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The Search For the Mount Everest of Caves

kdawson posted about 4 years ago | from the drop-a-rock-and-it-goes-spee-lunk dept.

Earth 233

NoMeansYes writes "An interview with James Tabor, author of the new best-selling book Blind Descent, introduces a pair of accomplished scientists — American Bill Stone and Ukranian geologist Alexander Klimchouk — who are the two most prominent figures in extreme caving. Both have figured prominently in the ongoing quest to discover the deepest cave on earth. Tabor describes what conditions are like inside supercaves like Cheve (-4,869 feet) and Krubera (-7,188 feet), before discussing Stone and his far-reaching technological innovations. These include the Posideon Discovery Rebreather and NASA's ENDURANCE. Extreme caving probably won't remain underground (so to speak) much longer, however. The article notes that James Cameron is planning to release a 3D film next year about extreme cave divers."

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233 comments

3D by Cameron? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870138)

Oh not again!!

Re:3D by Cameron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870164)

That guy is like Crytek. He makes movies that look good but have a crappy story. Though, at least Far Cry was pretty innovative with the gameplay.

Re:3D by Cameron? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870208)

Pre-Titanic, he used to get the story part right, too.

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about 4 years ago | (#32870414)

Oh great.

A movie about spelunkery. What could possibly go wrong?

Found it! ROB MALDA'S VAGINA (-1, Offtopic)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | about 4 years ago | (#32870724)

Look no further than CmdrTaco for the largest cavern in the world: As seen here. [archive.org]

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 4 years ago | (#32871212)

I guess I'm the only one who loved Avatar:-/ Or one of the few that admits it in the geek circles.

I do recognize the downfallings like somewhat 2d characters (though as an epic much better than Emmerich's total cookie cutter films whose formula seems to be rinse and repeat).

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

cynyr (703126) | about 4 years ago | (#32871524)

I thought the special effects were very good, WETA has come along way. As for the story it was very very very flat.

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 years ago | (#32872000)

If they just cut out the character development and anvilicious Pocahontas-meets-Fern-Gully storyline, and instead added a voiceover by Richard Attenborough, it'd be an absolute smash hit.

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

rhathar (1247530) | about 4 years ago | (#32872086)

That's a fantastic idea, then they might have actually made some money with the movie, as opposed to the measly 2.7 billion they made instead.

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 years ago | (#32872116)

I didn't say "absolute smash hit unlike the flop that it was". I'm well aware that the movie is very successful. I was just saying that an Attenborough-style documentary about the human tech and the ecosystem of Pandora would be more interesting (to me, at least) than the movie was. I'd submit that it's the vividly imagined world and the possibilities that consciousness uploading affords that form the basis for the movie's success.

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about 4 years ago | (#32870422)

If they can dive 7000 feet, then they could reach the BP wellhead.

Re:3D by Cameron? (4, Informative)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about 4 years ago | (#32871520)

If they can dive 7000 feet, then they could reach the BP wellhead.

Read this. [wikipedia.org] The depth is measured relative to the cave mouth and the deepest cave involved a 46m dive at the bottom. You cannot dive 2000+m all the way in water because the pressure will be ~200 times atmosphere and you will be crushed. Since air is ~1,000 less dense a 2,000m heigh drop in air is about the same as being under 2m of water which is why cavers and potholers can make it to such depths but deep sea divers cannot.

Re:3D by Cameron? (1)

sortius_nod (1080919) | about 4 years ago | (#32870494)

Just be thankful it's not Michael "Baysplosion" Bay doing it!

Re:3D by Cameron? (2, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 years ago | (#32870652)

When my wife and daughter were out of town I watched Transformers 3 (or was it 2?) using the video projector she uses for her lectures and 5.1 system cobbled together from my stereo and the speakers and subwoofer from my home recording studio.. There were so many loud explosions it made by puppy pee on the carpet, which it hasn't done for six months.

I may have spotted a little bit too, but that was because of Megan Fox's impressive mating display.

The acting by the stars was brilliant, but the humans weren't nearly as good. Although Megan's heiny was acting up a storm. As a tuchus, it has remarkable expressive range.

