Sligo Grotto Patch
Sligo Grotto of the NSS
NSS Logo

Photo Album
Silers Cave
Related links

November 2001 Volume 30, Number 1

Subterranean Sun

On-Line Edition

This on-line edition of the November, 2001 Subterranean Sun has been edited to remove personal information, to add some late news, and to Internet enhance the text. We are also experimenting with a new format for the on-line edition to make it more readable with less scrolling. Please let us know how you like it!

Sligo Grotto Holiday Party

Fang and Harn invite all Sligo cavers, friends and family to our annual holiday party on

Saturday, December 15th

6:00 PM - whenever

The party will be held at Fang and Harnís Mud Puddle Gulch. E-mail Fang if you don't know how to get there.

Dinner will be potluck as usual - please bring your favorite dish to share. Keg provided - BYOB.

By special arrangements, we will have a live band for your entertainment. Bring your instruments; there is always room for a couple more performers! Bring your dancing socks! (to protect the nice wood floor)

Sligo Grotto encourages responsible drinking. If you plan to drink, please bring either a designated driver or a sleeping bag to spend the night. Plenty of crash space will be provided.

There will be a Grotto meeting sometime between dinner and the entertainment. Topics to be discussed are elections (or lack thereof), the newsletter, Sligo Grotto On-Line, and budgeting.


Chairman, Treasurer, Grotto Trips Coordinator and Reluctant Newsletter Editor:
Jim McConkey

Chair of Vice:
Jennifer Neemann

Gloria Briggs


6:00 PM Holiday Party Ė see announcement this issue

Annual Sligo-SVG Presidentís Day Weekend Bash at Thompsonís Motel in Franklin, WV. Reservations are essential: 1-800-338-5531

26-28.April.2002 (tentative)
WVCC will host the Spring VAR at Natural Chimneys (tentative site). The annual VAR Grand Caverns Restoration Project will likely also be held in conjunction with the VAR.

NSS Convention in Camden Maine. Clawd the Lobster invites you to the coolest convention in years where "the lobster meets the limestone."

BATS will host the Fall VAR at Endless Caverns


Last time I talked about the continual changing of the Grotto, and this year we have gone the next step towards becoming a virtual Grotto. The Internet is changing everything, including grottos.

I got a very perplexing e-mail not long back from two cavers in North Carolina wanting to join the Sligo Grotto. At first I wrote back telling them they had the wrong Grotto, but they insisted they didn't. They live in an area far from any local Grotto, and had found our web site and decided we sounded like the right Grotto for them. When I welcomed them and told them of our annual events, they said "so that's what all the bat stickers were in the Thompson's parking lot last President's Day weekend!" It seems like great minds think alike! Welcome on board Adrian and George!

We had many good comments and not a single complaint last year about the switch to electronic publishing of the Sub Sun. We will continue to put out one printed issue a year, for the primary purpose of distributing the membership list, but any other issues will be posted on our web site. In addition to full issues, I send out numerous e-mail updates throughout the year. With most communication now taking place electronically, please make sure to keep me updated with your latest e-mail address!


New Members

We would like to extend a great big virtual welcome to new members Adrian Henson and George Durham, both from North Carolina. We hope to actually meet you in Franklin this February.

We would also like to welcome back some old friends: Meredith Hall and her daughter Kelsea, and Tracy Schaff. Welcome back!

Silers Cave Update

By Jim McConkey
Photos by Jim McConkey (Click the thumbnails for larger pictures)
Check out the complete on-line story

The long awaited new gate at Silers Cave finally went in over the weekend of April 28-29, 2001. It was a gorgeous weekend for an outdoor project, sunny and mid-70s, and the red buds were in full bloom.

The Steel Chicks
The Steel Chicks (L-R: Carol, Pat, Meredith, Ellie and Jen) ready for action
For years the gate has consisted of a chain-mounted manacle at the end of a 55 gallon drum at the bottom of a 15' pit. Vandals have repeatedly attacked the lock and chain using bolt cutters, saws and even a fire. When we reinforced the gate, they dug a new entrance. After we sealed the new entrance, the vandals again attacked the main gate, finally completely destroying it. Because of the increasing severity of the vandalism we opted for a serious heavy metal gate which should hopefully foil even the most determined vandals for some time to come. The design and placement of the new gate were picked to simultaneously deter vandals, minimally interfere with the indiginous bats and be friendly to cave rescue operations. We still expect some digging attempts, and they will be dealt with as they arrive.

