostel Association (YHA) wants to install a £250,000 system to discharge wastewater into Long Cave at Treyarnon Bay.

The objectors gathered at the cave as the councillors visited to raise health and reputation concerns.

Cornwall Council will make a final decision on the plans at a later date.

YHA, which has been in the area for 60 years, said its current system was defective and the proposed system would carry treated sewage from the hostel down to the cave on the beach.Businesses 'will suffer'

It said the waste would undergo "physical, biological and UV treatment" before being discharged in high tide at night.

There would be facilities to store waste for 48 hours and a back-up system in case of error.

But resident Julie Spicer said: "Two days is not enough because there will be five or six days when the tide will go nowhere near the cave.

"It's soft sand, children play there, people build sand sculptures which last for several days."

St Merryn Parish Council said: "Trying to maintain the image that Treyarnon is a clean and safe beach will not be an easy task.

"Public perception is likely to focus on the fact that there is now an outfall present and other businesses such as shops, vendors and even the YHA itself will surely suffer."

The Environment Agency has issued a permit allowing the treated sewage to be discharged at high tide during the night.

YHA said the alternative of running a pipe half a mile to connect to the mains sewer was not a viable option.

Source: BBC

Israeli researcher: Mikvehs show that Galilee cave dwellers were likely kohanim

Yinon Shivtiel inside a mikveh in a cave in the Galilee,
where Jews sought shelter under Roman rule.
The caves in which the purification baths were found were 'caves of refuge,' where Jews who lived in the area sought shelter under Roman rule.

A fifth mikveh has been found in the caves on the Galilee's Cliffs of Arbel, indicating that the people who lived there under Roman rule were most likely kohanim, Jews of the priestly class, said Yinon Shivtiel, one of the researchers who found the ritual bath.

"The discovery of mikvehs in archaeological excavations is always a sign of Jewish life," said Shivtiel, a lecturer at the Zefat Academic College and Ohalo College who will be presenting his findings at a conference at Tel-Hai College next week. "The Mishna reinforces the importance and necessity for this facility, devoting an entire tractate to the mikveh and the laws of immersion."

The caves in which the purification baths were found were "caves of refuge," where Jews who lived in the area sought shelter under Roman rule, particularly during the Jewish revolt that ended with the destruction of the Second Temple.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bones of early American disappear from underwater cave

The Young Man of Chan Hol II skeleton was laid to
 rest 10,000 years ago when sea levels were much lower
One of the first humans to inhabit the Americas has been stolen – and archaeologists want it back.

The skeleton, which is probably at least 10,000 years old, has disappeared from a cenote, or underground water reservoir, in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.

In response, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico City has placed "wanted" posters in supermarkets, bakeries and dive shops in and around the nearby town of Tulum. They are also considering legal action to recover the remains.

The missing bones belong to a skeleton dubbed Young Man of Chan Hol II, discovered in 2010. The cenote in which it was found had previously yielded another 10,000-year-old skeleton – the Young Man of Chan Hol, discovered in 2006.

The earlier find has anatomical features suggesting shared heritage with Indonesians and south Asians. Other skeletons found in cenotes in the area with similar features may date to around 14,000 years ago. Such finds imply that not all early Americans came from north Asia. This deals yet another blow to the idea that the Clovis people crossing an ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska were the first to colonise the Americas. Clovis culture dates to around 13,000 years ago.

Both skeletons were laid to rest at a time when sea level was much lower than it is today and the cenote, now about 8 metres below the water, was dry. Archaeologists have also found the remains of elephants, giant sloths and other animals in the caves, giving an indication of what the ancient humans ate.

INAH researchers have been aware of creeping theft of specimens from cenotes, but they lack the resources to guard the hundreds of sites that dot the peninsula.

Source: Newscientist

Boy rescued from Karbi Anglong cave

The crime branch of city police, with the help of Morigaon police, rescued Mrinmoy Kakati (19), a student of a city-based private college on Tuesday night from Karbi Anglong, who was missing since the morning of April 18.

The police also arrested three persons involved in the kidnapping. The arrested were later identified as Moti Deuri, Romen Konwar and Jiten Inghi.

On April 20, Mrinomoy's family registered a kidnapping case at the Odalbakra police outpost here after the boy did not return home. Though initially the boy was suspected of running away from house, the family later confirmed that he had been abducted and they had received a ransom call from the abductors.

The kidnappers demanded Rs 50 lakh as ransom money, which the family refused to give. Mrinomoy's father, S R Kakoti, is an employee of the Rural Electrification Programme scheme.

A source spotted Mrinomoy in Jorabat and informed the police.

"Our sources said that the boy was taken towards Nellie in Morigaon district and our search team rescued him from a cave in hills located in the bordering areas of Morigaon and Karbi Anglong districts," said additional SP (crime) A Sinha.

Mrinomoy was kept in a cave in the hills of Marlak area under Baithalangshu PS in Karbi Anglong, some 25 km from Nellie.

Michigan bats survey: No sign of killer fungus

Michigan bats seem to be doing OK, so far dodging a disease that has been wiping out bat colonies around the country, according to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources report released Thursday.

A statewide survey of 60 bat wintering sites in Michigan found no sign of the fatal fungal disease white nose syndrome, the DNR said. It said Eastern Michigan University's Allen Kurta and Steve Smith collaborated on the work.

In white nose syndrome, the fungus infects a bat's skin and causes the bat's energy reserves to deplete before the hibernation period is over.

Researchers surveyed caves and abandoned mines across the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula, the DNR said. It said the survey locations represent the major bat colony hibernation sites in Michigan, with some colonies numbering more than 50,000 bats.

"Our survey efforts focused on areas where WNS would most likely first appear," said DNR wildlife biologist Bill Scullon, based in Baraga in the Upper Peninsula. "Given the speed with which this devastating disease has spread across the country, we're very pleased to have found no visible signs of WNS in Michigan this season. Unfortunately, all indications are that the disease will eventually arrive here."

Bat-killing Epidemic Strikes C&O Canal National Historical Park Stretching Through Nation's Capital

A disease that has killed nearly 7 million bats across the eastern United States has struck a colony of bats at the historic C&O Canal National Historical Park, which runs through parts of Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The popular respite for urban dwellers in the sprawling capital region is also home to Maryland’s largest group of hibernating bats. Now the wildlife epidemic known as white-nose syndrome has invaded this well-loved natural sanctuary — just minutes from the government offices where decisions affecting the disease’s outcome may be made.

“The appearance of this terrible bat-killing disease on the outskirts of the nation's capital should be a wake-up call to the White House, members of Congress and agency leaders to do more to address what’s shaping up to be the worst wildlife catastrophe of the century,” said Mollie Matteson, a bat specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Much more can be done to address this disease, including providing more funding for research, restricting access to caves on federal lands and passing the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, now under consideration in Congress.”

In just six years, the invasive fungal growth that appears on bats’ muzzles as they hibernate has spread to bat colonies in 20 states and four Canadian provinces. Biologists believe several bat species may become extinct as a result of white-nose syndrome, believed to have been inadvertently introduced to a commercial cave in upstate New York from Europe, probably by a cave visitor.

Its appearance in the C&O Canal National Historic Park is no surprise to park officials, as it was found on neighboring state property last year. Surveyors counted the lowest number of bats this year since they began tracking the bat population at the site in 1998. In northeastern states, where the bat disease has been present the longest, bat populations are down by more than 90 percent.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DeSoto Caverns Park makes top 10 list

DeSoto Caverns Park has been recognized in a “Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Alabama” list.

Trekaroo.com included DeSoto Caverns, along with Cathedral and Sequoyah caverns, at number two on its list of “Discover Alabama’s Caves.” Trekaroo.com reviews kid-friendly activities and travel trips for families.

DeSoto Caverns Park is the site of the historic DeSoto Caverns just east of Childersburg on Alabama 76. The caverns have been a tourist attraction since the 1960s and over the past 25 years has added a growing family oriented theme park.

According to The Historical Marker Database, DeSoto Caverns is the first recorded cave in the United States, and served as a shelter for Native Americans for centuries. The caverns served as a Confederate gunpowder mining site during the War Between the States.

Tours of the caverns feature a 12-story high main cave that is larger than a football field, and has some of the most concentrated accumulations of onyx-marble stalagmites and stalactites in America.

Groups of 20 or more can reserve the cavern for overnight stays. Scouts can earn “Adventure” badges and primitive camping is available.

Schools can take advantage of the historical significance and geological features by scheduling school field trips. A variety of packages are offered, including admission to the fun-theme park.

Families can tour the caverns and also enjoy 25 “wacky” attractions that include a Lost Trail maze, Panning for Gemstones, Wacky Water Golf, and many other attractions.

"We are glad to have an attraction that is family oriented, and we are glad to be recognized as one of the top family attractions in Alabama through this list on Trekaroo.com, as well as on Oprah Winfrey's list of Wacky Family Attractions," park president Tim Lacy said.

Source: The Daily Home

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Clapham cave rescuers glad of Co-operation

The Co-op has stepped in to raise money for the Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation, its charity of choice for the coming year.

It is a vital time for the CRO as its major fundraising event of the year, Broughton Game Show, was cancelled.

Sheila Brown, manager of the Co-op’s Ingleton store, said: “This was a personal choice for me and I am happy we were able to make Cave Rescue our charity.

“A lot of our customers at the shop are visitors to the area and they may well need the help of CRO. We want to help make people aware of the work that Cave Rescue does.”


Cave Rescue chairman Bill Quinton said: “We need to raise £30,000 every year for equipment and ambulances, so Sheila’s effort is much appreciated.”

Philippine Cave congress opens in Roxas City

The 12th National Caving Congress officially opens in Capiz today.

Undersecretary Manuel D. Gerochi for Staff Bureaus and Project Management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will grace the opening ceremonies of the week-long congress with the theme, “Strengthening Cave Conservation for Sustainable Eco-Tourism.”

Philippine Speleological Society, Inc. (PSSI) president Reynaldo Bagayas Jr. along with DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Julian D. Amador, Roxas City Mayor Angel Allan Celino, and Capiz Gov. Victor A. Tanco will greet participants during the opening ceremonies.

The program will also include a presentation on the updates on Cave Management Program in the Philippines that will be delivered by Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) director Theresa Mundita S. Lim.

This year’s host of the congress will be the Western Visayas Caving Association (WVCA) in partnership with the DENR 6 and the Capiz provincial government.

The activity that will be attended by participants from all over the country representing the different outdoor and caving clubs which are members and non-members of the Philippine Speleological Society Inc. (PSSI), environmentalists, academe, and local government units, among others.

The Caving Association is one of the few organizations that formed the Speleological Society which is a non-stock, non-profit non-government organization and a national network of caving groups which has been very instrumental in the enactment of Republic Act 9072 or The Cave Resources Management and Protection Act.

The congress which started in 2001 promotes responsible caving through cave-related trainings and seminars. It also provides a platform for reviewing and assessing the ecological and environmental status of caves all throughout the country.

Source: PIA

Monday, April 23, 2012

Unheard of mineral discovered in a cave in Spain

Image of the 3r Zaccagnaita discovered in Spain,
as seen under a microscope
A team of researchers from the Geological Survey of Spain and the Complutense de Madrid University has discovered a new mineral, the zaccagnaita-3R, in a cave known as “The Soplao,” located in the historical northern region of Cantabria.

