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September 2000 NearNormal News


Jim Jacobs

Let me begin by apologizing to everyone. This issue of the NNN is late, andcomes to you after the September meeting. In the history of the NNG, this isthe first time this has happened.
When the NNG was young, we met every other month. In order to build interest inthe meeting, and to remind everyone when the meeting was going to be, I mailedthe NNN about a week before each meeting. This worked out well. It got theinformation about the meeting to everyone in a timely fashion. Even when webegan meeting every month (well, almost every month), it still worked well. (Iwasn't about to try to put together an issue for every meeting.) When BrianBraye came aboard as co-editor a few years ago, it helped spread the load, andof course, Brian brought with him a wealth of knowledge of graphics, art andlayout. We've worked well together, putting out six NNN's a year on time.
This one is late, and it was NOT Brian's fault. It wasn't really my faulteither, it was just a case of bad timing. Marty and I moved, and we spent justabout every minute for two weeks packing, sorting, dealing with buyers for ourhouse, getting our new house set up, sanding, painting, etc. During all ofthis, my computer was packed in half a dozen different boxes. Just didn't havethe time or the means to put together a newsletter. Anyway, here it is…I'm sureyou will enjoy it, even if it is late.

· DANA WARN investigates efforts to make Mammoth Cave bat-friendly again(courtesy ABCNEWS.com)
· MARC TIRITILLI and STEVE TAYLOR discuss their efforts to make LED cavinglights.
· DOUG STRAIGHT raises the question, "Are European ropes easy tocut?"
· STEVE TAYLOR reports on the caving weekend with the Mark Twain Grotto
· LARA STORM may have moved to New York, but she's still caving and stillwriting. Surprise?
· TROY SIMPSON comes through with his take on Illinois Caverns and the chancesof the Near Normal Grotto hosting a national convention.

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Dana Warn
(courtesy ABCNEWS.com)
Aug. 8 - On a ledge beside a cave trail that millions of people have traveled,Rick Toomey recently discovered a cache of bat fossils, some 10,000 years old.
The site was riddled with bat guano, mummified bats, bat skeletons, anddistinctive brown ceiling stains that marked where the bats once hung.
He hopes that ancient bat relics like this one may hold clues to ways ofrestoring habitat for today's severely endangered Indiana bat populations.
"If we don't do something soon, we will lose them in our lifetime,"says Toomey, a paleontologist and curator of the Illinois State Museum.
Something Old for Something New
Indiana bats hibernate in thick, fuzzy masses on cave ceilings-living, breathingbat carpets. Since the animals hibernate in densities near 350 bats per squarefoot, researchers can estimate the number of bats that occupied the cave basedon the space they used.
In caves where there used to be millions of Indiana bats, now there are none.The entire existing population of this endangered bat is smaller than thepopulations of a single cave a few hundred years ago. Most of the currentpopulation lives in eight caves and one mine scattered throughout Missouri,Kentucky, and Indiana.
Only a few hundred thousand Indiana bats still exist, and the population dipslower each year. These furry insect eaters help control insect populations, andmany other forms of life depend on the nutrients they bring into cave systems.
Toomey focuses his studies at Mammoth Cave in central Kentucky where millionsof hibernating Indiana bats once spent each winter. For tens of thousands ofyears, the site likely hosted the largets Indiana bat population in the world.Toomey says the creatures started disappearing from the cave just 200 yearsago.
The bats were once so numerous at Mammoth Cave that Toomey even found evidenceof their predators. Researchers came across layers of raccoon droppingscomposed entirely of bat remnants. It seems that when the bats hibernated inenormous colonies, raccoons could just reach out and feast on the hibernatingbats. The caves were a huge snack storage facility.
Now these winter visitors have vacated Mammoth Cave. Why did the bats leave?
The Ideal Bat Refrigerator
Indiana bats have very specific climate requirements for their hibernationsites. They need a cool, stable, humid environment-warm enough to protect themfrom freezing, cold enough to conserve energy.
"There is a very fine line in between," says Scott Pritt, the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Coordinator for the Indiana Bat recovery effort.
A single awakening, perhaps due to noise or a temperature change, can cost thebats 60 days worth of stored fat. Without adequate fat stores, they won't makeit through the winter, or their migration to summer habitat.
Pruitt says although they tried protecting the bat's currently usedhibernations sites from human noise and airflow changes, Indiana batpopulations continue to plummet. The problem is both Indiana bats and humansprefer large caves with multiple entrances.
"These bats can use less than 1 percent of caves," says MerlinTuttle, director of Bat Conservation International, "but these caves arethe ones humans most like to explore."
And todays's spelunkers are hardly the first to trample on the bat's preferredhabitat.
Complex Human History
During the War of 1812, miners scoured Mammoth Cave for salt peter to makegunpowder. Cave passages were widened to fit oxen, and entrances were blockedto make the cave warmer for the miners.
In 1815 the cave became a tourist attraction, and tunnels were rearranged topeople could walk, rather than crawl through the cave.
Later a doctor built huts inside the cave to house tuberculosis patients,thinking the cave air would hae curative properties. But their stay undergroundin the cold, humid air proved disastrous, and all the patients -and thedoctor-eventually died of tuberculosis.
Not only would the commotion from these past projects have bothered the bats,Toomey says changes in airflow patterns resulting from these cave alterationslikely upset that perfectly balanced cave climate the bats need to hibernate.
By understanding where and how the bats once used Mammoth Cave, Toomey and RickOlsen, a park naturalist, hope to adjust the airflow and temperature conditionsto make the cave comfortable for them again. Scattered fossils and guano markformer cave ledges where the bats once hibernated, providing a glimpse of whatthe cave looked like before it was reconfigured.
At first, Olsen says the cave was too warm, so they took out the solid gatethat blocked a main entrance, and put in an open gate. But then large amountsof cold air came in through the passages that had been widened in theintervening centures, making the cave too cold. Now they are using a gate withlong vertical bars that bats fly through, and they have covered half the gatewith Plexiglas to reduce the airflow. And they have restricted an area fromtours in the winter.
In some areas the cave is just a few degrees off, in others it is even furtherfrom the ideal range. Now Olsen says they are working on finer details, likere-engineering stairways in the cave to increase airflow.
In the last few years three Indiana bats have been sighted around Mammoth cave,but so far none have come in to hibernate, Olsen says.
Moving into Summer
But the cave fossils may not hold all the answers.
Even if the bats eventually return to their old hibernation haunts, simplysurviving winter isn't enough. After a long hibernation, the bats still need enoughenergy to migrate to their summering areas in mature forests where they raisetheir young under bark peeling from the sides of large trees.
Some scientists are concerned that population declines also stem from somethingthat happens to the bats during the summer. Hibernating populations in certaincaves are dropping much faster than in others. So Pruitt says scientists areusing new DNA tests to determine where bats from these fast-declining cavesspend their summers. They will then analyze the bats' summer homes forpotential problems.
"We may think we know what is best for a bat, but only a bat does,"says Pruitt. "Until we can stabilize the population, it is not a rosypicture."
Reprinted by permission of ABCNEWS.com

