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March 1995 NearNormal News



Well, here we are again. Last minute deadlines looming like slabs ofbreakdown ready to fall upon my head, and I must have forgotten my helmet! Oneof these days I'm going to get one day further behind than usual, and...CRUNCH!

Our February meeting was enjoyable (as usual). We had a great turnout (about24 people), and everyone got to try the cave (newly discovered in the basementof the bank). Thanks to BRUCE ANDERSON for his ingenuity in putting togethersuch a delightful addition to our meeting agenda. Using tables, blankets, andending with the adjustable crawlway built by D.C. Young, we were able to puttogether a fifty foot (or so) cave, complete with a forking passage, sodastraws, dead batteries, empty pop cans, and other things commonly found in a cave.We'll have to do it again sometime. Great fun! Naturally, we cleaned up afterourselves as all good cavers should.

We had quite a discussion about cave gear , so this prompted us to designatethe workshop period for this coming meeting as another "share yourfavorite cave gear ideas" meeting. This will be true show and tell, sobring what you like, and be prepared to tell us why you like it. Arguing andmaking fun of other's people's gear is allowed, and often encouraged. From theway we carry on at meetings, a stranger might think that Norm and I could nevercave together. (CARBIDE BREATH!) (DIM BULB!) Ah, such is life!

Oh, by the way, the "we" in the NNG is now forty-four members.Right here in the heart of corn country without a cave in sight. Believe thator not! This issue of the NNN is also the notorious "BLUE DOT" issue.If your MAILING LABEL has a BLUE DOT on it, it means that your 1995 DUES HAVENOT BEEN PAID, and that this is your FINAL ISSUE. Please don't delay! Keep theNEWS coming. (If, however, my records are in error, you may beat me with a wetsoda straw and I will humbly apologize).

I received a letter from Evelyn Bradshaw of the NSS Internal OrganizationsCommittee. In it, she notes that our 1994 annual report was received, and is ingood order. She thanked us for submitting the report on computer disk, whichspeeds up the process of preparing copy for the yearly MEMBERS' MANUAL. Shealso mentioned that our grotto is eligible to have three votes for the 1995Congress of Grottos, held at the national convention.

Library note: New issues of the DESERT CAVER (Escabrosa Grotto, AZ), INDIANACAVER (Eastern Indiana Grotto), and the GEORGIA UNDERGROUND (Dogwood CityGrotto) are available for checkout from the secretary.

It looks as though this issue will not be quite as "full" as thelast few. Probably due to fewer cave trips the last couple of months, therewere fewer articles submitted. I was also not able to find much of interest inthe internet recently. I'd like to let everyone know that Brian and I feelquite lucky because we have in this grotto a large number of very fine writerswho have done a wonderful job of making the NNN the classy publication it hasbecome. We include scientific and research articles as the better publicationsdo, but our "first person" trip reports, often written by"rookie cavers" add a bit of sparkle to the pages, and are much moreinteresting than the dry, "went there-did that-surveyed it" sort ofarticles so often seen. In them, we communicate to our fellow members whoweren't able to make that particular trip how we felt about what we saw anddid. We can't all make every trip, but our trip reports in the NNN are the nextbest thing. Keep 'em coming!

Speaking of publications, did you all see the latest "NSS NEWS"? Itfeatures an article by our own Norm Rogers on the NSS Field Camp at MammothCave, KY, along with photos by Brian Braye. We've made the big time!

We had a fine (but unexpected) "rookie" trip through Buckner'slast month. It was unexpected because we had planned to tour Wayne's Lost, butwhen I called to reserve the key, I found that all the keys were alreadyreserved for that day! Bummer! Whoda thunkit? In the middle of February,everybody wanted to do Wayne's on the same day. At that point, even if I hadbeen able to locate another key, the place would have been too crowded, and Isince learned that one of the reservations was by the Windy City grotto, andthey had quite a large group. It turned out that few in our group have had achance to do Buckner's, so we decided to use it as our backup.

When we arrived at the parking lot, it was FULL! Well, almost. We were ableto squeeze in a few of our cars, and block them in with the others. It was agood thing that we planned to exit at the same time. A herd of boy scouts werecamping out, and had all their tents set up like a small city. Luckily theirgroup was exiting just as we were gathering at the entrance, so we didn'tcollide in the crawlway. With such an ominous beginning to a trip, we werehappy that it turned out as well as it did, and it went very well indeed! Wesplit up into two groups, one to visit the waterfall, the other doing the"circle route". MARTY JACOBS got her first chance to act as tripleader and guide (for the "circle route" group), and did a fine job.The only bad part of the whole trip was that Chris Bell's backpack was stolen,including his medical supplies, extra flashlights, and all. Grrr!