If any of you mention to my wife that I watched a Transformers, I'll have to kick your ass. Her opinion of my intellect is already low enough, thank you very much.

I also watched The Sacrifice by Andrei Tarkovsky, and all things being equal, I liked the Transformers better, despite The Sacrifice's Palme d'Or at Cannes. What, you got a fuckin' problem with that? I don't care what you say, Tarkovsky should have used more explosions.

I wonder if they'll find... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870172)

any underground cities ruled by a matriarchal society of scantily clad spider-worshipers?

Re:I wonder if they'll find... (1)

JDeane (1402533) | about 4 years ago | (#32871416)

Lolth will not be pleased that you have exposed her plans!!!

Re:I wonder if they'll find... (4, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | about 4 years ago | (#32871444)

You'd think someone with a name like Lolth would have a sense of humor about it.

Cameron's Extreme Cave Divers (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870182)

Features blue characters much like his last film Avatar, however in this case it's due to a lack of oxygen.

Re:Cameron's Extreme Cave Divers (3, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 4 years ago | (#32870452)

Features blue characters much like his last film Avatar, however in this case it's due to a lack of oxygen

Which they overcome by embracing the wisdom of the natives. In the end, the protagonist (a white man) will become better at caving than even the natives, thus showing us again that Cameron thinks white men are the best at everything they do.

Re:Cameron's Extreme Cave Divers (0)

BigDXLT (1218924) | about 4 years ago | (#32870656)

Well, prove him otherwise. Make a movie where the non-white guy/gal/it proves he's better than the white guys at something. Go ahead, do it, make a bazillion dollars at the same time.

Re:Cameron's Extreme Cave Divers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870678)

You mean eighty or ninety percent of sports movies?

Re:Cameron's Extreme Cave Divers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32871630)

...or The Brave Little Toaster.

Re:Cameron's Extreme Cave Divers (1, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 years ago | (#32870738)

Features blue characters much like his last film Avatar, however in this case it's due to a lack of oxygen.

It might also be due to methemoglobinemia.

I saw the Blue Man Group recently, and I wondered if they each applied their own makeup or if they blue each other.

Re:Cameron's Extreme Cave Divers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870786)

No one else blue Tobias Fünke on Arrested Development, so he must be quite talented.

The deepest cave on Earth... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870806)

Re:The deepest cave on Earth... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870896)

Plumb it's depths with your tongues, you fucking propeller-heads. Plumb it and fucking like it!

There's a reason they call it extreme (5, Informative)

DJRumpy (1345787) | about 4 years ago | (#32870186)

Something as simple as stirring up some dust can mean death to a cave diver. It takes a special kind of person (nut) to do this. I watched a few specials on this and how easy it is to die. All I've got to say is that it must take a pair the size of the the former twin towers. I'm not fearful of enclosed spaces in the slightest, but this is just insane. On top of that, if you manage to get that deep, you have to account for the trip back, meaning if you exceed your air supply by getting lost in dirty water, or any other number of potential gotchas, you could easily end up overstaying your welcome and just not have enough time to get back out again.

I could actually see myself paying for a feature film about this. Not out of an interest in doing it myself, but seeing the extreme conditions man will venture into to quench an unstoppable curiosity.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | about 4 years ago | (#32870218)

And whatever you do, never ever call them "spelunkers".

They hate that.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (1)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | about 4 years ago | (#32870316)

And whatever you do, never ever call them "spelunkers".

They hate that.

Seriously, everybody is just way to sensitive these days.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870404)

Seriously, everybody is just way to sensitive these days.

Hey! I'm in that group, and I sure don't appreciate you saying that. Take it back, hater, or I'll banish you to the lost world, 20 000 leagues under the sea, at the center of the Earth.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (5, Informative)

mad.frog (525085) | about 4 years ago | (#32870672)

It's true (at least in the USA)... for whatever reason, avid cavers call themselves "cavers", and use "spelunkers" to refer to people who enter caves without the proper equipment or training. Thus, at caving conventions you see bumper stickers that read "Cavers Rescue Spelunkers"...

