Author Topic: Removing speleothems  (Read 760 times)

Offline Kenilworth

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Removing speleothems
« on: January 10, 2017, 12:48:47 am »
Often cave diggers and explorers have to decide whether or not to break formations to make a way onward. This has been discussed many times on this forum, and everyone will have a different point of balance beyond which they would be uncomfortable. Before making the final decision, it is good to exhaust other options: looking into the lead by extending a camera, searching for alternate routes, making an informed assessment of the geological potential beyond (get help with this if you need it) etc.

One thing I haven't seen discussed here is the removal of speleothems with a view to putting them back later. If speleothems are a resource (and if we work to replace other resources we use, trees by foresters, for example) then why not learn to damage them without causing complete ruin?

I have come behind after a group of mappers had made the hard decision to remove some attractive formations. Their choice paid off in the discovery of a fair amount of stunning passage, but I was sorry to see large and small stalactites mixed with the rest of the dig spoils and shoved into a crack. Clearly, though much serious thought had been given to the quandary of removing them or not, no thought at all had been given to the possibility of repair.

An intention to put formations back will require us to think carefully about how we remove them, and about how and where they will be stored and organized. I have never seen much information about such things, and some trial and error will probably be involved. And we will necessarily need to know how to put them back when or if the time comes to do so. This knowledge is relatively commonplace, and easily found on this forum. If we do remove then replace formations, it would be helpful to document this action in any publicized maps or descriptions so that future visitors are aware that the lead beyond has been exhausted. This may require some careful wording if we are worried about landowner or judicial penalty.

Communication between cavers and cave scientists may also, rarely, help avoid unneeded removal, as scientists in need of specimens could make efforts to obtain them from dig sites.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2017, 07:42:31 am »
They do grow back - eventually. One comment I would make on your posts is that you are looking at things on a human time scale, something we are all guilty of. Taking a step back all caves will erode away. All we are doing is increasing that rate of erosion. Conservation should be about preventing needless damage but not being too precious about it all. Caving is a new sport in terms of world history. Humans though have been living in and using caves for millennia and were breaking speleothems for their own purposes a long time ago. Nobody would propose replacing these as now they are 'historical artefacts'.  Just a comment. ;)

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2017, 03:13:54 pm »
Quote
One comment I would make on your posts is that you are looking at things on a human time scale, something we are all guilty of. 

Yes I am. I don't feel guilty about it.
While I understand that it is not your intention, your argument is often used to excuse bad behavior. Just as plenitude does not justify waste (opposite the founding principles of our ruinous cultures) the reality of eternity does not preclude our living with joy, care, form, fulfillment, and elegance. We are free, of course, to view our life here as meaningless. I choose not to.

But in talking about formation repair, I am also acknowledging a time span far beyond anyone's individual years, even beyond human history. There are relatively few opportunities in this world for us to casually make a such a visible and long-lasting impact on a landscape as we do when breaking speleothems. From the beginning of their formation to the time when they might regrow enough to hide the wound (sometimes never), how many years may pass? It is somewhat awesome that we, as feeble transients, are wielding such power over millenniums.

No, I would not propose the repair of ancient artifacts. I would only ask now what sorts of artifacts we are leaving. A repaired speleothem will also be a historical artifact, as will those broken and scattered. And do not archeologists study artifacts for the purpose of learning about the people who made them? What do the artifacts we are leaving say about us?
« Last Edit: January 10, 2017, 03:26:54 pm by Kenilworth »

Offline glyders

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2017, 09:48:30 pm »
I do like the idea of if formations have to be broken for valid exploration, that they are removed in such a way as they could be replaced. However, the big question then remains as to what to do with them if the route does 'go'.
There is a risk of encouraging a trade in speleothems if they are not disposed of permanently. Indeed, it may even encourage the removed for 'exploration' when actually it is for sale. Think about how game wardens burn rhino horn and elephant tusks they have seized. Whilst giving to cave scientists may be valid, I would worry about what else would happen to formations that were removed but not replaced.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2017, 10:16:39 pm »
Well, those are concerns we would need to consider. Something is happening to them now, after all. The ones I have seen (and broken) were left lying in the cave near the original site. Removing them carefully, cataloging their original locations, and stashing them somewhere in the cave wouldn't be any worse.

