|A Night at Cave of the Winds|
by Stormy on January 29, 2010
So really, why are there no cave tours during the night? Is it too dark to be in the cave?
This weekend we got to go on an overnight cave work trip at Cave of the Winds with the members of the Williams Canyon Project. The Williams Canyon Project is a cooperative research project between the National Speleological Society and the owners of Cave of the Winds. For this particular trip Summer and I got to see what scientists do when all the tourists go home.
The particular trip involved three individual projects to address issues identified as needing attention.
A group of cavers spent time at the old historic entrance, measuring the doorway for an environmental gate. The area already has a security gate to keep the cave safe, but the gate leaks air, taking humidity out of the cave and causing damage to the formations as they dry. The addition of an environmental gate will help preserve the beauty of Cave of the Winds for generations to come. Construction work, based on the information gathered, is expected to start later this year.
Another project was the testing of radio communications inside the cave. Limestone is a very bad medium for transmitting radio signals and often being just inside the cave means having no communications with the outside world. Most of the time this isn't a problem, but when emergencies happen, communications is critical. Working out good methods of communications is a critical application for underground work, multi-day trips deep under ground and cave rescue needs. The group worked with different radios, using a multitude of antenna configurations, frequencies and varying power.
Finally, a survey crew examined portions of the cave where an old lighting system was removed to see what needed to be patched and cleaned up. Cave of the Winds was one of the first caves in the world to get electrical lighting, back in July of 1907. Over 100 years ago(!) electric lights were installed at Cave of the Winds and in November 1915 Thomas Edison himself came to see what underground lighting was like. As understanding of electricity evolved and lighting technology improved, there have been many revisions to the lighting system at Cave of the Winds. Old technology was replaced with new lights, more powerful and efficient. Unseemly wiring was hidden and areas that used electric lights restored back to their natural appearance. After more than a century of innovation, the historic Cave of the Winds continues to improve the caving experience, hiding the technology and giving the cave a more natural look.
After a night in the cave Summer and I were happy to come out and experience daylight. It was a very exciting trip for both of us!