The finding, published in the April issue of American Mineralogist, journal produced by the Mineralogical Society of America, is unique in the world as it is the first reported case of a zaccagnaita formed in a cave, which turns this into a new mineral species espeleotémico, and The Soplao in a single cavity by hosting it, said the Cantabria government in a statement.

The new mineral, rich in aluminum from a chemical point of view, has a peculiar morphology and zoned octahedral fluorescence, said the authors of the discovery.

The scientific breakthrough is the result of geological research work being carried out in El Soplao thanks to an agreement signed by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Tourism and Trade, the Geological Survey, and the company SIEC.

Potential applications
Zaccagnaita is an extremely rare mineral discovered in 2001 in Carrara (Italy), which hasn’t been found in other than microscopic sizes until now, as Zaccagnaita-3R.

The mineral belongs to the hydrotalcite group and is of special value as an industrial processes catalysts as well as in water treatment and the pharmacy sector, mainly in the production of antacids, antiseptics, anti-inflammatories and in the treatment of heart diseases.

It can also be used as a PVC stabilizer stresses and to treat waste fluids.

3rd International Photography Contest of Cave Fauna and Flora

Organised by the "Grupo de Espeleología de Villacarrillo" (G.E.V.)

Objective: Encourage the diffusion and preservation of the subsurface environment ecosystems.

CONTEST RULES
Topic: Flora and Fauna of the caves
Number of Works: Unlimited
Modality and Technique: Free
Format: Digital image format whose minimun dimensions are 2000 x 2000 píxels.  Attach the image to a text document indicating the title, autor, email, address, group of speleology, name of the cavity, municipality, country, date of the image and national identity.
Jury: The jury will include members of the GEV. A dedicated jury, selected from the associations that offer the special awards will decide upon these. The jury’s decision is final.

Shipping: The pictures have to be sent to the email bioespeleologiaGEV@hotmail.com with the subject “International Photography Contest”.

The photos that don’t meet the above characteristics and don’t have sufficient quality will be denied.

Exhibition: The best photos received will be displayed in the 8th Championship of Spain of T.P.V. of Speleology to take place on 13 and 14 October 2012 in Villacarrillo (Jaén).

The period is from April to the 23th September 2012.

All the photos can be published later in any of the blogs of the GEV and related works.

The same photography may not be awarded the Special Prize BIOSP, but can be eligible for the two other special awards. No rewards work that were awared in previous contests.

AWARDS
The International Awards of the Contest are:
  • 1st Place:  € 250 plus the technical and scientific publications of the sponsors plus a discount voucher in HUMAVENTURA.
  • 2nd Place:  € 150 plus the technical and scientific publications of the sponsors plus a discount voucher in HUMAVENTURA.
  • 3rd Place:  € 50 plus the technical and scientific publications of the sponsors plus a discount voucher in HUMAVENTURA.
Special Award BIOSP: 100 € of the Asociación Catalana of Biospeleology plus the publications of the G.E.V.

Special Award “Spider of the Year”: Publications SEA and GIA, plus the publications of the G.E.V. Will be awared to the best picture of spiders of the caves of the genus Meta.

Special Award MVHN: Publications of the Museum Valencià d’Història Natural plus the publications of the G.E.V.

2012 NSS-CDS Workshop May 25-27

Work under way on Nevada's first wind energy farm

The settlement of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists is allowing turbines to go up at Nevada's first wind energy project.

The 7,500-acre Spring Valley Wind farm in White Pine County, just west of Great Basin National Park, is set to start providing power to northern Nevada this July, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported ((http://bit.ly/HWvHAg ).

San Francisco-based Pattern Energy plans to install 66 turbines to generate 150 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 45,000 homes.

NV Energy has agreed to buy power from the wind farm for the next 20 years.

The Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity sued last year in an effort to block the $225 million project, claiming the U.S. Bureau of Land Management skirted environmental regulations to fast-track it.

The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nevada Department of Wildlife also expressed concerns over the project.

The conservation groups and company entered settlement talks last year after a federal judge refused to stop work at the site to allow more study of how the turbines would affect bats and sage grouse.

Under the settlement approved March 29 in U.S. District Court in Nevada, Pattern agreed to expand its program for tracking bird deaths associated with the project.

The company also will pay for a $50,000 study of nearby Rose Cave, where as many as 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost during their fall migration.

Many Human Viruses May Have Jumped from Bats

Temporal and geographically linked PV detection in African fruit bat species.
Much of a family of viruses containing a variety of disease-causing nasties, from the mumps virus toHendra, appears to have jumped from bats to other animals, including us,a new study suggests.

To better understand the evolution of paramyxoviruses — which also causemeasles, distemper and respiratory infections as well as deadly, newlyemerging Hendra — scientists looked for them in 9,278 individual bats and rodents at sites around the world.

Bats and rodents are known to carry these viruses, and both animals' habit of living in large groups makes them good reservoirs for the viruses that can spread to neighboring humans or livestock.

While sorting viruses into species is tricky — in fact, they generally aren't considered to be alive — the researchers estimated they had found 66 new paramyxoviruses based on genetic differences between the viruses.

Their finds included viruses that appear to beclose relatives of those known to infect humans or other animals.

Philippine ecotourism looks bright

Puerto Princesa Underground River
The future of Philippine ecotourism looks bright in part because of a tourist experience that may be likened to going back in time, President Benigno Aquino III said on Saturday night.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, Mr. Aquino said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) are working together to promote other ecotourism sites.

“Not long ago, I had the chance to explore the Puerto Princesa Underground River myself. It was an amazing experience. Journeying down a river that winds through a subterranean cave system is like traveling back in time,” he said in a speech at the Esplanade in Pasay City.

Open invitation
“With walls and caverns that have been shaped by the elements and extraordinary formations of stalactites and stalagmites, the underground river is a true example of the artistry of nature, when it is preserved and cared for by man,” he added.

Mr. Aquino said more than 235,000 tourists in 2011 saw the beauty and majesty of the underground river.

“Words alone cannot do justice to the underground river—one must experience it firsthand to be able to understand exactly why it is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. So consider this as an open invitation to everyone to visit the PPUR,” he said.

Four couples will tie the know in May in Yagodina Cave

Four couples will tie the know in May in Yagodina Cave, which is located in Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria, cave curator Sergey Genchev told FOCUS – Smolyan Radio.

A wedding ceremony will take place also on 29 April. According to Genchev the couples prefer to get married in the cave in order to feel a stronger thrill.

The curator also added that the number of tourists visiting Yagodina Cave and Devil’s Throat Cave increased as the weather got warmer.

Source: Daniela Boykova

Bats to fill Omaha sky tonight

Go ahead, grab the kids and go batty tonight.

A colony of bats is being released from the Joslyn Art Museum Monday evening — an annual event that has become a family festival.

Families are invited to bring blankets and picnic baskets.

Informational tables and activities will be set up by 6:30 p.m. Live bats will be on display, too.

The release of the more than 200 bats will occur a little before 8 p.m., said Laura Stastny of Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, Inc. Take note of the time if you’ve been planning to attend. The bats are being released several minutes earlier than previously scheduled.

This is the third year for the release.

And these aren’t just any bats — they’re the ones that inadvertently tried to hibernate in homes or businesses and lived to beep about it.

Stasny said the bats have been collected over the course of the winter from a variety of places by both Nebraska Wildlife Rehab and the Nebraska Humane Society. She estimates that more than 75 percent came from Omaha buildings east of 60th Street .

That’s the reason the bats are being released from the Joslyn, she said, because it places them close to their normal haunts.

They are a species commonly called Big Brown Bat because they’re larger than most bats. Still, they’re only 4 or 5 inches long and weigh less than an ounce.

Once released, the nocturnal species will flock around the Joslyn for a while and then head out for a night of freedom and feeding.

Note to moths, wasps and other flying insects: This will not be a good night to hang out near the Joslyn.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Video: White Nose Syndrome

Invitation to International Expedition to Dachstein, Austria

The Multinational Extravaganza Dachstein Expedition is now recruiting & the Facebook page is up & running. The link can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/129703577158968/ or do a search for "Dachstein 2012 Confirmed Attendees Only".

For those of you who are too mature to use Facebook the gist of it is as follows:

When: 4th August til 1st September (people come for a week/month etc).
Where: Dachstein Massif, Austria.
What: Exploration of deep Alpine potholes with absurd potential.

Who: Basically anybody remotely keen as there's useful things for everyone to do, regardless of ability or experience.

How Much: Exped charges £60/head + a weekly fee of £10 to cover fresh food etc. If you're not an alcoholic you could realistically spend a month on exped for less than £250 inclusive of transport, accommodation, food, exped fee, national park tax etc... Beer isn't cheap in the mountains as the brewery is 2km lower down!

How Many: I'm expecting about 40 people this year (we've had those numbers in the past) & so far we've got Brits, Austrians, Germans, Irish, Quebecois.

Specifics (copied from the Facebook page):

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Daring Cave Rescue Makes Young Man a Hometown Hero

Severe weather has given us many stories of survival so far in 2012, and one of those happened in Horse Cave, Kentucky when a cave guide saved ten people from a flooding cave.

On February 29th, a line of strong and severe storms tore through the state sending up severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, and flash flood warnings.

At Hidden River Cave, Peggy Nimns had taken a group of eight out-of-state high school seniors and their teacher into the cave for a three hour off-trail tour while the sun was shining, but the situation turned almost tragic once it began to rain.

While there are indicators within the cave for guides to know about conditions within the cave and on the surface, Nimns' group was a mile and a half deep in the passages and had no idea the cave was flooding due to a flash flood.

Joe Forsythe could see the increasing danger, and after waiting to see if the group emerged from the cave, he decided to go in after the group.

"We were absolutely bone dry when he found us. We were turning around at that point, but had no idea that the water had gone from ankle deep to basically over my head in a short amount of time," recalls Nimns

When Forsythe entered the cave, the water at the entrance was knee deep, but by time he found the group and they reached the entrance to go back out, the water was anywhere from six to eight feet deep.

Video: CCR Cave Diving - Algar das Morenas


More information on this cave can be found at 

Cave Rescue Organisation holds sponsored walk

The Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation is running a sponsored walk on May 12 to repair the damage to its funding with the cancellation of Broughton Game Show The CRO Challenge 2012 will include two options, a family friendly 12-mile moderately low level circuit out from Clapham or a marathon 26-mile circuit and ascent of Ingleborough. Both routes are open to either runners or walkers.

What makes the event special is that landowners have given permission for the routes to pass over normally restricted land. Participants will, therefore, see parts of the Dales not normally open to the public.

“All in all, this will make for most pleasant and scenic routes,” said a CRO spokesman.

The Cave Rescue Organisation was formed in 1935 and is responsible for both surface and underground rescues in the Three Peaks areas of the Yorkshire Dales.

Rescue, however, does not come cheap.

The organisation recently purchased a Land Rover Ambulance equipped with the latest facilities, for just over £60,000, and this from an organisation that relies totally on public support to fund its activities.

People wishing to take part in the challenge can log onto cro.org.uk/challenge where they will find details and instructions on how to take part.