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LED HEADLAMPS - Twoarticles
Marc Tiritilli and Steve Taylor

When I'm able to attend grotto meetings, I usually have a report on the latestdevelopments in the world of LED headlamps. It's time to put some of these intoprint. Early this year, I retrofitted an MSA headlamp with 20 white LEDs forSteve Taylor. The idea was to make something that could fit into the existingassembly without significant modification. We first set about choosing theLEDs. They come in a wide variety of sizes, efficiencies, beam angles andprices. We originally wanted to use thirteen wide angle LEDs for a soft diffuselight with seven narrower focus elements for emphasis at the focal point. Thiswas a great idea except that the wide angle models cost nearly six bucksapiece! We opted instead for a cluster of twenty LEDs each having a 20 degreebeam. These were mounted on a circular circuit board which was attached to thebase of a bayonett style bulb. To fit the assembly into the headpiece, thereflector was removed.
The next step was to find a way to power the unit. LEDs have a certain"breakover" characteristic. Not enough voltage and they don't conductat all. Above a certain voltage, 3.6 volts in this case, they act almost like ashort circuit. A little too much voltage and they will fry. Even 4 volts willfry a single LED, while 4.5 volts will safely drive a group of 20. As luckwould have it, we found that 4.5 volts--the equivalent of 3 alkaline cells or 1"flat pack", puts a decent amount of current through the clusterwithout overloading it. The nice thing is that this method 100 percentefficient. There are no resistors or other intervening electronics to dissipatepower. The LEDs are connected in parallel (all positive ends connectedtogether) straight to the batteries. A word of warning here: 4.5 volts drivesabout 300 milliamps through a cluster of paralleled white LEDs. It doesn'tmatter if you have 1 LED or a hundred, that's the amount of current they willsee. It is imperative that there are enough LEDs to share the load so that nosingle LED gets more than 30mA (the maximum current before burning out).Usually, this number should be kept under 25mA. Many circuit designers havegone to great lengths to regulate the current to each individual LED since thebreakover voltage varies from part to part. While this method is entirely"correct", it is very complex. In practice, simply paralleling theLEDs and regulating the overall current has proven effective.
Our solution uses three AA batteries in a 4-cell plastic battery clip with a"dummy" battery in the fourth slot. We used an old, dead batterywrapped in aluminum foil for this purpose. Steve likes this setup because it iscompact and "expendable". The case is fairly rugged, but if itbreaks, another one can be bought at Radio Shack for $0.79. The AA batteriesare also easy to procure compared to the flat pack types. With thisarrangement, 10 solid hours of good light were obtained from just one set of AAalkaline batteries. The downside of this arrangement is that there is nocontrol over the light output. It cannot be dimmed and the light steadily fadesas the batteries drain. Even so, this is no worse than most conventionalheadlamps. The LEDs however, remain white unlike light bulbs which glow moreand more orange as the batteries weaken. (See the other article for Steve'scomments.)
I promised Steve a control mechanism from the beginning, but I've been pickyand have been trying a variety of circuits. I was originally looking for apulse width modulated regulator such as those used with incandescent lightbulbs. They work by chopping the flow of power from the batteries into a streamof pulses. This is done fast enough so that the bulb appears to glow steadily.(TV screens operate in the same way). By varying the ratio of on time to offtime, the bulb can be dimmed. The problem for LEDs is that even these shortpulses can push too much current.
I eventually turned to circuits that control current directly and opted for asimple circuit called a transconductance amplifier. It operates by providing asteady current for a given input voltage (.070 volts in this case) that is muchless than the battery voltage. By changing the input voltage to the circuit,the output current through the LEDs is changed in proportion. For anyparticular setting, the current is held constant regardless of the load or thebattery voltage. While there is enough power left in the batteries, they willdeliver whatever the circuit tells them to.
The end result is a small (thimble-sized) circuit with a dimming knob that canchange the light output smoothly from fully off to fully on. The circuit willregulate battery voltages up to 16 volts providing more protection to the LEDs.Since higher voltages can now be safely used, more current can be delivered toprovide more light. For the 20 LED cluster, the maximum output level is set at425mA or 21mA per LED. So long as the batteries are above 4.8 volts, thismaximum level can be delivered with no fading as the batteries drain. Byreplacing the dummy baterry in the old pack with a live cell, the new six voltsystem will provide more light at maximum and will burn longer overall.
