showcaves.com is an old, almost ancient website. I made the first pages way back in 1993, a time when people used fax machines and bbs, AOL and Compuserve were pretty new. Nevertheless, I had a mailing list, even in the early days, and sent an update 2 or 3 times a year. But lifelong email addresses lasted less than 5 years and mailing list providers started to introduce a fee for the free service, immediately before the company collapsed.
Finally, in 2008 or 2009, I was tired of "free" mailing lists and installed a php blog software on the showcaves.com webspace. The provider offered this without additional fee, and so I defined the subdomain blog.showcaves.com and operated my own blog. When I found news, events, or funny stories, I made a post. I also added anniversaries and when the number of listings on showcaves.com reached a certain number. Traffic was nevertheless low and sometimes there was no new post for a year.
And finally in 2012 I was informed by my provider that my blog software was hacked and they had to block the site. As a result I uninstalled the whole stuff. However, its almost Christmas and I feel sentimental, and so I decided to at least add the postings of the blog on this page. The links are long dead, so I only copied the text.
The crash report was now released, no, not of the Honister Slate Mine, which is still operating. The owner, entrepreneur Mark Weir (45), died half a year ago in a helicopter crash. He was flying regularly from the mine to his home south of Cockermouth. On this special day, 08-MAR-2012, he started despite challenging circumstances, reduced visibility and low clouds. When he crashed close to the mine, he died, and left a partner and three children.
Now the report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch was not able to solve the mystery of this accident. There was bad weather, there were serious airworthiness issues with the helicopter, and he did not hold a night-flying qualification. However, none of these could be directly linked to the cause of the accident.
The Barbarossahöhle is a rather exceptional cave in central Germany. It is a gypsum cave, which make less than 1% of all show caves. It is also located in the former GDR, and was operated by staff which was payed by the state. After the Cold War and the end of the Socialism the cave was privatized and almost went corrupt, as it was impossible to pay guides all year – like before -, when there are no visitors during winter.
But the cave operator was able to transform the cave management, developed the cave which permitted higher entrance fees, and started professional marketing. In a country, where caves are operated by non-profit organizations, this is rather exceptional. Another step in this effort is obviously this little clip, produced as a commercial.
We are used to small robotic 4WD roving Mars. Now and then there have been speculations about caves on Moon and Mars. In the last two years numerous possible cave entrances were identified on aerial photographs, so there is now the need for a robot which is much better than the current buggies. What we need is a robotic cave explorer, a RoboCaver.
Lately NASA has payed Astrobotic Technology $500,000 for the development of such a robot. This company is owned by Carnegie Mellon University robotics researcher William “Red” Whittaker, who is convinced he is able to build such a machine. He thinks he will test the first prototype on Moon caves in the next three years.
We were astonished. Tests on the Moon? How about exploring Earth caves first? Too difficult?
The UNESCO has selected four new Geoparks on their 11th European Geoparks Conference in Portugal last week. Geoparks are listed by the UNESCO in an international list, but they are national institutions. Geoparks are areas or regions with exceptional geology, and are developed by the Geopark (-authority) for tourism and education. So, a Geopark is actually a local organization which does its best to explain geology to people.
One of the four new Geoparks is Bakony-Balaton Geopark in Hungary. It is located south west of the Capital Budapest along the Balaton lake and covers a famous karst area with 700 caves, hundreds of sinkholes, and more than 1,600 springs. The showcave Tapolcai Tavasbarlang is actually a 9 km long thermal-water formed maze below the town Tapolca, and there is a show mine named Ajkai Bányászati Múzeum some kilometers to the north.
While the Geopark is just starting to develop tourism by creating a facebook page (?) you can always trust in showcaves.com to provide sufficient information…
I have updated the website at the weekend. As most countries are more or less complete, there is not much change any more. Mostly I add semi-wild caves or probably some show mines. Nevertheless the site has now reached 4001 entries. I guess it will grow rather slowly in the future.