Source: Craven Herald

Friday, April 20, 2012

Africa has vast supplies of underground water, study finds

A young girl carries a container of water out of a cave
in eastern Congo. New maps show Africa's underground
water supplies are 100 times larger than supplies of water
on its surface.
Africa's underground water supplies are 100 times larger than what is on the surface, suggesting groundwater resources could promote development, improve food and water security, and help Africans adapt to climate change, a new study has found.

"The resources are vast in some areas, quite considerable," says Richard Taylor, a Canadian geologist at University College London who co-authored the study published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The researchers created new maps that show the quantity of water stored underground across the continent.

They include huge aquifers beneath the Sahara and Kalahari deserts that store rainfall that fell as far back as 5,000 to 25,000 years ago. These aquifers, however, are hundreds of metres below the surface and using the water would not be sustainable, as they are not renewed anymore.

The more useful groundwater resources are the ones in semi-arid areas of tropical and subtropical Africa, which have the most variable rainfall on the planet, Taylor told CBC's As It Happens Friday.

That variation poses a challenge for people living in those areas, as they may go for long periods of time without rain. But they could use the groundwater to tide them over, Taylor suggests.

Caves boss hopes tourism success can continue

Venturing into an uncharted, dark, and dripping cave, with no tools but a flickering candle, an old service revolver and a ball of string, sounds like a perfect adventure as far as Ashford Price is concerned.

It doesn't get much better as far as he is concerned.

And he should know.

As the man very much at the helm of Abercrave's National Showcaves Centre in the Upper Swansea Valley steering it towards the success story it is today, he remains in awe of his intrepid ancestors, and their voyages of discovery into the unknown, underground. "I am a bit envious of them, yes," he says.

"When you read their diaries and you imagine what it must have been like to venture into what was at the time, the complete unknown.

"In fact their diaries show that one of the brothers took his old service revolver down with him, because he didn't know what they would find when they got there."

The brothers were farmers who were trying to find out where the water was coming from on their land, because it was important for the farm. And they stumbled across the first cave, Dan Yr Ogof, by accident.

"This was the earliest form of caving," says Ashford, "with no special equipment, just a flickering candle to guide them over very rough ground. Can you imagine? They just used a ball of string to help them find their way back and they marked arrows in the sand so they didn't lose their way."

What they found was an 800m long cave, though it links up with a whole cave system of more than 10km beyond.

Cagayan Cave photo exhibit draws crowd

Cave photos of 10 environment artists in an on-going exhibit continue to draw appreciative audiences less than a month after it opened to the public at the Cagayan Museum exhibit area of the provincial capitol.

Cagayan Museum officials said that while it showcased the output of a photo workshop, it likewise served as a long-overdue tribute to the late Richard “Chang” Guzman, a multi-awarded Cagayano artists.

Called "Cagayan: Art of Darkness Cave Photography exhibit," it captured the archaeological richness of the province through images of caves at the same time recognizing the efforts of Guzman, the acknowledged father of Cave Photography in Cagayan Valley.

Primitiva Talla, the museum curator said that the photography likewise wanted to showcase the tourism potentials of Cagayan and to create awareness to the province, being the Caving Capital of the Country.

Talla said the exhibit was earlier planned for the Arts Month in February but works of the various artists failed to beat the deadline.

Unfortunately, not one of the works of Guzman can be viewed as those brought to Manila by the museum office failed to produce the needed enhancement of the photos. Photos on display include those of Oliver Domingo, Jaivin Arugay, Railey Camarao, Vladimir Laureta, Paul Agustin, Atty. Jojo Caronan, Architech Reiniel Pasquin, Jerome Elizaga, Dagul Ramirez, and Ted Babaran.

The visiting photographers include Raulito Esquerra, Jerry Rendon, and Rawen Balmana of Balincaquin Conservancy who earlier conducted a photography workshop to Cagayanos in December last year.

“It’s actually an output of the group,” Lory Decena- Malbog of the Cagayan Museum said.

The training and the on-going exhibit is a project of the provincial government through the Museum office while the technicalities have been provided by Balincaquin Conservancy and the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club.

It likewise showcases the rich biodiversity of the province focusing on its cave system considered as the longest in the country.

Guzman is a pioneer photographer in the region in the early 1970s who specialized in cave photography.

Some of his works still adorn the archaeology section of the Cagayan Museum while the rest of his collection had been now saved by the provincial government. Aside from caves, Guzman’s other favorite subject is the Negrito along the Sierra Madre mountains. He was one of the founding officers of the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC), the first mountaineering group in Northeast Luzon.

Guzman was killed by a single bullet inside his apartment in Tuguegarao City three years ago. The crime has yet to be solved.

Source: PIA

Bats on rebound in New York caves

A researcher holds a dead bat from an abandoned mine in
Rosendale, N.Y., in this photo taken Jan. 27, 2009.
Researchers found substantially more bats in several caves that were the first ones struck by white-nose syndrome, giving them a glimmer of hope amid a scourge that has killed millions of bats in North America.

Figures released Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation showed notable increases in the number of little brown bats in three out of five upstate New York hibernation caves where scientists first noticed white-nose decimating winter bat populations six years ago. The largest cave saw an increase from 1,496 little browns last year to 2,402 this winter.

There are hopes this is an early sign that bats can adapt to a disease that has spread to 19 states and Canada. But scientists caution it’s far too early to tell if it is the start of a trend or a statistical blip.

“While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we fully know how to interpret this,” said Kathleen Moser, the agency’s assistant commissioner of natural resources.

White-nose, named for the sugary smudges found on affected bats’ snouts, prompts bats to wake from their winter hibernation and die when they fly into the winter landscape in a futile search for food. First detected in 2006, the fungal infection has killed more than 5.7 million bats as it spread from the Northeast. In recent weeks, the disease has shown up in Alabama and Missouri, marking its advance west of the Mississippi River.

Mining threatens ancient cave site in Kashmir

Two ancient caves in central Kashmir’s Badgam district Thursday became the focus of a group of migrant Kashmiri Pandits seeking preservation of ancient, heritage sites in the Kashmir Valley.

The caves, known as “Abinavagupta caves”, are located 40 km from here and are sacred to local Kashmiri Pandits. They are also archaeologically important as ancient sites in the valley.

“These caves are known as Abinavagupta caves after the 11th century Kashmiri philosopher, mystic and aesthetician who would retire to these caves for meditation. Legend has it that Abinavagupta meditated inside these caves along with 1,200 of his disciples when he was about to leave this world in 1020 AD,” said Vir Saraf of NGO Searching for Roots in Kashmir.

Saraf, who visited the caves Thursday along with some locals, said stone mining has been going on around the caves, which is threatening the heritage.

“These caves are not only sacred to Kashmir Pandits, but are essentially of great historical and heritage value for everybody. If properly exploited, the cave site would become a major heritage tourism destination,” Saraf said.

The officials of the local geology and mining department said mining of stones has been allowed in the area some 150 feet away from the cave site, but Saraf who visited the place Thursday said, “I have seen trucks removing stones from near the cave site and this is definitely a great threat to the ancient caves.”

Abinavagupta is regarded as the greatest teacher of Kashmir Shaivism, an ancient Hindu school of thought for which Kashmir is famous the world over.

Source: Hillpost

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jewel Cave and Wind Cave Celebrate National Park Week

Free tours and special activities are scheduled at Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park to celebrate this year's National Park Week.

FromSaturday, April 21, through Sunday, April 29, Discovery and Scenic Tours at Jewel Cave and Garden of Eden Tours at Wind Cave will be free. In addition to these below ground programs, both park units will be offering special surface activities.

"Free Discovery and Scenic Tours at Jewel Cave offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the exploration of the second-longest cave in the world," said Bradley Block, Jewel Cave's Chief of Interpretation.
"Each Discovery Tour provides a 20-25 minute experience inside the cave where visitors will see cave formations such as calcite crystals and nailhead spar. The Scenic Tour is one hour and 20 minutes and takes
visitors on a one-half mile journey in the cave. The longer tour does include 723 steps, but the underground scenery along this route is beautiful for the adventurous visitor."

White-nose syndrome is wiping out brown bats

Five years ago, a little brown bat got into our house. The kids found it clinging to the top of a doorway in the downstairs hallway. It was exciting; we had never seen a wild bat up close. As the responsible adult, I was elected to remove it. I approached with a jar — the idea being to trap it in the jar and release it outside. As I closed in, it looked right at me, bared its teeth and hissed. This was thrilling — what a ferocious little animal! I persevered and eventually returned it to the woods.

That was five years ago; little brown bats were common. All summer, they would flit back and forth over our driveway and fields, hunting insects all evening.

Just five years ago, in 2007, a disease called white-nose syndrome was discovered in a population of bats in upstate New York. Since then, it has spread throughout the Northeast and Canada. This winter, it jumped the Mississippi and was found in bats in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Scientists were hoping it wouldn't spread into the south (The fungus was believed to thrive only in cool, damp conditions.), but this year it was found in Alabama after a particularly warm winter. The known death toll exceeds 5.5 million, with 100 percent mortality in many of the infected caves.

Chinese Cave painting mimics Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch

The picture parody features a monk seemingly recreating the famous The Seven Year Itch scene, has been thrown into the limelight after being snapped days ago and posted online.

Cultural magazine editor, Chen Shiyu, photographed the painting in the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang before uploading it onto douban.com.

Thousands of people have now shared the mysterious picture, being dubbed The Unexplainable Dunhuang, along with a snapshot from the hit 1955 film to highlight the uncanny similarities.

The film, which contains one of the most iconic scenes of the 20th century, sees Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown above her knees by a passing train.

But it is thought the mural painter actually drew a scene depicting a master about to physically punish a student who had been misbehaving.

A mural which appears to mimic the signature pose of
Marilyn Monroe has been discovered in a cave in China
Marilyn Monroe and Bob Ewell in the film 'Seven Year Itch'
Source: The Telegraph

The American who quit money to live in a cave

Daniel Suelo lives in caves in the canyonlands of Utah. He survives by harvesting wild foods and eating roadkill.

He has no job, no bank account and does not accept government welfare. In fact, Suelo has no money at all.

Suelo may have shunned all the trappings of modern American life, but he is not an isolationist.

Since abandoning money in 2000, the former cook from Moab, Utah has remained an active member of his community and avid blogger.

Mark Sundeen, author of The Man Who Quit Money, admits many people would regard Suelo's alternative lifestyle as bizarre. But the 2008 financial crash has led many to question the value of money. He explains some of the lessons found in Suelo's philosophy.

 An additional video can be seen on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17762033

OU Geologist Uses Cave Research For Flood Prediction

An associate professor of geological sciences at Ohio University is using the caves of Appalachia to better map out Earth's flooding, droughts and climate changes.
Geologist Gregory Springer is currently one of the only people in the field using cave research to better explain the effect of humans on landscape and climate.

"Caves can preserve records that normally wouldn't survive on top of the ground so rain washes those records away. Caves have roofs," said Springer.

Springer's interest in caves dates back to his teen years, when he would explore the underground caverns near his Paden City, West Virginia home with his father.

Springer says researchers have found a link between solar activity and droughts in southeastern West Virginia.

"We found that during cold phases when the sun's not putting out as much radiation, that you typically have droughts in the southeast and West Virginia," said Springer.

