Floating on the Current River in Missouri one summer, I came across a large cave entrance. Some of my friends decided to take a chance and explore it. One of the first things that they came across, was a very deep hole just inside the entrance. That stopped their exploration that day.
It got me to think about how many caves have been explored by people as well as those that have been hurt or lost their lives doing so. Usually when people come across an open cave, curiosity gets the best of them. They have to check it out. People have no business entering a cave without the proper equipment. They are asking for problems. Most known caves in the United States has already had individuals go through them. However, there are many smaller caves that have not been explored.
There are groups and organizations that like to explore the unknown. Accidents, injuries , and even death can be avoided, if the proper care is taken. Here are some safety ideas to keep in mind.
Get an idea of what it is like to go caving first. There are video tapes and books available to educate yourself. Talk to experienced individuals before you attempt anything on your own.
Never go caving alone. Always have someone or several others with you. If someone gets hurt, one person can go for help while the other one stays with the victim.
Dress appropriately. Wear clothes that can keep out dampness and the cold of a cave. Have a hardhat on all the time. Use long sleeve clothing that will protect against cuts and scratches. This includes gloves.
Always tell several people where you are going and when you plan to return.
Obtain permission from the land owners. Many people don’t have liability insurance to cover you. Besides, it is trespassing if you do it without permission.
Carry a First Aide Kit and know emergency procedures.
Always double check your equipment. Carry extra batteries, lights, matches, ropes, hammers, and rope accessories. Have three types of light.
Never go beyond your experience. For example, if you are a poor climber, don’t climb. Don’t do any “horseplay”. Know your physical limitations.
Watch your step and use good gripping shoes. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Don’t over extend a reach or step.
Be a good housekeeper. Don’t leave any messes. Don’t try something that you are unsure about. Ask a professional if you don’t understand something.
Stay as dry as you can. Don’t go into any underground springs or rivers. Hypothermia can set in rapidly in a cave.
Use a spool of strong string or rope as you proceed through the cave. This will help you on your return. Keep track of certain prominent cave markings. Some cavers may have left marks to follow when returning to the entrance. Know where these are located.
Be on the lookout for wild animals. Many animals make their homes in caves. Some don’t care to be bothered by human beings.
Caving can be exciting and fun. However, for amateurs, it can be very dangerous. The absence of light and a slippery floor can cause unexpected problems for even the best cave explorer.
With the proper equipment, individuals, and preparation caving can be a very enjoyable experience.