Cave Conservationist

The Newsletter of Cave Conservation and Management

Volume 13 No. 2 May 1, 1994

Note to WWW Edition - This has not been hyperlinked yet. Please be patient. I'm getting this up for a user who needs it now! -rs

Published by the NSS Section on Cave Conservation and Management

USFS Management, National Caves Association Caves, Carbide, Conservation Committee Report, Alaska Tongass Caves, FCRPA Significant Cave Nominations

The Cave Conservationist is the official publication of the Conservation and Management Section of the National Speleological Society. Distribution is free to members of the Section. Section membership costs $5 annually and should be mailed to the Secretary. (A membership form for your convenience is included on page 25.) Additional complimentary copies are distributed on a temporary basis at the discretion of the Section to NSS members, internal organizations, cave owners, and others involved in cave conservation projects. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the either the Section or the NSS and should be attributed to the author or, in the case of uncredited articles, to the Editor.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Evelyn Bradshaw, 10826 Leavells Road, Fredericksburg, VA 22407-1261.

SUBMISSIONS: Articles and other Cave Conservationist correspondence should be sent to the Editor. Submissions on computer disks should be made with 3.5" or 5.25" IBM compatible diskettes, . Microsoft Word, Word Perfect 5.0, or Wordstar 3.3 compatibility, or straight ASCII format is preferred. Do not format materials for multiple columns! Diskettes will not be returned unless requested. Arrangements may be made for transmission via modem; call or write the publisher for details. Or send an E-Mail message, or your article, to the Publisher via Compuserve to 71267,1065 or Prodigy to BBTH90A. Note: if you send diskettes or articles to the Publisher, be sure to notify the Editor that you have done so, and send him a hard copy.

Copyright 1995 NSS Conservation and Management Section, except as noted. Internal organizations of the National Speleological Society may reprint any item first appearing in the Cave Conservationist so long as proper credit is given and a copy of the newsletter containing the material is mailed to the Editor. Other organizations should contact the Editor.

Printed by members of the D.C. Grotto and the Potomac Speleological Society.

Cover illustration is by Linda Heslop.

Conservation & Management Section        

Chairman and Publisher: Rob Stitt        
1417 9th Ave. West                       
Seattle, WA 98119                        
(206) 283-2283                           

Editor and Vice-Chairman: Jay R.         
1518 Devon Circle                        
Dallas, TX 78217-1205                    

Secretary-Treasurer: Evelyn Bradshaw,    
10826 Leavells Road                      
Fredericksburg, VA 22407-1261            

Directors at Large: Mel Park             
George N. Huppert                        

Table of Contents

Notes from the Chairman

By this time you have probably already read it in the NSS News-the Lechuguilla Cave Protection Act passed Congress and has been signed by the President.

The Dark Canyon Environmental Statement has also been approved, and is being implemented.

These two events are important milestones in American Cave Conservation, for even without the implementation of the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act, and certainly because of inputs from over 500 cavers, Lechuguilla Cave has been saved-for now at least. We will probably have to fight this battle over again sometime in the future, but at least we have set an important precedent, and have shown that involved cavers can make a difference.

It is extremely likely that without the Caver's Mailing List on the Internet, this would never have happened. The 538 inputs that were received on the EIS were unprecedented, but happened because lots of cavers got the message about what was going on in a timely fashion, and responded.

The very nature of the Internet-almost instantaneous distribution of information-makes it more and more important than the conventional caving media in spreading the word and making sure things happen. This periodical, for example, typically is delayed several months from the time the news is current. This is due to a variety of problems: the Editor has to find the information; he then has to find time to type it into the computer and edit it. He then forwards it on floppy disk to the publisher, who typically takes several weeks to get it formatted and ready to go to the printer [this issue, for example, was delayed because I didn't have a cover graphic at hand.]; there is then a delay of a few days while the camera ready copy goes to Evelyn Bradshaw, who then forwards it on to the Potomac Speleological Society members who actually print it; then it is returned to her for mailing; and finally, since we use a bulk rate, it can take several weeks to actually get to you.

Contrast that to the Internet: someone finds out about the information, and types or scans it into their computer, then sends it via E-mail to the facilitator of the Caver's Mailing List. Every few days he compiles all new material into a single file and sends it to everyone on the list. They receive it within a few hours (if they happen to log onto their computer) and have it available to read. An important message could be distributed to the entire mailing list within a few minutes, or at most hours.

The catch, of course, is that we don't all have access to a computer that's on the Internet. I myself, for example, am not directly on the Internet and do not subscribe to the Caver's Mailing List. I have avoided this step because I am afraid that I might be inundated with information that I can't deal with. I get enough now as it is, with several newsletters, NSS publications, and individual correspondence, not to mention all that non-caving-related junk mail that I get, and the computer magazines that I used to read (I just dropped my subscriptions to several, and so far I haven't really missed them).

Another problem is that most of us are used to reading things on paper, and getting used to having on the screen will take a little time. Of course we can always print the stuff out, but this wastes paper and time.

In a few years we will probably all be connected, and used to the electronic media. In the meantime, we are going to need paper publications like the Cave Conservationist to keep us all informed. Even though we are behind the times, and slow, we still have a place.

However, we are exploring the possibility of making the Cave Conservationist available on the Internet. It could be uploaded and distributed to members who have Internet addresses much faster than the conventional methods. In fact, some of you could have this tonight, as I am typing this, instead of having to wait until I find a cover graphic, diddle around with the layout for a few evenings, and finally get it sent off to Evelyn.

Instead, you'll probably get this issue about the time you are leaving for Convention, in mid-June. Fortunately this issue doesn't have any hot, timely news in it (after all, your editor is working to bring you the Convention this year, not just going himself).

Come to the Annual meeting at Convention (Wednesday noon lunch) and let's discuss this further.

Rob Stitt

Memorandum of Understanding Between The U.S. Department
of Agriculture-Forest Service and The National Speleological Society

September 30, 1988

I. Introduction

The National Speleological Society (NSS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (Service) believe that increased cooperation will promote better management of nonrenewable cave resources and that our joint efforts will have long term benefits for the American public. The mechanism for achieving improvements in management and public service will be specific agreements between the National Forests and local chapters of the NSS (Grottos). This national agreement establishes broad principals to assist the local units of the Service in developing agreements and more importantly, to recognize that such local cooperation represents one of the best ways the Service has for carrying out their mission of "Caring for the Land and Serving People".

II. Authority

The Authorities for entering into this Agreement by the Service are found in the Volunteers in the National Forest Act (16 USC 558). The NSS Board of Governors is empowered by the Society's bylaws to enter into such agreements.

III. Things Upon Which We Mutually Agree

  • A. Good twoway communications and consultation is essential in partnerships. Actions by either party which affect cave resource management will follow this principle. The Service and NSS have designated specific contact positions to promote better communications. The Branch Chief for Dispersed Recreation in the recreation staff of the Washington Office is the contact person for the Service. The Chair of the Conservation Committee is the contact person for the NSS. The contact position for the local Forest Service units is the Forest Supervisor or the District Ranger. The local NSS Grotto contact will generally be a grotto officer. Information about local contact positions may be obtained from the national level contacts for this agreement.
  • B. This Agreement will commence upon signature by both parties. It may be amended upon the signature of both parties. It may be terminated by a 60day written notice by either party.
  • C. The principles of this agreement will be implemented through specific agreements made local units of the NSS and the Service. Such agreements cannot be used to grant any organization the exclusive use right to any cave.
  • D. NSS members have knowledge and skills that can help the Service carry out its mission. The following activities are particularly suited to local agreements. This is only a partial list, and we rely on the creativity of the local people involved to determine what needs can be fulfilled.
  • 1. Development of cave management plans.
  • 2. Inventory of cave locations and a cave's resources.
  • 3. Installation and maintenance of cave gates and signs.
  • 4. Monitoring of visitor use and compliance with cave regulations.
  • 5. Conducting information and education programs.
  • 6. Providing surveying and cartographic assistance.
  • 7. Providing administrative support for cave resource programs.
  • 8. Conducting cave cleanup and restoration projects.
  • 9. Conducting research on caves and cave resources.
  • 10. Development of cave search and rescue plans.
  • E. Forest plans are the instrument by which the basic management direction of the local Service unit is set. The plan is the basic tool for directing the management of cave resources. As better and more specific information becomes available, the plan may be amended accordingly.
  • F. Local units of the National Forest have sufficient direction to develop Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) of the type envisioned by this agreement. Either party may initiate the action to develop a local agreement.
  • G. The local agreements should define how cave resource information will be handled. The Service recognizes NSS concerns that unlimited access to some types of cave resource information can lead to loss or damage to nonrenewable resources. The local agreements should classify information ownership into two categories: (1) information belonging to the Service which is available as public information, unless specifically exempt under the Freedom of Information Act (5 USC 552); and (2) information belonging to cooperating organizations or volunteers which will be made available to the Service to aid its management decision making, but which will not remain in possession of the Service and which will be treated by the Service as proprietary information under the Freedom of Information Act to the full extent the law allows.
  • H. There are several forms of Agreements that may be used at the local level. These include volunteer agreements, special use permits, Memoranda of Understanding, Participating Agreements, etc. Each type of instrument has some advantages and disadvantages. Local forest officers should work with volunteers to determine which is best suited to the local situation.
  • I. Local grottos may have specialized skills in search and rescue techniques that should be recognized in planning and execution of responses to emergency incidents by local law enforcement agencies and the Service.
  • /s/ President, NSS

    /s/ Associate Chief, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service

    National Caves Association

    The National Caves Association, founded in 1965, is a nonprofit organization which sets and maintains standards for show caves throughout the United States. To be a member of the NCA a cave must be a true natural attraction presented to the public with good taste, courtesy and hospitality. All members of the association promote cave conservation and preservation.