The trip back to the back part of the cave was fun. I'm not sure, but Ithink that it was Rich Bell (Chris' brother) who convinced him that Norm and Ihad taken the stream crawl. He got rather wet before he figured out that he hadbeen duped. I suppose that it could have been a better day for Chris! He alsogot momentarily stuck on the way to the waterfall. He showed good presence ofmind, and was able to free himself by stopping, relaxing, and carefully tryingdifferent moves until he found what worked. (The canyon passage to thewaterfall DOES get rather tight and nasty. It's a difficult trip.) After seeingthis part of the cave, we had to decide where to go from there. Since no one inthe group but me had done the circle route, we chose to go that way, eventhough it had been quite a while since the other part of the group had takenthat direction. We wondered if we could actually catch up with them. I had nofear that they were lost. Marty knows Buckner's very well, and it would betough to get her more than "momentarily confused" here. We had goneabout one third of the way around, when Chris and Rich decided to head back tothe T-Room and exit that way, since Chris was experiencing some pain in hiship. Isaac Taylor, Dan Voorhees, Norm Rogers and I continued around the circle.I swear that I've never done the circle that fast. We fairly flew! Sure enough,when we reached the T-Room, Marty's group was waiting for us. I let everyoneelse go on out the crawlway, while I popped back for just one more look to seeif Chris's pack was anywhere around and had just been overlooked, but no suchluck! On the way in, I had set my personal record, doing the crawlway in 13minutes, but trust me, it took a bit longer than that to exit. All in all, afine trip, and now everybody can say that "they've done Buckner's".The tale of this trip from the point of view of the other group is told byTonja Horn, later in this issue.



As many of you know, we will have a joint NNG/MTG trip the weekend of April22, 23 and 24. We have been invited by our good friends of the MARK TWAINGROTTO to join them in a weekend of camping and caving in Leclede and WrightCounties near Lebanon, MO. They have obtained cave and camping permits. Thefeatured cave (Sunday, the 23rd) is Smittle Cave, an absolutely awesomespectacle! I will bring pictures to this meeting. Some of us plan to head downthere friday afternoon, but directions will be available for those who drivedown saturday, as well. (It's about a six hour trip). I will make a signup listat the March meeting. There are other caves available, such as Little Smittle,Pittman and Lowell, so come early and stay late! We will probably camp in frontof Lowell on Friday night. Dave Mahon points out that Pittman is of particularinterest. It is the largest cave in Leclede County, and because of a small,hidden entrence, was just recently discovered. He says that it is in pristinecondition, and is located on state forest property.

The KENTUCKY SPELEOFEST will be held on Memorial Day weekend, May 26-29 atCamp Carlson, Fort Knox, Ky. Plenty of caves, pits, and all 'round good"clean" fun will be available. Last year's event was attended by over700 people, so it's a popular gathering. Pre-registering by May 10th will saveyou $1.50 per person. I will have copies of the registration form at themeeting.

Oregon County, MO will be the scene of the 75th MVOR (Mississippi ValleyOzark Region), in the Mark Twain National Forest on Eleven Point River, May5-7. Camping, canoeing, caving, banquets, bonfires, parties and geology fieldtrips are featured. I have registration forms.

The NNG will be well represented at the Mammoth Cave Field Camp in August. Ibelieve that there will be eight of us down there. (Norm can correct me if mymemory has a "hole" in it.)

The Wayne's Lost trip will be rescheduled, and this time I will reserve thekey well in advance. Promise!

The first weekend in April, Tim Shaffer, Pat O'Connell and I are headingdown to Missouri to further check out the potential of the land owned by abusinessman that Tim met last year. At last report (NNN, November '94), the areaheld some promise, with numerous sinkholes, including one that blows moist air.This entrance appears to be totally vertical, with a considerable drop. We alsoplan to do some ridgewalking in order to locate some other possible openings.We hope that there is enough to find so we can begin another survey project. Ifthere is, we will need to have more people with vertical skills to help. Surveyskills will also be needed if the area pans out. We will report at the nextmeeting.

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[I thought that since we've just celebrated our fourth year in existence,our newer members might enjoy this account of the formation of the NNG, and ourfirst meeting, November 18th, 1991., as published in the NEAR NORMAL NEWS, Vol.1, No. 1-Ed.]