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (4, Funny)

grantek (979387) | about 4 years ago | (#32871190)

They should just admit that the more popular term is "spelunking" (because it sounds cool to say), and go with that. They probably just don't want to cave in to that kind of influence...

Spelunk (2, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | about 4 years ago | (#32871730)

They call them spelunkers because that's the sound that you make when you fall into a chasm filled with water.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (5, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 4 years ago | (#32870466)

seeing the extreme conditions man will venture into to quench an unstoppable curiosity.

Or to get chicks. Some people will do anything to impress chicks.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (3, Funny)

OttoErotic (934909) | about 4 years ago | (#32870540)

On top of that, if you manage to get that deep, you have to account for the trip back, meaning if you exceed your air supply by getting lost in dirty water, or any other number of potential gotchas, you could easily end up overstaying your welcome and just not have enough time to get back out again.

That's what she said.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (4, Interesting)

swb (14022) | about 4 years ago | (#32870710)

It'd be nuts to "free" dive in caves, without a rope or some other guide back. For these extreme dives you'd think they'd also work their way down with spare air tanks so they never had to worry about going all the way back up to the top, just back to the last air tank drop.

I also wonder if they couldn't engineer some kind of capsule that could be inflated in a larger chamber to serve as a base on longer dives, possibly with an air line from the surface, sort of a base camp.

Regardless, you gotta really not have even a hint of claustrophobia. I usually enjoy cave tours, mine tours and that sort of underground thing but the idea of diving in a cave makes me sick to my stomach nervous.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (2, Informative)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#32871518)

I would say yes, you could make an inflatable base that could be installed in a cave. You'd need to have some fairly ingenious materials tech to prevent such a capsule from shredding itself on any sharp rocks or being at-risk in general from any uneven surfaces. You'd also need a fair amount of extra air in order for any kind of airlock system to not flood the capsule. Overcoming the pressure sufficiently to expand and then reducing pressure to equalize would also pose technical challenges. However, I see nothing that is actually impossible in any of this. Difficult, yes. Possibly impractical. But not impossible.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (5, Interesting)

zippthorne (748122) | about 4 years ago | (#32870734)

I've done it.

Dust can mean death, but the real enemy is complacency. If you get a few dives in you and you start to skip steps, that's where the dust (silt/clay, actually. Sandy bottoms aren't as big of a danger) cloud (blowout) can cause problems. or if you start doing it without the proper training (i.e. learning from everyone else's mistakes instead of repeating them. It's critical to learn from others' mistakes when a small mistake can be fatal.) you can achieve similar results.

Just stirring up silt shouldn't do anything worse than just end your dive (or in a popular cave, piss off other divers who will also have to end their dives early....) - you follow the line you'd been laying back out of the cave. A lot of the training is training yourself to be comfortable in disorienting black-out conditions, so you make the right choices.

The problem is that familiarity breeds contempt. It starts out with you not drilling out-of-air emergencies on the surface before every dive, and before you know it you're tying your cave line further and further in instead of starting it in open water every time. You're swimming across gaps without laying line because you didn't bring enough gap reels and you think you're familiar with this part of the cave.

Then you start using gear that has no business being in a cave: scooters and rebreathers. Both of which can get you further into the cave than have any business being, when complacency causes you to fail to lay the groundwork for your escape in the event of an equipment failure.

Anyway, my point is that you don't have to be that crazy to dive caves, especially if you don't go that far in, and stick to well-explored areas. but you do have to be vigilant about maintaining both your gear and proficiency. And the reward? You'll have to try it and find out.

Re:There's a reason they call it extreme (1)

pipingguy (566974) | about 4 years ago | (#32872158)

Believe it or not, people do this. It doesn't take "balls the size of the former twin towers". It's just training and desire.

These dive teams leave nothing to chance. Your sixth sentence indicates an ignorance of how these things are really done.

leaving mom's basement (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870190)

Is that involved for extreme caving ?

Re:leaving mom's basement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870318)

While I'm guilty of it myself from time to time, Slashdot badly needs a "-1, Cliché" mod.

Re:leaving mom's basement (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 4 years ago | (#32870556)

Not if the extreme cave... is in your Mom!