    The association can be contacted at:

  • National Cave Association
  • Rt. 9, Box 106
  • McMinnville, TN 37110
  • Travelers should contact the individual caves or caverns and request their free folders, travel directions and informational materials.




    Rt. 1, Box 265
    Childersburg, Alabama 35044 (205) 3787252


    Rt. 3, Box 357
    Warrior, Alabama 35989 (205) 6359692


    Rt. 1, Box 302
    Valley Head, Alabama 35989 (205) 6356423



    U.S. Forest Service
    P.O. Box 1279
    Mountain View, Arkansas 72560 (501) 7572211


    Rt. 4, Box 168
    Berryville, Arkansas 72616 (501) 7492298


    Rt. 5, Box 748
    Rogers, Arkansas 72756 (501) 7892909



    Box 756
    Kings Canyon Nat'l Park, California 93633 (209) 7362708


    9600 Cave City Road
    Mountain Ranch, California 95246 (209) 7362708


    P.O. Box 801
    O'Brien, California 96070 (916) 2382341


    P.O. Box 78
    Vallecito, California 95251 (209) 7362708



    P.O. Box 826
    Manitou Springs, Colorado 80829 (719) 6855444



    RR 11, Box 479
    Bedford, Indiana 47421 (812) 2799471


    Box 217
    Marengo, Indiana 47140 (812) 3652705


    P.O. Box 411
    Corydon, Indiana 47112 (812) 7324382


    Rt. 1 Box 85
    Leavenworth, Indiana 47137 (812) 7382782



    7699 Crystal Lake Cave Dr.
    Dubuque, Iowa, 52001 (319) 5566451 or 8724111



    8709 Happy Valley Rd.
    Cave City, Kentucky 42127 (502) 7732359
  • 1878 Mammoth Cave Parkway
    Park City, Kentucky 42160 (502) 7492891
  • Kentucky Buffalo Park
    Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749 (502) 7862634



    P.O. Box 607
    Camdenton, Missouri 65020 (314) 3462676


    P.O. Box 913
    Hannibal, Missouri 63401 (314) 2211656


    Rt. 20, Box 1935
    Springfield, Missouri 65803 (417) 8332010


    P.O. Box 913
    Hannibal, Missouri 63401 (314) 2211656


    Silver Dollar City
    Marvel Cave Park, Missouri 65616 (417) 3382611


    144 Exit 230
    Stanton, Missouri 63079 (314) 4683166


    Rt. 1, Box 115
    Leasburg, Missouri 65535 (314) 2456600


    Reeds Spring, Missouri 65737 (417) 2723366/3388220



    RFD #4, Box 1835
    Plymouth, New Hampshire 03264 (603) 5361888



    3225 National Parks Highway
    Carlsbad, New Mexico 88220
    (505) 7852232 (Visitor Center)
    8858884 (Adm. Office)


    12,000 Ice Caves Road
    Grants, New Mexico 87020
    (505) 7834303



    Howes Cave, New York 12092
    (518) 2968990



    2210 East Route 245

    West Liberty, Ohio 43357
    (513) 4654017


    1779 Home Road
    Delaware, Ohio 43015 (614) 5487917


    P.O. Box 335
    PutinBay, Ohio 43456 (419) 2852405


    Bellevue, Ohio 44811 (419) 4836711


    7092 State Rt. 540
    Bellefontaine, Ohio 43311 (513) 5920891



    Rt. 1, Box 98
    Freedom, Oklahoma 73842 (405) 6123381



    91560 Highway 101
    Florence, Oregon 97439 (503) 5473111



    R.D. 3, Box 416
    Kutztown, Pennsylvania 19530 (215) 6836765


    P.O. Box 188
    Hummelstown, Pennsylvania 17036 (717) 5668131


    Spruce Creek, Pennsylvania 16683 (814) 6327578


    Rd #1, Box 10
    Farmington, Pennsylvania 15437 (412) 3295968


    RD #1, Box 280
    Huntingdon, Pennsylvania 16652 (814) 6430268


    RD 2, Box 265A
    Centre Hall, Pennsylvania 16828 (814) 3641664


    Rt. 45
    Woodward, Pennsylvania 16882 (814) 3499800



    Keystone, South Dakota 57751 (605) 2554467


    Rt. 8, Box 570

    Rapid City, South Dakota 57702 (605) 3430542


    Rt. 8, Box 280

    Rapid City, South Dakota 57701 (605) 3428008


    Custer, South Dakota 57730 (605) 6732288


    255 Texas Avenue
    Rapid City, South Dakota 57701


    Wind Cave National Park
    Hot Springs, South Dakota 57747 (605) 7454600



    P.O. Box 851
    Bristol, Tennessee 37621 (615) 8782011


    McMinnville, Tennessee 37110 (615) 6684396


    Rt. 8, Blowing Cave Road
    Sevierville, Tennessee 37862 (615) 4535972


    Rt. 2, Lost Sea Pike
    Sweetwater, Tennessee 37874 (615) 3376616


    Lynchburg, Tennessee 37352 (615) 7594221


    Rt. #4, Cummings Highway
    Chattanooga, Tennessee 37409 (615) 8219403


    Rt. 4, Lookout Mtn. Scenic Highway
    Chattanooga, Tennessee 37409 (615) 8212544


    Rt. 1, Box 381
    Townsend, Tennessee 37882 (615) 4482274 or 4482422



    Rt. 4, Box 4110
    Boerne, Texas 78006 (512) 7558080


    P.O. Box 213
    Sonora, Texas 76950 (915) 387 3105


    P.O. Box 451
    Georgetown, Texas 78626 (512) 8635545


    Route 20, Box 515
    Natural Bridge Caverns, Texas 78218



    Natural Bridge Village
    Natural Bridge, Virginia 24578
    (703) 2912121


    P.O. Box 859
    New Market, Virginia 24578
    (703)7403993 or 740CAVE


    P.O. Box 748
    Luray, Virginia 22845 (703) 7436551


    Box 1, Caverns Road
    Shenandoah Caverns, Virginia 22847
    (703) 4773115


    Box 193
    Front Royal, Virginia 22630
    (703) 6354545



    Box 187
    Lewisburg, West Virginia 24901
    (304) 6466677



    Brigham Farm
    Blue Mounds, Wisconsin 53517
    (608) 4373038 or 4373588


    Rt. 1,Box 18
    Spring Valley, Wisconsin 54767
    (715) 7784414



    G.P.O. Box 3767
    San Juan, Puerto Rico 00936
    (809) 7565555/8983100

    A Report on the Malvern International Conference on Geological and Landscape Conservation

    by George Huppert

    I was informed about the Malvern Conference in early 1993 and I decided that cave conservation was a natural topic for a presentation. The meeting was held from the 18th to the 24th of July in Malvern, England.

    A fellow professor and I left on July 8 in order to spend some time doing a combination of touring and field work. We spent quite a bit of time in Scotland looking mostly at the geology (but no caves). After a week we headed south toward Malvern. On the way, we went through Yorkshire and, of course, had a look at some caves. One really worth mentioning is the extended tour into the newly opened section of White Scar Caverns. It's quite nice but unfortunately, there are some conservation problems-which is material for another article.

    I thought that I might have the only karst paper among the 126 given at the conference. How presumptuous of me! There were quite enough to have an entire karst session plus more. I felt that the information presented was interesting enough to pass on the titles to those of you that might wish to obtain the full abstract from me. The titles in the karst session were as follows:

    Malta: Model for the Conservation of Limestone Regions, Anna Spiteri (Malta).

    Caves as Unique Conservation Education Resources, George Huppert (USA).

    Sixty-five Yeas of Cave Conservation in Austria-Experiences and Results, Hubert Trimmel (Austria).

