Author Topic: Why do you go caving?  (Read 1125 times)

Offline Pegasus

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Why do you go caving?
« on: July 09, 2018, 10:57:51 pm »
I shared an eloquent piece of writing on the UKC facebook page earlier:

https://undertheground.org/2018/07/09/so-why-do-we-go-caving/

.....it's started some discussion.

So, why do you go caving? 




Online The Old Ruminator

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2018, 09:42:06 am »
To get away from the wife.

Offline BradW

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2018, 09:53:07 am »
Because I enjoy it. Nothing more complicated than that.

Offline paul

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2018, 12:00:23 pm »
Because I enjoy it. Nothing more complicated than that.

Same for me.
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Offline Simon Beck

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2018, 12:32:06 pm »
Direction, Deprivation, Disorder.

Offline Laurie

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2018, 12:35:59 pm »
Could never resist investigating places that other people didn't want to look at.
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Offline mrodoc

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2018, 11:06:19 pm »
To get away from the wife.

That makes no sense Nick as you were caving before you got married :smartass:

Offline ZombieCake

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2018, 11:13:50 pm »
Recently, Witches.  Before then for fun, and makes the beer taste nice afterwards.

Offline Goydenman

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2018, 11:23:02 pm »
sound daft but one reason 'the rock' I love the shapes and texture of rock enjoy climbing it and going down into it. Secondly love pioneering..where else could I so easily and afford to go and find stuff no one else has seen.. Thirdly love the team problem solving, creativity of digging. Also love the solitude and personal pushing of myself on solo trips

Online chunky

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2018, 11:57:39 pm »
The people, such a fantastic community, I have never felt such a part of anything as I do within the caving scene.
The physical workout and challenges. I'm sure no athlete but I wouldn't be half as fit and strong without it.
The beauty of it all and the chance to share how I see caves through my pictures.
Hard to find words to express it properly, just knew caving was what life was missing from my first trips underground. Couldn't and still can't understand why anyone wouldn't want to do it  🤷‍♂️

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Offline Laurie

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #10 on: July 11, 2018, 01:03:41 am »
The people, such a fantastic community, I have never felt such a part of anything as I do within the caving scene.
I think we all agree with that.  :clap2:
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #11 on: July 11, 2018, 02:07:28 am »
I think that the linked article speaks well for a large number of cavers of similar experience levels. I've been through most of those phases myself.

I find it interesting that this question is seemingly asked by cavers to one another than it is by non-cavers. Club publications and online forums are full of similar discussions, and have been for decades. I think we're really asking ourselves what the point is. We keep asking, and keep giving the same answers, but I don't think we're very satisfied with those answers. Similar to Chunky, above, I don't think many cavers can get at the real answer with words, but we agree that caving fills a need.

What need?

Selfish needs of the ego, partly. Caving is often competition, expressed both in the lust for virgin passage and in the unrelenting public display of our exploits. A need for excitement? As stimulated by the thrills of the uncommon landscape and illusion of danger, the excitement of caving wears off quickly, and must be replaced by something more substantial. As common as these motivations to cave are (they have impacted me powerfully in the past), I believe that something else, and more honorable, may be among the roots of caving's attraction.

Caving forces us to focus our attention on an extremely small natural place. In a time when we increasingly place ourselves above our natural sources, and in an industrial world whose most powerful doctrines demand contempt for small places, when caving we find ourselves within and beneath our natural sources, seeing even small nuances of small places and finding that they are interesting, beautiful, mysterious, and consequential. I believe that the most real and healthy need that caving can fill is the need to be an intimate and knowing partner with the natural world. This is a biological, emotional, and spiritual need that is difficult to meet in a commercial world of forcible divorce.

In my own case, after the superficial thrills of danger and discovery were gone, I found that I still loved caves and caving. Then I recognized an immense hypocrisy among the "caving community" including myself. Cavers often attach huge significance to cave animals, cave morphology, news items involving caves, cave geology, sediments, minerals, etc. etc., while having relatively little knowledge of or apparent interest in the natural world outside the cave. Again, the nature of the cave forces focus, and the objects, focused on, are found to be good. The lesson too often unlearned is that the whole of the natural world is equally as fascinating as caves are. I had to be taught this lesson by farmers who (involved intimately as a few of them still are with the natural workings of soil, fertility, growth, health, and decay) carry an astounding body of knowledge with an equally significant respect and love for their work.