This all comes at a price, however--efficiency. Some of the power is lost asheat through the circuit. This is how the excess energy is dissipated. Even so,the loss is more than offset by the addition of another battery into the powersource. There is a point of diminishing returns, though. The higher the batteryvoltage gets above the LED threshold, the more power has to be dumped off andthe lower the efficiency.
The transoconductance amplifier is easy to build and contains only eight parts.Total cost for the circuit is about $20. It can be used to regulate just aboutany arrangement of LEDs including series circuits and LEDs with lower voltagessuch as red or yellow. I'll have circuit diagrams for you in the nextnewsletter.
The search goes on for an even better solution. As it turns out, MaximElectronics has just come out with a new chip that combines bothtechnologies--current control and pulse width modulation--and is specificallydesigned to control white LEDs. I haven't had a chance to evaluate it yet.
I get a lot of questions about retrofitting Petzls--especially Zooms and Megas.The problems involve the reflector and the switch. Brett Bennett has come upwith some excellent solutions to two problems that had me stumped. By using anExacto knife to gouge a groove where the reflector meets the bezel, thereflector can be popped out with some coaxing and encouragement. The greatthing is that it can be put back in to maintain the functionality of the lamp.Modifications are best when they are reversible (or is it backwardscompatible?) For the switch Brett used a piece of circuit board (any thin, rigid,non-conductive material will work)with a small hole cut in the center to engagethe switching mechanism on the outside of the bulb socket. He then cut up anold plastic flashlight to make a ring that rides just inside the perimeter ofthe housing. It was cut to just the right depth so that when the bezel isscrewed in, the ring pushes on the board which pushes on the switch. Veryclever and very effective! (See exploded view of headlamp.) Once again, nopermanent changes are required. At this point, the LED cluster is simplyscrewed into the bulb socket. Brett also found a better way of making a circuitboard for the LEDs using a Dremel. Way to go!
To power the units, the original 4.5 volt setups work well. If controlelectronics are desired, I recommend at least six volts. For the Zoom, this canbe accomplished with a 4-AA flat case that fits into the original compartmentperfectly. The circuit rides in the case also. A small hole is drilled in theside of the case to allow the adjustment knob to protrude. If the circuit isremoved, the hole is easily covered. On the Megas, larger battery packs can beaccomodated. Two parallel packs of 4-AAs would be a great option. Here too, asmall hole is needed for the dimmer. As for Duos, they can be converted, but there'sno going back--the reflector is permanently altered.
Currently I'm evaluating some of the newer batteries on the market. It lookslike the lithium AAs will be worth the extra cost--they last significantlylonger, can be drained lower, and are much lighter than alkalines. The titaniumbatteries lie somewhere in between. If you're going to spend more on batteries,I recommend going for the lithiums. I'm still in the testing phase and will letyou know what I find. Until then, see you underground (by the soft light ofwhite LEDs).
--Marc Tiritilli


Steve Taylor

I have wanted an LED caving light ever since a few homemade models startedpopping up. A year or two ago I went on a multi-day caving/camping trip duringwhich someone had a multi-LED headlamp made out of a Petzl Duo. I knew thenthat it was too cool of a toy to NOT have one. So, I talked to the NNGelectronics expert, Marc Tiritilli, and he agreed to make an LED light for me.It was to fit in the housing of an old MSA miner's lamp that I had had lyingaround for 8 years or so. Here I'm calling it the 'mtLED Light' (mt=MarcTiritilli, of course!), just for the fun of having a fancy sounding name.
When the eagerly anticipated product finally arrived, I wasn't disappointed.
It runs of 3 AA's. I did 4 caves over two days, for a total of about 10 hours,without switching batteries - there was still plenty of caving light left inthe thing (though, by then end of the fourth cave it was dimmer than someoneelse's Petzl Zoom with a standard bulb and fresh batteries). Without changingbatteries, I used it for another four hours or so (same batteries) at home inmy light table (the ballast for my florescent lights had gone out) until Ifixed my light table. Since then, I changed to fresh batteries and did somecaving in three Indiana caves over a couple of days, without noticing anydecrease in brightness.

