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September 1997 NearNormal News



Jim Jacobs

Ah, revenge is SWEET! His moans were music to my ears!

Many of you were around in the early days of the NNG. At that time, Martyand I were just beginning to break the grandkids into caving, starting withT.J., who was then 7 1/2 yrs. old. We took him to Buckner's Cave, and had afine time. Of course, he could just cruise through passages that gave us"adult-sized" people trouble. As a matter of fact, starting the sametime, he beat us out of the crawlway by a good ten minutes. He could nearly runin a stoop, while we were crawling. I told him then that his time would come!

We're now breaking in the fourth and youngest of the boys, and they'recavers all. And we all went to Buckner's on Saturday, Sept. 13. But T.J. is nownearly six feet tall. He had to grunt and groan and drag himself through sometight places.

I laughed! And reminded him of my prophetic words. He was not amused.Especially since little Jimmy and even smaller Ryan were just cruising throughthe passages that were making T.J. grunt and groan. It's the way of the world!

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Lara Storm


Hosted by the Greater Cincinnati Grotto at Great Saltpetre Cave Preserve,July 11-13 1997.

After six hours of driving, and losing an hour in the conversion to easterntime, I made my way down a very windy road to the Great Saltpetre CavePreserve. I passed by registration and picked up my K-O-R packet on the waydown into the valley that was the campground. The first order of business wasto set up the tent. The hot Kentucky sun wrung sweat out of me as though I werea wet towel. After I had my tent set up, I moseyed over to the pavilion to signup for some cave trips; I hadn't been caving since before convention, so I wasgetting pretty eager to get underground. There were several sign-up sheets fordifferent caves with different difficulties. I signed up for one described asHard-- 5-6 hours for Saturday, and I signed up for a moderate trip that wasgoing to be led by an Ohio friend of mine on Sunday morning.

Next, since I was interested in getting some ascending gear, I made my wayover to the row of vendors that was slowly forming as more and more peoplearrived. At the On Rope 1, Inc. booth a woman was asking the vendor about theropewalker system and trying on a chest harness. I listened to theirconversation and waited for my turn. I told the vendor that I was interested inthe frog system, but I wasn't sure what questions to ask him. I ran to myvehicle and got my seat harness from the trunk so I could try on the ascendinggear. Later the vendor, the other customer, and I went over to the climbingtower that was in the campground so that we could try out the gear. The vendorgot the system adjusted for me so that I could get the maximum distance out ofit, I tried the moves a couple of times, and then I decided to have him hold itfor me and mail it to me later after I sent him the money.

Looking for something else to do, I went and found the Ohio cavers who hadinvited me to K-O-R in the first place. We chatted for a while and then theyasked me if I had been to GSP yet. Finally I realized that they were referringto the cave after which the campground was named-- Great Saltpetre Cave. Up thehill from the campground is the entrance to the cave which, along with thecampground, is owned by the Greater Cincinnati Grotto (GCG). Proud of the caveowned by their grotto, my friends had urged me to go take a look. GSP is, insome respects, partially commercial. There were lights already on in some partsof the cave, so there wasn't any need to get fully suited up to take a shortjaunt through the cave. On the other hand, we were welcome to get all suited upand poke around in the little unlit leads and other unlit passages.

At 8 p.m. (eastern time) the howdy party started up at the pavilion. I hungaround with my friends, met a few new people, and tried out the crawling boxthe GCG had constructed. The box was a fairly elaborate contraption. It wassquare and about four or five feet high. On each end of the box there weresmall entrance and exit holes cut in the wood, and within the box, parallel tothe entrance and the exit ends of the box, there were other slabs of woodinserted that also contained oddly shaped holes. The spaces in between theslabs of wood varied as did the shapes of the holes. People who decided to trythe box would enter through a hole on one end of the box and slowly make theirway through holes in all the other slabs within the box until finally theywould exit on the other end. Participants were not supposed to raise their bodyabove the top of the box, which was sometimes a difficult task to accomplish. Inavigated the box once and got a pretty painful bruise-- a bruise worse thanmost of the ones I typically get in the cave.

Later that night I went in GSP with one of my Ohio friends and did a morethorough trip than I had done earlier that day. We checked out a couple ofholes in a place called the Russian Dome, considered a couple of crawlways thatbranched off the larger passages, and then he took me to the beginning of acrawlway known as Utter Drag. Supposedly the crawlway goes for 300 feet untilit opens up into a room they call Utter Surprise. While part of the crawlway issupposed to be large enough to have your elbows out to your sides, near the endyou have to keep one arm to your side and the other to the front to push your packahead as you go along. Part of Utter Drag is a successful dig that actuallylead somewhere (Utter Surprise). The room beyond the crawlway doesn't goanywhere. On the way out my friend and I took a detour to the entrance througha passage known as Fat Man's Misery.

The next morning I woke up to the beeping of the alarm on my watch. It wasseven and I needed to get up to prepare for the trip I was taking intoHumongous Pit Canyon Cave. Despite the fact that I hadn't gotten to bed untilafter 3 a.m., I somehow managed to get out of bed and get ready for the cavetrip. A short drive on the windy road took us to the trail that led toHumongous Pit Canyon Cave. Arriving at the cave, we soon realized why it hadbeen given that name; the entrance was a Humongous Pit, and the majority of thepassages were large canyons. The trip wasn't really difficult except for thefact that there was a lot of up and down maneuvering. We did a lot ofchimneying and climbing, and the next day-- not surprisingly-- I was sore. Thatevening there was a banquet and a presentation inside the GCG-owned cave (GreatSaltpetre). Rick Olsen gave the talk about the Origin and Regeneration ofNitrates in Mammoth Cave Sediment. In other words, he told us about informationhe had researched on saltpetre mining, and he explained the results of anexperiment that he conducted on the subject. Olsen's question was whethernitrates in the cave would be formed again after the cave had already beenmined for saltpetre. In his experiment, Rick took on aspects of the questionsuch as how the nitrates reformed, in what quantity they reformed, and fromwhat sources they reformed. It was a very interesting and informative talk.After the presentation there was more socializing, but this time I went to bedearly knowing that I was going to be taking one more trip the next day.

Sunday morning came soon enough. Before I knew it I was hitching a ride overto the cave we were going to be going into, Highwater Cave. A short hike alonga stream led us to the cave. To enter, we did a short crawl over gravel.Because Highwater is such a small cave (in size and length), the trip wasinteresting. Many of the crawls we did were to someplace and back. The majormethod of travel was crawling, but there were a few areas in the cave wherethere were 15 to 20 foot canyons. Back into one of these canyons there was anunderlying, connecting passage that crossed under (and partially through) thatbottom of one of the tightening canyons. Coming out from underneath one side ofthe canyon and ducking underneath the other, the foot-high passage slantedfarther downward into the rock. The other end of the passage was the upstreamend and was, therefore, smaller (something I learned in the Speleology courseand observed on the Highwater trip). I took my helmet off and held my carbidelight in my hand as I started into the slanting passage head first. The floorof the crawlway was partially covered with medium-sized stones, and they rolledunder me as I slid down into the passage, which I later termed, "the juttyoutty hurty painful crawlway passage." I passed the slanted part of thepassage into a flatter section. The crawlway was obviously well cut by thewater which left razor sharp protrusions that poked and clawed at my clothesand my skin. One such protrusion, about seven inches high and eight or soinches long, stuck straight up out of the floor threatening to slash my leftarm. Fortunately, injury due to this shark fin shaped obstacle was easilyavoidable. Thinking back to the Speleology course, I reasoned that the passagewas very likely to open up due to the fact that I was travelling in thedirection that used to be downstream. To my delight, about a body length intothe passage I came upon a small circular pit about ten feet deep. My head stuckout over the top of the pit as I looked down into it. Around a corner, a tallercanyon exited from the pit, but I couldn't see if it was large enough for me tofit into. At the top of the pit with no way to get into the pit feet first, Idecided to go back and join the others. Then came the tricky part-- goingbackwards, up, and out of the crawlway. In the end, I had to have help from oneof the cavers who was waiting patiently outside of the passage. I was free ofthe crawlway, but one of the other things that Brucker taught us in theSpeleology course was that we should always go to the very end of a passage sothat you know for sure that it ends; otherwise, it could be a long time beforeyou find out if it's worth your time to go back.

Happy to have gotten to do some great caving trips at Karst-O-Rama, Ichanged into clean clothes, folded up the tent, and hit the road. It was a longdrive home, but it was worth it. (Look for the Karst-O-Rama date in the NSSNews list of events for next year!!!!!)

