photo sharing and upload picture albums photo forums search pictures popular photos photography help login
C. G. Anderson | profile | all galleries >> A Gallery of Imagery from the Webster Cave System, KY >> Upper East Bore/ Holmes Hall Survey Trip, Webster Cave System, KY (US) tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Upper East Bore/ Holmes Hall Survey Trip, Webster Cave System, KY (US)

Upper East Bore Trip Report
Webster Cave System, KY (US)

Two weeks ago, while on a routine survey trip to East Bore, Pat Mudd and I made a spectacular discovery, by Webster standards. An extensive section of upper level cave passageway was uncovered beyond a nondescript hole in the ceiling of East Bore. A quick exploration revealed three open-ended trunk leads plus various side leads.

Our regularly scheduled monthly survey trip to Webster saw Pat Mudd, Jeff Gillette, Mark Phillips, Andrea Croskrey, Ben Tobin, Ben Hutchins, Steve O’Nan, and I massing at the cave around 0700 CST. This survey trip would require another penetration of the North Bore Sump, which had blessed us with low water levels for several months now. Every day that passes, we know, brings us closer to the time when it will flood shut for the season. It is a miracle we’ve been fortunate enough to pass through it so many times before.

I began to worry, as I often do, about things for which I have no control: the weather. I had my eye to various forecasts for a week prior to this trip. The long term lookout was for a slight chance of rain Saturday. By the time of the trip, they were calling for a massive storm system to approach the area. Best estimates were for a 20% chance of isolated showers early, then possible heavy rain after 10PM or so. We decided to take the chance and push the sump once again.

The North Bore Sump is very temperamental. It can rise and flood shut easily, and remain so for days or weeks, even months, at a time. There is no other way out. In the back of my mind I figured that if the forecast was wrong, and it flooded shut on us, we’d just have to wait it out in the upper levels and hope it fell in a few days or so. We’d probably have advanced warning of any heavy deluge above us anyway, so the dangers were remote at best. That didn’t stop me from laying awake most of the night before, then dreaming of thunderstorms when I did sleep…

By 0800 everyone was beyond the drip line of the Main Entrance. Pat and Jeff had brought kayaks with which to negotiate the 6000 foot main trunk up to Parks Avenue. They spent the early part of the day rigging and testing a pulley system to lower the kayaks down into the steep karst head of the entrance area. By the time the rest of the survey crew made it to Epitome Lake, they were long gone.

The foot team quickly made its way to the Parks Avenue confluence, where we met up with the yakers. After a quick break, we headed upstream into Parks Avenue. It was about 0900, and we were ahead of schedule. I wanted to be out past the sump by at least 1600, to give us plenty of buffer for the impending storm system.

We made quick progress to the Sump, and soon we were all beyond it. It was very low today, with a minimum air space of about three inches. The airflow exiting the low passage was tremendous today. In one spot it literally rippled the water. As the temperature difference inside and out was slight, I suspect the low pressure system descending on us was causing the flow. Two of our members, Jeff and Mark, were sump virgins having never passed through before…

Everyone had a blast going through the sump. It is kind of hard to explain I guess, but there’s just something about pushing such a low and technically challenging passageway. It’s really more like a passage 15 feet wide but only 2~4 inches high. With your face half covered with water, and tilted sideways, sense of direction can be difficult to attain. And, with one eye shut, depth perception is messed up as well. It’s easy to get lost! I get through it by recognizing ceiling rock pendants and shapes, but on at least a few occasions I’ve gotten confused. The airflow helps.

After getting the water out of our ears, we made our way on up North Bore to the Mulu junction. Hanging a left into East Bore, the team made our way several thousand feet to the climb up into the new upper level extension, now nicknamed the “Corkscrew”. East Bore in this section is not very inviting. Twenty-five foot wide in places, it may only be 1 foot high. Nasty chert makes progress slow.

At the base of the Corkscrew, we divided up into two teams. Team A would survey from East Bore, up the Corkscrew, and into the newly discovered Upper East Bore trunk. Then they would make their way deeper in, tying into Team B’s survey of Holmes Hall. Team B would leap frog ahead and begin the Holmes Hall survey, and take it to the north-east.

Mark Phillips, Jeff Gillette, Ben Tobin, and I made up Team B, and headed up the Corkscrew. The far end of Upper East Bore is truncated by a tight breakdown collapse. It is a miracle there is even a way on, but we extruded ourselves past it and into Holmes Hall. We immediately started mapping.

Holmes Hall, named in honor of the original Webster Cave explorer Bill Holmes, extends two directions past Upper East Bore. During its initial exploration two weeks ago, we found about a thousand feet of dry walking borehole. Our goal today was to map as much of this north-east trending passage as possible.

After several hours of mapping, we made it to a crack in the ceiling Pat and I had discovered last time. This crack, which appeared to be blowing air, had a bat hanging nearby. Today, we noted several more bats, which may be indicative of a nearby entrance. I had hope to map at least this far so we can have some idea of where to begin ridge walking this winter for a new entrance.

Beyond the crack we surveyed into the nicest part of the Holmes borehole. Here the passage is 20 feet wide and 8 feet high, very smooth, and highly decorated in places. Soon, we reached Holmes Grotto, the most beautiful display of cave formations in the entire cave. Words cannot describe the beauty here, so I will let the scant few images I took do the work. Suffice to say, thousands of white soda straws (many covered with crystal growth) carpet the ceiling. Flowstones and columns are immense.

I did some imagery while Ben and Mark caught up on the survey sketch. We had a quick bit of lunch before turning around. It was after 1400, so we were running out of time for the day.

Returning from whence our survey began, we met Team A just making it to the tie in point of our survey. They had a rough time mapping up through the Corkscrew and through the breakdown. Many of their shots were only a few feet long with very high inclination angles. Nevertheless, the surveys were tied together. I don’t have exact figures yet, but all indications are the two teams mapped over 1000 feet of cave in Upper East Bore. It is a great start! We still have three open trunks to look into.

While Team A finished up, Team B started back down into East Bore, and for the North Bore Sump. We were glad to see water levels were unchanged in the stream passage. Slowly, members started piling up at the sump, so we started through one by one. Once all members were accounted for, we took a group shot at the face of the Sump, and packed up for home.

We exited the cave after dark, crawling out after six in the evening. The trip lasted over 11 hours, and we were met with a wonderful starry night, complete with a Moon-Jupiter conjunction! The Moon reminded me of a giant Cheshire cat smile staring down on me. Although it was very windy, there was no sign of inclement weather. Only the next day would we learn of the strong line of storms that passed through the area, wreaking havoc in the form of deadly tornadoes just north of Webster…
previous pagepages 1 2 3 ALL next page
Would ya look at all that stuff!
Would ya look at all that stuff!
previous pagepages 1 2 3 ALL next page