I really, really like the light output. It puts out a really white light, withjust a hint of blue. It is an even light across a broad 'spot'. It's almost toobright when writing survey notes in a book (on the white paper, so close, it'spretty intense) - but I'm not complaining! With fresh batteries, I even hadsomeone snap at me when I shined the mtLED Light right in their eyes. It isbrighter, and much more even, than a Petzl Zoom or Mega (standard bulb) whenwalking about. Of course, the battery life/light output ratio is much better,too! However, it isn't suitable for shining your light across big rooms as an intensespotlight - I can't make out objects 70-100 feet away very well (the brighthalogen of the Petzl Duo does better at this, for example). Of course, if itwere THAT bright, I'd be roasting the cave crickets when I tried to dobioinventory stuff!
The way I have it set up right now is with batteries in a belt pack - and I'mnot used to that. I'll be much happier when I chop the cord and mount the 3 AAbattery pack on the back of my helmet.
Using the MSA headpiece seems like a good choice so far--it is well made andrugged, which allows me to treat the light like the rest of my cave gear - Idump out my dirty stuff on the ground after getting home from a trip, and thelight dumps out and bounces with everything else.
The absolute best thing I can say about the mtLED Light is that it works sowell that I really don't notice it in the cave - that's what a light should do!Another plus of the light is that it is fun, and a bit of a conversation piece.I don't see the limitation as a spotlight for big rooms being a problem, for nolight does everything. The cost of LEDs is still fairly high (when you get abig cluster of them), so this light is not suitable for a new caver, or caverson a limited income. By the time Marc adds the voltage regulator (which shouldgive significantly longer burn times), there will be about $70 to $100 sunkinto my new light - for me, I'm sure it will pay for itself many times over(perhaps literally, in savings on batteries).
My personal opinion is that the currently available commercial models are stilltoo big, cumbersome, and expensive, and they lack the kind of ruggedness thatcaving demands. Perhaps someone will be making a good, commercially availableLED light in a couple of years. In the mean time, I would recommend a Petzl Duo,Mega, or Zoom as a first commercial purchased electric caving light (or maybeyou can work out a deal with Marc...). If I were willing to spend a bunch ofmoney, I'd have a LED light build second one built using a Petzl Duo as thehousing - the LED array would replace the 'standard' side of thel Duo, but itwould still keep the bright halogen spotlight.
The mtLED Light will be my primary caving light (as soon as I move the
batteries to the helmet).

--Steve Taylor

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Doug Strait (Antioch, Tennessee)

The following letter (posted to Tag-Net) recounts Doug's experience with twoBritish cavers, and the difference between their rope and his. I know that theyoften use thinner rope and use lots of rebelays, but I was not aware that thereis such a difference in abrasion resistance. I wonder if this is just acharacteristic of the brand of rope that they had or perhaps the rope was oldand worn. Anybody know much about this topic?-Ed.

In addition to the trip reported by David Cole yesterday, I had the pleasure ofcaving on Monday with Colin and Dave, the two visiting Brits mentioned in DavidCole's post. Fun guys. I showed them 3 Tennessee pits. It does seem that myrigging techniques make them very uneasy. It seems that they have a fetishabout rope never touching rock. At each pit only one of the two chose todescend; some excuse about limited time and such. I suspect that they wanted toinsure that one of them survived to tell the sad tale of the demise of theother in the Americas. They will be passing back though TAG late next week andI am looking forward to horrifying them further. They will probably report backto their club in England [West Midlands Cave Exploration Group] that they spent2 weeks caving in America and narrowly escaped with their lives. On a technicalnote, as David Cole mentioned in his post, I had occasion to cut one of the10mm ropes of the Brits [rope is of a German manufacture] and found that itonly took about 5 seconds of sawing it on a sharp limestone flute. I have donethe same thing with various American 11mm and have needed at least 2-3 minutesto accomplish the same. It seems to me that nylon is nylon. Can any of the ropeknowledgeable people on TAGNET explain the great difference in abrasionresistance between American and European ropes? Yes, the Europeans prefer thesofter laid ropes and thus this is a factor but there must be more to thestory. Now that I have had the opportunity to cut a European rope with nothingmore than my hands and a sharp rock, I thoroughly understand why European stylerigging has evolved as it has.