Freud? (3, Funny)

Oyjord (810904) | about 4 years ago | (#32870264)

I wonder what Freud would say about such "extreme caving"?

Re:Freud? (1)

westlake (615356) | about 4 years ago | (#32870564)

I wonder what Freud would say about such "extreme caving"?

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." A good smoke.

Re:Freud? (3, Funny)

phantomcircuit (938963) | about 4 years ago | (#32870604)

He'd do another line and tell you to get out of his bathroom.

Re:Freud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870758)

Und godDAMNIT, mine name ees not Ziggy!

Re:Freud? (1)

Maudib (223520) | about 4 years ago | (#32871222)

I wonder what Freud would say about such "extreme caving"?
"This is no cave."

Re:Freud? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32872108)

I wonder what Freud would say about such "extreme caving"?

"Help help let me out of this box!"

interesting technology (5, Insightful)

blackest_k (761565) | about 4 years ago | (#32870268)

The articles quite interesting, new antibiotics , a rebreather letting someone say underwater for 10 -12 hours at a time and then theres the nasa mission to europa...

making a movie is the least interesting thing mentioned.
 

Finally a Cameron movie with depth (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870296)

Looks like Hollywood acknowledges that their movies are too superficial.

cameron has been obsessed with diving for awhile (4, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 4 years ago | (#32870306)

and you could really see it in avatar: all that beautiful day glo flora was obviously inspired by your average earth coral reef

and cameron has said avatar ii is going to be an aquatic adventure on pandora:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/herocomplex/2010/04/james-cameron-talks-the-enironment-the-avatar-sequel-and-more.html [latimes.com]

We created a broad canvas for the environment of film. That's not just on Pandora, but throughout the Alpha Centauri AB system. And we expand out across that system and incorporate more into the story - not necessarily in the second film, but more toward a third film. I've already announced this, so I might as well say it: Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment - a different setting within Pandora. And I'm going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won't be a rain forest. I'm not saying we won't see what we've already seen; we'll see more of that as well.

considering how cameron's diving hobbies inspire his creative works (look at titanic and the abyss), i welcome whatever comes out of the creative ferment of his mind from his interest in deep caves. perhaps the abyss ii? some sort of horror movie? avatar iii will be in a galactic cave? who knows...

Re:cameron has been obsessed with diving for awhil (3, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 4 years ago | (#32870616)

considering how cameron's diving hobbies inspire his creative works (look at titanic and the abyss), i welcome whatever comes out of the creative ferment of his mind from his interest in deep caves. perhaps the abyss ii? some sort of horror movie?

Maybe he can go spelunking in a library, and learn how to make an original plot and put that "3D" concept to work with his character construction.

galactic cave?

o_O

i've always found criticism (0, Offtopic)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 4 years ago | (#32870660)

by random overly negative internet trolls of extremely successful obviously talented people to be funny. thanks for the laugh

I've always found (3, Insightful)

Gizzmonic (412910) | about 4 years ago | (#32870928)

Enjoy that McDonald's burger, and wash it down with a Bud Light! Popular=best!

yes, absolutely (0)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 4 years ago | (#32871450)

its a democratic ideal: in a meritocracy of cultural output, whatever rises to the top as most popular is automatically the best. its the only objective measurement possible

to say there is some other measurement of quality is to say that random rules according to some clique of self-appointed arbiters of quality is something to be respected. on what basis? show me the objective scientific determination of quality. there is none, just whim and fancy and fashionable trendiness. whatever appeals the most to the masses, is automatically the most superior of cultural output. that is the an ironclad truth because its the only objective truth. everything other measurement of quality is subjective and therefore flawed

of course, various subcultures have their own lists of what is superior in quality. but the likes and dislikes of various subcultures are not superior to the masses, despite the arrogance and assumed sense of superiority of those various subcultures

populism rules. everything else is cliquishness, classism, arrogance, and bullshit

so continue shitting all over one of the most successful directors in all of cinema. its really impressive, and utterly meaningless. you're such a respectable authority, oh random ultranegative internet troll

Re:yes, absolutely (1)

clong83 (1468431) | about 4 years ago | (#32871966)

Your argument just doesn't make any sense. There's a difference between cost effectiveness and quality. I'm guilty of having eaten a McDonald's hamburger, and I probably will in the future, too. But I don't think it's the best burger out there. Perhaps on a long road haul or a busy day, given my available time, money, and availability of other options, I will eat there. So do a number of other people who may be economically forced to feed themselves and offspring with cheap food. Lack of better options doesn't make the outcome the "best", or most desirable by any stretch.