At a recent gathering at the Normal Public Library, the NSS's newest grottowas formed. The Near Normal Grotto was initiated on November 18th by a group ofdisplaced troglodytes who all happened to live in or near the town of Normal,Illinois. The name also has significance for those who believe that one has tobe not quite normal (maybe just "near normal") to want to enter wildcaves in the first place. The idea began with John Walther, who had noticedthat there were a few new local names in the MEMBER'S MANUAL provided by theNSS> After a few phone calls showed that there might indeed be enoughinterest to form an active grotto, work began in earnest. A preliminaryplanning meeting was scheduled by Jim Jacobs, held at Denny's restaurant onOctober 21. Attending were John, Jim, Ted Century [who has since moved toIdaho.-Ed.], and Kevin Rasmus. Plans were laid for the organizational meetingin November. Assignments were made for contacting the media, and for thepreparation and distribution of advertising posters. Phone calls were made tointerested people who, in turn called others, and the word spread. A second meetingwas held at Denny's on November 11th in which the agenda was planned. Asidefrom a few more phone calls and the inevitable last-minute details, the meetingwas on!


The Library's Community Room was appropriately decorated. Kevin Rasmus set upa display of caving gear, tables were laid out with caving literature broughtby John Walther and Jim Jacobs, and Jim had produced signs and welcome banners,complete with original caving graphics on his computer. Present at the meetingwere Ted Century, Don Coons, Jim Jacobs, Marty Jacobs, Clay Johnson, DavidKorn, Tom Korn, Greg Kwasny, Bob Lawrence, Jeanne Lawrence, Kevin Rasmus, DebraSmith and John Walther. Walt Rudy was able to attend the after-meetingget-together, but more on that later. The meeting was very congenial, agathering of new friends with a common interest. The Grotto's Constitution andBylaws, drafted by Jim Jacobs were read, amended and adopted. The group'sproposed name was the only real topic of lively discussion. "Near NormalGrotto" won our over "Near Normal Caving Club". Officers wereelected. The first officers were: President, John Walther, Vice President,Kevin Rasmus, Secretary, Jim Jacobs (because I had volunteered to do a littlenewsletter. Little did I know...), Treasurer, Marty Jacobs, Member-at-Large,Don Coons. The group voted to begin with three standing committees. Don Coonswill chair the Activities Committee, and Jim Jacobs will head the PublicationsCommittee. The nominating Committee will be named later. Dues were set at$10.00/yr. for both Full members (NSS members), Associate Members (non-NSSmembers), and $5.00 for students (through high school).

At a post meeting get-together at the home of Jim and Marty Jacobs, DonCoons presented a fascinating slide show covering an expedition to Chicobulcave in Belize, south of Mexico.

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THE BBM, THE NNG, and BCI by JohnMarquart


We of the Near Normal Grotto have been involved in studying the abandonedunderground limestone mine called the Blackball Mine (BBM) now for severalyears. The mine, which dates to 1838 is of historic interest as the source ofnatural hydraulic cement used for the construction of the locks for theIllinois and Michigan Canal, a National Heritage Corridor Area. It is also theprincipal hibernaculum for the endangered Indiana Bat, Myotis sodalis, in thestate of Illinois and also a hibernaculum for other bat species. Our work whichis carried out under a permit from the Illinois Department of Conservation hasinvolved mapping the entire upper section of this two level mine and monitoringtemperatures throughout both levels in order to determine conditions that arefavorable for bat hibernation. The mine is posted no trespassing to helpprotect the bats within and to keep people out for their own safety. However,as evident from the continual amount of litter that we find in the mine, thosepostings are largely ignored. The entrances to the mine are easily accessibleto intruders. It is apparent that something needs to be done to close offillegal entrance into the mine. That is easier said than done since there are18 entrances into the upper level of the mine and two into the lower level.There are also two vertical connecting shafts between the two levels and an airshaft from the surface into the upper level. However, it would be quitefeasible to close intruders off from the lower level only. That level containsthe two areas of the mine in which the endangered Indiana Bats hibernate.

Don Coons made contact with Bat Conservation International (BCI) of Austin,Texas to enlist their support in this important project. Since that time, bothDon and I have had multiple discussions with BCI about the matter. Dan Taylor,whose specialty is bats in mines has been our principal contact and I have senthim copies of our mine map, temperature data, and other information concerningthe mine. I had the fortune of being able to visit BCI in Austin on January 23,1995 and will report on the results the meeting with Dan Taylor.