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Steve Taylor

Barb Capocy (of Chicagoland, Central Indiana Grotto) and I drove Friday (8September 2000) evening to the predesignated meeting spot in the Onondaga CaveState Park campground. Our drive started, really, from Chicago. Barb got toChampaign a bit later than we'd hoped, but we made the best of it with a rapidloading of gear from her truck to mine. The monotony of the drive was brokenonly by the incredibly bad hamburgers (cold, really!) we got at the McDonaldsjust west of Six Flags, on the south side of St. Louis. When we arrived closeto midnight, finding the camping spot with little trouble. I spotted someoneputtering about their campsite with two lights on their head, so I figured itmust be cavers. But sleep was a priority over socializing, so we just crashed.
In the morning we soon were chatting with Mark Twain Grotto members Mark Jones,Bill Shaper, and Jim Roberts. Just a bit further down the campground were fourmore cavers associated with Mark Twain Grotto, and Patty Daw (MTG, but soon tobe, I presume, Sandia Grotto in New Mexico) was to join us some time in theafternoon. We discovered that I was the only Near Normal Grotto member who madeit to the camp out. I think this is a real shame, especially considering howmuch effort was put into it by Julie Angel and others. But we all wiped ourtears away and proceeded to finish breakfasts and pack gear for a caving trip.
Bill had in his head where we might be able to locate a couple of caves, so wetook off in pickup trucks, happily rolling along classic ozarkian gravel roads(I was quickly confused on the route). At one point, Bill realized we hadovershot a turn to a side road, and the lead truck he was in began backing updown the road. Soon, the other trucks were following, all of us backing up. Aboutthis time, Barb had a realization and asked me if she was the only female atthe camp out. I noted that we were in a caravan of pickup trucks drivingbackwards down a dirt road, and how it seemed highly unlikely that any womanwould be party to such activities. We got a good laugh out of it, anyway.
After some time, the roads got smaller and less passable, till we came to agate. Bill, who was the only one who knew the caves of the area very well,seemed a tad disoriented, as they had made a number of new roads and added thispesky locked gate since his last visit. He trotted off down the road to scoutwhilst the rest of us either packed and organized gear or participated in thenecessary "milling about" rituals that precede all good caving trips.(This is not an original concept of mine, Arnie Weisbrot of the "GangstaMappers" (largely a West Virginia Group) has written an article titled"The Milling-Around Theory of Speleogenesis", which can be seen onthe web at: http://www.psc-cavers.org/gangsta-mappers/milling.htm. Anyway, partof the milling about included discussing some local who had just a day or twoago killed two government people who were trying to get access to his land thenext county over. He had killed them with an AK47, and had disappeared into thewoods, not so far from where we were. As we speculated on the likelihood of hisusing caves to hide out in, Bill returned with the sad news that we would notbe going to the caves here, because he couldn't be sure where we were.
Fortunately, Bill is a seasoned caver with a 'plan B'. We drove off (forwards)to another spot where we would search for the AK47 guy in Bear Cave. A walkalong a clear Ozark stream and a hike along a bluff soon led to the entrance,affording us a cool place to get our lights going and adjust gear. We had funexploring this cave, probably spending a few hours in it. Afterwards, somefolks explored nearby Sewer Cave, while some took off for a Cathedral Cave tourand others just lazed about at the entrance. After the Sewer Cave affair, wetook advantage of the stream to clean up some gear before driving on.
During the drive back towards civilization, we passed a van on the side of theroad where people were taking their cloths off. This, we surmised, must becavers. After that realization struck, we backed up (again) to chat. It turnedout to be Gary Gibula of Sub-Urban Chicago Grotto and Lawrence Ireland of OzarkHighlands Grotto. They had just returned from a trip to Flemming Cave. Afterchatting a bit (and getting a favorable review of that cave, accompanied bynavigation instructions to find the entrance) we left them to their business(which included and evening concert by "Schwag" a Greatful Dead-esqueband, which Gary Gibula is a member of).
Off we drove, to "The Hen House" in Burbon, Missouri, where we had afine lunch that included a spunky waitress that gave Mark Jones a suitably hardtime. After lunch, we drove back to the campground to check on the Patty Dawstatus. Patty was there, and we all stood around and chatted a bit. Some talkedof more caving, others talked of spending the afternoon slumming. In the end,Mark, Jim, Barb and I headed off to search for Flemming Cave. We found the spotin the road and soon had changed into are caving attire and had headed up the hillin search of the entrance. Gary's directions were excellent, and we wastedlittle time locating the entrance. We rigged some webbing and a cable ladder tomake the climb out easier (upon recommendation of the previous group) and thenslipped into the darkness.
This cave turned out to be a real treat - though there was clearly significantformation breakage, it looked much more pristine than Bear and Sewer, and hadthe added benefit of being new to all members of our party. We looked at allsorts of tiny little crystals and helectites, admired lots of soda straws, andpoked about in breakdown. Eventually we found a lower level with a crawlwaythat extended deeper into the hill. This was a great little cave to visit.Fully satisfied, we returned to camp, where we made the others feel bad forchoosing to slum in camp. A few beers were then consumed, and some went off tohear Eugene Vale give a talk, whilst others just ate dinner.
The next morning, our group shrank further after breakfast (again, at "TheHen House" in Burbon). Bill had arranged a permit for Mushroom Cave inMeramec State Park. He needed four people, and we barely achieved that withBill, Jim, Barb and I. Patty had to leave to pack for her move to New Mexico.Mark had to opt out because of a swollen knee. We had fun with his knee, andeven took some pictures with a measuring tape for scale (later, his doctorindicated that it was "Housemaid's Knee" and extracted 7 cc's offluid). And remember the AK47 psycho that was waiting for us in the caves? Well,it turns out they found him dead in the woods, so we knew that today's cavingwould be "machine gun free".
Anyhooo, the four of us took the MTG/NNG venue over to Meramec, where we soonhad our permit and appropriate signatures. In the parking lot, however, we metDonald and Theresa Marsan from Hillsboro, Missouri (and members of a St. Louisgrotto, MMV I think) and Theresa's mother. They asked if they could join us,which we were agreeable to. We also talked to some Stygian Grotto members whowere lingering in the parking area waiting for some other trip to Commence. Ourgroup of seven headed up to the cave (after changing clothes in the very publicparking lot). This cave is one I'd highly recommend for any experienced cavers- lots of pretties (formations), critters to see (three families ofspringtails, two species of salamanders, bats, flies), historical features(from the mushroom farming days), and sporting (but totally optional) crawlwaysto explore. We spent a few hours and saw nearly all of the cave.
After this, the MTG/NNG camp out finally dissolved - all went on their merryways. Barb and I hosed down our caving gear at a car wash, then stopped off atMastodon State Park (south of St. Louis) on the way back, where we got a slideshow and toured the museum - very interesting stuff and even cave related.Bones-o-rama. Then came the long drive through the corn, and the end of anotherfine caving weekend. Wish y'all could have been there!