Springer and his colleagues have published the most detailed geological record to date on climate cycles in eastern North America during the past 7,000 years.

He says exploring uncharted territory is one of the most rewarding aspects of his research.

Source: Woub

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

As Deadly Bat Disease Inches West, U.S. Forest Service Weighs Options on Colorado Cave Closures

A U.S. Forest Service worker stands in front of a closed
cave in Missouri.
The U.S. Forest Service says it’s weighing options when it comes to renewing a closure of caves and abandoned mines in Colorado and four other states. The news comes as one environmental group is calling for even more closures in the West to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, which has killed millions of bats on the East Coast.

When the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain region closures took effect in 2010, the fungus connected to the deadly bat disease had spread as far west as Oklahoma. Almost two years later there has been no trace of it in Colorado.

But with the ban set to expire this summer, the U.S. Forest Service is reevaluating its plan. Spokesman Steve Segin says research by Forest Service scientists will play a key part in the decision making process.

“As they’re gathering the data this spring—coming out of hibernation studies—and fully evaluating their options, we’re going to try to make an informed decision this July that will protect the resource and bats from White Nose Syndrome,” he says.

New shrimp-like species found in New Mexico cave

A newly discovered species of freshwater amphipod was recently
found in a subterranean pool inside a gypsum cave near Carlsbad, N.M. 
Scientists have discovered a new shrimp-like species in a gypsum cave in southeastern New Mexico, only a few dozen miles from the famous caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The species of amphipod was unknown before being discovered about a month ago in the Burton Flats area east of Carlsbad, said Jim Goodbar, the Bureau of Land Management's senior cave specialist. The agency announced the discovery Tuesday.

Blind, about a half-inch long and almost translucent, the amphipod was found in a subterranean pool inside a cave no more than 80 feet from the surface. The cave had been explored before, but samples had never been taken of the water until a biological inventory was done as part of plans to expand potash mining in the area.
'These critters have been down there for millions of years and we're just getting around to finding them.' - Jim Goodbar, the Bureau of Land Management's senior cave specialist
For Goodbar and other cave researchers, short of rocketing into space, the depths of the earth represent one of the last unexplored frontiers for humankind.

"You never know what you're going to find down there," Goodbar said. "One of the interesting things about this is these guys, these critters have been down there for tens of thousands of years, millions of years and we're just getting around to finding them."

More surveys of the area are planned, Goodbar said.

Inquiring Minds: Tracking Bats

Gordon Towne poses by the “Batmobile” used by CAS
Professor Thomas Kunz in his research, for which Towne
provided computer assistance. Photo by Vernon Doucette 
Interdisciplinary research could help design unmanned military planes

Boston University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) has supported the research of more than 1,500 students since 1997. This academic year alone, under the direction of Thomas Gilmore, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of biology, more than 200 scholarly pursuits, from modeling the structure of space-time to treating social anxiety disorder to deconstructing Woodrow Wilson’s vision for world order, were funded. That number will soon swell. Jean Morrison, University provost, announced last week that UROP’s funding would double next year, to more than $1 million.
This week, in conjunction with Undergraduate Research Week, BU Today presents the research projects of four students or student teams in the series “Inquiring Minds.”

Although he plants himself for hours in a computer lab, Gordon Towne is not your stereotypical geek. He’s a triathlete who also races with the BU cycling team. In other tests of endurance, he travels to far away places in record heat to study one of evolution’s outdoor marvels.

Towne (CAS’12, GRS’12) trekked to the Texas hill country west of Austin with Thomas Kunz, the College of Arts & Sciences biologist whose career studying bats earned him the nickname Bat Man. In an unusually blistering season even by Lone Star standards, they drove with other researchers to three bat caves and planted three cameras at strategic points near each entrance.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Stone-Age artists practised Flintstones-like animation

The art of the moving image may have been invented 30,000 years ago by Stone-Age artists, according to the latest research into early humans.

Anthropologists investigating caves in France have found artefacts that may have represented animated movement by using "flickering" images.

At the heart of cinematography is the principle of retinal persistence, the phenomenon whereby the human eye retains images of an event for fractionally longer than it actually happens. This is what lets us see movement in films as continuous, even though films are no more than a series of rapidly changing pictures.

Marc Azema, a researcher at the Prehistoric Art Research and Study Centre in Toulouse, said it appeared that Stone-Age humans had discovered retinal persistence and used it to make toys and artefacts that foreshadowed the modern cinema.

In a paper to be published in the academic journal Antiquity, Mr Azema and Florent Rivere, a co-researcher, said: "Paleolithic (Stone-Age) artists invented the principle of sequential animation, based on the properties of retinal persistence. This was achieved by showing a series of juxtaposed or superimposed images of the same animal."

The artefacts on which the researchers based their theory have been found in Stone-Age cave dwellings in France including the renowned Chauvet cave in the Ardeche and the Baume-Latrone cave in Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon.

Explorers find 41 new caves in Quang Binh Province

Forty-one caves have been discovered at the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park-World Heritage Site since March, said the park management board in the central province of Quang Binh on Tuesday.

The caves were discovered by explorers of the British Royal Cave Research Association, along a 20 kilometre stretch.

Of the 41 new caves, the Ky cave is the deepest one found in Vietnam. The widest is Cua Nho, though its entrance is so narrow that only one person can pass through. However, in its inside it widens to give a huge feeling of spaciousness.

Luu Minh Thanh, director of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, said that Japan’s National Television Station (NHK) will arrive by April 26 to make a film on Son Doong Cave, which will be widely broadcast in 200 nations and territories across the globe.





Quai Branly sheds further light on Chauvet cave art

Wall drawings of lions in the Chauvet cave complex
The Musée du Quai Branly, Paris’s museum of art and ethnography, has initiated a new cultural partnership with the Chauvet cave complex in the Pont d’Arc valley in Ardèche, southern France. The first exhibition under the new agreement is due to take place next May at the 17th-century Vogüé chateau in Ardèche.

Drawn from the Quai Branly’s permanent collection, the show will include religious and hunting objects. “This show is due to be the first [in the partnership] and will reflect the themes seen in the murals painted in the caves,” says a museum spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, the Quai Branly has beefed up its contemporary art programme with a major show on recent art’s relationship with shamanism opening this month as well as an important exhibition of Australian Aboriginal work of the 1970s, set to open in October.

As part of a cultural cooperation agreement with the National Museum of China in Beijing, a show focusing on Chinese dining traditions is due to open in June.

Source: The Art Newspaper

Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauaʻi -- Book Review


Back to the Future in the Caves of Kauaʻi: A Scientist's Adventures in the Dark.
David A. Burney. Yale University Press, New Haven; 2011.
6 by 9 inches, xv+198 pages. Hardbound
ISBN 978-0-300-15094-0, $28;
softbound ISBN 978-0-300-17209-6, $18.

In pursuit of his interest in paleoecology, or the study of how the arrival of humans has changed ecosystems worldwide, the author began an investigation in Makauwahi Cave on the southeastern coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi. A solution cave in eolianite limestone that also spent some time as a sea cave, it now consists mainly of a large, open collapse sinkhole. Excavation and coring of the deposits on the floor of the sink have disclosed a lot of information about the changes in the island's flora and fauna since the arrival of Polynesians about a thousand years ago and then Europeans in 1788. Before it's discovery by man, the only mammal on the island was a bat. A large fraction of the plants and animals on the Hawaiian islands were unable to cope with the the Polynesian's rats, dogs, and pigs and the European's goats, not to mention many invasive plants introduced accidentally or on purpose. Many have gone extinct, and hundreds of officially endangered species hang on only in remote and inaccessible areas.

More recently, the author and his wife have spearheaded restoration of the ancient ecology in the sinkhole and some of the surrounding area. The Makauwahi Cave Reserve is now a popular attraction due to the thriving native plants. The book is in a popular style, but has many references to the scientific literature. Very readable, if not exactly cavey in the usual sense.

Now available via Amazon with a $4 discount. Click here to buy.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The 8.2 ka event: is it registered in Belgian speleothems?

Time-series of the Père Noël stalagmite
A new paper by S. Verheyden, , E. Keppens, M. Van Strydonck and Y. Quinif titled "The 8.2 ka event: is it registered in Belgian speleothems?" is published in the latest issue of the Speleogenesis Journal.

Abstract
The petrographic, isotopic and chemical changes occurring around 8.2 ka in two stalagmites, one from the Père Noël cave (Han-sur-lesse, Belgium) and one from the Hotton cave (nearby Marche-en-Famenne, Belgium) are presented.

The Père Noël stalagmite presents a particularly dense grey compact calcite around 8.2 ka, while the Hotton stalagmite presents a deposition hiatus of ca 1100 years. Besides the macroscopic aspect of the stalagmites, changes in their isotopic (δ18O and δ13С) composition and in their chemical (Sr/Ca, Mg/Ca) composition are observed. Regarding the early start and the duration of the climate deterioration, it is impossible to link the onset of the observed wet phase in the studied speleothems as directly related to the so-called 8.2 ka event. 

The question arises if the climate deterioration around 8.2 ka observed in both stalagmites is one among other deteriorations occurring during the early Holocene.

In the wake of white-nose syndrome, state asks Vermonters to help identify remaining bat populations

A scientist observes a bat in Greeley Mine, 2009
The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is enlisting Vermonters to help identify remnant bat populations that so far have survived the outbreak of white-nose syndrome in New England.

The department has launched “Got Bats?” a program that enables Vermonters to report bats roosting in the attics and rafters of houses. The initiative also is designed to educate homeowners on strategies to exclude bats out without killing them.

Scott Darling, a state bat biologist, says residents have been very engaged on the issue of white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection that has killed an estimated 6 million to 7 million bats. The fungus has wiped out some 85 percent to 90 percent of some species of hibernating bats in infected areas.

Since the fungus was first discovered in 2007, it has spread quickly throughout the Northeast, thriving in the moist caves of New England, said Dave Yates, mammal program director for the Biodiversity Research Institute. The fungus primarily has attacked six species of bats that hibernate in caves. In Vermont, it has cut down two species, the little brown bat and the northern long-eared bat, by an estimated 90 percent. The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is listing the two species as state-endangered.

The Got Bats? program will ask homeowners to help researchers find surviving bats, especially the state’s two so-called house bat species, the little brown bat and the big brown bat. Now that bat populations have been decimated, it’s vital to keep track of even small handfuls of survivors, said Ann Froschauer, national white-nose syndrome communicator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Even if there are just five or 10 bats in the house, it might be a big deal in terms of genetic diversity,” she said.

Newfound cave near Son Doong now has a name & Interview with Howard Limbert

One of the recently-discovered caves in the central Vietnamese province of Quang Binh has a name now: Thach Thuy or Water Stalagmite. The name was chosen among hundreds of suggestions put forth by Tuoi Tre readers. 

Thach Thuy is part of  7 caves discovered in March in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park - famous for its cavern system - by a group of UK explorers headed by Howard Limbert.

Instead of naming it, Howard left the honor to Tuoi Tre Newspaper which then launched a contest calling on its readers to suggest ideas for the name.

Four UK explorers including Howard plus a translator were responsible for picking out a winning entry and they selected Thach Thuy, which was recommended by four readers who therefore win a free trip worth VND10 million (US$500) each to the site.