    The Kras Region of Slovenia-An International Park?, Daniel Rojsek (Slovenia).

    Karst and Environment-A Romanian Approach, Emil silvestru (Romania).

    A number of karst and cave related papers were given in other sessions; they were:

    Earth Science Conservation in Bulgaria, Tudor Tudorov (Bulgaria).

    Rock Features in Bulgaria and Some Aspects of Their Conservation, P. Petrov and P. Iliev (Bulgaria).

    The Proposed Chilcagh Natural History Park, County Fermanagh: A Locally Based Conservation Initiative, John Gunn, Christine Hunting, Sarah Cornelius and Richard Watson (UK).

    Protection of Limestone Pavements in Britain, Helen Goldie (UK).

    The American Cave and Karst Museum and the Work of the American Cave Conservation Association, George Huppert (USA).

    Morphological Features of Limestone Pavements Around Morecambe Bay, England, Helen Goldie (UK).

    The Natural Features of Posocje, Daniel Rojsek (Slovenia).

    All of the papers (those submitted in full form) were to be published by the end of 1993.

    After the conference, we spent several days in Wales (visiting some caves, of course) and finally arrived at home on July 27.

    Anyone desiring the abstracts (and eventually the full papers) please contact me at the Department of Geography, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, WI 54601.

    NSS Policies on Cave Conservation


    2813 Cave Avenue

    Huntsville, Alabama 35810-4431

    Tel. 205-852-1300


    The National Speleological Society believes that caves have unique scientific, recreational and scenic values; that these values are endangered by both carelessness and intentional vandalism; that these values, once gone, cannot be recovered; and that the responsibility for protecting caves must be assumed by those who study and enjoy them.

    Accordingly, the intention of the Society is to work for the preservation of caves with a realistic policy supported by effective programs for the encouragement of self-discipline among cavers; education and research concerning the causes and prevention of cave damage; and special projects, including cooperation with other groups similarly dedicated to the conservation of natural areas.

    Specifically, all contents of a cave (formations, life and loose deposits) are significant for its enjoyment and interpretation. Therefore, caving parties should leave a cave as they find it. They should provide means for the removal of waste; limit marking to a few small and removable signs as needed for surveys; and, especially, exercise extreme care not to accidentally break or soil formations, disturb life forms, or unnecessarily increase the number of disfiguring paths through an area.

    Scientific collection is professional, selective and minimal. The collecting of mineral or biological material for display purposes, including previously broken or dead specimens, is never justified, as it encourages others to collect and destroys the interest of a cave.

    The Society encourages projects such as: establishing cave preserves, placing entrance gates where appropriate, opposing the sale of speleothems, supporting effective protective measures, cleaning and restoring over-used caves, cooperating with private cave owners by providing knowledge about their caves and assisting them in protecting their caves and property from damage during cave visits, and encouraging show cave owners to make use of their opportunity to aid the public in understanding caves and the importance of their conservation.

    When there is reason to believe that publication of cave locations will lead to vandalism before adequate protection can be established, the Society will oppose publication.

    It is the duty of every Society member to take personal responsibility for spreading a consciousness of cave conservation to each potential user of caves. Only by doing this can the beauty and value of caves long remain with us.

  • The National Speleological Society, Inc.
  • 2813 Cave Avenue
  • Huntsville, Alabama 35810-4431
  • Tel. 205-852-1300
  • The Board of Governors of the National Speleological Society approved the following policy statement on November 6, 1993:


    Caves, and areas of karst and pseudokarst development, are sensitive environments which often interact with surface and subsurface waters and ecosystems. They frequently harbor recreational, historical, and natural resources of considerable significance.

    The National Speleological Society believes that all caves and cavernous areas are important; that cave wilderness, like surface wilderness, is a valuable resource that should be protected regardless of official designations or boundaries; and that caves and cavernous areas, with their unique environment and development, may require management measures which are independent of geographic boundaries or designations established for the management of other surface or subsurface resources.

    Accordingly, the Society endorses, supports, and advocates the implementation of the following precepts:

    Where formal designation of Cave Wilderness is a useful tool in protecting this resource, the National Speleological Society will support such designation through actions of its Board of Governors.

    Carbide and Phosphene Data

    from John Marquart

    Editor's Note: the following was reprinted by permission from the caver's mailing list on Internet.



    There is much published about it. I'll summarize some, but first let's review some of the terms used. Toxic dangers can be reported in terms of "dosage" (exposure to a given quantity of the agent such as milligrams) or "concentration" (exposure to a certain ratio of amount of agent to the total amount of material present). In this context, we hear information on the "LD50" (lethal dose to kill half of a population of test animals) or LC50 (lethal concentration to kill half the population). LD50 is often reported as the number of milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Usually hazardous concentrations are reported in partspermillion (ppm).

    What this means depends upon what the "background material" or "solvent" is. The pollutant can be called the "solute". If the solvent is a liquid, such as water, 1 ppm of solute means one gram of solute per million grams total material (solvent + solute) or equivalently one milligram (mg) of solute per kilogram (kg) of total material. For water solutions, one liter of water has a mass of one kg, so for small concentrations, 1 ppm water = 1 mg(solute)/liter(solution).

    Gaseous samples are treated differently, however. Usually the "solvent" is air and 1 ppm = 1 volume of solute gas per million volumes of total gas. The volume of a gas depends upon the quantity of gas (in moles), the pressure (in atmospheres), and the temperature (in degrees Kelvin = degrees C + 273.2). To have some uniform method of comparison, gas volumes are usually reported at standard temperature and pressure (STP). Standard temperature is 298.2 degrees K (25.0 degrees C) and standard pressure is 1 atmosphere (14.5 psi). In that way, the volume of a gas is directly related to its amount in units of moles. A mole is the mass (in grams) divided by the molecular weight (in grams per mole). One mole of gas at STP occupies 22.4 liters (0.0224 cubic meters).

    Since we are dealing here with the gases air, acetylene, and phosphene, let's summarize some of their properties that we will need:

    Air is 78.08% nitrogen (N2), 20.95% oxygen (O2),0.033% carbon dioxide (CO2), and 0.934% argon (Ar). Its average molecular weight is 28.96 grams/mole. Water vapor is ignored since it varies widely.

    Acetylene (C2H2) has a molecular weight of 26.02 grams/mole.

    Phosphene (PH3) has a molecular weight of 34.00 grams/mole.

    One reference, to be given later, gives the threshold limit of phosphene in which workers should be safe (TLV) at 0.4 mg per cubic meter. Let's convert that into ppm. One mg is 0.001 gram, so phosphene is 0.001/34.00 = 0.0000294 moles and 0.4 mg is 0.0000118 moles. One cubic meter of gas at STP contains 1/0.0224 = 44.6 moles of gas total. Therefore, 0.4 mg per cubic meter of phosphene is equivalent to (0.0000118/44.6)x1,000,000 = 0.26 ppm. Or in general 1 ppm = 1.5 mg per cubic meter. These calculations are true only for phosphene and would have to be redone for different gases.


    1. "THE MERCK INDEX An Encyclopedia of Chemicals, Drugs, and Biologicals" by the Merck & Co: The Merck Index is a very useful reference to start with. It includes data on millions of chemical compounds and lists physical and chemical properties, sources and methods of preparation, industrial and medical uses, and toxicology data. I have copies handy both at my office and at home. They give some references to follow up on.

  • a. The Merck Index, 8th edition (1968),p. 823:
  • Lethal concentration for rats: 60 ppm. Human Toxicity: (I reported in earlier article)

  • b. The Merck Index, 10th edition(1983),p. 7221:
  • Lowest published lethal concentration for hamsters (inhalation): 8 ppm Human Toxicity: (as before, but they give references)

    2. "HAZARDOUS MATERIALS HANDBOOK" by James H. Meidle (1972), p.252:

    It reports phosphene as "even more toxic than phosgene". Phosgene was the primary war gas used in World War I and inhalation of very small quantities can be fatal. However, phosphene has a very disagreeable odor, while phosphene does not. Don't confuse the two. Phosgene is COCl2. They also note that a selfcontained breathing mask (supplied oxygen system) must be used in the presence of phosphene since canister masks will overheat.

    3. "TOXIC AND HAZARDOUS INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS SAFETY MANUAL" by International Technical Information Institute (1975) pp. 41314:

    Threshold limit for worker safety on a daily basis (TLV): 0.3 ppm or 0.4 mg/cubic meter. Lowest published toxic concentration in humans: 8 ppm Lethal dose 50 (LD50) in rats in 4 hours: 11 ppm

    4. "HAZARDOUS AND TOXIC EFFECTS OF INDUSTRIAL CHEMICALS" by Marshall Sittig (1979), pp. 3513:

    Federal standard for permissible exposure limits: 0.3 ppm (0.4 mg/m cubed) 5. "INDUSTRIAL TOXICOLOGY" by Lawrence T. Fairhall (1969), pp. 912: Animals died in 20 ppm after two exposures of 4 hours each. Rabbits and guinea pigs could endure 5 ppm for 2 months when inhaled for 4 hours daily. Also note, he states "phosphene is an unstable gas which can decompose by heat alone and which is easily oxidized". We'll refer to that later.