I bet if you went into a McDonald's and interviewed everybody in the store over the age of 18, and asked them if McDonald's made the "best" hamburger, most of them would say "no".

To keep this on topic, I have largely no opinion on the film avatar or Peter Jackson in general. Oh wait, the topic is caving. Yeah, cavers are weird.

Re:yes, absolutely (1)

lgw (121541) | about 4 years ago | (#32872044)

Never argue with a man who cannot understand the complexities of the "Shift" key.

Re:yes, absolutely (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32872010)

I disagree. Apples and oranges.

Quality and popular have never had much of a relationship as demonstrated by Wal Mart.

Cheap, low quality products are popular, but their consumers wouldn't normally consider them quality.

Similarly: Toyota vs. Ferrari

One is much more popular. One is much higher quality.

Re:yes, absolutely (2, Insightful)

fractoid (1076465) | about 4 years ago | (#32872102)

Where are my mod points when I need 'em? It doesn't matter whether some welfare- or parent-supported douche thinks they're the foremost authority on something. Ultimately, how successful and effective something is is the ultimate measure of quality. Just like the way low-budget arthouse films are generally absolutely crap (or if they're not, they rapidly become huge hits, reinforcing the "if it's popular then it's good, and if it's good it will be popular" theme).

It's the same reason that no matter how much your hacker's aesthetics cringe at using Microsoft Office, it's still used by so many businesses. It gets the job done with less fuss than anything else, and results in a better rate of return on investment, therefore however much you, personally, dislike it - it IS better.

Re:yes, absolutely (1)

cgenman (325138) | about 4 years ago | (#32872140)

There is a big difference between being an event worth going to and being a well-written movie. Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all time. That makes it the highest grossing movie of all time, no more no less.

It's also widely derided for its lackluster characterizations and terrible writing. If you put it to a vote, you'd probably get far greater votes of "poor writing" than lots of other movies that released in 2009. Or to simplify things down, if you had a poll "Which had better writing, Toy Story 3 or Avatar?" I seriously doubt Avatar would gain more than 20% of the votes. Yet it made far more money. Does that mean one is better than the other? No. But the popular opinion that Avatar was a rehashed Dances With Wolves (or Ferngully) was pretty common.

Which is not to say that the movie was terrible. But that other parts of the movie were more important to the moviegoing public than the writing.

Alos, don't throw assessment to a misguided reliance upon unrelated facts. Think for yourself. Subjective assessments are fuzzy and unclean.

Imperial Strikes Again (4, Interesting)

labnet (457441) | about 4 years ago | (#32870344)

Most of the world uses metric, and it now it is just plain distracting to articles in feet, miles etc.
Here's is a suggestion for Google: Have a translation option that converts these pages into metric on the fly!

Re:Imperial Strikes Again (1)

brxndxn (461473) | about 4 years ago | (#32870570)

It's already been patented about 30 different ways by 10 different companies in the middle of 40 legal battles and will never be useful in any way to the public.

Re:Imperial Strikes Again (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 4 years ago | (#32870762)

Imperial is not quite the same as Standard. One difference, for instance, is that the gallons are bigger...

Re:Imperial Strikes Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32871032)

Do you realise that all the cars in america could get 20% more gas mileage by just switching to the imperial gallon, instead of Queen Ann's Gallon.

Wasn't this a Goon Show episode? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870352)

Because it sure sounds like it....

More People Getting Stuck In Caves (2, Insightful)

Chris Rhodes (1059906) | about 4 years ago | (#32870372)

Will slashdot's far reach cause more people to get stuck in caves? People are always diving in caves. People seeking new passages through small holes get stuck all the time.