L: Vitas & Jim, R:Harn, Ellie, Bob and Josh haul steel up the hill.
Sligo and Baltimore Grottos split the cost of the new gate out of the profits from the VAR we jointly ran at Friars Hole. Almost two tons of steel were used in the construction of the new gate. Craig Hindman prefabricated most of the gate parts at work, then borrowed a large flatbed truck to deliver them to the Silers property. About 20 volunteers showed up to help haul steel and construct the new gate.

Mike guides the steel into the pit as it is belayed down.
It only took a couple hours to haul all the steel up to the cave, but it took us all weekend to construct the new gates. We had a giant impact drill, large generator, gas and electric welders, and all sorts of other equipment to haul as well.

The main gate starts to take shape.
The gate at Silers has traditionally been an ongoing project, and we fully expect the tradition to continue. Already the vandals have been back at work. They managed to damage the smaller side gate, dig a bypass, and have attacked the cave walls trying to enlarge an air hole. Some people apparently have absolutely no respect at all! Another small gate will need to be added and the existing small gate will need to be repaired later this fall or winter. If you are interested in helping out, please contact Jim.

We would like to heartily thank all of the volunteers who came out to participate in the project!

Don't forget the cave now has it's own e-mail address for reservations and information: The account is setup to automatically reply to all messages with the access restrictions and the entire current schedule of usage dates.

Sligo Grotto Web Site

Just in case you've been living in a cave, Sligo Grotto now has its own web site! Check it out by pointing your browser at:

On our web site, you will find general information about the Grotto, contact information for the officers, how to join, membership benefits, a frequently updated calendar of upcoming events, our history and information on Silers Cave. We will eventually add basic information on caving, equipment and other topics. The site is under constant improvement. Please send Jim your comments and suggestions - this is YOUR web site!

New Baltimore Grotto Web Site

Since many Sligo members also belong to Baltimore Grotto, the new Baltimore Grotto web site may be of interest. Also designed by Jim, you can find the new site at:

VAR Web Site

The VAR web site should also be of interest to local cavers. It has links to all the local caving organizations, the closed cave list, regional cave protection laws, Virginia Region events, etc. Check it out!

Outdoors E-Mail List

Vitas Eiduvekias of Tri-State Grotto has started an e-mail list (Under The Blue Sky) for people interested in canoeing, kayaking, hiking, camping, biking or any other outdoor activity. The majority of the people on the list are also cavers and most of you will know each other. Any body is welcome to join.

If you want join the email list the easy way would be to send Vitas ( an email saying you want to sign up to Under The Blue Sky. Or yuu can go to:

Rescue at John Brown's Cave

By Allison Hazen

The call was initiated by the Park Service to Tri-State, who called Frederick. We had people on the way before NCRC was involved. I told Jan to call you when they needed more people. The father and son were found at about 2:00 past the second sump. It was a walkout. They had light failure and waited for someone to come find them since about 3:00 Sunday. They were also in shorts and the kids helmet had no chin strap. The guano is pretty deep. Not only did the father face trespassing charges from CSX and the Park Service he had a suspended license and is facing a child custody hearing this week. We did direct him to Tri-State Grotto in case he insisted on caving again. At least, we can try to show him how to not be an idiot.

The way that it worked out, we had people there ASAP, the park service was in control. We had two level two people there to head our people up and to make suggestions. NCRC was contacted as soon as we finished our callouts. This kept the family from further suffering while waiting for a reply from the NCRC. Also, Judy was told that there is no longer a central number for NCRC by Debbie Meyer. What's up with that? Is this a God complex fulminating? I'm confused.

[Ed: This rescue underscores the importance of paying attention to access restrictions on caves. Incidents like this are why we keep losing access to caves! John Browns has been closed for years, and the fact has been well published, including the local Closed Cave List. The guy involved is not only in a lot of trouble, but he's almost guaranteed we will never get in John Browns again. If in doubt, please ask!]

Carter Caves State Resort Park, Kentucky

By Meredith Hall Johnson

July 21, 2001--en route to the 2001 NSS Convention

H2O Cave, Kelsea Johnson, Dan McConnell, Marian McConnell, Greg Turner, Drew Turner, and Meredith Hall Johnson:

After stopping by the Visitor Center and signing out for a trip to Laurel Cave, we headed for the footbridge leading to the entrance. At the bottom of the hill, Dan noticed a very cave-like rock wall that he wanted to check out. He and Marian, in white jeans, weren't planning to do much more than go to the entrance of the cave anyhow. He headed off to explore. As esteemed trip leader, I said we should all stick together and besides, it looked too cool to pass up. It turned out to be a collapsed, or partially so, cave entrance. It was quite impressive, but so was the extant entrance that beckoned us with its low wide stream. We followed this into the cave and turned on our flashlights. We followed the inverse rule of three light sources per person and had three people per light source. I figured we were still better prepared than most of the tourists who visit this park.