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Lara Storm

I drove an hour south from Troy to Kingston where I met Steve, and then droveanother hour south on route 209, parallel to the Shawangunk mountain
range, which provided us with some beautiful scenery. A narrow road cut offinto a forest to the left and led us past Rhodes Cave (somewhere up the hill
on the right) and to a small pull-off on the left where Steve took me down tosee some resurgences one for Rhodes Cave, and the other somewhat of a
mystery. Soon we pulled into a relatively large parking area where we were tomeet up with Les. His car was there, but he was not in sight. Eventually we
decided that he must have already gone up to the cave.

The cave is about 100 feet up a fairly steep hill. A stream runs next to thetrail. At the top of the hill the stream runs fairly horizontal over the
broken up rocks and bedrock. At the edge of the hill the stream follows thebedding, which dips at about 25 degrees
downhill. Geologically, it was a very interesting sight. Since the cave wasformed in the same bedrock outcropping at the surface, it was a preview of
the passages to come. The entrance to the cave, which looked like a mere crackbetween two large slabs of bedrock, was guarded by a small gate. Les
having been there beforewent in first, I went second, and Steve went last tolock the gate behind us.

Les admitted that despite 7 years of caving he was still quite claustrophobic.He was, of course, pleased to hear that I loved crawls (that's sarcasm). I
slid in under the opened gate, and then slid down and back into the direction Ihad just come. Once we were all inside (the rain room, I believe), Steve
gave us the option of the climbing route or the crawling route . . . we did thecrawl. < note from Steve: this was the first room, just above the Rain
Room. The option was to make the 8 foot climbdown, under lots of drippingwater, into the Rain Room or crawl through the small hole at the end of the
room and avoid most of the dripping water. There was no option about riggingthe pit.> We weaved our way carefully through small cracks and holes that,in
general, appeared only to be spaces between breakdown blocks. This"corkscrew" led us to a largish room at the bottom, the LowerEntrance Room.
A bit of walking led us past the Shower Dome. We peeked inside on our way tothe Wave Tunnel. Looking for a hole in the ceiling that would lead us to the
Wave Tunnel, I was amusingly confronted with a belly crawl that wasconveniently tipped downwards at a 25 degree angle. We slid down the inclined
tube before emerging at the base of the Round Room. Here we took The Chute andagain went downdip, this time in a crawlway
that was filled with sand. At the bottom of The Chute we took a right andupwards turn (instead of a left and downwards turn that wouldve led us to a
sump). Belly crawling at a 25* incline proved to be hard work, and I began towonder what amount of incline it took for a passage like this to be
considered a climb rather than a crawl. At this point we were in the WaveTunnel. It would've been a much easier accomplishment had I not insisted onbringing my pack and wearing it. We didn't follow this passage to the endthough. Instead we cut off to the right and back into the downward slantingpassage that had brought us
to the start of the sand chute. After this, I believe we walked the length ofthe Lower Formation Room(s) to the southwesternmost sump. We admired the
plentiful debris littering the floor of the cave here, glad that the water wasnot up. We took the left hand loop of the Lower Formation Rooms to see theFossil Pits, where a small lead called the Mud Tube began. Les was content tosit and wait while Steve and I got slimed in the tight tube. The first part ofthe tube was
horizontal, but near the end I saw Steve disappear into a narrow crack in theceiling. It followed the bedding down to the top of Mystery Dome. We peered at
the blackness below us, resisting the gravity that wanted to pull us down theslippery incline. Apparently there is a ledge that can be skirted around the
dome to a safer area, but we had no need to do the Deadmans Traverse Heaven wasmuch more easily reached by heading northeast and up. As you might have
imagined, Heaven was heavily decorated with beautiful wet flowstone, dripstone,draperies, and stalactites and gmites. Our last destination was the New
Discovery, which cuts off of the Lower Entrance Room, but first we poked intothe Chockstone Passage (a canyon with numerous boulders trapped above, between
the two walls of the passage). From here we got a second view of the LassoPassages. Steve pointed out the rock that had been lassoed to get up into the
passage for the first time, and explained that, even though it looked securefrom the bottom of the canyon, it actually sloped downwards. On the way back
to the Lower Entrance Room, Steve pointed out the hole that he referred to asthe low road to hell. Soon we were trekking our way down the New Discoverywhere we saw more formations and fossils. Steve let me lead out, and Istruggled to find the correct way back. He guided me in some areas where Iseemed to be a bit off from the right path. The Rain Room again showered uswith cave kisses as Steve pointed out the hole overlooking the pit we hadbypassed with the corkscrew. Soon we were out. A 5 hour tour was a relativelydecent trip in the cave. We had only neglected a few of the passages, Hellespecially since it is wet and