There are still countries which are only partly listed on showcaves.com. The most important one is probably China. I was told there are several hundred show caves in China. To list them all I should probably split the country into provinces. But actually there is no chance at the moment to find out more, as all relevant publications are in Chinese. The bigger caves, which want abroad tourism, have websites, and with google translate I am able to understand at least a small part of those sites. But that’s a very slow and annoying work.
Nevertheless, the online information on show caves increased tremendously during the last few years. When I lately updated the page on Grotta di S. Giovanni di Domusnovas on Sardinia, Italy, I found dozens of pages with actual content. A few years ago there was not a single page.
This has actually two consequences, a good and a not so good one: it is nice to find good data on the web and to be able to update my pages with high quality input. showcaves.com is no longer the only site with those infos. Nevertheless I think the concept, to collect data of a high quality and provide overviews on countries and karst areas will still be helpful in the future. After all, most homepages are concentrating on a single cave, so we will not be able to cope with them in details, pictures, and actuality, but we offer other info helpful for the traveler.
Actually I am still reading the news, and I will post any show cave or show mine related news to this blog. But I think there is nothing new at the moment, no new show cave planned, nothing which qualifies for the blog. So I will add a little miscellaneous stuff…
Bluegrass Underground 2012 is actually a series of concerts held underground in Cumberland Caverns. It uses the huge chamber called Volcano Room, where stage and stairs are erected. The events are broadcast on Bluegrass Underground TV and on the web.
For more info see their website or search YouTube.
At the moment there is an exhibition at the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Natural History of Vienna), organized by the Cave and Karst Department. It is called Höhlen – Landschaften ohne Licht (Caves-Landscapes Without Light) and show the cave images of the most famous cave photographers. The exhibition shows stalactites and stalagmites, interactive installations, short presentatiosn of current research projects, an audiovisual room, an introduction into the drinking water system of Vienna, and an overview of the 28 show caves of Austria.
The exhibition was opened 29-SEP-2010 and will end in summer 2012.
In May a 3D photo exhibition with the name Underground of Enchantment will open at the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center. It shows 3d pictures of Lechuguilla Cave, located in the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Many of the photographs are from David De Roest, a Belgian photographer who specializes in 3D images. But there are also pictures of microbiologists working on discoveries from the cave as well as photographs from other caves.
Underground of Enchantment will open Saturday 07-MAY-2011, at the Carlsbad Museum and Art Center and will run numberswiki.com through the summer. In autumn the exhibit will travel around New Mexico, Colorado and West Texas for 10 months. During summer 2012 the exhibit will be shown in the Visitor Center of Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
The newest novel in the Ayla series of author and archaeologist Jean M. Auel is named The Land of Painted Caves. The book is intended as the final novel of the series, the sixth and last installment, and tries to fix all the open ends.
The Earth’s Children series started with The Clan of the Cave Bear more than 30 years ago. It tells the story of the Cro Magnon girl Ayla which looses his parents in an earthquake and is adopted by a clan of neanderthals. But soon Ayla discovers that she is different and she has to leave the clan. Living in exile she makes friend with a horse and a dog, then she meets a Cro Magnon man from France, and travels with him across Europe meeting different cultures until they finally reach the Vezere river in France with its high population and culture. The newest book tells about her family life, the culture and believes of the people 20,000 years ago in the Dordogne.
What Auel does is simple: she uses the archaeologic knowledge to construct the background, then she tells all the details in a more info stirring story. As a result the readers learn a lot about the Palaeolithic while reading a novel. This strategy is actually not new, it was used by British historians in books about the Middle Ages, like Ivanhoe or books on the King Arthur legend. Inspired by such historic novels, the first novel of a stone age story was Rulaman by David Friedrich Weinland.
Much of the details in such books are speculation, we actually do not know about the religious belief of that time, we just interpret the findings with the knowledge from anthropologic examinations of still existing stone age cultures. So the book is actually a speculation. And as it is a vehicle to explain archaeologic knowledge, Ayla the heroine is the one who makes all the new inventions of the era, inventing the needle with a hole, domestication of animals, hunting techniques, and much more. Probably a drawback to the story, but a great way to speculate how important inventions were made.