(From L) Mong Tuyen, Phuong Thanh, Lai Xi Dieu, three readers selected Thach Thuy as a name of a new-found cave in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park and won a free trip each to the site.

Winner Phuong Thanh (29) told Tuoi Tre she had been pondering long and hard at the marvel of nature that crafted such beautiful stalagmites rising up from sparkling water.

“Water and rocks seem intertwined”, she added, convinced that the name Water Stalagmite is a fitting description.

Britain's hibernating bats avoid deadly fungus killing their US cousins

The spread of white-nose syndrome in the US.
Scientists in Britain are monitoring the fatal 'white-nose' syndrome that has been devastating colonies of the flying mammals in the US

It has been a satisfying spring for bat expert Lisa Worledge. Reports sent to her from volunteers who have been monitoring Britain's bats as they emerge from hibernation have given a clean bill of health to the nation's flying mammals. In particular, their observations have found no sign of an epidemic of fungal disease that has wiped out almost seven million bats in the US over the past six years and threatens to leave many American species extinct.

Many biologists fear that the infection, known as white-nose syndrome, could spread to Britain, with devastating consequences. "It is a real worry and we keep a very close eye out for any sign of the disease, but so far, happily, we have not seen a sign," said Worledge, partnership officer for the UK Bat Conservation Trust.

Bats are at their most vulnerable from white-nose syndrome while they are hibernating. Hence the decision to have volunteers monitor major sites – caves, old railway tunnels and abandoned buildings – where Britain's 17 species of bat spend the winter. "To date, we have only had good news," said Worledge.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Survey to assess toll taken on Maine's bats

This summer in Maine and across the Northeast, an all-out effort will begin to survey and try to protect bat populations that were decimated by white-nose bat syndrome this winter.

Maine biologists confirmed in March that the disease now has a foothold here, just as it has throughout the Northeast. And after the disease was found in several more states, federal biologists have little optimism for the future of half of North America's bat species.

"It's not likely we'll see in the Northeast in our lifetime, or our great-grandchildren's lifetime, bat populations at pre-white-nose syndrome levels. We do have sites where there is up to 100 percent mortality. It's disheartening," said Ann Froschauer, spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Hadley, Mass.

Because so little is known about bats, scientists can't predict the possible impact of the disease, but seeing more insects where bats previously had thrived is one possible result.

The disease that was first documented in bats in New York in 2007 was found this winter in states as far south as Alabama and as far west as Missouri. It is now confirmed in 19 states and four Canadian provinces, and is estimated by the service to have killed 5.5 million bats in North America.

New cracks found at Ashland's Devil’s Den

New cracks found below Devil’s Den have some fearful the cave is yet again in danger of collapsing, and have prompted the Historical Commission to take matters into its own hands.

Field Study Committee member Mark Juitt told the School Committee on Thursday that workers at the field complex construction site recently found deep cracks beneath the cave, from blasting.

“Unfortunately the rock underneath…does not look like it’s supportive enough to support that area,” Juitt said.

Devil’s Den is a rock structure some claim is historic, located near the athletic field construction site, on a hill behind the high school. Damage to the cave earlier this year during construction infuriated some residents and prompted the town to modify construction plans to save the cave.

Assistant Town Manager Mark Purple yesterday said there are cracks below the cave, but it is too early to guess whether they might endanger the den until a geotechnical engineer studies the area.

“It may look fractured but it may be stable,” he said.

Purple said workers have excavated to ground level but still need to dig down another nine feet to install pipes and electrical wires.

Field Study Committee Chairman Dave Barrett said the committee will meet on Wednesday night before Town Meeting, but won’t make decisions about the cave until they get a report from the geotechnical engineer.

“It’ll be up to the geotech to decide what impact these cracks have,” Barrett said.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Shore Spelunker Billings Explores Around World

He’s known in Long Beach as the man with his name on the circa-1941 Billings Ace Hardware, but Doug Billings, 47, has a second vocation that few people have heard about — once a year, he travels to Belize as a volunteer cave surveyor and mapper.

Billings, who returned last month from his latest trip to South America, said he feels like Indiana Jones as he and a team of cavers explore caverns that have never been seen by humans.

“We go deep enough, or dig into openings, that no one has ever been into before,” Billings said. “It’s something, it feels like I’m an astronaut, to be the first person to ever step on that ground.”

His team, armed with helmets, ropes, backpacks and machetes (to cut through the jungle), is responsible for mapping caves as well as recovering or taking inventory of archaeological (from Mayan pottery, petroglyphs and sacrificial tools) or biological findings (from human skeletons to new insect species). Because many cave systems in Belize were used by the Mayans as places of worship, Billings’ team regularly finds Mayan artifacts that have been sitting undisturbed for more than a thousand years.

“Mayans associated caves with the underworld,” Billings said. “They both feared and worshipped these caves and rarely went inside except for rituals — because of that, the artifacts we find are usually in great condition. On this last trip, we found a tomb filled with Mayan artifacts.”

White-Nose Syndrome Detected In Bats At Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park is the latest unit of the National Park System to have bats infected with white-nose syndrome, a deadly disease that already has killed about 7 million bats in the country.

Earlier this year the disease was detected in bat populations at both Acadia and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, and it also has been found at New River Gorge National River in West Virginia, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and Russell Cave National Monument in Alabama.

It has not been found at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

The C&O Canal, a popular respite for Washington, D.C., residents, is also home to Maryland’s largest group of hibernating bats, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The appearance of this terrible bat-killing disease on the outskirts of the nation's capital should be a wake-up call to the White House, members of Congress and agency leaders to do more to address what’s shaping up to be the worst wildlife catastrophe of the century,” said Mollie Matteson, a bat specialist with the Center. “Much more can be done to address this disease, including providing more funding for research, restricting access to caves on federal lands and passing the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, now under consideration in Congress.”

Marines and Norwegians open caves to test Marine Corps Prepositioning Program during Exercise Cold Response

Of the U.S. Cold War assets, six caves and two storage facilities in central Norway exist as if a part of an action-movie film set. However, they are part of a remote Marine Corps program known as the Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway.

Although the Soviet threat is gone and there is an improved security posture across Europe, MCPP-N still plays a vital role in the Marine Corps. That was demonstrated during Exercise Cold Response 2012, where Marines validated the prepositioning concept as well as the interoperability between the United States and Norway.

“With 10 years of the war on terror, this is one of those parts of the Marine Corps not well-known to the people outside the program,” said Col. Mark A. Smith, deputy commander of the 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division.

The caves, formally part of the Norway Air-Landed Marine Expeditionary Brigade, have been in operational capability since January 1990. Following a bottom-up review in 2004 directed by Gen. Michael W. Hagee, 33rd Commandant of the Marine Corps, the program was refocused for today’s use. Whereas the caves in Norway were designed to hold a large portion of equipment and 30 days of supply for the NALMEB of about 15,000 Marines, the focus in recent years has turned more to theater security cooperation engagements across multiple theaters.

Treyarnon Bay sewage opponents gather at cave

Cornwall councillors visited the Treyarnon Bay
as part of a site visit for the proposed plans
Nearly 100 people against plans for treated sewage to be deposited into a cave at a north Cornwall beach gathered nearby as councillors visited the site.

The Youth Hostel Association (YHA) wants to install a £250,000 system to discharge wastewater into Long Cave at Treyarnon Bay.

The objectors gathered at the cave as the councillors visited to raise health and reputation concerns.

Cornwall Council will make a final decision on the plans at a later date.

YHA, which has been in the area for 60 years, said its current system was defective and the proposed system would carry treated sewage from the hostel down to the cave on the beach.Businesses 'will suffer'

It said the waste would undergo "physical, biological and UV treatment" before being discharged in high tide at night.

There would be facilities to store waste for 48 hours and a back-up system in case of error.

But resident Julie Spicer said: "Two days is not enough because there will be five or six days when the tide will go nowhere near the cave.

"It's soft sand, children play there, people build sand sculptures which last for several days."

St Merryn Parish Council said: "Trying to maintain the image that Treyarnon is a clean and safe beach will not be an easy task.

"Public perception is likely to focus on the fact that there is now an outfall present and other businesses such as shops, vendors and even the YHA itself will surely suffer."

The Environment Agency has issued a permit allowing the treated sewage to be discharged at high tide during the night.

YHA said the alternative of running a pipe half a mile to connect to the mains sewer was not a viable option.

Source: BBC

Israeli researcher: Mikvehs show that Galilee cave dwellers were likely kohanim

Yinon Shivtiel inside a mikveh in a cave in the Galilee,
where Jews sought shelter under Roman rule.
The caves in which the purification baths were found were 'caves of refuge,' where Jews who lived in the area sought shelter under Roman rule.

A fifth mikveh has been found in the caves on the Galilee's Cliffs of Arbel, indicating that the people who lived there under Roman rule were most likely kohanim, Jews of the priestly class, said Yinon Shivtiel, one of the researchers who found the ritual bath.

"The discovery of mikvehs in archaeological excavations is always a sign of Jewish life," said Shivtiel, a lecturer at the Zefat Academic College and Ohalo College who will be presenting his findings at a conference at Tel-Hai College next week. "The Mishna reinforces the importance and necessity for this facility, devoting an entire tractate to the mikveh and the laws of immersion."

The caves in which the purification baths were found were "caves of refuge," where Jews who lived in the area sought shelter under Roman rule, particularly during the Jewish revolt that ended with the destruction of the Second Temple.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bones of early American disappear from underwater cave

The Young Man of Chan Hol II skeleton was laid to
 rest 10,000 years ago when sea levels were much lower
One of the first humans to inhabit the Americas has been stolen – and archaeologists want it back.

The skeleton, which is probably at least 10,000 years old, has disappeared from a cenote, or underground water reservoir, in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.

In response, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico City has placed "wanted" posters in supermarkets, bakeries and dive shops in and around the nearby town of Tulum. They are also considering legal action to recover the remains.

The missing bones belong to a skeleton dubbed Young Man of Chan Hol II, discovered in 2010. The cenote in which it was found had previously yielded another 10,000-year-old skeleton – the Young Man of Chan Hol, discovered in 2006.

The earlier find has anatomical features suggesting shared heritage with Indonesians and south Asians. Other skeletons found in cenotes in the area with similar features may date to around 14,000 years ago. Such finds imply that not all early Americans came from north Asia. This deals yet another blow to the idea that the Clovis people crossing an ancient land bridge between Siberia and Alaska were the first to colonise the Americas. Clovis culture dates to around 13,000 years ago.

Both skeletons were laid to rest at a time when sea level was much lower than it is today and the cenote, now about 8 metres below the water, was dry. Archaeologists have also found the remains of elephants, giant sloths and other animals in the caves, giving an indication of what the ancient humans ate.

INAH researchers have been aware of creeping theft of specimens from cenotes, but they lack the resources to guard the hundreds of sites that dot the peninsula.

Source: Newscientist

Boy rescued from Karbi Anglong cave

The crime branch of city police, with the help of Morigaon police, rescued Mrinmoy Kakati (19), a student of a city-based private college on Tuesday night from Karbi Anglong, who was missing since the morning of April 18.

The police also arrested three persons involved in the kidnapping. The arrested were later identified as Moti Deuri, Romen Konwar and Jiten Inghi.

