BLOWING HOLE CAVE GEAR RECOVERY-CLEAN UP TRIP
|Chris Parks, Dave Everton, Adam Haydock, Phil Goldman, Joy Baiz, Kevin Romanak, Seth Gower, Brian Hunsaker on the Blowing Hole Cave gear recovery trip team.|
The days preceeding the tragic events that occured in Blowing Hole Cave last saturday have been difficult, but there was no question about a return trip back into Blowing Hole Cave to recover the gear that has been left behind including Tim's items. The other objective was to clean up any other signs of human foot traffic to bring the cave back to its original and pristine condition.
I drove down with Laura Sangaila and we discussed the trip we had last weekend with Tim and were able to talk through a lot of the challenges we faced after the event happened. It was really helpful for us as well as for the others involved to discuss the events that took place on that cold night. Going to Tim's services in Indianapolis was difficult but it was necessary to bring some more closure to the incident as well as to talk to Tim's loved ones to ensure them that Tim was in the best of hands and well cared for when Tim was with us on his last cave trip. We discussed some of Tim's passions and heard some amazing stories of how Tim ceaselessly dedicated his life by selflessly caring for others around him as well as how impactful Tim's outlook on life had on the lives of so many people.
After leaving the services and the celebration of life party at Brenda's house, Phil Goldman, Brian Hunsaker and I, went to Chris Parks house to refresh ourselves with spirits of some of Kentuckies finest before passing out where we layed our bodies to rest.
We got up early so we could get an early start to this cave and get home at a decent hour. I had a cup of "Chris Coffee" and went from 0-60 in under 3 seconds. How the hell do you drink a whole pot of that stuff, Chris? geez....:) Anyway, so we load up, get in our transports and convoy over to Fredrick's in Corydon for Dave's Traditional "breakfast at binkleys" caver discussions on the days objectives. Dave Everton, Adam Haydock, Brian Hunsaker, Seth Gower, Joy Baiz, Phil Goldman, Kevin Romanak, Chris Parks, Sue Milburn, Susan Wilkinson, left to go to the entrance of Blowing Hole Cave. We showed up to the landowners house, parked some cars at the top, and drove down to the bottom where the entrance is located to gear up and enter the cave.
We entered the sub 50 degree water passage and stopped at the raft room to a breather. The SS Cottrell was stashed for the last few years so Sue and Sue brought the inflatable kayak back to the entrance while the rest of us pursued the main river passage through the cave.
|Chris Parks in Blowing Hole Cave|
I was meaning to get a picture of this formation section in blowing hole since it appears to be one of the only formation rooms in the cave so Chris and I took a picture while everyone else pursued deeper into the caves river passage system. We get to the place where Tim and I had our Mermaid conversation last week and we all took a quick break to adjust clothing, gear, and make sure we are fit to continue on through the submarine waterfall crawl passage and into the upper level passage where the water seemed to be a bit colder than the lower stream passage.
|Chris Parks, Dave Everton, Adam Haydock, Phil Goldman, Patty, Kevin Romanak, Seth Gower, and Brian Hunsaker taking a break where Tim and I took a break last week in Blowing Hole Cave.|
It peaked my interest just a bit more to think that if the water is a bit colder than it must be flowing from a place near or at the surface since it has been cold and has had time to chill a bit more than the heated 54 degree cave water that we have encountered previously. As we traversed past the breakdown mountain and into the water, with every meander bend we made, we go closer and closer to the site. Everyone seemed to be calm and collective. I took the lead and blasted our new Fenix TK 76 underwater to see if we could find any items that were previously dropped from last week. The light lit up the clear cave water like a swimming pool. It was a nice and new perspective to see how the bottom looked including the foots steps coming in and out from last weeks events. The cave critters that lurked in the darkness all of a sudden found themselves being noticed with the help of a 2600 lumen light that might have shined more light on them that they will ever see in their lives. We made it around the final bend and we saw the gear as we left it. We are here.
Some of it was moved to the side and other items where in the same exact place we left it. It was good to be back at the site to show our other cavers the site and to continue to bring closure to some of us that were there the week prior. Everyone came together to start assembling a system of carrying the diving gear and Tim's items out of the cave while I went back to the ear dipper site to see if I could find anything else on the ground. As I swam the clear waters with this massive sun beam search light, I looked to my left and right and I could see last weeks foot prints, both shallow and deep which was a reminder of our foot steps before, during, and after the tragic events that happened. It was almost like a swim back in time where the battle torn mud banks gave signs of human impact and travel. I came up to the ear dipper itself and looked to my right to see where I was holding Tim and where my foot steps were self driven into the mud bank while I administered CPR. To my right I found pink gloves at the bottom of the river with a blind fish suspended over the gloves almost knowing that these have been placed here recently. I picked up the gloves and brought them back with me. I came back and had Chris and I take a picture of where our project has ended. for now at least...
|Adam Haydock and Chris Parks at the site in Blowing Hole Cave|
We have many Indiana and TAG cave dive projects to pursue but want to bring a sense of closure to this project which has left a lot of questions unanswered....why the water is colder in the upper passage, why is the water higher, what the sump looks like and where will the sump lead. Maybe one day we will return but for now, and for the future, this project will be filed back in the archives.
After everyone started the traverse back, Kevin, Seth and I swam under the duck under to see what was beyond where we left off. Suprisingly, it was pretty low air space between the water line and ceiling ( maybe 6 inches) for hundreds of feet which opened for a brief moment and quickly closed up again. I wonder what Dave really meant when he said to Tim, "the water level seems to be the some of the highest levels I have ever seen". Did something happen to the sump to create this??? We turned around and made our exit out of the cave within two and a half hours from leaving the site. Everyone helped haul the gear out and we made it to the exit without any issues just as the sun was setting.
This team that assembled to help us retrieve our gear is a team I cant thank enough. Kevin, Dave, Patty, Seth, Phil, and Brian, thank you for helping us get all the gear out of the cave as well as helping to bring the cave back to its original condition. Chris and I would have had a really hard time getting everything out so I appreciate it. As for Blowing Hole Cave, it has been an interesting two weeks for me with this cave. Our expectations of diving to discover what is beyond the promising sump that ended in a loss of our fellow friend and caver, Tim McLain, has brought us a lot of emotions and questions of the fate in this particular project. Furthermore, the massive effort that came together to assist in the love, honor, and respect that we have for one another in our caving community, brought the best of us together in so many ways. Blowing Hole Cave will not be forgotten as well as the memories Tim McLain shared with me in my life, but I also have to be so thankful for the experiences I went through last weekend. For now, My return to Blowing Hole Cave will not be for a long time, but one day, I may return, with an objective to discover whats beyond the sump and to share the stories with the members of that team by speaking to the passion Tim had as well as telling the stories on that through Blowing Hole Cave.
Below is a typical view of the river passage we encountered in blowing hole cave. Sometimes the water would be knee deep and at other times it would be up to our neck. Under the murky water are large sharp rocks that slowly dig themselves into your wetsuit and mental state of mind by zapping your energy as you traverse the unforgiving cold waters in this river passage. 3 miles each way of this kind of passage as well as squeeze crawling, made for an interesting experience but to continue to sump dive into the unknown gave these occasions minor inconviences.
|Phil Goldman, Kevin Romanak, Brian Hunsaker, Chris Parks, and Adam Haydock in the typical river passage in Blowing Hole cave Indiana|