Saturday, August 18, 2007

[trip] Bennett Cave Survey Part 4

We thought that this weekend would be the final trip into Tucker County's Bennett Cave, but the cave refused to let us finish it up. The TCSS met up Saturday morning at the Tucker Country Inn in Parsons and headed to the cave to gear up. Kevin and Justin K. met us in the morning but didn't go underground due to a skateboard-induced injury (Justin was skating, not Kevin).

Doug McCarty, Josh Flaugher, and Cullen Hencke started surveying into the high lead in the downclimb from the upper to lower level. Everyone thought that this small lead would pinch out within a few tens of feet, but they surveyed over 200 feet and finding the inside of the stream resurgence that we found on the surface. They named the room with sunlight shining in from above the "Spider Room"... that's one that I'm glad to have not surveyed myself. Doug was able to reach his hand completely outside the cave from here.

Brian Masney, John Harman, and myself (Dave Riggs) tried to finish the survey above the main waterfall. John scaled the waterfall first, getting soaked in the process, and put a tarp in place to try and cut down on the spray. While the tarp helped, we all still got plenty wet on the climb. We climbed up to the next level, where we found a large lead to the right and a low lead to the left.

The left lead went to a stair-stepped dome/canyon series consisting of two waterfall climbs, and ending in surface valley breakdown. We began to survey and realized that we did not have a pencil - oops! While Brian descended to go beg the other survey team for a pencil, John and I scooped the left passage.

A quick climb up and back down led to another waterfall climb on the right which ended in surface valley breakdown. To the left, we followed a canyon downstream, checking out a dome lead on the way, then I followed a low crawl which curved back around and turned out to be the smallest of the three waterfalls in the main waterfall room. John followed a low tube to the right which popped him out at the top of the Trash Dome, under and behind the main waterfall. The tight, water-carved passage also did a serious number on his cave suit.

Brian finally returned with a pencil, and we began to survey the right lead, then started on the left lead. We surveyed the upstream waterfall climb and the dome side lead, where I hammered my way into about 20 feet of miserable, muddy virgin passage. Cold, wet, and shivering, we decided to start tying our survey in to the rest of the cave before we were forced to leave it hanging. We did a 20 foot plumb shot down to the middle level, and surveyed to the main waterfall just as the second team showed up to find us. We shot down the main waterfall and tied into a known station down at base level, packed up, and left the cave.

Bennett Cave plan lineplot, as of August 2007.

Bennett Cave profile lineplot, rotated to show hypothesized fault plane. The limestone is bedded nearly horizontally.

While we racked up well over 400 feet of survey, the cave will still require at least one more good survey trip to complete. That's fine with me, as I've still got to do the map! We changed clothes after a good 7 hour trip and headed to CJ's for pizza. Afterwards, I drove to Oildrum Falls to camp for the night and head into Bradshaw Run Cave the next day.

Bennett Cave now stands at over 1800 feet long, 96 feet deep - 2nd deepest and 15th longest cave in Tucker County (exact numbers pending delivery of survey data to cartographer).

Bennett Cave is CLOSED by the landowner, and permission has been granted to the TCSS only to survey the cave.

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