Will the movie result in an uptick in caving deaths? 60 percent [cavediver.net] of cave deaths in Florida are related to cave diving. I've always wanted to go caving, except that everything I read about it, is about someone dying.
Push-Pull.

Re:More People Getting Stuck In Caves (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870498)

"60 percent of cave deaths in Florida are related to cave diving."
What are the other 40% related to? Cave skating, cave jumping, cave carpooling and cave sleepwalking?

Re:More People Getting Stuck In Caves (1)

OttoErotic (934909) | about 4 years ago | (#32870552)

People seeking new passages through small holes get stuck all the time.

See comment 32870540 [slashdot.org] . This is just too easy in articles about caving. Where's the challenge?

Deepest? (4, Informative)

Drishmung (458368) | about 4 years ago | (#32870396)

They've gone down 2km. That's still about half the depth of the 3.9km TauTona mine, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TauTona [wikipedia.org] and far short of the 11km of the Challenger http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challenger_Deep [wikipedia.org] . Now if there were some caves below the oceanic trenches...

Re:Deepest? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870794)

They've gone down 2km. That's still about half the depth of the 3.9km TauTona mine, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TauTona [wikipedia.org] and far short of the 11km of the Challenger http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challenger_Deep [wikipedia.org] .

Now if there were some caves below the oceanic trenches...

Natural caves not mine shafts.

Re:Deepest? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | about 4 years ago | (#32871062)

Now if there were some caves below the oceanic trenches...

Perhaps Cameron could make a movie about what they find deep down in the oceanic trenches...

Re:Deepest? (0, Offtopic)

pipingguy (566974) | about 4 years ago | (#32872212)

Didn't this used to be called Mariana's Trench? I used to know a girl named Mariana, she wasn't too trenchant. Maybe the name went wherever the pronunciation of Uranus went. Probably up Urectum [wikia.com] .

Not until Scotty can beam me up (5, Interesting)

rbrander (73222) | about 4 years ago | (#32870496)

I second the statement, "I'm not claustrophobic, but this is insane". It's the sheer un-rescue-ability of it all, if you simply get wedged, that gets to me.

A young man died cave diving in the Rockies not far from Calgary a few years back. The awful bit was that he got delayed coming back, wasn't sure how far it was, went to the limit of his air, turned the little knob that gives you the last five minutes, and used that time scratching out a goodbye to his family on the air tank.

Right around one more corner from where he would have seen the flashlights of his friends waiting for him.

Lessons I took from it:

1) Cave diving is insane.

2) If you're ever certain you're at that last moment of your life, nevertheless spend it trying to survive. Your family actually knew you loved them already.

Re:Not until Scotty can beam me up (1)

mad.frog (525085) | about 4 years ago | (#32870680)

As a longtime caver, parent is correct: cave diving IS insane. (I'm glad some insane folk exist, as the knowledge they glean from this is valuable. Nevertheless, the risk is huge, and makes BASE jumping look safe by comparison...)

Re:Not until Scotty can beam me up (4, Informative)

Like2Byte (542992) | about 4 years ago | (#32871110)

Cave diving is insane.

Indeed it is! I'm a caver. I do not cave dive for several reasons:
1) I'm not a diver.
    Cavers who wish to cave dive must spend years honing their diving skills and working as a team. They are also, usually, fairly acclimated cavers.

2) Cave divers have a near 100% fatality rate where "accidents" have occurred. Don't believe me? See the National Speleological Society's Caving Accidents report.

    Here's their website [caves.org] .

3) Of particular interest is year 1994. [caves.org] Scroll to the bottom to see the cave diving "accidents" report. Check out year 2000 [caves.org] , also.

4) See my original discussion on this [slashdot.org] topic on slashdot. Clickey [slashdot.org]

Re:Not until Scotty can beam me up (3, Funny)

Raenex (947668) | about 4 years ago | (#32871312)

Why do you put "accidents" in quotes? You make it sound like foul play is going on.