Taylor expresses total support for the work that we of the Near NormalGrotto have done and pledges the support by BCI. The importance of the BBM as ahibernaculum for the Indiana Bat and for other bats ranks it among his toppriority projects for BCI. Dan plans on initiating a study for protecting theBBM for summer 1995. Other projects planned for this period are two mines inMichigan and one in Vermont. His initial plan for the BBM is to protect thehibernacula from intrusion and also eliminate the danger of someone fallinginto the vertical shafts by gating the two entrances to the lower level and thetwo shafts connecting the two levels. He also plans a study of possibilities ofincreasing the mine areas that will support hibernation by altering airflow throughthe mine. This may mean sealing selected entrances into the upper level.Speaking for the Near Normal Grotto, I have pledged our support in the studiesand also in the work that will be required later for physical closure. Taylorwill soon be contacting personnel with the State of Illinois and other expertsin the field of bat protection and has already asked BCI for $7,500 in funds touse as seed money for further study and fund raising specifically for the BBM.This money, if funded by BCI, will be available in June 1995. We discussed somepotential sources of the funds necessary to complete the studies and thegating. Our recorded data of temperatures throughout the BBM are helpful, butconsiderably hampered by our exclusion from entering the mine for a period ofsix months during the winter. With our current digital thermometers we can onlyobtain high and low temperatures over this long period. Digital storagethermometers would allow retention of temperature data throughout the entirewinter and the downloading into a computer. These cost somewhat more than ahundred dollars each, obviously beyond our own resources. Taylor says that airflow data is more vital than temperature data. We have tried to do some airflow measurements using a vane anemometer that I borrowed from Eastern IllinoisUniversity, but better instruments would facilitate these measurements. As faras the cost of actually closing entrances, Taylor cited an average cost of $11to $12 per square foot of area to be closed with an opening gate, less withoutthe gate.

What can we do while BCI make contacts and works on fund raising? Severalthings:

1. Finish some already permitted mapping. Namely, obtain vertical profiledata within the mine and close the survey on a local bench mark.

2. Make accurate measurements of the dimensions of entrances to facilitateplans for gate construction or filling.

3. Obtain documented photographs of entrances and mine interior.

4. Continue to collect temperature data with existing thermometers.

5. Make more air flow measurements with available equipment. 6. Try toobtain a permit from the Illinois Department of Conservation to map the lowerlevel. We only have a rough map of that level which was done years ago by theWindy City Grotto. As an alternative to remapping this level, we need theoriginal survey data from the Windy City Grotto. Don Coons has stated hisintent to try to obtain this data.

7. Observe entrances at which the bats swarm in the fall. Bats preparing tohibernate swarm in and out of the entrances that they use to their hibernaculawhile feeding to store up fat reserves. This swarming occurs in the evening inlate August. Knowledge concerning these entrances is essential. Dan stressedthat whenever we observe bats by using artificial light, the light should havea red colored filter to minimize disturbance. 8. Meet with Dan Taylor thissummer when he plans to visit us and the BBM this summer. He will try to make aspecial trip for this purpose, but also told me of an NSS Cave Management Symposiumscheduled for Bedford, IN around October 23-27, 1995 (the week beforeHalloween). He suggested that this would be a good time for a get together withall involved.

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[At the January grotto meeting, we discussed what lessons each of us hadlearned from the Buckner's trip. These are summarized by president Rogers, andpresented, along with additional comments by the editor.]


1. MAKE A LIST OF GEAR. A list of all the things you will need to go caving,and all the items you will need afterward. [translation: Norm forgot his boots!My lesson learned was to reserve the key for Wayne's Lost well in advance-Ed.]

2. TAKE A SMALLER-LIGHTER PACK. If you are planning on just a few hours in acave, there is no need to be over-burdened by a cumbersome pack. However, ifyou know you are going to be in the cave for a while, it's better to beprepared for the worst-case scenario. Packs that are made specifically forcaving seem to work the best-large or small.

[translation: don't bring too much, just everything you might everneed!-Ed.]

3. TRY DIFFERENT CAVING TECHNIQUES. Trying different ways of getting aroundin a cave, different ways of moving through a crawlway or a stooping passagemay lead to a more comfortable caving experience. There are some great ideas inthe NNS book, CAVING BASICS by Tom Rhea.

[one point that Rhea missed is to make sure not to follow Norm in a tightcrawlway after he has been eating Beanie Weenies.-Ed.]

4. GET GOOD KNEE PADS. Since we spend a lot of time in caves, it makes senseto get good knee pads. Pads with velcro straps come off when the straps getmuddy. Pads with a hard plastic outer shell don't provide good traction whenclimbing or crawling.

[I'm still searching for the perfect knee pad!-Ed.]

5. EVERYONE CARRIES THEIR OWN GEAR AND SUPPLIES. If someone else is haulingyour food or gear in the cave, and that person gets separated or injured,you're up the creek.

[When Marty split off to lead the second group around the circle route, sheforgot that all of their food was in Jim's pack.-Ed.]

6. KEEP TRACK OF YOUR GEAR. It's real easy to lose gloves, lights, or othergear when sitting down to rest or eat a meal. Muddy gloves tend to look likereal mud, flashlights roll under rocks, things fall into cracks in the floor.Keep an eye on things.

[one might also add, if you're leaving your pack while you're exploring aside passage in a well-traveled cave like Buckner's, it's a good idea toconceal it someplace where it's not so likely to be picked up by apasser-by.-Ed.]

7. DRESS FOR THE CONDITIONS IN THE CAVE. When we go caving in the winter, wehave a tendency to overdress. Our mind tells us that if it's cold outside, it mustbe cold int he cave. If a cave is relatively dry, you don't need so much warmclothing. On the other hand, if you know that you will get wet, dress for it.Poly-pro and wool are a must for wet caves. The best compromise is to dress foran active trip, but carry something (like a sweater) in case you get cold.

[see item #2, above.-Ed.]

8. BRING PLENTY OF FOOD AND WATER. It's no fun caving when your stomach isgrowling. Some people may even get sick it they don't eat properly.

[or follow someone who has been eating Beanie Weenies.-Ed.]

9. CARRY A SECOND LIGHT SOURCE ON YOUR BODY. In case you lay your pack downto check a crawl or lose or break your main light, you still have a backuplight with you.

[especially if your main light is carbide. or electric.-Ed.]


[it might be more merciful to be strapped to the fender or luggagerack.-Ed.]

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BUCKNER'S CAVE by Tonja Horn


I approached Buckner's Cave apprehensively. My only other caving experiencehad been Illinois Caverns, so I was definitely still a rookie. It was when Isaw my fellow adventurers disappear into a tiny hole in the wall that panic setin. "See you all later! Have a nice trip!" I wanted to run, but witha little coaxing, in I went.

I immediately began saying good-byes to my loved ones and assuring myselfthat I had indeed gone insane. But then...I realized...this is what it's allabout! My heart was pounding, my energy was rising, I was ready to conquer all!(With a few obscenities under my breath, nonetheless!)

We made it to the "T" room, and I had time to really let myenvironment sink in. It should have been so beautiful, but all I could see wasthe mark of the disrespectful people who had come before me. I guess in thesecases, you have to train your eyes to see what lies beneath. [When I reachedthe "T" room, there were three young men there who were preparing toexit. One of them had a can of spray paint. He asked me directions to anotherpart of the cave. I told him that I would show him the way OUT!-Ed.]

Anyway, this is where the bolder of us, Jim Jacobs, Rich Bell, Chris Bell,Isaac Taylor, Norm Rogers and Dan Voorhees, split off to make the trek to thewaterfall. I'm still not sure whether the members of my group chose the circlerout because they wanted to, or out of pity for the less experienced. Eitherway, our adventure began.

Marty (our fearless leader), Leonard and Lara Storm, Julie Angel, BethReinke, David and I made the trip rather smoothly (ha ha) and managed to seesome sights along the way. The most memorable for me, and possibly for theothers, was the Crystal Pool. This was the cleanest and most beautiful spot inthe cave, well deserving of its name.

The most perplexing part of the trip came somewhere between the CalciteFalls and the Gurgle Spring Passage. We were all crawling single file, andbegan to emerge one at a time. As Lara, the fourth in line came out, we noticedanother smaller passage directly under her. She went in to do a littleexploring, and heard voices ahead. They belonged to the rest of our group!Leonard said that one minute she was in front of him, the next, she was gone.He saw only one way, and kept going. We still don't know what happened. Ihereby dub this passage "Twilight Zone Crawl".

This was definitely a physically challenging cave, especially for a beginnerlike me. but at the end, I found myself ready for more and sad to be leaving.The energy that fills me during these trips is amazing! When I came out of thatfinal crawl, I was dizzy with excitement! I had met the challenge, and faced myfear.

Finally, I want to comment on one of the most important things I have gainedby joining the Near Normal Grotto. I'm coming to look forward to theafter-cave-pizza almost as much as the cave itself. The friends I have made areas valuable as the experience. Caving, anyone?

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