    6. "ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH CRITERIA 73 PHOSPHENE AND SELECTED METAL PHOSPHIDES" by World Health Organization, Geneva (1988), pp. 6776:

    A very complete review with many references. The best compilation that I came upon. They cite animal tests and human accident reports (fatal and nonfatal) for phosphene. There are too many to give here. If you are interested see this reference for completion.


    This is also a very complete overview of breathing exposures to acetylene and impurities in it such as phosphene, arsine, etc. Like reference 6, it is too lengthy to cite here. It is a good source for further study. It concluded that acetylene itself has a very low toxicity to humans (see pp. 1444). At levels of 100,000 ppm or greater, (10%), it tends to act as an anesthetic and was in fact tried medically as an anesthetic. Toxic effects due to impurities in the acetylene caused the abandonment of this use. Illness and death accounts of workers with acetylene are attributed to the impurities, especially to phosphene.

    By the way, another publication "Toxicology" by William D. McNally (1937) states that pure acetylene has the agreeable odor of geraniums and that dogs can withstand 20% acetylene in air with no notable effect and go into a stupor at 40%. They recovered with no apparent ill effects. Acetylene acts as a simple anesthetic. Do you associate acetylene from your carbide lamp with geraniums? I don't, but again we don't have pure acetylene.


    There are lots of other references to the toxicity of phosphene, but these are representative. In general, 0.3 ppm is considered as permissible for worker safety(TLV), while 8 ppm make humans sick in a hurry and 11 to 20 ppm is almost certainly fatal.


    The calcium carbide that I used is Safesport brand from the Safesport Manufacturing Co, Denver, CO 80211. All commercial carbide is produced by the same electric furnace method, which has hardly changed since its invention at the turn of the century. The technology of carbide production is pretty much frozen in time and, for that matter, so is the design of carbide lamps.

    As I pointed out in my earlier article, the impurities get in through the raw materials used (coke and lime). There might be some difference in impurities among different manufacturers or even among different batches from the same manufacturer. I have no data on that. There are, however, generally accepted international regulations about the amount of phosphorous that is permissible (see earlier article).


    Commercial carbide is highly impure. Only about 80% of it is actually calcium carbide (CaC2). Much is calcium oxide (CaO) and some is calcium phosphide (Ca3P2). The calcium phosphide is the source of the phosphene:

    Ca3P2(solid) + 6H2O(liquid) > 2PH3(gas) + 3Ca(OH)2(solid) At the risk of adding more scare to the subject (not my intention just giving the facts) There is also some Ca3As2(solid) in the commercial carbide that similarly reacts with water to form arsine (AsH3). Note that As is arsenic. Arsine is similar in many respects to phosphene. it smells the same and is of similar toxicity.


    As shown in reference (5) above, the answer is yes, phosphene will burn. In fact high concentrations of phosphene are "pyrophoric" (spontaneously burst into flame in air). However, we are dealing with very low concentrations which are not pyrophoric, but should burn in an acetylene flame proceeding by to the reactions:

    2PH3 + 3O2 > P2O3 + 3H20 and 2PH3 + 4O2 > P2O5 + 3H2O Unfortunately, phosphorus trioxide (P2O3) is itself very toxic and phosphorous pentoxide (P2O5) fairly toxic (see The Merck Index and other references above). I'd rather not open that can of worms for now. I have plenty to do just to answer Tom Moss's questions.

    Tom points out quite correctly that the smell from some carbide lamps is slight when lit and only become annoying when the flame goes out or when the carbide chamber is opened. Apparently most of the phosphene is burned in the flame. He notes that some brands of carbide lamps, however, do smell even when closed and lit (especially Premier and belt generator type). I used a Premier in my tests and appreciate the comparison. In the future, I will also look at results from AutoLite and Guy's Dropper lamps that I have.

    Most of the phosphene does probably burn up in the flame to P2O3 and P2O5, but some leaks out with unburned acetylene. Also an acetyleneair flame consists of very incomplete combustion of the acetylene and probably other ingredients in the gas as well. This incomplete combustion is paramount to the high intensity of white light that is given off by the flame (the reason we use it anyway).

    Acetylene is highly unstable and under increased pressure and/or temperature dissociates to the elements:

    C2H2 > 2C(solid) + H2(gas) The hydrogen (H2) gas burns readily, but the carbon particles formed by the dissociation of some of the acetylene gets heated to white incandescence. It is the heating of these unburned carbon particles that supplies the light. Since the acetylene is incompletely combusted, it is probable that other gases are also and escape unburned.


    As pointed out above (Section IV.) acetylene does not at all burn completely in air. The frequent mention of soot produced and carbon markings in caves from the use and/or misuse of carbide lamps is a testimonial to the incomplete combustion. I wondered just how complete (or incomplete) it is. One possible (but not easy) method would be to trap the unburned particulate matter and weigh it. The difficulty is in completely trapping particulates from a hot flame without interfering with the burning or destroying the filter system. An easier way is to calculate the theoretical temperature of the flame and compare with its actual temperature.

    A. TEMPERATURE OF ACETYLENE FLAMES: The theoretical (or ideal) temperature of flames can be readily calculated from available thermodynamic data. The calculated temperature is called the adiabatic flame temperature. In brief, you calculate the heat released by the combustion of the fuel with either pure oxygen or air and then calculate how much temperature rise the products of the combustion would experience given the amount of heat evolved. The thermodynamic data needed consist of heats (enthalpies) of formation and heat capacities at constant pressure for the reactants and products. It is assumed that no heat escapes in the form of radiation. That isn't perfectly true, but it is found that actual flame temperatures are typically about 100 degrees C lower than the adiabatic flame temperature (pretty close). Flame temperatures in air are lower than in pure oxygen because a considerable amount of heat has to go into heating the nitrogen in the air (80% of the total gas in the air).


    Acetylene burning in air gives 2500 degrees K (2227 degrees C).

    Acetylene burning in pure oxygen gives 4375 degrees K (4102 degrees C).


    The temperature of acetylene burning in pure oxygen such as in an oxyacetylene torch is reported as about 2800 degrees C (3073 degrees K). This is 1302 degrees below the theoretical. Since for most other gases the actual and theoretical agree within about 100 degrees, we can conclude that the combustion is not at all complete for acetylene. The intense white light of the flame again shows that. A rough estimate might guess that the ratio 3073/4375 = 0.70 means that we have about 70% completion of combustion. This estimate is admittedly crude and could be handled better using thermodynamic calculations, but will do for this discussion.

    I measured the temperature of the flame from a Premier carbide lamp while burning with flames that varied from 1 inch to 1 ? inches long. The hottest part of the flame is the extreme end (away from the lamp tip) and measured at 1030 degrees C (1303 degrees K). The temperature taken with and without the wind guard were identical. According to the rough estimate as above, the ratio is 1303/2500 = 0.48 or 48% completion of combustion.

    It would be informative to get better data, but it is clear that the flame from a carbide lamp has far from complete combustion.


    In Digest #4701, Tom suggested doing a "worst case" treatment of the threat of phosphene accumulation to a caver in a crawlway with no airflow using a 7liter tip. I trust that a 7liter tip means that it delivers 7 liters of acetylene at STP per hour. I will assume that the carbide is 80% pure and is as "dirty" as allowed by regulations. That is it produces 0.06% (600 ppm) of phosphene relative to the amount of acetylene. I will also assume that none of the phosphene is burned in the flame. This is hopefully untrue, unless the lamp flame has gone out. The biggest problem is deciding what volume of air space to consider contaminated. If the caver is passing through a sump or bathtub with only air space for his head, then that is indeed a small volume of air. I will take the unlikely case that the caver is immobile in a volume of 4 cubic meters for the duration of burning of the lamp.

    I tested a Premier lamp which when charged to 2/3 capacity contained 70 grams of commercial carbide. At 80% purity that is 56 grams of calcium carbide or (56 g)/(64.1 g/mol) = 0.874 moles of calcium carbide. This will generate an equal number of moles of acetylene (0.874 moles). Since the phosphene produced is assumed to be 600 ppm of the acetylene, that gives us 0.000524 moles of phosphene, which occupies 0.0117 liters (0.0000117 cubic meters)at STP. The concentration of phosphene accumulated in the air is then [(0.0000117)/(4)]x 1,000,000 = 2.93 ppm. According to my conclusions in section I.B.8, that may be enough to make you sick, but probably would not be fatal. It is, however, ten times more than the TLV of 0.3 ppm and should be avoided. By the way, I found that the lamp burned for about 3 1/3 hours, whereas a 7liter tip would be expected to burn for 3 hours with the same charge of carbide. Not a bad comparison.