Re:Not until Scotty can beam me up (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 4 years ago | (#32871502)

2000 was a weird year:

injury - struck by thrown cyalume stick
fatality - jumped onto rocks outside entrance
aid, no injury - rescued stranded calf from cave
no consequence - snowmobile fell into cave

no consequence?

Re:Not until Scotty can beam me up (1)

dogzdik (1700552) | about 4 years ago | (#32872112)

At least you already have lots of dirt on top when you do die......

Re:Not until Scotty can beam me up (1)

metlin (258108) | about 4 years ago | (#32871288)

I don't cave dive, but I do pursue high-adrenaline sports, including climbing and base jumping.

In my mind, the sheer "un-rescue-ability" of the whole thing is what makes it interesting and worth pursuing.

When people explored the world in the days of yon, they did not do it expecting a rescue. Nor did people those who attempted first ascents.

Not that I disagree with the rest of your piece on doing everything you can to survive...

Re:Not until Scotty can beam me up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32872076)

When people explored the world in the days of yon

What?

Insane (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32870526)

I am with Linus on this one.
I totally agree with him on this.

Yes (3, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | about 4 years ago | (#32870594)

The article notes that James Cameron is planning to release a 3D film next year about extreme cave divers.

And the year after that will see "Cavatar"

A man falls in love with a female from a tribe of green, subterranean lizard people, and helps her fight off the evil white American oppressors who want to drill her (wink wink) home for sub-crustal oil.

ENDURANCE and Europa, a few technical challenges (2, Interesting)

Tisha_AH (600987) | about 4 years ago | (#32870666)

The endurance device looks really cool as an autonomous submersible that can find it's way back to the transducer dropped through the opening in the ice. Here are a few problems;

Getting to Europa the package needs to set down in an area where there is a "lead" in the ice where it is thinner. Trying to drill or melt your way through a kilometer of ice would be a serious challenge that we would even have a problem with today (an opening the size of Endurance).

To make a hole would either require an automated drilling system or a nuclear power source to melt it's way down to below the ice. Since RTG (radioisotope thermal generators) require a significant amount of plutonium or radioactive thorium to generate even a small amount of thermal energy it would require a "real" reactor to create enough heat to melt a hole. As the reactor and ENDURANCE melts their way down they would deploy a tether back up to the surface. As they melt downwards the water will freeze above them, leaving the tether encased in ice.Once they break free of the ice layer and make it into the depths of Europa's ocean the reactor can be powered back and act as a docking station, recharging station and communications hub for the ENDURANCE explorer. Data would be relayed back up the tether to a satellite relay station to send data back up to an orbiter.

With a "down hole" power source the ENDURANCE probe could carry out extended exploration missions down to the crush depth of the submursiable and missions could last for months (aka the Mars rovers).

Re:ENDURANCE and Europa, a few technical challenge (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32871608)

The AUV that will be used to explore Europa will need to be much smaller than the ENDUANCE AUV, the large vehicle size is mostly for prototyping software and hardware. Also it allows room for an accurate inertial measurement system and relatively large science payload. The ice penetrating robot concept is currently being prototyped using power over fiber. The eventual Europa vehicle will, most likely, require an RTG to melt through the ice and power the AUV for months / years.

If funded this project will be able to answer one of the most important scientific questions of our lifetime: if there is life present outside places other than Earth and if life evolved in parallel on Europa and Earth (e.g. DNA / RNA strands are significantly different from each other or some other encoding method is used).

As a longtime Caver and Geek... (1)

mad.frog (525085) | about 4 years ago | (#32870712)

I read Blind Descent and had mixed feelings. While I have the utmost respect for the folks who enter caves of this nature (aka "supercaves", a term not used in the caving community), the author plays it for maximum drama.

The truth is that there is a long continuum of people who explore caves, and this book is just profiling the people at the highest of the high end, but at the end of the day, they want the same thing as most other techno-geeks: to be the first to find something really cool. (They just happen to have the physical, mental, and financial chops to actually have a shot at it. Not to mention luck, in large quantities.)

Re:As a longtime Caver and Geek... (2, Insightful)

mad.frog (525085) | about 4 years ago | (#32870730)

The other thing that bothered me about this book was the author's persistent implication that it's *possible* to find "the deepest cave".