About this time, Dan and Marian decided they wanted to go caving. We headed out of the cave only to find a forlorn puppy-looking man sitting on a rock. That was my first impression of him anyhow. He recognized the McConnell's and introduced himself to the rest of us, Jim "Crash" Kennedy from BCI. He said he had tried to catch up to us but knew we would be out soon the way we were talking not far into the cave. He was looking for some cavers to go with him to check dataloggers. "I have keys to two caves that you wouldn't otherwise get to see. It should take only an hour per cave," was the fish line he threw at us. Of course we bit and went to suit up. Of course the first cave trip took three hours; we never did get into the second cave. Oh well, Convention was calling anyhow.

Saltpetre-Moon Cave System, Jim "Crash" Kennedy, Kelsea Johnson, Dan McConnell, Marian McConnell, and Meredith Hall Johnson:

We hiked past the group of tourists who had paid for a tour of Saltpetre Cave and were waiting at the Main Entrance, where we would exit later. Jim pointed out two other small entrances nearby, covered with branches. We hiked way up the hill, with Jim pointing out the Moon Pit Entrance which is located in sandstone. We helped each other down the Moon Entrance and ended up in a big room after a short crawl past a black spotted Slimy Salamander and much trash brought in by cave rats. After pointing out where the sandstone meets limestone, Jim went to the first datalogger. Marian, Kelsea and I sat and watched while Jim did his thing with the datalogger. Meanwhile Dan was exploring the interlocking passages of this big room.

Bat Conservation International (BCI) is studying the temperature and humidity in various caves around the country. It is hoped that, by studying former roost sites, BCI can determine what changes can be made to the cave environment in order to hopefully bring the bats back, particularly Indiana bats, an endangered species. Jim installs small round white devices that collect this information every three hours; he later checks the dataloggers and downloads the information. He then does a temperature check of the cave wall near the datalogger with a probe. The temperature at the first datalogger, where we all felt we were melting from the humidity, was 67.8 degrees. The second device was in a dome room.

The basic procedure is to unscrew the datalogger from the cave wall, usually as high up the wall as possible, often where brownish markings indicate past bat roosts. Then a probe from a very small computer device is inserted and the information downloaded. The device number is recorded as is the cave temperature that day. Jim inserts the thermometer probe into a hole or crack in the wall. The rest of us started making guesses as to the temperature to pass the time.We then slithered through the obviously dug-out passage into the Saltpetre side of the Saltpetre-Moon Cave System. The datalogger here was atop a large passage that the tours come through, or used to. We saw a long object laying to one side that looked exactly like what it was, a fluorescent tube light. Datalogger number six was near the steps leading to the Main Entrance of Saltpetre Cave. The temperature here was a chilly 47.6 degrees. Jim said this was due to the way the cave breathes and that the colder temperatures are why Saltpetre is (or was) a good cave for bats. In the 100 or so feet of vertical difference between the Moon and Main Entrances, the cave temperature differed by more than 20 degrees. I was amazed.

The whole while we were going from datalogger to datalogger, Jim was giving us a tour. He showed us the cistern, some vat casts from long-ago saltpetre mining, the "potato bin," some anastomotic passages which were plugged with dirt, and some signatures from the 1860's. He obviously knew the cave well and was quite willing to share his knowledge. Also, Dan was entertaining us with jokes and songs. I followed close behind as Jim headed for the eighth and final datalogger. At one point Jim pointed up and said, "There's a cluster of bats." He then climbed up the wall nearby for a closer look. I was surprised when he reached out and removed one of the four small bats from the ceiling. As a bat biologist, though, he can do so to identify the species. (Don't try this at home!) He looked the bat over carefully and called down that he thought it was an Indiana bat, an endangered species.

By now the whole group had gathered below and wanted a look. Jim downclimbed with bat in hand and began a very interesting lesson in bat identification. Despite the grayish fur, if you blow softly to see the color of the underlying fur, you can determine an Indiana bat from a Gray bat. The Indiana's fur is much darker below; a Gray's is light-colored to its skin. Jim spread the wings for us and showed the bones, the keeled calcar and something else, the latter two characteristics of Indianas. He told me later that it gave him hope that BCI's efforts are paying off since there are still Indiana bats in this cave system. Kelsea asked if she could hold the bat. (I think we all would have liked to.) Jim said no, that he'd had all his shots and that the bat had been disturbed enough. The little guy (yes, Jim showed us that too!) was a bit angry, with teeth bared. Jim climbed back up the wall and tried to get the bat to reattach itself near the cluster. The bat was still torpid (Jim's word, means sluggish) so Jim set him on a shelf.