Caves are popular in movies, generally as creepy places and home of monsters, or ideal to tell a lost and found story. But very few movies have caves as main topic. This year two great movies appear, both with a cave as the main topic. And both are filmed in 3D.
The first is Cave of Forgotten Dreams, made by Werner Herzog. It is actually a documentary, but its a full size movie. Herzog does not believe in 3D, but he thought it was the only way to document the placstic paintings and reliefs of the Cave Chauvet in the Ardeche Valley in France. This cave is one of the most famous art caves and not open to the public, so this movie is the best was to have a look.
The second movie is totally different, the cave diving action movie Sanctum by James Cameron. The story is based on a dive by an Australian cave diver and friend of Cameron. But the result is a simple story about deadly cave with extraordinary 3d pictures of caves.
We could not find info on Floyd Collins, a movie about the death of the cave explorer Floyd Collins, who got trapped in Sand Cave in Kentucky during the Cave Wars. The movie is produced by Billy Bob Thornton, and is still listed as “in development” on imdb.com. Will probably be released later this year.
The Dinosaur Caves Park is located at Pismo Beach, California. It is a sea cave which was once operated as a show cave. Today it may be visited freely by kayak.
The cliff and the cave is a result of the erosion by the sea. This causes frequent collapses, a process which keeps the walls of the cliff steep. But as result the cliff line “moves” back. At Dinosaur Caves Park it has now reached the walkway on top of the cliff, so about 35m of the walkway had to be closed.
The public attention and the idea to protect the cliff by installing sea walls is actually a bad idea, as the erosion is the process which produces the cliff and the beach and cave below. We recommend to move the trail and benches instead.
The show mine Soudan Underground Mine in Soudan, Minnesota, U.S.A., is temporarily closed after a fire on 13-MAR-2011. It is not clear what actually happened, but it seems the wooden frames of an elevator shaft catched fire. As a result the electricity failed and the pumps went out. The mine and the physics lab were inaccessible and are now closed indefinitely.
The lowest level, level 27 of the mine, is used by a physics lab. This laboratory contains equipment with a value of some 100,000,000 USD. So the first goal was to reestablish electricity for the pumps, which was done 23-MAR-2011. The laboratory is now save from water, but foam from the firefighting has reached the lab and it is unclear if it damaged the equipment.
Both the show mine and the lab tour are closed indefinitely. It seems there is a lot of work to do, to restore the mine. Also officials told they want to investigate the reason of the fire before they reopen the mine.
That’s pretty rare: a show cave which is evacuated.
A burning car in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks caused a small vegetation fire on Friday 02-JUL-2010 around 13:30. The fire was reported immediately and four National Park Service fire engines and 13 firefighters responded to the fire. Law enforcement officers closed the Generals Highway through the park for about three hours. The fire was extinguished pretty soon and the burned car was removed around 17:00.
The evacuation of Crystal Cave was a precaution, a part of the park service procedure for fires.
Norwich is said to have the UK’s largest amount of subterranea, mostly medieval, vaulted cellars. Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (Heart) has commissioned a researcher to explore them. The goal is obviously to make them available to the public. This may include both, an underground sight open to the public, and online documentation of closed cellars. During the annual Heritage Open Days there were tours through a small section of the cellar, which were very popular. However, it seems the extend of the cellars is almost unknown, and there are a lot of rumors, for example one telling of a tunnel from the Cathedral to St Andrew’s Hall, which monks are supposed to have used to go and do inappropriate things with women. Such stories are fun, but they are rarely true…
We are pretty much astonished. This cave was closed to the public years ago, then opened on a very limited basis and finally a replica was built and inaugurated by the Spanish King. Then the cave was closed completely.
Now the Spanish ministry of culture had news for all tourists and art lovers: the original Altamira cave will be reopened! It seems it recovered too god from the further damages to keep it closed. Unlike Lascaux, which is probably already destroyed, Altamira has no problems with fungi or other threads. They did not give exact numbers but it sounded that the cave will be reopened on the limited basis it was before: a maximum of 160 visitors per day and a maximum time inside the cave per visitor. And we guess there will again be a reservation required, three years in advance…
The Bluegrass Underground is a weekly radio-concert series by 650 WSM-AM, an American country radio station. The concert series is internationally acclaimed. Now they partnered with Loblolly Ventures, the company of concert promoter Todd Mayo, the tv station WCTE-DTV (PBS) and Emmy award-winning producer Todd Jarrell. They develop the concert series for national television distribution. What makes this event interesting for us, is the location: Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns.