If cavers never recognize the gift they are getting from their small but deeply personal involvement with natural places, they will be destructive of those places. Much evidence suggests that cavers are missing the biggest point that caving can make, and are either ignorant of or unappreciative of the value of earth as a whole. The moment that cavers do recognize the real value of the cave, they will see a correspondency with the earth as a whole, will become more nurturing and reverential of it, more interested in it, more blessed by it.

Offline Cap'n Chris

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2018, 06:52:22 am »
A trite answer might be something like:

Visit caves because they're there.
Dig caves because they're not there.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #13 on: July 11, 2018, 09:12:45 am »
I have never met another group of people like cavers.  I think it is because it isn't really a sport, it is an exploratory activity coupled with an immense amount of science.  Caving is also an inexpensive activity (less so since entrepreneurs realised there was an expanding market) and a great social leveller.  You would think divers would be natural explorers but most I have met have no interest in the marine life they see apart from that they can eat;or they are kit obsessed. It is quite depressing really trying to get them to do anything useful.  Things are improving thanks to organizations like Seasearch. OR will back up me up re divers. He carried on because he got interested in wreck identification.

Online The Old Ruminator

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #14 on: July 11, 2018, 10:36:33 am »
Yes please forgive my earlier  trite answer as I love my wife dearly :kiss2:

Mr O'Doc is right and so is Kenilworth. I started caving whilst at school lured by others to a cave on the Quantocks called Holwell Cavern. We used to cycle up there in the early 60's. Before long I was actively cave digging and made my first discovery in 1964. ( See other thread ). Two things linked my caving and diving. The lure of the unknown and an immense desire to find out. For many years I targeted wrecks marked " unknown ". To discover their story is to return their " soul ". Along the way I identified many wrecks and learned stories of disaster, heroism, and tragedy. I had restored their " soul " and given them a meaning. I still work on " Wrecksite " where we are listing world wide wrecks. Sadly many friends perished in the search and finally I knew I had sailed too close to the wind to carry on.
Caving is similiar and after the thrill of exploring known caves for many years you need an impetus to carry on. Today it's photography and cave digging. Finding new cave is like identifying unknown wrecks. You have to immerse yourself in the science and understanding of your subject to be successful. Mr O'Doc is right; so many people have such little knowledge of the environment of their chosen sport . With wrecks you need to know everything about ship construction to successfully identify what in many cases is a big pile of junk on the seabed. With cave digging you need to be an engineer, a geologist,a hydrologist and persistent. I predicted a big find in Reservoir Hole and eventually got there. Walking into The Frozen Deep and be among the first humans to see it in its 700,000 year history brought tears to my eyes. Can anyone really explain that feeling to a non caver ? Yes I am persistent in my quests and my constant emails to the Vurley group ( our current dig ) are seen as a ruddy nuisance by the rest of the team. At nearly 71 the drive is still there and I sit here in frustration as we have had no digging during the hot weather. Have we been successful in our latest venture ? Depends how you measure that I suppose but we have overcome all the obstacles in mining our way through a deep boulder choke.
So caving presents us with so many challenges. I know I will never visit the sump in Daren again as I accept that at my age those sort of days are over. I do have nearly 60 years of experience and I am still reasonably fit. In all probability caving has contributed to that. The two Peters and I have been caving together for over 50 years. We survived The Great Storm and still dig together. We argue a lot as I suppose most friends do. We compliment each other with skills the other two may not have. Mr O' Doc is a fine cave and marine photographer and throws himself into the social aspect of caving. He encouraged me to join the digging at Reservoir Hole when both the project and myself were fading slowly away. I cannot say that I enjoy the social side of caving. OK an hour in the Hunters is fine but as for stomps and drinking well not for me. I am a funny soul. I went to my first Hidden Earth last year. The thought of being with all those cavers worried me no end. On the day the wife pushed me out of the door whilst I was in tears. Can you believe      that ? Of course when I got there it was great. Meeting everyone who were in fact very kind. Yes thank you UK caving for the mug.
Yes caving delivers so much. Friendship , challenge, the need to retain personal fitness and the ups and downs that life in general is all about. Learning new skills whether academic or physical. I am now trying to get my head around SRT. I have this month joined a new caving club. ( More new friends and opportunities. ). The 70's are not the threshold to decline and death. I have not got one foot in the grave. I will battle on until something makes me stop. I used to ask my wife " how will I know when to give up deep diving ". She always said  "oh you will know". My long term buddy died and my lovely friend "Chesh" died. I carried his coffin whilst his wife and small children wept. He was doing a wreck retrieval job for me using my kit. I guess he did not want to let me down when the plan started to unravel. I search my soul for guilt but I have none. We do things of our own volition and sadly the pendulum of fate swings the wrong way. Three severe bends on dives in a row finished my epic diving days. Still the last dive was on a historic wreck I had named HMS Amazon.
I would like to refer to the recent Thai rescue. I see in the paper today that the fire service has advised youngsters not to engage in " urban exploration " when several got lost in a sewer. Surely that is a misdirection. Guide them instead to somewhere where they can learn to be proficient not stifle the urge to explore at its  birth. Do we want our children to become pampered " snowflakes ". More people today die from overweight than starvation. More people die by suicide than by being killed by a soldier. I understand how those trapped children felt though in fairness children are much more adaptable and trusting than an adult. Death comes to us all and sometimes we have to face it. They laugh at me for my many mishaps. Being trapped screaming inside a deep wreck is horrible but its likely that panic will kill you first. What we call " the incident pit ". Ultimately its up to you how far you want to descend into it. Worse is being helpless like the children. Relying %100 on others. To be there is odd and not as most imagine. You descend into a calmness where nothing else intrudes. I was in the sea for 16 hours with little hope of rescue. Three of us. Eventually one swam away to die quietly on his own rather than be with us. He waived goodbye. Captain Oates did the same saying " I am just going outside and may be some while ". The lonesome swimmer was our savior as he was nearly run over by a fishing boat. Odd how sometimes the cookie crumbles.
Once the euphoria and media attention wore off ( We refused a chance to go on " Richard and Judy ") the post traumatic problems set in. I thought of suicide twice and climbed the highest peak in South Wales in a blizzard at night on New Years eve meaning to die quietly of hypothermia. Yes I changed my mind and only just got back down. These thoughts occur when the dark tunnel you are in has no outlets. Eventually, with hope, you see the light and find the paths to safety. Perhaps caving helped me realise that after the darkness there can be light.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 11:04:36 am by The Old Ruminator »

Offline Laurie

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #15 on: July 11, 2018, 11:08:02 am »
Thank you OR.
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2018, 11:38:36 am »
I believe that OR's comments support the idea that we are being starved of something societally and culturally. Suicide is an extremely important topic when talking about our relationship with the natural world, agriculture, or literal "common ground" as a basis for community. A life without intimacy with and knowing dependence on known places is aimless, without context or peace or hope. No wonder there are so many suicides.

Online Keris82

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2018, 07:06:27 pm »
I was introduced to it  by my boyfriend 6 months ago. Never really knew it was a thing before that. I immediately got hooked on it! It's an addictive sport! It's so interesting to see the formations and an underground world that not many people get to see  ;D

Offline Wolfo

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2018, 07:29:19 pm »
I like to suffer.
Well and being insane  ;)
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Offline BradW

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2018, 08:37:43 am »
Mr. OR says he doesn't enjoy the social side of caving.

"I cannot say that I enjoy the social side of caving. OK an hour in the Hunters is fine but as for stomps and drinking well not for me."

Mr. OR is by no means alone in feeling this way.

But I don't think of the social side of caving as being simply what you do in the pub or with a glass in your hand. The social aspect of caving is how you get on with other cavers regardless of where you are or what you are doing. My best memories of the social aspect of caving are of the people I was with on particular trips, how we enjoyed each others company, things we arranged to do which had nothing to do with caving. Meeting other cavers in pubs or at noisy events are only a small and not particularly significant part of my social caving experience.