    I want to thank Tom Moss and all others that added input to the question of the possible effects of toxic gases have when we use carbide lamps in caves. Tom's scenario was a good one to try, but the story is anything but closed and probably never will be. It does clearly show that more literature study and lab experiments are called for. I intend to soon analyze a carbide sample to find out more accurately how much of various elements are present. When I get results (not too soon), I'll let you all know. I suggest that those who are interested in the subject, design and try some tests of your own and let us know the outcome.

    [NSS] Conservation Committee Report (As Of April 31, 1994)

    Albert A. Krause



    General Items

  • 1. Rock Bolting in Oregon Caver/Climber Conflict. Reference: BOG Motion of March 15, 1994 supporting actions to protect caves in Oregon from disfigurement by rock bolts, 'quick draws', and climbing chalk. Pursuant to the BOG's initiative, a letter was sent to Executive Director of the ACCESS FUND (a climber organization) soliciting a conservation minded approach from the climbing community. This appears to have been favorably received. Of far greater significance, however, is the positive cooperation achieved by attendees at the Bend, OR, meeting. Cavers, climbers, and USFS and BLM representatives at and following the meeting substantially agreed to cooperate on developing serious management plans for the caves in the area, with a view to minimizing adverse impacts and still, as and where appropriate, allowing for reasonable use.
  • Larry King, NSS representative out of Portland, reports widespread positive support from the organized climbing community and federal land managers. It is clear cavers and climbers have much in common, to include a strong concern for conserving resources for the future. All is not sweetness and light, but as organizations, there is agreement to work together to achieve conservative workable plans and practices. Federal agency support has been especially strong.
  • 2. Carlsbad Caverns Underground Concessions. In response to efforts to overturn the NPS decision to close the underground concessions in Carlsbad Caverns, NSS President Jeanne Gurnee sent letters to the Park Service, local congressional delegates, and the Carlsbad newspaper reiterating the NSS's established position favoring closure of the concession. The NSS position and arguments supporting removal of the underground concessions are outlined in ATTACHMENT B1A.
  • 3. Conservation position vacancies. The Conservation Committee still urgently needs interested, selfmotivated volunteers to serve as advocates, coordinators and action agents for the following positions:
  • Cave Conservation Grants Subcommittee (Vacant)

  • 1. Grants awarded. No grant applications for FY 199495 have been received thus far. Conservation Grants totaling $1,900 were awarded during FY 199394. Regrettably, no applications for Conservation Research Grants were received last year. Ads and announcements in the NSS News and Member's Manual will hopefully encourage our members to promote valid applications from our own community, high school and college students, and other conservationminded folks. Support to students is especially desirable ... local science fairs and projects command wide and interested audiences.
  • 2. Grant funds available. The FY 199495 Conservation Grants Fund has $2000 available for award. Another $500 is available for Conservation Research Grants.

  • 1. Regulations implementing the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act. The Department of the Interior's implementing rules were published last fall, however the Department of Agriculture is still delaying. It now seems likely that the DOA will publish this summer (possibly with some undesirable wording). In any case, joint implementation, as planned, is now impossible. The National Park Service issued implementing guidance to it's superintendents in April and is proceeding ahead of the pack (see ATTACHMENT BlA). The Bureau of Land Management is holding back in the hopes that DOA will get on board, but it will not hold off long.
  • The basic nominating forms and procedures outlined by the NPS instructions are certain to be similar to those which will be used by all agencies, given that the Cave Nomination Clearinghouse is a single, interagency activity. We should go ahead and proceed to support and join in the nomination process rather than delay. Many BLM and USFS local districts are independently implementing the FCRPA right now; they need our support, assistance, cooperation and encouragement.
  • The Conservation Committee will undertake a direct mailing of the FCRPA, DOI rules, and NPS nomination forms and instructions to all I/O's before the NSS Convention and handouts will be available at Convention, as well, to speed information to our membership. Nomination forms and guidelines can then be locally reproduced as needed.
  • Conservation Task Force Division (David Cowan)

  • l. Sloan's Valley (KY) CTF. (Dr.. Hillary Lambert Hopper) SVCTF and the local Pulaski county newspaper report widespread popular support for closure and cleanup of the Pulaski County Landfill, whose foul leachate is draining into the Sloan's Valley cave system and local waters. Public hearings have brought forth wide opposition to the landfill and (finally) have secured EPA interest. The longfought battle to preserve Sloan's Valley is far from over, but the barricade erected by local politicians and the operators was pierced in consequence of public hearings held this March..
  • 2. Lost River Conservation Association. (Robert Armstrong) Threats of more highway construction continue to rear up almost monthly, but LRCA has won increasing public support and positive official responses through hard work, educational tours, and pragmatic working relations with transportation, environmental, and planning agencies. Nearly every new development has to be independently addressed, but the LRCA is achieving notable results .
  • 3. Northwest Cave Research Institute. (Bob Brown) The NCRI is sponsoring a 2week field camp at Trout Lake, Washington during July 30 August 14, 1994. The focus of the project is to locate, inventory and explore caves located in the Mt. Adams Ranger District (OSSIFIES). The area features lava caves, both horizontal and vertical. Participants of all skill levels are welcome, as are family groups with kids. For additional information contact the NCRI at 9417 8th Ave NE Seattle, WA 98115 (Ph. 2065692724 after 7 p.m. PST).

  • NSS Position Summary Concerning the Underground Concessions in Carlsbad Caverns, NM

  • a. The NSS supports the National Park Service's 1994 decision to remove the underground concessions from Carlsbad Caverns.
  • b. The concessions detract from the true visitor experience by intruding on the sense of awe and majesty created by the size, beauty, and physical demands of the caverns.
  • c. As a premier 'showcave', Carlsbad Caverns sets a standard for others around the nation and the world. The image of an underground concession as an 'attraction' is scarcely becoming for a National Park, nor an example we would like to see followed by others. Caves are a natural resource. They should showcase the wonders of nature, not the products of man.
  • d. Portions of the old and current concession area overlie some of the best rimstone formations available for the cavern's visitors. Preliminary restoration work undertaken by the Cave Research Foundation have proven this resource. Removing the concessions will enable further restoration and display of the cavern's own unique attributes.
  • e. We understand that local businessmen have petitioned to retain the underground concessions on grounds that they are important to the local economy and encourage visitors to spend more money locally. The exact opposite is more likely to be true.
  • 1. If all concessions and food service were above ground, readily accessible by elevator, it is likely that visitors could actually be encouraged to spend more money during a visit. Above ground, they could enjoy a relaxed, quality meal in the comfort of a real restaurant and could shop at leisure, knowing their cars were nearby to hold their purchases. Moreover, visitors might be enticed to stay over an extra day to visit the cave, the nature trails, and nighttime bat flight programs over a more relaxed span.
  • 2. Removing the concessions, coupled with aggressive promotion of the firstclass exhibits at the Living Desert State Park and other attractions, should benefit Carlsbad businesses. Blind promotion of the underground concessions restricts the potential for wider development of area attractions and tourist support facilities. As now promoted, the existence of the concessions actively encourages visitors to make 1day passthrough visits to the area.
  • f. The existing elevators provide adequate opportunity for visitors to return to the surface for souvenirs and snacks. There is no overriding need for the underground concessions.

  • Nomination of NPS Caves under the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act (DOI Caves)

    The Federal Cave Resources Protection Act mandates a nationwide inventory and listing of all significant Federally owned caves. Parks with cave resources should nominate them for inclusion in the national inventory during the 6month period beginning in January 1994.

    What should be nominated.

    Under Interior Department regulations implementing the Act, all caves on NPS land are considered significant by definition. Therefore our job is to identify which features within the park should be considered "caves". The NPS has no formal definition of a cave, but as a general guideline, a cave should include one or more passages that extend at least 50 feet from the entrance, or penetrate into total darkness, and passage length should be at least twice the width of the entrance. Do not nominate mines and other manmade excavations, or cavelike features including rock shelters, cliff overhangs, and fissures.

    Who may submit nominations.

    Caves may be nominated by any individual, organization, or Federal land manager. For the NPS, nominations should be submitted by the park superintendent. Parks should consult with local cavers and caving organizations as part of the nomination process. Cavers may be aware of caves that are not known to park staff, and may be able to offer assistance for the park's cave management activities.

    Nomination Procedure.

    The Federal interagency oversight committee responsible for developing the national inventory has established the following process for Federal agencies. Federal land managers will submit nominations, through a national clearinghouse, to one of six regional interagency review teams for technical review. technical review teams will send reviewed nominations to a designated "authorized officer" for the respective Federal agency on whose lands the caves are located. The federal authorized officer decides whether or not to list the nominated caves on the national inventory. Regional Directors have been identified as the authorized officers for NPS caves. Regional Directors will notify parks of the decision for each nomination.

    All caves in a park may be nominated in one group by completing section A, and questions 5 and 6 of section B of one nomination worksheet, and attaching a computer printout or typed list of all of the park's caves. Other questions on the worksheet should be answered by the cave list. For each cave on the list, include its name, exact location(s) of its entrance(s), and characteristics, such as passage length, documenting that it meets the guidelines for consideration as a cave. It is not necessary to provide the other information requested on the interagency worksheet. However, the additional information is valuable for the park's cave management program and should be collected when possible for use within the park.

    To expedite the review and listing process, superintendents may send nominations of all features that are unequivocally "caves" straight to their Regional Director for listing approval. Nominations of features for which there is some question as to whether they qualify as caves should receive technical evaluations from regional review teams. The superintendent should send these nominations to:

    Cave Nomination Clearinghouse

    P.O. Box 10

    Three Rivers, CA 93271

    Maintaining Cave Lists.

    A list of all of the park's caves determined eligible by the Regional Director should be maintained in the park in secure locked storage with limited access. Electronic data about these caves should also be protected from unauthorized access. To protect cave information, there will be no national or regional lists of significant caves.

    The Act exempts cave locations from FOIA requests, and obligates Federal land managers to keep locations confidential unless disclosure would not risk harm to cave resources. However, the information may be made available at the superintendent's discretion to Federal or state agencies, educational or research institutes, or individuals or organizations assisting with the park's cave management activities.

    Thank you for your cooperation with this important effort. Questions about the nomination process should be directed to Lindsay McClelland, Wildlife and Vegetation Division, at 202343-1004.*


  • 1) Instructions for Completing the Significant Cave Nomination Worksheet
  • 2) Significant Cave Nomination Worksheet
  • Instructions for Completing the Significant Cave Nomination Worksheet (for NPS Caves)

  • A. Applicant Information: All caves in a park may be nominated as a group by completing this section, and items 36 of section B, on one worksheet, and attaching a computer printout or typed list of all of the park's caves including cave name(s), specific location within the park, and a brief description.
  • B. Nomination Information:
  • 1. Cave Name List the most commonly recognized name first. Other names may be listed if it will help in identifying the cave. An agency cave identification number may be included here but is not required.
  • 2. Location Provide information on cave location so that agency field managers can locate it on the ground. The preferred method is by geographic descriptors such as township and range, latitude and longitude, or Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates. If this is not possible, provide a narrative description of the cave location by describing it in relation to major landmarks such as towns, road junctions, natural features, etc.
  • 3. Location Map If possible, provide a scaled map with the location of the cave prominently marked. The preferred map is a U.S. Geological Survey 15minute or 7.5minute topographic quadrangle sheet.
  • 4. Cave Map It is not necessary to provide a cave map, but if one is available, it may be helpful in referencing cave features.
  • 5. Administering Federal Agency Record the Federal agency having jurisdiction over the cave. If the cave is under the jurisdiction of more than one agency, show the agency having primary management responsibility first. The Federal agencies included under the significant caves provision of the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act are the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service.
  • 6. Local Field Office Record the name of the local field office of the agency having primary jurisdiction over the cave. Use the agency's lowestlevel field office-National Park Service Park, Bureau of Land Management Resource Area, Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Bureau of Reclamation Reservoir or Project Area, and Forest Service Ranger District.
  • 7. Description of Cave Provide a brief summary description of the cave and its resources. For an NPS cave nomination, this section should document that the feature being nominated is, in fact, a cave.
  • C. Significant Cave Criteria Information. It is not necessary to supply the significance criteria for an NPS cave nomination, but the information should, ideally, be available for use by the park's management program.

  • Note: It is permissible to withhold information relating to the location of the cave pending the outcome of the nomination's evaluation by the Regional Interagency Review Team and the agency authorized officer. However, the location information must be provided to the agency authorized officer before a cave can be listed.

    Significant Cave Nomination Worksheet

    A. Applicant Information

    Person or Organization Submitting this Nomination:



    Telephone: ( ) Date:

    Person to contact for additional information:

    Name: Telephone: ( )

    B. Nomination Information (See Instructions)

  • 1. Cave Name(s):
  • 2. Cave Location: State: County:
  • Specific location:
  • 3. Topographic map enclosed? Yes No
  • 4. Cave map enclosed? Yes No
  • 5. Administering Federal Agency:
  • 6. Local field office where cave is located:
  • 7. Description of cave:
  • C. Significant Cave Criteria Information (See Instructions)

  • 1. Biota: The cave provides seasonal or yearlong habitat for organisms or animals or contains species or subspecies of flora or fauna native to caves, or are sensitive to disruption, or are found on State or Federal sensitive, threatened, or endangered species lists.
  • Yes No Discussion:
  • 2. Cultural: The cave contains historical properties or archaeological resources or other features that are included or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historical Places because of its research importance for history or prehistory, its historical associations, or other historical or traditional significance.
  • Yes No Discussion:
  • 3. Geologic/Mineralogic/Paleontologic: The cave possesses one or more of the following features: (1) Geologic or mineralogic features that are fragile, or that exhibit interesting formation processes, or that are otherwise useful for study; (2) Deposits of sediments or features useful for evaluating past events, (3) Paleontological resources with potential to contribute useful educational and scientific information.
  • Yes No Discussion:
  • 4. Hydrologic: The cave is part of a hydrologic system or contains water that is important to humans, biota, or development of cave resources.
  • Yes No Discussion:
  • 5. Recreational: The cave provides or could provide recreational opportunities or scenic values.
  • Yes No Discussion:
  • 6. Educational or Scientific: The cave offers opportunities for educational or scientific use; or, the cave is virtually in a pristine state, lacking evidence of contemporary human disturbance or impact; or, the length, volume, total depth, pit depth, height, or similar measurements are notable.
  • Yes No Discussion:
  • Attachment(s):

    Caving beneath the Tongass

    by Lisa Busch

    reprinted from BioScience Vol. 44, #4, April 1994

    Forest managers must balance the value of Alaskan aboveground tree wealth against asyetunmeasured underground stores


    im Baichtal's breadth and stature hardly make him a prime candidate for squeezing through tight corridors or crawling along passages 12 inches high. But as the man who has spearheaded the exploration of a major cave system in southeast Alaska, Baichtal is often caught between a rock and a hard place.

    Baichtal, a geologist for the United States Forest Service, has been put in the uncomfortable position of convincing his boss that a cave resource is equal in value to the land above it. In the case of Prince of Wales Island, caves lie below one of the richest timber stands in Alaska an area that has been managed by the Forest Service and logged for the past 25 years. If the caves are to be preserved, the Forest Service may have to change its management strategies because logging activities can fill a cave with slash and sediment, destroying it and its contents. While Baichtal helps the Forest Service grapple with this underground dimension of forest ecology, biologists, geologists, and archaeologists fear logging will impede further exploration and discovery in the cave.

    Underpinnings of the Tongass

    Like many parts of Alaska, the geology of this region has been virtually unstudied. Baichtal, who came to soothsayer Alaska to mall age a molybdenum mine for the Forest Service in 1990, first suspected the existence of the Prince of Wales caves while looking at some aerial photographs.

    What no one else had seen, Baichtal recognized as textbook karst (a porous rock, especially limestone) topography. "I immediately saw there were streams that just ended, several hundred sinkholes on the plateau, and several cave entrances and resurging streams down by the lakes and realized this was a major karst area," says Baichtal.

    There are karstlands all over the world, but scientists were surprised to find them so far north. "No one thought to look up here," says Baichtal. "Alaska was supposed to be all ice and snow."

    But the Alaskan panhandle is mostly temperate rain forest. Prince of Wales, part of the Tongass National Forest, the largest federal forest in the country, receives approximately 160 inches of rain annually.

    The rainfall, combined with the thick vegetative layer of the old growth forest and peat land covering the limestone, has created a unique cave environment. The uniqueness lies not only in the existence of an extensive karstland in a largely intact coniferous temperate rain forest, but also in the fact that the karst rock is so pure that it is dissolved by water four to eight times faster than caves in the lower forty-eight states. The cool temperatures, plus the slightly acidic conditions, help preserve the caves and their contents. Meanwhile, highly acidic runoff (up to 100 inches a year) flows off the peat lands and dissolves deep vertical shafts. Thus, new caves are continually being carved from the limestone.

    Cave expert Tom Aley, who operates the Ozark Underground Laboratory in Protem, Missouri, says Prince of Wales could have as many as 3300 to 10,000 caves per square mile, which would make it the most concentrated cave area in the United States and possibly the world. In the past three years, approximately 300 caves have been mapped and explored by the volunteer cave exploration group formed by Baichtal to do most of the footwork.

    Caves on federal land must be protected under the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act, which calls for the protection of any "significant" cave. The law still lacks criteria for determining what is significant. It says only that any cave with geological, hydrological, anthropological, archaeological, mineralogical, or biological value must be protected.

    While the Forest Service is coming up with general national guidelines to deem a cave significant, the Ketchikan Area of the Forest Service, the office that manages Prince of Wales, is making its own assessments. After the Forest Service has assessed the cave resources, it may still decide that the caves are less valuable than the land above them, but the process of evaluating is intended to help land managers make better decisions.

    To assist the Forest Service with its evaluation, Aley and a blueribbon panel of cave scientists came to the area during the summer of 1993 to survey the karst features. The panel was invited by the Ketchikan Area of the Forest Service.

    The panel members were impressed with the geological history of the karstland. Prince of Wales Island is part of the Alexander Archipelago, a group of islands that formed in warm, shallow seas during the Silurian 450 million years ago, and drifted up to the wastrel edge of the North American continent. According to Peter Huntoon, professor of hydrogeology at the University of Wyoming, the islands are thought to have hit the mainland at an oblique angle and then to have been "smeared" during northward. The sea has risen and fallen several times during the millions of years that followed. The most recent rise was approximately 10,000 years ago at the end of the Wisconsin Era.

    "It's fantastic," says Huntoon, a member of the panel. According to the panel's report, "There is no other place in the world where tropical limestones have traveled so far, been involved in such an oblique collision with a continent, and ended up emplaced in an archipelago setting at such high latitudes."

    From the geology of this region, an entire karst ecosystem has developed to be an integral part of the ecology and biology of the area. The porous karst provides extensive drainage and allows the trees to grow tall. This drainage, combined with the limestone's purity, affects the soil chemistry. Because the limestone here has a 9599% soluble purity, little of the rock is transformed into soil so soil layers are thin.

    In addition to supporting the forest ecosystem, the caves present archaeologists with the chance to rewrite the story of human migration into North America. And biologists, by studying the caves' organisms, may gain greater understanding of the development of relict species isolated during periods of climate change.

    Coastal refugia

    Until now, the coast of Alaska was thought to have been covered with ice during the Pleistocene. But archaeologists began to scratch their heads when grizzly and black bear bones found at the bottom of one cave were estimated to be more than 12,000 years old.

    If bears were able to live here, at least some parts of the area were not overridden with ice. James Dixon, director of the Alaska Quaternary Center and curator of archaeology at the University of Alaska, takes the reasoning one step further. He says if bears were living on the islands of southeast Alaska, humans may have been there too. Dixon hopes these caves will provide evidence for a revised edition of human migration into North America.

    The traditional theory of North American migration has humans, following big game, coming over the Bering Land Bridge and down an inland icefree corridor in what is now Alberta, 11,000 years ago. This inland theory hinges on matching the timing of two receding North American ice sheets with approximately 30 prehistoric sites in Alaska and Canada where projectile points have been found.

    However, some archaeologists argue that humans came to North America much earlier than 11,000 years ago. Several human archaeological sites as far south as Chile and as far east as Pennsylvania have been dated at more than 30,000 years old. But because no one has found signs of humans in Alaska that predate the Ice Age, scientists remain puzzled about how humans got so far south or east. Although some scientists hypothesized that humans came down the west coast of North America, the coastal theory stagnated because all possible evidence was thought to be either crushed by the glaciers or submerged under the rising sea.

    But recent geologic research indicates that sizable areas of southeast Alaska were icefree along the continental shelf beginning approximately 16,000 years ago. There may have been in the area a coastal corridor, or refugee, that could be traversed by plants, animals, and humans.

    This coastal refugee theory paints a different picture of early humans. Dixon and Forest Service archaeologist John Autry believe early humans may have been a robust, adventurous, maritime people, who were innovative enough to use boats as transportation.

    "The coastline of this area is very steep and irregular," says Autry. "It's very hard to walk 10 miles because of thick vegetation and rugged terrain, but it's not hard to travel 20, 30, or 40 miles in a single day by boat. "

    Dixon and Autry have not yet found any Pleistocene boats, but they say there is archaeological evidence all along the coast that indicates humans were marine adapted. "All over the coast eve have found evidence, such as obsidian pieces originating elsewhere, that indicates humans were trading using water passageways as early as 10,000 years ago," Autry says. He points out that humans in other parts of the world were capable of using boats 30,000 years ago. "The people who arrived in New Guinea 33,000 years ago must have used boats, and there is evidence that early humans in Japan were using boats very early on," he adds.

    Though archaeologists are always reluctant to characterize early humans, Dixon says coastal people would have had a radically different society than inland hunters. The inland hunters were dependent on their young men to provide food. They had to have good shelter and large food stores to survive the cold, severe winters. "Coastal people could have been a lot more mobile [than inland hunters]," says Dixon. "The climate is milder on the coast, and women, children, and people of all ages could have collected a tremendous amount of food in a short period of time, and possibly they were not so reliant on younger males to capture big and dangerous animals."

    Dixon and Autry know that humans have used the Prince of Wales caves for at least 3000 years, because they have already found dramatic cave paintings, sea shell middens, and an otter ceremonially wrapped in bark in the caves, but they are hoping to find human archaeological evidence that predates the Ice Age. Autry and Dixon evil be looking for evidence in the area that was once the coast, in what are called littoral caves, caves that are made from mechanical weathering by the ocean.

    Dixon says the Prince of Wales caves "present one of the last major scientific frontiers of its type in North America. The caves and their associated deposits provide unparalleled opportunity to interpret a rich cultural and paleoecological record dating to the late Pleistocene and possibly earlier."

    The coastal refugee theory, the idea that the coast or parts of it remained icefree during the Pleistocene, is furthered by the discovery of a rare freshwater amphipod collected on Heceta Island just off the coast of Prince of Wales. The amphipod Stygobromus quatsinesis is a caveadapted (blind and white) amphipod that has also been identified on Vancouver Island, which is 320 miles south.

    Bill Elliot, the biospeleologist who collected the amphipod in a freshwater cave stream, says one explanation could be that over millions of years the amphipod traveled through subterranean passages under a coastal plain that is now flooded with salt water. "I wonder if the old plumbing is still there," Elliot speculates. "The Stygobromus could have some importance in understanding the movement of the glaciers in the area as well."

    Elliot collected this amphipod after only a few weeks of study and expects there are more invertebrates to be found. "The caves could hold some very interesting things…organisms that may have existed before the Ice Age. The caves are a kind of time capsule to the past."

    John Holsinger, a biologist at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, has described hundreds of amphipods in his career, and he was shocked to find this genus so far north. "This represents a pretty major range distribution, and it begs the question, 'how did these things get there?"' Holsinger believes the Stygobromus, which has cousins in Asia, could have survived during the Ice Age by living in deep groundwater. "If that is the case," he says," these critters could be over 40 million years old." He believes they may have been isolated on these islands by the elevation of the sea.

    Managing the karst

    Although scientists like Huntoon, Aley, and Elliot are beginning to understand the interrelationship between the geology and the vegetative layer, they also are impressing on managers the idea of approaching karst as more than just a few holes in the ground. "I would like to see people recognize the importance of the entire karst area, not just the individual caves," says Baichtal, who is implementing many of the panel's recommendations for karst management on Prince of Wales.

    Baichtal's job is to evaluate the importance of the cave system to the entire ecology of the area. He is first assessing the location of springs, streams, and groundwater basins, and then mapping them in relation to valleys and sinkholes. The information is to be used to create an inventory of connected karst areas.

    Baichtal then plans to classify the karst areas for sensitivity to damage from such activities as logging. A stream from one karst area can supply water to a karst basin more than a mile away. If logging occurred in one area, debris and organic matter could be carried by the stream into a distant cave. Tree limbs and organic matter flushing into the karst conduits and sinkholes plug cave entrances. When the caves clog, the drainage they provide the old growth forest is destroyed. Baichtal's classifications will be considered in logging plans.

    The problems that Prince of Wales caves pose for land managers are not unusual. At the National Cave Management Symposium in October, managers, regulators, scientists, and cave explorers discussed the challenges of cave preservation. Tourist traffic, local zoning, and groundwater contamination are big problems for caves, but the discovery of new caves, especially on federal lands, puts pressure on cave conservationists to prove a cave's value while simultaneously exploring it for the first time.

    Caves on federal lands must contend with oil and gas drilling and with cattle grazing. In Prince of Wales, preserving the caves could mean an environmental conflict with loggers. Aley worries that the giant fir, spruce, and hemlock on Prince of Wales could follow the same fate as the biblically famous cedars of Lebanon, which also grew on karstlands. Once harvested, they never grew back. He adds that because the karst in Alaska lies under a very thin layer of soil, the denudation risks are much greater than in other forested areas. "There are some parts of the Prince of Wales that if cut, the forest will never come back…ever," says Aley.

    Dave Rittenhouse, who supervises the Ketchikan Area of the Tongass National Forest, admits that "it is a little overwhelming to deal with the implications of subsurface resources." But he knows logging practices will have to be changed if caves are to be preserved. In some areas, buffers around caves could be provided and roads constructed more sensitively, but in other areas timber harvests may have to be stopped altogether.

    Still, Rittenhouse is excited about the new managen1ent challenges. "It is almost as though we have discovered a new island, and now we have this new piece of underground real estate to deal with."

    Rittenhouse and Baichtal are setting the example for how land managers around the country can deal whitewall newly found underground resources. "They really are trendsetters," says Aley, "and we hope other land managers follow in their footsteps before more caves are [unknowingly] destroyed."

    Lisa Busch is a freelance science writer based in Alaska.

    More on SE Alaska Caves

    Submitted by Fred Grady. from some newsletter, probably the DC Speleograph.

    It appears that some people in Southeast Alaska are concerned about the caves in Southeast Alaska and the Federal Cave Resource Protection Act. The Forest Service has apparently received some anticave letters. Following is a letter which was printed in the Ketchikan paper. If you would like to send a Positive letter of encouragement to the Forest Service here are the addresses:

  • David Rittenhouse, Forest Supervisor
  • Tongass National Forest
  • Ketchikan Area
  • Federal Building
  • Ketchikan, AK 99901
  • Anne Archie
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • Box 1900 1
  • Thorne Bay, AK 99919
  • Caves Frustrate

    EDITOR, Daily News:

    I read the public notice in the Ketchikan Daily News requesting comments on cave development on Prince of Wales Island.

    I have been in hundreds of these Alaska caves and no matter how much folks try to portray them as some magical and natural formation they are still just deep dark holes in the ground. Spending thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars studying and developing and building trails in them is a waste of money and time.

    Most, if not all, of the processes that form caves are already understood and documented. Maybe not for this particle cave but for caves in general. All of these spelunkers on the public payroll should be disciplined for contemplating such a wasteful project when this country is undergoing lean financial times. I do not wish to be harsh about the caliber of these cave scientists. I am sure that as far as cave scientists go we have some of the best in the world right here in our midst.

    But when this country is so far in debt, is now the time to undertake this venture?

    Regarding your proposals for operating tours of the caves, it is a bad plan. I believe that there is no market, or such a limited market for looking inside this hole that for the government to get involved with tours will result in a catastrophic and near criminal waste of money. I think that the Forest Service should gate the entrance off until such time that a private Concessionaire can operate it profitably with absolutely no government involvement. Zero. The gate should not be locked shut. It must be welded shut until that time. Otherwise, the Forest Service will be tempted to hire additional people to administer these caves thereby wasting more money. In some cases the tendency has been for people in these new found disciplines to prioritize themselves and their projects higher than the scientists involved in resource extraction and money making. Another poor result.

    These caves are supposedly fragile. They may be but do not fret because even as you read this, Mother Nature is actively in the process of making thousands of new caves.

    As a final note, the national debt is now at $4,500,000,000,000 and rising. Amazingly enough the United States has managed to become an economic superpower without developing these homes for bats. If people in the government are overcome with the urge to do something about deep, dark holes they should spend some time contemplating the economic pit that unchecked government spending has put this country in.

    A Sincerely Frustrated Taxpayer,



    Selected A. Krause Correspondence

    March 18, 1994

    John Juraschek, Executive Director


    P.O. Box 17010

    Boulder, CO 80308


    Dear Mr. Juraschek:

    In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary became the first man to climb Mt. Everest. The mountain he met then was pristine, natural and unblemished. Today's climbers find well worn paths and a litter of trash and abandoned gear. The challenge remains, but the beauty and glory are soiled almost beyond repair.

    So, too, are most of the great climbs ... not because the climbers lacked skill, but because many were thoughtless of those yet to come. It is the same with many caves and caverns. We, cavers and climbers alike, must consider those who will cave and climb behind us. We must exercise care to minimize our impact, out of respect for the very challenge and beauty we seek for ourselves. It is a courtesy to others and our posterity.

    Please, as you speak to other climbers, think of your own future, your fellows, and all others who seek the challenges of our natural world. Climb softly. The real test of skill is to climb without a trace ... to leave the rock so clean that your successors cannot follow your path, but must face the challenge fresh, as a true test of their own skill.

    Cliffs and overhangs are to climbers as caves are to cavers. They are our focus, our challenge, and our love. Our goal is to be able to enjoy our pursuits without diminishing the experience of those who may come after. I ask you, and climbers everywhere, to help us work toward that goal.

    Sincerely yours,

    Albert A. Krause

    Conservation Chair

    February 23, 1994



    Dear Karstlands Conservor:

    I received the attached request from the BLM Water Conservation Center. I'll make a generic reply on behalf of the NSS, but I know you have much to offer that I haven't picked up on yet.

    I would appreciate it if you would make an independent reply and ship a copy to me so I'll be sharper next time around. These folks are, apparently, interested in a broad range of water related topics and are trying to develop a nationwide register of information sources for all sorts of audiences, from the local to the national level ... the caver who is willing to talk to a local school group on up to the producers of nationallevel films and museum exhibits. Done well, it'll be a source book for everyone's needs.

    Please contribute and help put cave and karst concerns out front where they can be seen. Pass this along if I've missed anyone I should have sent a copy to.


    Albert A. Krause

    Conservation Chair

    Attachment: Resource Inventory Form, Water Conservation Center

    Distribution: Pres, Admin VP, Exec VP, Ed & Info Div, Conserv & Mgmt Sect, Public Relations Comm, AV Aids Comm, IKC, NSS Office

    February 14, 1994

    David H. Jagnow

    901 lath Street #11300

    Los Alamos, NM 87544


    Dear Dave:

    Today's mail brought me a copy of your fax to the NSS Office dated February 9th. Attached is a copy of my response to Mr. Zinn.

    Do you have addresses or contacts in the national or regionallevel mineral collecting associations we can write to for support or assistance? Mr. Zinn is but one of many organizers of shows. If we can get national support and understanding, we will have done a great deal to educate the public and promote cave conservation.

    I agree we should develop and promote a policy banning the sale and/or trade of speleothems. Politically, it would be difficult, but every nation joining the ban would be another big step forward. Would you be willing to undertake the challenge of developing and coordinating such a policy on behalf of the Society?

    Attachment: Letter of 021494 to Mr. Zinn

    Sincerely yours,

    Albert A. Krause
    Conservation Chair

    February 14, 1994

    Mr. Martin Zinn

    Martin Zinn Expositions

    P.O. Box 999

    Evergreen, CO 804390999


    Dear Mr. Zinn:

    Cave formations, by their nature, differ from many mineral specimens which are obtainable only from mines and rare, almost singular, occurrences isolated from man and vulnerable to the erosive forces of nature. Speleothems occur in caves and cavities where their very setting serves to enhance their appreciation. At their best, they constitute an attraction for present and future generations of cave scientists, recreational cavers, and the admiring public.

    All too often, the public erroneously perceives, through mineral shows and other exhibits, that such formations are desirable collectibles and souvenirs. They fail to recognize, as most good mineral collectors might, that others will come after to enjoy them as attributes of their natural setting. In a sense, stripping caves of their formations is as offensive as stripping the travertine from "Old Faithful".

    On behalf of the National Speleological Society, its members, and the public, I beg you to consider these concerns and to prohibit the exhibition and/or sale of speleothems at exhibits you sponsor or support. Revealing the beauty of the underground through pictures conveys a sense of awe and, for the photographer, a permanent record of having been there and recorded the unique specimens he has 'captured'. Physical specimens, regardless of origin, tend to promote the irreparable loss of the very beauty which draws men to explore the underground.

    Thank you for your consideration and understanding.

    Sincerely yours,

    Albert A. Krause

    Conservation Chair

    If you are not already a member of the Conservation and Management Section of the National Speleological Society, you are invited to join. Dues are $5.00 a year, payable to the NSS Cons/Mgmt Section. Members receive the newsletter regularly and are entitled to vote at the annual meeting.

    r      Yes, I would like to join the Conservation/Management Section.  Here are     
           my dues in the amount of $________ (dues of $5/year may be prepaid for up    
           to three years).                                                             
    Name___________________________________ NSS No.________                             
    City__________________________ State_____________          ZIP_________________     
    Please send this form with check/money order to the                                 
    Evelyn Bradshaw, 10826 Leavells Road, Fredericksburg, VA                            

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