We have several listings of cold war bunkers which are now museums or tourist sites. But a bunker sold for private use on eBay is new.
James Cameron is world famous, with Titanic the director made the best selling film of all times. Now he has launched Avatar, which has smashed his own record. And the next movie is already in the queue: Sanctum. However, director is this time Alister Grierson, not Cameron.
It is a story about cave diving. A team of cave divers exploring an Australian underwater cave is in deadly danger by the collapse of the entrance. Actually this type of story always ends pretty fast with the death of the divers, as the air runs out. But it seems this time the divers have to stay several days in the cave and finally make it back to the surface. Such an unlikely story actually happened, the movie is based on the experiences of the Australian Andrew Wight. He co-produced Cameron’s underwater documentaries.
The Philippine government has released PHP 5 million (some €75,000, $100,000) for the development of the Sohoton Cave on Samar island, Eastern Visayas. The cave was already part of a National Park and guided, with a boat ride to the cave and a walk through the cave with men holding lamps. Now it will be improved with electric light and paths. It seems the Phillipines learned what most first world countries already know: one reason for a show cave is the cave protection. If people are guided and must stay on a trail with handrail, they are not able to touch and destroy anything.
We do not know why they wrote it was the first show cave of the country. Showcaves.com has liste numerous show caves. Probably it’s a matter of how one defines the term show cave.
An article on NPR catched our attention: Texting Underground Can Save Lives and Caves. It tells about an 16 year old boy named Alexander Kendrick, who invented an underground texting device. With this invention he won the 2009 International Science Fair and received a new computer, a trip to Switzerland and US$12,000 in checks. While we are impressed by his work, we suggest he should visit Felix Ziegler of Cave-Link when he is in Switzerland. He invented the same device several years ago, but his device does not text through 1,000 feet of solid rock, it actually send through 1,200 metres of solid rock. It also sends the data of data loggers, is small and robust, does not need a huge and fragile antenna, and does not omit the h of happy. The work of Kendrick is definitely great, but actually it is not new. Diana Northup should have known that.
We read weird news from a cave in Nepal. Three foreign tourists, one Indian and two Korean, entered the sacred Gupteswor Mahadev Gufa on Wendsday 27-JAN-2010. Until Thursday 28-JAN-2010 they have not returned, so they presumably got lost in the cave. The cave is said to be some three kilometres long. Actually this is a length given to most caves in this area, so we believe, it is another term for unbelievably long. However, the cave is in a semi wild state, there are narrow and low passages. It is much recommended to take an experienced guide along, but actually it is not necessary. Beginning Thursday morning, a rescue team of police plus local volunteers started to search the cave and surroundings.
Smoke Hole Caverns is located in West Virginia, U.S.A. Lately it has been the target of an arsonist. The first fire burned on the evening of 10-NOV-2009 and destroyed the apartment area above the restaurant. The second fire on 11-NOV-2009 at 5:00 in the morning destroyed the building housing the restaurant and gift shop. Items found in a trash can, which was also set on fire, are evidence that the fires were set deliberately. The cave itself remains open, although there is no restaurant and gift shop any more.
Showcaves.com is now 15 years online. The first descriptions of caves and the collection of useful information was made around 1990 by Jochen Duckeck, first for the new show caves in eastern Germany, which became accessible after the border was opend in November 1989. The first idea to publish a guidebook was never realized: printing books was expensive and impossible to finance by a student. The first online version was created in 1994 with the tool latex2html from the original LaTeX book. So actually showcaves.com went online 15 years ago. In this early times it was hosted on the webserver of the FORWISS in Erlangen, the company where Jochen Duckeck worked at this time. It listed 55 show caves in Germany and started with the first caves in other countries. In 1995 the site was hosted by the new company of Jochen Duckeck, the small internet company mediatec. Finally in 1998 the website was moved to bubis.com, and 2002 it got its own domain showcaves.com, hosted by domainfactory. And that is where it is hosted until today. Today showcaves.com lists almost 3,500 underground tourist sites or subterranea, including show caves, show mines, cellars, bunkers, tunnels and much more.