Online The Old Ruminator

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #20 on: July 12, 2018, 03:53:54 pm »
I did say that I was odd. As with diving I rarely went on club activities. With diving it was all down to too many rules which does nothing for me. Well I had my new club card and welcome letter today. I do have some old friends there and maybe I have mellowed enough to be a bit more sociable.  :hug:

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #21 on: July 12, 2018, 04:35:08 pm »
I have never met another group of people like cavers.  I think it is because it isn't really a sport, it is an exploratory activity coupled with an immense amount of science.  Caving is also an inexpensive activity (less so since entrepreneurs realised there was an expanding market) and a great social leveller.  You would think divers would be natural explorers but most I have met have no interest in the marine life they see apart from that they can eat;or they are kit obsessed. It is quite depressing really trying to get them to do anything useful.  Things are improving thanks to organizations like Seasearch. OR will back up me up re divers. He carried on because he got interested in wreck identification.

Caving isn't a sport for sure, but it also isn't necessarily exploratory or scientific. It's whatever you make of it. For the majority it seems to be a recreational activity that sometimes includes exploration and less often, science.

It may be that the societal aspect is different here than in the UK. Cavers here are easy commercial prey, and gear snobbery is rampant. While the act of traversing the cave in company is a "social leveler" of that company, the "caving community" sneers at individuals who operate outside of it, or even within it using "outdated" or "inadequate" or "non-standard" gear or methods. People are drawn to clubs for the same reasons that they are drawn to caves, they are looking for community. It is untrue that common interests create community, but in a fragmented world that's the best that some can get.

Offline alastairgott

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #22 on: July 12, 2018, 05:10:12 pm »
the "caving community" sneers at individuals who operate outside of it, or even within it using "outdated" or "inadequate" or "non-standard" gear or methods.

Guilty! :( I've done this, nothing wrong with the gear and perfectly serviceable. The guys I did this to were very good to me, and have taught me a lot over the past 4-5months.
 It was tongue in cheek, but still below the belt. (With it being on a harness).

Sorry, you know who you are.

Offline NewStuff

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #23 on: July 12, 2018, 06:14:11 pm »
Because I want to. No noble intentions, no getting away from anything, it's just something I want to do. As long as I continue to want to, and am physically able, I'll do it.

As for snobbery? If the kit is safe, and the methods sound, that's fine. I prefer an Anthron descender if I know the rope will be clean. Now, if someone is being dangerous or using cobbled together tat that seems likely to fail, then snobbery is the bare minimum I would be dishing out.
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Why do you go caving?
« Reply #24 on: July 12, 2018, 07:46:21 pm »
Because I want to. No noble intentions, no getting away from anything, it's just something I want to do. As long as I continue to want to, and am physically able, I'll do it.
Quite insightful.
Introspection isn't scary. Or maybe it is.
As for snobbery? If the kit is safe, and the methods sound, that's fine. I prefer an Anthron descender if I know the rope will be clean. Now, if someone is being dangerous or using cobbled together tat that seems likely to fail, then snobbery is the bare minimum I would be dishing out.
The problem with this attitude is the inability of many cavers to judge the adequacy of unfamiliar gear. It is usually the most ignorant person who is the most persnickety about gear. I've had several cavers refuse to use my polyester static rope because it had a patterned sheath and they believed it had to be dynamic. I've had to forcibly carry on caving against the verbal and physical protest of fellow cavers because a sling and two prusiks wasn't good enough for a few 20' climbs. This is one of the reasons that caving with cavers makes me weary.
I believe we should give one another the dignity to make our own choices in this regard. Training beginners is another matter, but eventually we are on our own. And should be. So if Dubya shows up with an Anthron and wants to ride down my rope, I'll be glad to let him, though I have no idea what an Anthron is. Of course if we see something we know to be dangerous, or suspect to be dangerous, kindness would dictate that we discuss it. But not that we "dish out" snobbery or any other blowhard noises.

Concern for safety is not usually behind gear snobbery though. It is simply another form of class distinction. And resentment gets in there too. In my experience a man sweating with enough expensive gear and provisions for nine months in the jungle hates spending fifteen hours surveying with a guy in old jeans and no pack.