We went on to record the data from the last datalogger. Marian led the way back down the passage. Her shout told us that the bat had fallen off the shelf. Dan climbed up this time with bat in gloved hand to put him on a more recessed shelf. We stayed until we were sure that the bat wouldn't fall again. We climbed the steps up by datalogger number six and Jim unlocked the Main Entrance gate. Our one hour trip had turned into three hours but it was well worth it.

Note: Later, at the NSS Convention, I went to Jim's session on bats. He had the downloaded datalogger information in graph form on his laptop. The one datalogger that he'd had to replace due to failure had stopped collecting data back in March. It was neat to see the end result of our trip.

Greenbrier Trip & LED Flashlight Report

By George Durham

I thought I would write to you to let you know what a great time Adrian and I had in Greenbriar County, WV. last weekend. Saturday we spent10 hours in Norman and Bone Cave. Norman is a great cave in that it has a little bit of everything in it. Sunday we spent 7 hours in McClung. We had a map of McClung and we did not even begin to cover that cave. Heck, we didn't even begin to cover the main passages. It is a very long cave with huge rooms alternated with sections where it really helps to be skinny.

I also wanted to report that LED lights are definitely the way to go. I took my new Lightwave 4000 flashlght along. It is a little heavy but the 10 LEDs gave a huge amount of light and I did not have to change the batteries or pack any extras. It is plenty tough enough and when it got muddy I just dipped it in the stream to clean it off. In fact it is still running. When I got home, I turned it on to do my own test of how long the batteries would last. It has been 30 hours so far with no decrease in brightness. A few minutes ago my wife asked how long I was going to leave it on because it blinds her every time she walks by. I hope we will be able to meet up with you guys soon. Oh! By the way we met a group from Montgomery County, MD. in Bone cave.

My flashlight is still going strong after 54 hours. It is not as bright as last night but still plenty bright enough to light up my dining room. I will let you know when it finally tanks.

Bat Conservation International Conservation Fund Grants

By Jim Kennedy (, Conservation Fund Coordinator

Bat Conservation International - North American Bat Conservation Partnership


This program has operated since 1998, and to date we have provided $234,971 in support to 70 conservation, education, and research projects meeting high-priority needs in North America. These small grants helped accomplish almost $2.5 million in bat work!

Deadline for 2002 grants is fast approaching. Applications and supporting materials MUST be received by 31 December 2001. Applications and instructions are available at, while an overview of the grants program and a summary of past years are available at

All NABCP grants are annual, with projects starting in the calendar year of the grant. Projects directly supporting student research are not eligible for this program and should be directed to BCI's Scholarship Program.

All projects must address North American bat priorities as outlined in the Strategic Plan for North American Bat Conservation ( Four copies of the application are required, but digital submissions (attachments via email) will do in a pinch. A maximum of $5,000 is awarded per proposal, and applicants may submit proposals for multiple projects. All proposals are ranked by independent reviewers, and only the highest-rated projects may receive funding.

Remember that only projects in Canada, United States, and Mexico are eligible. All values must be in U. S. dollars. No projects counting toward academic credit are eligible. Any individual, agency, or organization may apply. Questions about your application may be answered only if draft applications are received well before the deadline.

For more information, contact:
NABCP Conservation Fund
Bat Conservation International
Post Office Box 162603
Austin, TX 78716-2603

New NSS Book: "On Call"

NSS Bookstore Press Release:

The NSS has just produced a new book that is designed to bring together under one cover the knowledge and experiences accumulated by cave rescuers during 50 years of rescue in the caves of Americas. It is intended to serve as a comprehensive reference of those interested in cave rescue. It may also be useful as a field guide for rescue squads and Search and Rescue (SAR) personnel who are occasionally called upon to work within a cave. The book has ten subject-based sections.

  • Introduction to Cave Rescue.
  • Communications.
  • Management Operations.
  • Search Management.
  • Medical.
  • Vertical.
  • Patient Packaging/Transport.
  • Psychological Considerations.
  • Special Problems.
  • Wrap Up and Training.

Paperback - $25 - member price ($27 non-member price).
Hardback - $28 - member price ($30 non-member price).
Shipping is $7.00 for either.

NSS Bookstore, 2813 Cave Avenue, Huntsville, AL 35810
Phone 256-852-1300 Fax 256-851-9241 (

Note: as of this writing, this book cannot be purchased "on line."

This site is written and maintained by Jim McConkey. Last update: 15.May.2004
© Copyright 2002-2004 Sligo Grotto of the NSS