After our last blog some minutes ago, we mentioned that there was no entry since July, almost half a year without show cave news. Actually we are not dead, the site is still maintained and the blog still lives. However there was not a single story which fit into this blog all this time.
Not long ago we made a page about a new cave in the U.S.A. which was developed as a show cave and promised to become a great cave. We added comments about the difficulties to book a tour during the first years. And now it celebrates its tenth anniversary. We were impressed how long ago this cave was opened, and started to check how old showcaves.com is. We will post a blog entry about this soon. However, our congratulations to Kartchner Cavern which seems to be not only an impressive cave, but also a successful example of nature awareness and careful cave management.
Actually there are lots of comics with various topics. And there are even a few which include caves. Pretty funny is the Little Asshole comic of German Walter Moers, with one story telling about a guided tour through a show cave. The little asshole is able to annoy the guide in no time. Now there is a new comic about caves, from a different genre. UNDERGROUND is a five issue color series about Park Ranger Wesley Fischer as she tries to save Stillwater Cave. Its a sort of crime story or thriller. The comic is written by Jeff Parker, drawn by Steve Lieber, and colored by Ron Chan. It is not published yet, but as a preview the first issue may be downloaded in black and white as a pdf file from their website.
The underground power plant of a gunpowder factory was opened in 1927, between the World Wars. It was built underground in the fear of another war, which was obviously realistic. And gunpowder is an important good during war times. Underground the plant was both: covered up and hidden from the enemy, and protected against air strikes. The plant was closed in 1972 and replaced by a oil fueled plant on the surface. The equipment was sold as waste metal in the late 1990s. Now the current owner, chemicals firm Nitrokemia Zrt, tries to sell the underground structure. The underground power plant is located near Balatonfuzfo, at central Europe’s biggest lake, the Balaton, 110 km west of the capital Budapest. It consists of three huge halls with concrete walls, in two storeys. Four coal furnaces the size of a small bus fed two power generators. This place was so hoot, the worke only wore their underpants. The entrance into the plant is an unassuming office block. First a spiral staicase, then a steep concrete tunnel, lead down to the iron gallery high on the wall of the first hall. The power plant burned up to 275,000 tonnes of coal a year.
Oregon Cave will celebrate its 100th anniversary as a National Monument on 09-MAY-2009. Park guides will lead free cave tours all day.
The bats in the eastern States of the U.S.A. have a disease, which kills them by the thousands. It spreads across the States rapidly and its origin or modus operandi is unknown. The infected bats have a white nose, which is actually caused by a fungus growing in their face. It is unknown if the fungus is the cause or a result of the disease. But the disease was named White Nose Syndrome because of this. As a result of the epidemic spread of the disease, the wild caves in the whole area were now closed to the public and to cavers. The idea is to prevent the spreading by cavers who carry whatever causes the disease in their clothes or probably shoe soles. This is actually a biologic topic, nevertheless there are some important points which are be important to any cave tourist:
At the moment show caves in the area are open to the public. Visitors do not get in direct contact with bats in such caves. However, this may change if the origin if the disease is further investigated. All wild caves are closed, which includes all caves listed on showcaves.com for this area. Please respect the closure and do not enter those caves as long as they remain closed. Spelunking tours will most likely be stopped too, but if you have booked or plan to book such trips you should contact the operator on this topic. If they take place we recommend to clean all equipment afterwards very careful before you visit another cave. Foreign cave tourists, spelunkers and cavers who visit caves in the western United States should clean their clothes/equiment very careful before they return, do not spread the disease to your own country. Obviously this are simple and basic precautions which are in effect as long as nothing is known about the disease. For more info on the topic we recommend the Wikipedia page: White nose syndrome – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia