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Caving: Why go underground?

We where approached in May 1998 by an Australian student who was doing a "major assignment" in extreme sports. She "interviewed" us by e-mail
Mathias:   Frederik:
1) Why did you first begin caving?
Because it was there   Unlike my brother, I started caving because it is not there... :-)
2) When did you begin caving?
1993/4   When I first moved to England, in 1993.

3) Walking, scrambling on all fours, and crawling on your belly into the moist darkness of a cave is not everyone's idea of a good time. Do you enjoy what you do? And if so why do you like it so much?

It depends a lot on the type of caving you do. Some caves have endless quantities of mud which you have to crawl through for hours which I do not necessarily enjoy, but then I enjoy the reward of spectacular formations, massive chambers and underground waterfalls and lakes. Other caves are completely different in the style. I have been doing a bit of caving up in the north of England and these caves a big and vertical - no crawling but instead lots of lowering yourself with ropes and climbing up again. These caves do not have many formations due to the way they where formed but they provide a more physical and technical challenge. Common for all the is the element of Exploration - the dilemma between wanting to go deeper and wanting to be able to get back out in safety.


Why do people run around a field kicking a stupid little ball into a net. Why do they run for hours and hours only to break a little ribbon with their chest?

Humans are strange. I guess caving is about exploring the unknown. Apart from the deep ocean, caves represent parts of the Earth that are still unexplored. Ok, I haven't been in any unexplored caves yet, but even in mapped caves you get the feeling that you are on a great exploration adventure. It is a really cool feeling to crawl through mud, squeeze through tight tunnels and suddenly pop up into a huge chamber, decorated with stalagmites, completely quiet except perhaps for dripping water.

4) Where does most of your caving take place?

We log all of our caving trips so check out http://willerup.com/caving/log.html

  Check out http://willerup.com/caving/log.html
5) What is the essential equipment taken with you on your caving expeditions?

Absolute essentials are a Helmet and a Head torch. When you get better/more adventurous the things you would add to your list would be: Wellington's, fleece inner suit, waterproof over suit, kneepads, ropes, ladders, bolting kit, carabiners, harness, slings, compass. Check out http://willerup.com/howto/cave.html for a more detailed list.

  See my brother's reply. Essential equipment is definitely a helmet and a head torch. In principle, you can go naked with these two bits of gear. In fact, some caves are so delicate that people *do* go naked through certain passages to avoid stuff from clothing and boots to ruin it. A little bit extreme perhaps.

6) Are you afraid of heights?

I guess not. I do a lot of rock climbing as well. The thing is - if you suddenly find yourself in a position where you have to cross a deep void I will be afraid of falling, but the effect this has on me is that it makes me concentrate 100% on taking the right decisions so that I do not fall in. I guess a non experienced individual who is afraid of heights would in the same situation loose control over his/her body and would not be able to cross...   No, but I'm afraid of depths. :-) No I have been climbing and caving and doing other silly things for ages, but heights have never really bothered me. But of course, some situations get pretty "exposed" and gets some adrenaline going.
7) What is the worse thing/experience you have had while caving?
Lights going out. Waiting for others during tight squeezes. Luckily I haven't had any worse things happening. The thing is that even minor accidents happening in caves are automatically very very serious. So I keep this in mind at all times specially when moving around as even a twisted angle could turn a straight forward caving trip into a serious epic.   I have had no real incidents caving. I have had minor incidents climbing, and major incidents kayaking. Doesn't mean that caving is less dangerous, when things go wrong in a cave, they can go *really* wrong. Particularly if water is involved. Many caves are dangerous because if the weather changes, it might flood and it leaves you with little chance of survival. More typical serious incidents are more due to the fact that someone gets a minor injury inside a complex cave, and the time it takes to get them out means that light go out etc.
8) Do you do caving for the adventure side or the geographical aspect?
Adventure side. But as you get more experienced you can't help being interested in the geographical and geological side of caving as well.   Adventure

9) What is the key rule when caving?

Make sure that you can find your way back.   Always know how to find the exit! The consequences of not following this rule are obvious. It is easy to find your way into a cave, but if you don't pay close attention as you go in, and in some cases leave markers and things, you may be screwed. If yours lights go out, it may also be useful to know your way to the exit in the dark

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