Offline owd git

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2017, 10:20:12 pm »
Yadda Yadda 'kin Yadda
Grow up. or go caving, Eh?
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Online royfellows

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2017, 10:25:11 pm »
Interesting

A common type of formation encountered in disused mines is formed by the deposition of ochre, hydrous iron oxide.

Exploring Catherine and Jane Consols in north Wales I had descended to the deep adit by way of a winze, and outbye direction was into deepening water. The thought occured that if I were to push this I could encounter a side passage, so I went for it.

Soon I was into deep ochre rather than just water and reached a T junction where right hand side I could see a chink of daylight. Left hand side was a passage in very deep ochre which I pushed. Now deep in this sense means up to my neck with no ability to use my hands, encountering complete ochre stals blocking my progress I used my head as a battering ram to get through. (Maybe this explains a lot)
Anyway, the destruction was outweighed by workings beyond, these were photographed and appear in the late David Bick's second edition of "Old Copper Mines of Snowdonia"

Dont know whether this adds to the thread or just an interesting tale.
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Offline RobinGriffiths

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2017, 10:57:42 pm »
Hi Roy. It does of course raise the question as to whether speleothems in natural caverns are more worthy than those in man made cavities. I seem to recall there being a big hoo ha on here a few years ago about speleothems in a railway tunnel. But I believe in that case, the speleothems were derived from actual limestone rather than cement as is normal in tunnels. So that probably ticks some conservation boxes.

Robin

Offline Leclused

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2017, 08:35:24 am »
Humans though have been living in and using caves for millennia and were breaking speleothems for their own purposes a long time ago. Nobody would propose replacing these as now they are 'historical artefacts'.  Just a comment. ;)


Neanderthalers used to make "structures" with speleotherms.

http://www.nature.com/news/neanderthals-built-cave-structures-and-no-one-knows-why-1.19975
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Online paul

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2017, 12:16:21 pm »
Yadda Yadda 'kin Yadda
Grow up. or go caving, Eh?

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Offline cooleycr

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2017, 03:07:38 pm »
Actually I think that speleotherms that are found on man-made structures are quite relevant because they are also natural and derived from the same basic component (Limestone) - in this case in the from of cement.
The great thing about this version is that it only takes years to decades to get some real progress as opposed to centuries / millennia in caves (all you geologists out there feel free to shoot me down but I think I am in the right ball-park).

Last May I visited the Riese complex in the Owl mountain region of Poland, constructed during WWII, and saw some cracking formations that are on a par with many found in caves...

And every morning I walk through the Bridgewater Hall underpass and, along with quite a few stalactites, there are the beginnings of a stalagmite, though I doubt if that will ever get the chance to form a column due to the footfall, which is a shame...

Online Mark

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2017, 03:55:49 pm »
These are pictures from a dig, I am currently working on



The turnip sized formation now sits behind the bar at my local



This bit decorates my garden, where it looks very nice.



The way forward, just got to find a resting place for this lot now.



Offline pwhole

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2017, 04:56:05 pm »
In a little-visited part of Peak Cavern showcave, blackened from chimney-soot - this one was sawn off at the base, but a long, long time ago - possibly before it was even a showcave. It certainly wasn't blocking a route. Most decent stalactites were snapped from the roof too - probably to grace some 'gentleman traveller's' display cabinet:

Offline AR

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Re: Removing speleothems
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2017, 08:57:40 pm »
Possibly went to Chatsworth, apparently the ones from Water Icicle Mine (clearly chiselled off from the marks on the stumps) ended up there in the grotto.
Dirty old mines need love too....