miserable. One thing I know Ive learned from this trip cotton is not for NewYork.

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Troy J. Simpson

During the May grotto meeting (actual meeting time in June) it was pointed outto me that I had a pretty good tan. Now for most people this is a compliment,but at a grotto meeting that means only one thing… somebody hasn't beenspending enough time underground. I scrambled around for a response and triedto counter the comment by saying that as a track coach, I'm always outside.Yeah, that almost worked. I tried again and came up with "I'm a naturallydark person." Once again I was thwarted with heckles and knew that it wasa no-win situation. After finally coming to grips with the fact I needed to gocaving, it was decided that a pilgrimage to Illinois Caverns was in order. JimJacobs was the first to decide to make the pilgrimage, with John Schirlequickly following.
I have the unique honor of being perhaps the furthest active NNG member fromIllinois Caverns. What this means is, that preparing for a trip is often likedto preparing for an expedition. No, let me clarify that, expeditions tend topack less. Unfortunately Caving Sherpas are hard to come by and not to mentionexpensive, so that leaves the preparation to me. I dust off the Illinois roadmap and check the distance from Watseka to Illinois Caverns. Better add a fewmore stores of food, just to be on the safe side. John Schirle gives me a calla week before our target departure date and we make the executive decision toexpand the trip to Friday and stay in overnight at a nearby camp. It is soonFriday and after a two-hour drive I arrive in Mt. Auburn to meet up with John.Almost three hours later we arrive at our destination and a good night's sleep.
The next morning, we arrive at Illinois Caverns at 9:00 a.m. and get a chanceto talk with the park ranger and enjoy listening to the stories of some of themore "colorful" spelunkers (note: I said spelunkers and not CAVERS!!)that visit the cave. Jim and Marty Jacobs soon joined us with grandson Ryan andwe were on our way. This trip had several motives besides working on my"tan." Jim used it to experiment with a new headlamp and I wanted toget some good photos to use for my cave education presentation. After taking afew minutes to get geared up, we were on our way down the steep stairway intoIllinois Caverns. Once down in the cavern, we noticed a helmet lying at thebase of the stairs. We didn't think much of it and left it where it was andmoved into the cavern. We later found out it was the helmet of a teenager in agroup that we would run into. This once again reminded us the need for safecaving education before entering the subterranean.
As with any return trip, I often take more notice of the features of the cave.As Jim had mentioned in his article, I was often (and I do mean OFTEN) stoppingto examine features more closely. John and I were fascinated with the incisedstream channel that graced the ceiling on the main passage. This channel wouldeventually evolve into the passage we were now walking through. We continued topress on through the cave and made our way to the "Lunch Room" totake a short break and explore the series of rimstone dams leading up towaterfall. After taking a few photos we made our way back to the main passageand continued on. One feature along our journey was what I would best describeas a suspended flowstone. It looked like a half a mushroom growing out of theside of the passage wall, just hanging about 5 feet above the floor of thepassage. The neat thing about this feature is that we could go underneath itand see how the calcite over time created layer after layer. It was a truecross-section, just like rings on a tree. It also gave us an idea of where thestream passage once was before being eroded and leaving this hanging formation.A very rare look into the past!! We later were again reminded about the pastenvironment as we reached the Crinoid Calyx located near the Waterfall. Here wegazed at the ceiling, noting the variety of fossilized creatures entombed inthe limestone. It is hard to imagine that this was once the shallow shorelineof an ancient sea. Surf Illinois??
What was nice about this trip was the fact we really had no objective to reach,just to enjoy the features of the cave. This meant that whatever caught ourfancy is what we checked out. Cascade Canyon was one of those things thatcaught our fancy. Now, I have never been through this section and enjoyed thethrill of climbing up and down the numerous waterfalls that line the passage.The highlight was the chance to see rare amphipods swimming around in the smallpools formed by pocketed flowstone. Of course, I could not leave the Canyonwithout "finding" a deep pool of water that plunged me waist high in50 degree water! It gave new meaning to "shrinking passage." Afterspending several hours exploring, we decided it was time to make our way out.As we wrapped up the trip, I learned a few things… 1. I missed my calling as a"Tour Guide." 2. Start buying up land in Southern Illinois, for itwill be prime oceanfront property some day. And finally, 3. Never go to agrotto meeting with a dark tan!!