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John R. Marquart


Illinois and the Near Normal Grotto are getting more and more into the newsfor bat conservation. First, the Near Normal Grotto played a major role ingating Illinois' largest bat hibernaculum at the Blackball Mine in LaSalleCounty, Illinois with lots of media coverage, including a feature full-colorarticle in the Chicago Tribune. Then, our grotto was recognized as OutstandingVolunteer for 1996 by Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in aceremony held at the 1996 Illinois State Fair. Next, the 26th Annual NorthAmerican Symposium on Bat Research was held in Bloomington, Illinois in October1996 and our grotto sponsored the Symposium Field Trip to take some of theworld's bat experts to the Blackball Mine to see our handiwork. Now, for thefirst time, a major workshop on bat conservation has been held in Illinois. TheMidwest Bat Conservation and Management Workshop sponsored by Bat ConservationInternational (BCI), USDA-Forest Service - Shawnee National Forest, andIllinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) was held in Muddy, Illinois onAugust 12-14, 1997. Our grotto again contributed and has drawn the positiveattention of more bat specialists and others who work in conservation ingeneral.

I was very pleased when Dan Taylor, of BCI, announced the workshop to ourgrotto and invited us to attend and participate. It was unfortunate that thetiming was poor for many of our members, since it overlapped with the datealready set for the Mammoth Cave National Park - Cave Restoration Field Camp.Many of our grotto members were, of course, going on the field camp and had tomiss the bat workshop. For me, however, the timing was good, since I was freeof my teaching duties for a while. I had finished teaching summer classes atthe University of Illinois and Eastern Illinois University hadn't started fallclasses yet. I welcomed the invitations from Dan Taylor and Sherly Ducummon,both of BCI, to participate in the workshop as one of the instructors. My rolewas to tell the participants about how volunteer groups (especially cavers likeus) can work very well with governmental agencies (like IDNR) and privateconservation organizations (like BCI) to constructively accomplish much neededconservation projects. The Blackball Mine project supplied the backgroundmaterial for my presentation in which I showed slides of the project andexplained the historic significance of the mines, as well as their significancein early studies of the Indiana bat (dating to the 1950s).

I will give you a brief run down on a few of the workshop happenings. I hadnever heard of Muddy, Illinois (have you?). Well, it is sort of a suburb ofHarrisburg in southeastern Illinois. Muddy is a one street wide strip alongU.S. 45 and once served as the night club area for Harrisburg. That was in theheyday of mining in southern Illinois (mostly coal, Fluorspar, and silica). Nowthe mines are mostly closed down and the miners gone, so the strip was more ofa ghost town, except for one strip joint that hung on and a few survivingbusinesses. It seemed like a strange place to hold a major conservationworkshop. The connection was its proximity to Shawnee National Fores andprobably that the local businesses gave good rates to attract the workshopthere. The workshop was held in the banquet room of the Days Inn in Muddy,which had seen better days (pun intended). The bar and dining room hadn't operatedsince goodness knows when, but at least the pool was full so we could cool offfrom the steamy summer weather. I will forgive the accommodations though sincethe workshop was excellent. Leading experts from all over presented excellentlessons on such things as mine and cave safety (Dr. Scott Altenbach from theUniversity of New Mexico), lots of information on bats (Dr. Michael Harvey fromTennessee Tech), the "Revised Recovery Plan for the Indiana Bat"(Robert Currie from U.S. FISH and Wildlife), gating techniques (Roy Powers),and lots more. I particularly found Scott Altenbach's discussion of "badair" in mines and caves very informative from a caver's point of view. BobCurrie's discussion of the Indiana bat was particularly pertinent to us grottomembers, since our work at the Blackball Mine is largely aimed at preservingthis Federally Endangered species. Bob sited that four bats that reside in theEastern and Midwestern US are listed as endangered. They are the Gray bat, theVirginia Long-Eared, the Ozark Long- Eared, and the Indiana bat. Of these, hesaid all are doing all right except for the Indiana bat. One factor is that thefirst three live in caves (or mines) year-round and protecting the entranceseems to protect them all year. The Indiana bat is different in that ithibernates in caves and mines, but lives outdoors during summer months. This isespecially true of the females who have maternal colonies under loose bark oftrees or in hollowed out trees. Bob said that the Gray bat is doing so wellthat he favors unlisting it as endangered. The Indiana bat is another story,unfortunately. He fears that it will die out within a decade or so if pasttrends continue. The statistics are frightening. According to Bob thepopulations amounted to about 80 million in 1960 and dropped to 600 thousand by1980 (20 years later), and then to 350 thousand in 1995 (another 15 years). Hesketched a curve showing population decline which went on to near zero in thenot too distant future. I did a little of my own statistics with these data andfound that the rate of loss seems to follow what is called a second-order ratelaw, That is that the rate of loss (R) is equal to a constant (k) times thesquare of the current population (P). In terms of an equation that gives R =k(P)(P). Using Bob's data, I find k to be about 0.000000082 with R being thenumber loss in bat population per year. This equation agrees fairly well withthe data and gives the following table for bat population and loss by year asfollows:



I don't claim that this relationship is really accurate, but it does showthat the declining population of Indiana bats is continuing. No one reallyunderstands why. The major hibernacula are protected and it seems that theproblems lies in the summer habitat. Is it loss of usable habitat, poisoning bypesticides, or what? No one knows and it is a point for serious scientificstudy. The clue may be in state-by-state comparisons. The largest populationsof Indiana bats are in Indiana (about 150,000), Missouri (about 150,000), andKentucky (about 50,000). In Indiana, the populations are showing a steadyincrease, but in Missouri and Kentucky there are large losses that offset thegain. What is the difference? Again, no one knows. The caves and mines whichcontain Indiana bats are largely protected in all states, but there is anobvious difference in other factors, but what?

On the positive side, I learned from Bill Glass (IDNR) that our work ingating the Blackball Mine is seeming to pay off. Of the 25,000 bats thatannually hibernate at the mine, the Indiana bat population is small compared tothe counts in Indiana, Missouri, and Kentucky, but still among the largest inIllinois. Below are biannual counts of Indiana bats taken at the Blackball Minesince 1987.



We gated the mine in summer 1996 and the population hibernating there thiswinter has increased to 943, which is the highest population counted sinceinvestigations began in the 1950s. Previous counts have never exceeded about650 before and had fallen as low as about 20 in the early 1980s. The State ofIllinois obtained the land and designated it as a Nature Preserve in 1984,which helped with a significant upswing in populations, but the big jump innumbers has occured in the one winter since we gated the mine. If the currenttrend continues, Illinois may yet become a state having a major population ofIndiana bats. Let's hope so. If so, we were critical in helping it along.

Finally, I will mention the very worthwhile field trip for the workshop. Wetraveled to the extreme southern tip of Illinois to see the Unimen Mine. It wasgated last summer right after the Blackball Mine and also contains Indianabats. We visited the mine shortly before sunset and set up nets to catch batsflying out of the entrances. We used light intensifiers to see them in the darkand bat detectors to eavesdrop on their echo location calls. Mist nets caughtthe most bats by entangling them. Only the bat experts, who had rabies shots,were allowed to untangle and handle the caught bats (several Indiana bats, aBig Brown bat, and a Northern Long-Eared bat), but we all got a good look atthem. A harp trap was also set up. It looks like a musical harp with verticalstrings of fishing line running downward. The strings ran in two parallellayers. The second layer was offset from the first so that a bat flying betweenstrings on the first layer had to flip its wings vertical relative to theground to get between strings. The second set of strings then was right infront of the bat and it didn't have time to reorient to clear them. The batwould run into these stings and fall down between the layers of stings into acatch bag (that's why it is called a trap rather than a net).

In short, I really enjoyed the workshop and learned a lot. Otherparticipants (and instructors too) learned a lot about why they should seek thehelp of cavers, like us, and how much the Blackball Mine project serves as apositive example of people working constructively together. In his talk, BobCurrie gave cavers, in general, the highest recommendation as hard-working,conservation-oriented volunteers and used the Blackball Mine project and theNear Normal Grotto as proof that it works. That is encouraging coming from theperson from U.S. Fish and Wildlife who is their primary expert on the recoveryof the Indiana bat. I was proud to have been able to represent a group likeours. We are such a new grotto, but have done much in that short time. I amconvinced that we have just begun and that our conservation efforts for thefuture will exceed those of the past. BCI has expressed its interest in ourcontinued collaboration with them on bat conservation projects. One projectthat was expressed by Bill Glass is the gating the Zimmerman Mine which has alarge bat population. Indiana bats have been counted there in the past, butthey have apparently fled from the disturbances. If it is gated, it willprotect the bats that currently hibernate there and perhaps Indianas willreturn. With its many entrances, that will be some kind of project! Get readyfor more hard, but needed and appreciated work.


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