On April 20, Mrinomoy's family registered a kidnapping case at the Odalbakra police outpost here after the boy did not return home. Though initially the boy was suspected of running away from house, the family later confirmed that he had been abducted and they had received a ransom call from the abductors.

The kidnappers demanded Rs 50 lakh as ransom money, which the family refused to give. Mrinomoy's father, S R Kakoti, is an employee of the Rural Electrification Programme scheme.

A source spotted Mrinomoy in Jorabat and informed the police.

"Our sources said that the boy was taken towards Nellie in Morigaon district and our search team rescued him from a cave in hills located in the bordering areas of Morigaon and Karbi Anglong districts," said additional SP (crime) A Sinha.

Mrinomoy was kept in a cave in the hills of Marlak area under Baithalangshu PS in Karbi Anglong, some 25 km from Nellie.

Michigan bats survey: No sign of killer fungus

Michigan bats seem to be doing OK, so far dodging a disease that has been wiping out bat colonies around the country, according to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources report released Thursday.

A statewide survey of 60 bat wintering sites in Michigan found no sign of the fatal fungal disease white nose syndrome, the DNR said. It said Eastern Michigan University's Allen Kurta and Steve Smith collaborated on the work.

In white nose syndrome, the fungus infects a bat's skin and causes the bat's energy reserves to deplete before the hibernation period is over.

Researchers surveyed caves and abandoned mines across the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula, the DNR said. It said the survey locations represent the major bat colony hibernation sites in Michigan, with some colonies numbering more than 50,000 bats.

"Our survey efforts focused on areas where WNS would most likely first appear," said DNR wildlife biologist Bill Scullon, based in Baraga in the Upper Peninsula. "Given the speed with which this devastating disease has spread across the country, we're very pleased to have found no visible signs of WNS in Michigan this season. Unfortunately, all indications are that the disease will eventually arrive here."

Bat-killing Epidemic Strikes C&O Canal National Historical Park Stretching Through Nation's Capital

A disease that has killed nearly 7 million bats across the eastern United States has struck a colony of bats at the historic C&O Canal National Historical Park, which runs through parts of Maryland, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. The popular respite for urban dwellers in the sprawling capital region is also home to Maryland’s largest group of hibernating bats. Now the wildlife epidemic known as white-nose syndrome has invaded this well-loved natural sanctuary — just minutes from the government offices where decisions affecting the disease’s outcome may be made.

“The appearance of this terrible bat-killing disease on the outskirts of the nation's capital should be a wake-up call to the White House, members of Congress and agency leaders to do more to address what’s shaping up to be the worst wildlife catastrophe of the century,” said Mollie Matteson, a bat specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Much more can be done to address this disease, including providing more funding for research, restricting access to caves on federal lands and passing the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act, now under consideration in Congress.”

In just six years, the invasive fungal growth that appears on bats’ muzzles as they hibernate has spread to bat colonies in 20 states and four Canadian provinces. Biologists believe several bat species may become extinct as a result of white-nose syndrome, believed to have been inadvertently introduced to a commercial cave in upstate New York from Europe, probably by a cave visitor.

Its appearance in the C&O Canal National Historic Park is no surprise to park officials, as it was found on neighboring state property last year. Surveyors counted the lowest number of bats this year since they began tracking the bat population at the site in 1998. In northeastern states, where the bat disease has been present the longest, bat populations are down by more than 90 percent.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DeSoto Caverns Park makes top 10 list

DeSoto Caverns Park has been recognized in a “Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Alabama” list.

Trekaroo.com included DeSoto Caverns, along with Cathedral and Sequoyah caverns, at number two on its list of “Discover Alabama’s Caves.” Trekaroo.com reviews kid-friendly activities and travel trips for families.

DeSoto Caverns Park is the site of the historic DeSoto Caverns just east of Childersburg on Alabama 76. The caverns have been a tourist attraction since the 1960s and over the past 25 years has added a growing family oriented theme park.

According to The Historical Marker Database, DeSoto Caverns is the first recorded cave in the United States, and served as a shelter for Native Americans for centuries. The caverns served as a Confederate gunpowder mining site during the War Between the States.

Tours of the caverns feature a 12-story high main cave that is larger than a football field, and has some of the most concentrated accumulations of onyx-marble stalagmites and stalactites in America.

Groups of 20 or more can reserve the cavern for overnight stays. Scouts can earn “Adventure” badges and primitive camping is available.

Schools can take advantage of the historical significance and geological features by scheduling school field trips. A variety of packages are offered, including admission to the fun-theme park.

Families can tour the caverns and also enjoy 25 “wacky” attractions that include a Lost Trail maze, Panning for Gemstones, Wacky Water Golf, and many other attractions.

"We are glad to have an attraction that is family oriented, and we are glad to be recognized as one of the top family attractions in Alabama through this list on Trekaroo.com, as well as on Oprah Winfrey's list of Wacky Family Attractions," park president Tim Lacy said.

Source: The Daily Home

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Clapham cave rescuers glad of Co-operation

The Co-op has stepped in to raise money for the Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation, its charity of choice for the coming year.

It is a vital time for the CRO as its major fundraising event of the year, Broughton Game Show, was cancelled.

Sheila Brown, manager of the Co-op’s Ingleton store, said: “This was a personal choice for me and I am happy we were able to make Cave Rescue our charity.

“A lot of our customers at the shop are visitors to the area and they may well need the help of CRO. We want to help make people aware of the work that Cave Rescue does.”


Cave Rescue chairman Bill Quinton said: “We need to raise £30,000 every year for equipment and ambulances, so Sheila’s effort is much appreciated.”

Philippine Cave congress opens in Roxas City

The 12th National Caving Congress officially opens in Capiz today.

Undersecretary Manuel D. Gerochi for Staff Bureaus and Project Management of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will grace the opening ceremonies of the week-long congress with the theme, “Strengthening Cave Conservation for Sustainable Eco-Tourism.”

Philippine Speleological Society, Inc. (PSSI) president Reynaldo Bagayas Jr. along with DENR 6 Regional Executive Director Julian D. Amador, Roxas City Mayor Angel Allan Celino, and Capiz Gov. Victor A. Tanco will greet participants during the opening ceremonies.

The program will also include a presentation on the updates on Cave Management Program in the Philippines that will be delivered by Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) director Theresa Mundita S. Lim.

This year’s host of the congress will be the Western Visayas Caving Association (WVCA) in partnership with the DENR 6 and the Capiz provincial government.

The activity that will be attended by participants from all over the country representing the different outdoor and caving clubs which are members and non-members of the Philippine Speleological Society Inc. (PSSI), environmentalists, academe, and local government units, among others.

The Caving Association is one of the few organizations that formed the Speleological Society which is a non-stock, non-profit non-government organization and a national network of caving groups which has been very instrumental in the enactment of Republic Act 9072 or The Cave Resources Management and Protection Act.

The congress which started in 2001 promotes responsible caving through cave-related trainings and seminars. It also provides a platform for reviewing and assessing the ecological and environmental status of caves all throughout the country.

Source: PIA

Monday, April 23, 2012

Unheard of mineral discovered in a cave in Spain

Image of the 3r Zaccagnaita discovered in Spain,
as seen under a microscope
A team of researchers from the Geological Survey of Spain and the Complutense de Madrid University has discovered a new mineral, the zaccagnaita-3R, in a cave known as “The Soplao,” located in the historical northern region of Cantabria.

The finding, published in the April issue of American Mineralogist, journal produced by the Mineralogical Society of America, is unique in the world as it is the first reported case of a zaccagnaita formed in a cave, which turns this into a new mineral species espeleotémico, and The Soplao in a single cavity by hosting it, said the Cantabria government in a statement.

The new mineral, rich in aluminum from a chemical point of view, has a peculiar morphology and zoned octahedral fluorescence, said the authors of the discovery.

The scientific breakthrough is the result of geological research work being carried out in El Soplao thanks to an agreement signed by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Tourism and Trade, the Geological Survey, and the company SIEC.

Potential applications
Zaccagnaita is an extremely rare mineral discovered in 2001 in Carrara (Italy), which hasn’t been found in other than microscopic sizes until now, as Zaccagnaita-3R.

The mineral belongs to the hydrotalcite group and is of special value as an industrial processes catalysts as well as in water treatment and the pharmacy sector, mainly in the production of antacids, antiseptics, anti-inflammatories and in the treatment of heart diseases.

It can also be used as a PVC stabilizer stresses and to treat waste fluids.

3rd International Photography Contest of Cave Fauna and Flora

Organised by the "Grupo de Espeleología de Villacarrillo" (G.E.V.)

Objective: Encourage the diffusion and preservation of the subsurface environment ecosystems.

CONTEST RULES
Topic: Flora and Fauna of the caves
Number of Works: Unlimited
Modality and Technique: Free
Format: Digital image format whose minimun dimensions are 2000 x 2000 píxels.  Attach the image to a text document indicating the title, autor, email, address, group of speleology, name of the cavity, municipality, country, date of the image and national identity.
Jury: The jury will include members of the GEV. A dedicated jury, selected from the associations that offer the special awards will decide upon these. The jury’s decision is final.

Shipping: The pictures have to be sent to the email bioespeleologiaGEV@hotmail.com with the subject “International Photography Contest”.

The photos that don’t meet the above characteristics and don’t have sufficient quality will be denied.

Exhibition: The best photos received will be displayed in the 8th Championship of Spain of T.P.V. of Speleology to take place on 13 and 14 October 2012 in Villacarrillo (Jaén).

The period is from April to the 23th September 2012.

All the photos can be published later in any of the blogs of the GEV and related works.

The same photography may not be awarded the Special Prize BIOSP, but can be eligible for the two other special awards. No rewards work that were awared in previous contests.

AWARDS
The International Awards of the Contest are:
  • 1st Place:  € 250 plus the technical and scientific publications of the sponsors plus a discount voucher in HUMAVENTURA.
  • 2nd Place:  € 150 plus the technical and scientific publications of the sponsors plus a discount voucher in HUMAVENTURA.
  • 3rd Place:  € 50 plus the technical and scientific publications of the sponsors plus a discount voucher in HUMAVENTURA.
Special Award BIOSP: 100 € of the Asociación Catalana of Biospeleology plus the publications of the G.E.V.

Special Award “Spider of the Year”: Publications SEA and GIA, plus the publications of the G.E.V. Will be awared to the best picture of spiders of the caves of the genus Meta.

Special Award MVHN: Publications of the Museum Valencià d’Història Natural plus the publications of the G.E.V.

2012 NSS-CDS Workshop May 25-27

Work under way on Nevada's first wind energy farm

The settlement of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists is allowing turbines to go up at Nevada's first wind energy project.

The 7,500-acre Spring Valley Wind farm in White Pine County, just west of Great Basin National Park, is set to start providing power to northern Nevada this July, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported ((http://bit.ly/HWvHAg ).

San Francisco-based Pattern Energy plans to install 66 turbines to generate 150 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 45,000 homes.

NV Energy has agreed to buy power from the wind farm for the next 20 years.

The Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity sued last year in an effort to block the $225 million project, claiming the U.S. Bureau of Land Management skirted environmental regulations to fast-track it.

The National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Nevada Department of Wildlife also expressed concerns over the project.

The conservation groups and company entered settlement talks last year after a federal judge refused to stop work at the site to allow more study of how the turbines would affect bats and sage grouse.

Under the settlement approved March 29 in U.S. District Court in Nevada, Pattern agreed to expand its program for tracking bird deaths associated with the project.

The company also will pay for a $50,000 study of nearby Rose Cave, where as many as 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats roost during their fall migration.

Many Human Viruses May Have Jumped from Bats

Temporal and geographically linked PV detection in African fruit bat species.
Much of a family of viruses containing a variety of disease-causing nasties, from the mumps virus toHendra, appears to have jumped from bats to other animals, including us,a new study suggests.

To better understand the evolution of paramyxoviruses — which also causemeasles, distemper and respiratory infections as well as deadly, newlyemerging Hendra — scientists looked for them in 9,278 individual bats and rodents at sites around the world.

Bats and rodents are known to carry these viruses, and both animals' habit of living in large groups makes them good reservoirs for the viruses that can spread to neighboring humans or livestock.

While sorting viruses into species is tricky — in fact, they generally aren't considered to be alive — the researchers estimated they had found 66 new paramyxoviruses based on genetic differences between the viruses.

Their finds included viruses that appear to beclose relatives of those known to infect humans or other animals.

Philippine ecotourism looks bright

Puerto Princesa Underground River
The future of Philippine ecotourism looks bright in part because of a tourist experience that may be likened to going back in time, President Benigno Aquino III said on Saturday night.

Speaking at the inauguration of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, Mr. Aquino said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) are working together to promote other ecotourism sites.

“Not long ago, I had the chance to explore the Puerto Princesa Underground River myself. It was an amazing experience. Journeying down a river that winds through a subterranean cave system is like traveling back in time,” he said in a speech at the Esplanade in Pasay City.

Open invitation
“With walls and caverns that have been shaped by the elements and extraordinary formations of stalactites and stalagmites, the underground river is a true example of the artistry of nature, when it is preserved and cared for by man,” he added.

Mr. Aquino said more than 235,000 tourists in 2011 saw the beauty and majesty of the underground river.

“Words alone cannot do justice to the underground river—one must experience it firsthand to be able to understand exactly why it is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. So consider this as an open invitation to everyone to visit the PPUR,” he said.

Four couples will tie the know in May in Yagodina Cave

Four couples will tie the know in May in Yagodina Cave, which is located in Rhodope Mountains in Southern Bulgaria, cave curator Sergey Genchev told FOCUS – Smolyan Radio.

A wedding ceremony will take place also on 29 April. According to Genchev the couples prefer to get married in the cave in order to feel a stronger thrill.

The curator also added that the number of tourists visiting Yagodina Cave and Devil’s Throat Cave increased as the weather got warmer.

Source: Daniela Boykova

Bats to fill Omaha sky tonight

Go ahead, grab the kids and go batty tonight.

A colony of bats is being released from the Joslyn Art Museum Monday evening — an annual event that has become a family festival.

Families are invited to bring blankets and picnic baskets.

Informational tables and activities will be set up by 6:30 p.m. Live bats will be on display, too.

The release of the more than 200 bats will occur a little before 8 p.m., said Laura Stastny of Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, Inc. Take note of the time if you’ve been planning to attend. The bats are being released several minutes earlier than previously scheduled.

This is the third year for the release.

And these aren’t just any bats — they’re the ones that inadvertently tried to hibernate in homes or businesses and lived to beep about it.

Stasny said the bats have been collected over the course of the winter from a variety of places by both Nebraska Wildlife Rehab and the Nebraska Humane Society. She estimates that more than 75 percent came from Omaha buildings east of 60th Street .

That’s the reason the bats are being released from the Joslyn, she said, because it places them close to their normal haunts.

They are a species commonly called Big Brown Bat because they’re larger than most bats. Still, they’re only 4 or 5 inches long and weigh less than an ounce.

Once released, the nocturnal species will flock around the Joslyn for a while and then head out for a night of freedom and feeding.

Note to moths, wasps and other flying insects: This will not be a good night to hang out near the Joslyn.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Video: White Nose Syndrome

Invitation to International Expedition to Dachstein, Austria

The Multinational Extravaganza Dachstein Expedition is now recruiting & the Facebook page is up & running. The link can be found at https://www.facebook.com/events/129703577158968/ or do a search for "Dachstein 2012 Confirmed Attendees Only".

For those of you who are too mature to use Facebook the gist of it is as follows:

When: 4th August til 1st September (people come for a week/month etc).
Where: Dachstein Massif, Austria.
What: Exploration of deep Alpine potholes with absurd potential.

Who: Basically anybody remotely keen as there's useful things for everyone to do, regardless of ability or experience.

How Much: Exped charges £60/head + a weekly fee of £10 to cover fresh food etc. If you're not an alcoholic you could realistically spend a month on exped for less than £250 inclusive of transport, accommodation, food, exped fee, national park tax etc... Beer isn't cheap in the mountains as the brewery is 2km lower down!

How Many: I'm expecting about 40 people this year (we've had those numbers in the past) & so far we've got Brits, Austrians, Germans, Irish, Quebecois.

Specifics (copied from the Facebook page):

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Daring Cave Rescue Makes Young Man a Hometown Hero

Severe weather has given us many stories of survival so far in 2012, and one of those happened in Horse Cave, Kentucky when a cave guide saved ten people from a flooding cave.

On February 29th, a line of strong and severe storms tore through the state sending up severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, and flash flood warnings.

At Hidden River Cave, Peggy Nimns had taken a group of eight out-of-state high school seniors and their teacher into the cave for a three hour off-trail tour while the sun was shining, but the situation turned almost tragic once it began to rain.

While there are indicators within the cave for guides to know about conditions within the cave and on the surface, Nimns' group was a mile and a half deep in the passages and had no idea the cave was flooding due to a flash flood.

Joe Forsythe could see the increasing danger, and after waiting to see if the group emerged from the cave, he decided to go in after the group.

"We were absolutely bone dry when he found us. We were turning around at that point, but had no idea that the water had gone from ankle deep to basically over my head in a short amount of time," recalls Nimns

When Forsythe entered the cave, the water at the entrance was knee deep, but by time he found the group and they reached the entrance to go back out, the water was anywhere from six to eight feet deep.

Video: CCR Cave Diving - Algar das Morenas


More information on this cave can be found at 

Cave Rescue Organisation holds sponsored walk

The Clapham-based Cave Rescue Organisation is running a sponsored walk on May 12 to repair the damage to its funding with the cancellation of Broughton Game Show The CRO Challenge 2012 will include two options, a family friendly 12-mile moderately low level circuit out from Clapham or a marathon 26-mile circuit and ascent of Ingleborough. Both routes are open to either runners or walkers.

What makes the event special is that landowners have given permission for the routes to pass over normally restricted land. Participants will, therefore, see parts of the Dales not normally open to the public.

“All in all, this will make for most pleasant and scenic routes,” said a CRO spokesman.

The Cave Rescue Organisation was formed in 1935 and is responsible for both surface and underground rescues in the Three Peaks areas of the Yorkshire Dales.

Rescue, however, does not come cheap.

The organisation recently purchased a Land Rover Ambulance equipped with the latest facilities, for just over £60,000, and this from an organisation that relies totally on public support to fund its activities.

People wishing to take part in the challenge can log onto cro.org.uk/challenge where they will find details and instructions on how to take part.

Source: Craven Herald

Friday, April 20, 2012

Africa has vast supplies of underground water, study finds

A young girl carries a container of water out of a cave
in eastern Congo. New maps show Africa's underground
water supplies are 100 times larger than supplies of water
on its surface.
Africa's underground water supplies are 100 times larger than what is on the surface, suggesting groundwater resources could promote development, improve food and water security, and help Africans adapt to climate change, a new study has found.

"The resources are vast in some areas, quite considerable," says Richard Taylor, a Canadian geologist at University College London who co-authored the study published this week in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The researchers created new maps that show the quantity of water stored underground across the continent.

They include huge aquifers beneath the Sahara and Kalahari deserts that store rainfall that fell as far back as 5,000 to 25,000 years ago. These aquifers, however, are hundreds of metres below the surface and using the water would not be sustainable, as they are not renewed anymore.

The more useful groundwater resources are the ones in semi-arid areas of tropical and subtropical Africa, which have the most variable rainfall on the planet, Taylor told CBC's As It Happens Friday.

That variation poses a challenge for people living in those areas, as they may go for long periods of time without rain. But they could use the groundwater to tide them over, Taylor suggests.

Caves boss hopes tourism success can continue

Venturing into an uncharted, dark, and dripping cave, with no tools but a flickering candle, an old service revolver and a ball of string, sounds like a perfect adventure as far as Ashford Price is concerned.

It doesn't get much better as far as he is concerned.

And he should know.

As the man very much at the helm of Abercrave's National Showcaves Centre in the Upper Swansea Valley steering it towards the success story it is today, he remains in awe of his intrepid ancestors, and their voyages of discovery into the unknown, underground. "I am a bit envious of them, yes," he says.

"When you read their diaries and you imagine what it must have been like to venture into what was at the time, the complete unknown.

"In fact their diaries show that one of the brothers took his old service revolver down with him, because he didn't know what they would find when they got there."

The brothers were farmers who were trying to find out where the water was coming from on their land, because it was important for the farm. And they stumbled across the first cave, Dan Yr Ogof, by accident.

"This was the earliest form of caving," says Ashford, "with no special equipment, just a flickering candle to guide them over very rough ground. Can you imagine? They just used a ball of string to help them find their way back and they marked arrows in the sand so they didn't lose their way."

What they found was an 800m long cave, though it links up with a whole cave system of more than 10km beyond.

Cagayan Cave photo exhibit draws crowd

Cave photos of 10 environment artists in an on-going exhibit continue to draw appreciative audiences less than a month after it opened to the public at the Cagayan Museum exhibit area of the provincial capitol.

Cagayan Museum officials said that while it showcased the output of a photo workshop, it likewise served as a long-overdue tribute to the late Richard “Chang” Guzman, a multi-awarded Cagayano artists.

Called "Cagayan: Art of Darkness Cave Photography exhibit," it captured the archaeological richness of the province through images of caves at the same time recognizing the efforts of Guzman, the acknowledged father of Cave Photography in Cagayan Valley.

Primitiva Talla, the museum curator said that the photography likewise wanted to showcase the tourism potentials of Cagayan and to create awareness to the province, being the Caving Capital of the Country.

Talla said the exhibit was earlier planned for the Arts Month in February but works of the various artists failed to beat the deadline.

Unfortunately, not one of the works of Guzman can be viewed as those brought to Manila by the museum office failed to produce the needed enhancement of the photos. Photos on display include those of Oliver Domingo, Jaivin Arugay, Railey Camarao, Vladimir Laureta, Paul Agustin, Atty. Jojo Caronan, Architech Reiniel Pasquin, Jerome Elizaga, Dagul Ramirez, and Ted Babaran.

The visiting photographers include Raulito Esquerra, Jerry Rendon, and Rawen Balmana of Balincaquin Conservancy who earlier conducted a photography workshop to Cagayanos in December last year.

“It’s actually an output of the group,” Lory Decena- Malbog of the Cagayan Museum said.

The training and the on-going exhibit is a project of the provincial government through the Museum office while the technicalities have been provided by Balincaquin Conservancy and the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club.

It likewise showcases the rich biodiversity of the province focusing on its cave system considered as the longest in the country.

Guzman is a pioneer photographer in the region in the early 1970s who specialized in cave photography.

Some of his works still adorn the archaeology section of the Cagayan Museum while the rest of his collection had been now saved by the provincial government. Aside from caves, Guzman’s other favorite subject is the Negrito along the Sierra Madre mountains. He was one of the founding officers of the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC), the first mountaineering group in Northeast Luzon.

Guzman was killed by a single bullet inside his apartment in Tuguegarao City three years ago. The crime has yet to be solved.

Source: PIA

Bats on rebound in New York caves

A researcher holds a dead bat from an abandoned mine in
Rosendale, N.Y., in this photo taken Jan. 27, 2009.
Researchers found substantially more bats in several caves that were the first ones struck by white-nose syndrome, giving them a glimmer of hope amid a scourge that has killed millions of bats in North America.

Figures released Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation showed notable increases in the number of little brown bats in three out of five upstate New York hibernation caves where scientists first noticed white-nose decimating winter bat populations six years ago. The largest cave saw an increase from 1,496 little browns last year to 2,402 this winter.

There are hopes this is an early sign that bats can adapt to a disease that has spread to 19 states and Canada. But scientists caution it’s far too early to tell if it is the start of a trend or a statistical blip.

“While we remain cautiously optimistic of encouraging trends for some species seen more recently, it will likely take several years before we fully know how to interpret this,” said Kathleen Moser, the agency’s assistant commissioner of natural resources.

White-nose, named for the sugary smudges found on affected bats’ snouts, prompts bats to wake from their winter hibernation and die when they fly into the winter landscape in a futile search for food. First detected in 2006, the fungal infection has killed more than 5.7 million bats as it spread from the Northeast. In recent weeks, the disease has shown up in Alabama and Missouri, marking its advance west of the Mississippi River.

Mining threatens ancient cave site in Kashmir

Two ancient caves in central Kashmir’s Badgam district Thursday became the focus of a group of migrant Kashmiri Pandits seeking preservation of ancient, heritage sites in the Kashmir Valley.

The caves, known as “Abinavagupta caves”, are located 40 km from here and are sacred to local Kashmiri Pandits. They are also archaeologically important as ancient sites in the valley.

“These caves are known as Abinavagupta caves after the 11th century Kashmiri philosopher, mystic and aesthetician who would retire to these caves for meditation. Legend has it that Abinavagupta meditated inside these caves along with 1,200 of his disciples when he was about to leave this world in 1020 AD,” said Vir Saraf of NGO Searching for Roots in Kashmir.

Saraf, who visited the caves Thursday along with some locals, said stone mining has been going on around the caves, which is threatening the heritage.

“These caves are not only sacred to Kashmir Pandits, but are essentially of great historical and heritage value for everybody. If properly exploited, the cave site would become a major heritage tourism destination,” Saraf said.

The officials of the local geology and mining department said mining of stones has been allowed in the area some 150 feet away from the cave site, but Saraf who visited the place Thursday said, “I have seen trucks removing stones from near the cave site and this is definitely a great threat to the ancient caves.”

Abinavagupta is regarded as the greatest teacher of Kashmir Shaivism, an ancient Hindu school of thought for which Kashmir is famous the world over.

Source: Hillpost

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Jewel Cave and Wind Cave Celebrate National Park Week

Free tours and special activities are scheduled at Jewel Cave National Monument and Wind Cave National Park to celebrate this year's National Park Week.

FromSaturday, April 21, through Sunday, April 29, Discovery and Scenic Tours at Jewel Cave and Garden of Eden Tours at Wind Cave will be free. In addition to these below ground programs, both park units will be offering special surface activities.

"Free Discovery and Scenic Tours at Jewel Cave offer visitors the opportunity to learn about the exploration of the second-longest cave in the world," said Bradley Block, Jewel Cave's Chief of Interpretation.
"Each Discovery Tour provides a 20-25 minute experience inside the cave where visitors will see cave formations such as calcite crystals and nailhead spar. The Scenic Tour is one hour and 20 minutes and takes
visitors on a one-half mile journey in the cave. The longer tour does include 723 steps, but the underground scenery along this route is beautiful for the adventurous visitor."

White-nose syndrome is wiping out brown bats

Five years ago, a little brown bat got into our house. The kids found it clinging to the top of a doorway in the downstairs hallway. It was exciting; we had never seen a wild bat up close. As the responsible adult, I was elected to remove it. I approached with a jar — the idea being to trap it in the jar and release it outside. As I closed in, it looked right at me, bared its teeth and hissed. This was thrilling — what a ferocious little animal! I persevered and eventually returned it to the woods.

That was five years ago; little brown bats were common. All summer, they would flit back and forth over our driveway and fields, hunting insects all evening.

Just five years ago, in 2007, a disease called white-nose syndrome was discovered in a population of bats in upstate New York. Since then, it has spread throughout the Northeast and Canada. This winter, it jumped the Mississippi and was found in bats in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. Scientists were hoping it wouldn't spread into the south (The fungus was believed to thrive only in cool, damp conditions.), but this year it was found in Alabama after a particularly warm winter. The known death toll exceeds 5.5 million, with 100 percent mortality in many of the infected caves.

Chinese Cave painting mimics Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch

The picture parody features a monk seemingly recreating the famous The Seven Year Itch scene, has been thrown into the limelight after being snapped days ago and posted online.

Cultural magazine editor, Chen Shiyu, photographed the painting in the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang before uploading it onto douban.com.

Thousands of people have now shared the mysterious picture, being dubbed The Unexplainable Dunhuang, along with a snapshot from the hit 1955 film to highlight the uncanny similarities.

The film, which contains one of the most iconic scenes of the 20th century, sees Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown above her knees by a passing train.

But it is thought the mural painter actually drew a scene depicting a master about to physically punish a student who had been misbehaving.

A mural which appears to mimic the signature pose of
Marilyn Monroe has been discovered in a cave in China
Marilyn Monroe and Bob Ewell in the film 'Seven Year Itch'
Source: The Telegraph

The American who quit money to live in a cave

Daniel Suelo lives in caves in the canyonlands of Utah. He survives by harvesting wild foods and eating roadkill.

He has no job, no bank account and does not accept government welfare. In fact, Suelo has no money at all.

Suelo may have shunned all the trappings of modern American life, but he is not an isolationist.

Since abandoning money in 2000, the former cook from Moab, Utah has remained an active member of his community and avid blogger.

Mark Sundeen, author of The Man Who Quit Money, admits many people would regard Suelo's alternative lifestyle as bizarre. But the 2008 financial crash has led many to question the value of money. He explains some of the lessons found in Suelo's philosophy.

 An additional video can be seen on http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17762033

OU Geologist Uses Cave Research For Flood Prediction

An associate professor of geological sciences at Ohio University is using the caves of Appalachia to better map out Earth's flooding, droughts and climate changes.
Geologist Gregory Springer is currently one of the only people in the field using cave research to better explain the effect of humans on landscape and climate.

"Caves can preserve records that normally wouldn't survive on top of the ground so rain washes those records away. Caves have roofs," said Springer.

Springer's interest in caves dates back to his teen years, when he would explore the underground caverns near his Paden City, West Virginia home with his father.

Springer says researchers have found a link between solar activity and droughts in southeastern West Virginia.

"We found that during cold phases when the sun's not putting out as much radiation, that you typically have droughts in the southeast and West Virginia," said Springer.

Springer and his colleagues have published the most detailed geological record to date on climate cycles in eastern North America during the past 7,000 years.

He says exploring uncharted territory is one of the most rewarding aspects of his research.

Source: Woub

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

As Deadly Bat Disease Inches West, U.S. Forest Service Weighs Options on Colorado Cave Closures

A U.S. Forest Service worker stands in front of a closed
cave in Missouri.
The U.S. Forest Service says it’s weighing options when it comes to renewing a closure of caves and abandoned mines in Colorado and four other states. The news comes as one environmental group is calling for even more closures in the West to prevent the spread of White Nose Syndrome, which has killed millions of bats on the East Coast.

When the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain region closures took effect in 2010, the fungus connected to the deadly bat disease had spread as far west as Oklahoma. Almost two years later there has been no trace of it in Colorado.

But with the ban set to expire this summer, the U.S. Forest Service is reevaluating its plan. Spokesman Steve Segin says research by Forest Service scientists will play a key part in the decision making process.

“As they’re gathering the data this spring—coming out of hibernation studies—and fully evaluating their options, we’re going to try to make an informed decision this July that will protect the resource and bats from White Nose Syndrome,” he says.

New shrimp-like species found in New Mexico cave

A newly discovered species of freshwater amphipod was recently
found in a subterranean pool inside a gypsum cave near Carlsbad, N.M. 
Scientists have discovered a new shrimp-like species in a gypsum cave in southeastern New Mexico, only a few dozen miles from the famous caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The species of amphipod was unknown before being discovered about a month ago in the Burton Flats area east of Carlsbad, said Jim Goodbar, the Bureau of Land Management's senior cave specialist. The agency announced the discovery Tuesday.

Blind, about a half-inch long and almost translucent, the amphipod was found in a subterranean pool inside a cave no more than 80 feet from the surface. The cave had been explored before, but samples had never been taken of the water until a biological inventory was done as part of plans to expand potash mining in the area.
'These critters have been down there for millions of years and we're just getting around to finding them.' - Jim Goodbar, the Bureau of Land Management's senior cave specialist
For Goodbar and other cave researchers, short of rocketing into space, the depths of the earth represent one of the last unexplored frontiers for humankind.

"You never know what you're going to find down there," Goodbar said. "One of the interesting things about this is these guys, these critters have been down there for tens of thousands of years, millions of years and we're just getting around to finding them."

More surveys of the area are planned, Goodbar said.

Inquiring Minds: Tracking Bats

Gordon Towne poses by the “Batmobile” used by CAS
Professor Thomas Kunz in his research, for which Towne
provided computer assistance. Photo by Vernon Doucette 
Interdisciplinary research could help design unmanned military planes

Boston University’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) has supported the research of more than 1,500 students since 1997. This academic year alone, under the direction of Thomas Gilmore, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of biology, more than 200 scholarly pursuits, from modeling the structure of space-time to treating social anxiety disorder to deconstructing Woodrow Wilson’s vision for world order, were funded. That number will soon swell. Jean Morrison, University provost, announced last week that UROP’s funding would double next year, to more than $1 million.
This week, in conjunction with Undergraduate Research Week, BU Today presents the research projects of four students or student teams in the series “Inquiring Minds.”

Although he plants himself for hours in a computer lab, Gordon Towne is not your stereotypical geek. He’s a triathlete who also races with the BU cycling team. In other tests of endurance, he travels to far away places in record heat to study one of evolution’s outdoor marvels.

Towne (CAS’12, GRS’12) trekked to the Texas hill country west of Austin with Thomas Kunz, the College of Arts & Sciences biologist whose career studying bats earned him the nickname Bat Man. In an unusually blistering season even by Lone Star standards, they drove with other researchers to three bat caves and planted three cameras at strategic points near each entrance.