Until we come up with a universal earth-scanning technology that can reveal all subterranean openings (that are passable to humans), this title can't be granted with any certainty.

Krubera has the current title, but then, many other caves have held the title in the past. It's not like a mountain, where height is (reasonably) verifiable with current technology -- finding the deepest human-reachable location requires lots of effort and luck.

Re:As a longtime Caver and Geek... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | about 4 years ago | (#32871642)

Until we come up with a universal earth-scanning technology that can reveal all subterranean openings (that are passable to humans), this title can't be granted with any certainty.

Wouldn't Reflection Seismology [wikipedia.org] be a method to do this?

playing nethack (1)

xmorg (718633) | about 4 years ago | (#32870988)

So they are playing nethack... and getting paid for it!

Oh Gods! not another Cameron 3D movie... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32871176)

what's next...

Cameron Presents "Colonoscopy" In 3d IMAX, Coming to a theater near you 2013...

Centere of the Earth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32871254)

I thought the 2 most prominent in extreme caving were Arne Saknussum and Professor Lidenbruch

This article about Dave Shaw... (5, Interesting)

pongo000 (97357) | about 4 years ago | (#32871338)

...describes how something can go horribly wrong in a cave dive [away.com] (in this case, Bushman's Hole, one of the deepest freshwater caves in the world) even with the best planning efforts of experts in the field. It's a long, but incredibly sad, read. If you want to read something really haunting, Dave Shaw's website is still online [deepcave.com] . The video is out there too (aired on ABC in 2005). I leave the video links as an exercise to the reader. It's not something I really want to dig up again.

Re:This article about Dave Shaw... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 years ago | (#32871744)

I'm not a diver, but one thing strikes me as odd about this dive: What happened to the "buddy system"? In spite of all that planning, one person goes down alone. Something goes wrong. And there's nobody there to check each other.

If the dive is so extreme that a second person can't be found (or money for a second set of equipment) to make the dive, it can't be made at all.

Movie - North Face (2008) aka Nordwand (German) (1)

JakFrost (139885) | about 4 years ago | (#32872192)

I'm reading this article and this sounds a lot like the mountain climbing movie the North Face (2008) aka Nordwand (German) [imdb.com] that I would highly recommend watching because the real-life story of the climbers parallels the events in this article.

This whole extreme climbing thing is very dangerous whether it is going up mountains or going down caves because any little incident and not even an accident usually turns out fatal later on, even when it is something out of your control such as unexpected critical equipment failure.

Re:This article about Dave Shaw... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32872256)

Did anyone else snicker at the thought of "diving in Bushman's Hole"?

Do you know what's interesting about caves? (-1, Troll)

epp_b (944299) | about 4 years ago | (#32871424)

Nothing.

The last adventure left to mankind (4, Interesting)

deboli (199358) | about 4 years ago | (#32871752)

Exploring caves is the last adventure left to the proverbial "common man". Everything is mapped and surveyed except caves. Even if you climb a mountain as a first ascent, someone has photographed it and its height is known. There is no technology that allows to survey caves without going there and that is the excitement and fun of it. You can do it big as Bill Stone of you can find a few meters in a local cave and you can do it according your technical and physical ability. Just join the local Grotto and you have that chance! Nothing beats entering a passage where no other human being has walked before and where your light illuminates formations that nobody has seen before. You can do this only in space and on the bottom of the ocean but the costs and technology needed for that is beyond the reach of hobbyists.

There will never be the ultimate deepest cave as we know the highest mountain as there are no means of knowing this until all caves are explored. Estimates place the ratio of explored caves at some 5% of total caves. Some have not even an entrance... Of course, we know the theoretical limit which is the height difference of the limestone bedding that houses the cave but there might always be a higher entrance or a sump or something else

The reason why caving is not as popular with viewers is that it really is not a spectator sport. All you see is some cavers departing into a deep hole. Comparing this to seeing mountaineers where you can see the mountain, the cliff and where you can admire the challenge you have no such chance with a cave. And if you're not a caver you can not imagine the challenge, the joy, the cold and the misery and the excitement.

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