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By Troy J. Simpson

I was sitting at home reading the NSS News and noticed a call for bids for the2003 Convention. I thought to myself, "Illinois is yet to host aconvention, so why not put in a bid." I sat down at my desk and scanned mymap Rand McNally map for ideal spots in Illinois to host a cave convention.Now, my first thought was southern Illinois would be a good spot to host a convention,but for some reason my eyes kept focusing on Central Illinois. After racking mybrain I was able to come up with some reasons for us to pursue hosting theconvention here. So here is my Top Ten Reasons to bid for the NSS 2003Convention…

Top Ten Reasons to Host 2003 Convention
10. Real cool motto: "Close Your Eyes and Imagine You're in a Cave"
9. Experience Illinois Caving…start by driving 4-5 hours to Indiana or Missouri
8. Go vertical caving in the potholes along the highway system
7. Anything hosted by a Grotto named "Near Normal" has to beinteresting!
6. Explore Ice Caves… in 20,000 years
5. You still have to use the word "Karst" in "Karst ChallengedRegion"
4. Silo Rappelling, need I say more?
3. Real cool mascot: Caver by the side of the road looking confused at a topomap.
2. Bats are a protected endangered species here, just watch the Chicago Cubs

And the number one reason for the Near Normal Grotto to host the 2003convention…..

1. Lots of virgin caves for those willing to dig 200 feet of glacial till!

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August 25
Brian R. Braye

In attendance: Julie Angel, Leneord Storm, Brian Braye, Dave Carson, MarcTiritilli, Ralph Sawyer, Troy Simpson, Leah Elder, Matt Johnson.
President Julie A. opened the meeting opened at 7:15. Dave C. made a TreasurersReport indicating the club had a balance of $147.15. A motion to accept thereport was made by Troy S. and seconded by Brian B. Dave also indicated he wasin the3 process of updating the club NSS members list.
Julie A. talked about the Mereamc trip coming on Sept. 8-10. Opportunities forcaving, canoeing, and rappelling would be the highlites.
The deadline for the Devil's Icebox would be Sept. 7. The trip is schedualedfor Nov. 4. You need to be an NSS member to go on this trip. 6-10 are allowedto go on the trip.
Julie also reported on the picnic meeting in July that was attended by 15.
New business: Brian B. reported that the patches were in and sales had begun.The patches will sell for $3.00 each. Brian also made a request for articlesand pictures for the Sept. issue of the NNN.
Marc T. made a correction about the July issue of the NNN. The cover photo wastaken by Marc Tirittilli, and not by Steve T. as published.
Trip reports: Julie A. reported on the Mammoth Cave Restoration Camp in August,that was attended by Brett Bennett, Julie Angel, Norm and Chris Rogers from ourclub, and also Brett's son, Larry Matis, and John Vargo, who most of themembers know. Work was done in the Echo River area and El Gore. There was areward trip on Thursday of a 1/2 day Mammoth trip, or a through trip from BedQuilt to Collosal. There was also a Bar-B-Que on Friday evening hosted by thePark Service.
Troy S. reported on a trip to Illinois Caverns that was published in the lastNNN. There are plans for an Armin Kruger Visitors/Meeting center to be built.
Marc T. talked about a Tennesee trip to Phar Cave where they made a 256 footvertical drop.
Julie A. mentioned a Sept. 29 to Oct 1 gathering at Rock Bridge State Park. Shealso noted that theMVOR would be Oct. 14-15 in Lesterville, MO.
Julie also proposed a Grotto walk in Mathinsen State Park possibly in Oct.
A possible campground for trips wold be the Wartburg Luthern Camp nearWaterloo, IL. Hot showers and served food are available.
Marc T. promoted the Rescue Weekend Basic Training coming in Dec. More infolater.
Motion to adjourn the meeting was made at 8:15 by Len S, seconded by Brian B.
A video was presented by Marc T. to the enjoyment of all.

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