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Hi there!

even though spelunking should not be considered a sport, one can't qualify as a hobby either.. and we didn't do any science.

Speleology, or spelunking, is the investigation of caves, holes and pits, mostly of natural origin. Other subjects are closely linked to it, such as zoology, water resources management and even natural park conservations.

The picture here was taken last saturday, on a natural cave in southern Germany. As most caves, this one originated through water flow in a limestone rock body. Everyone's heard of stalactites and stalagmites, and other breathtaking natural works of art. Here is where conservation comes in: going in to caves is not a sport, or even a tourist attraction. While it's legitimate allowing people to observe these natural wonders, conservation is increasingly difficult with rising numbers of visitors - just like the paintings in Egypt or churches in Europe.

Then there's the wildlife protection. Even though most animals only occupy the entrance section of caves, bats travel rather deep inside. If one disturbs these animals during their hibernation period, they may exit the cave, eventually dying from exposure or being preyed on by other animals.

Water management? Yes - water does flow through these caves. Indeed, some caves show a typical tiered construction, with older, higher levels being permanently dry and lower ones increasingly humid until one reaches the freatic zone, which is usually underwater. Measurement of water quality can give us an understanding of whether the path ahead will be enough to make water suitable for consumption.

And why would anyone go into dark, wet, muddy holes? Well, it's fun, it's dangerous, and if turn your lights out you may feel very, very peaceful. And if you do it as a scientist, you're contributing to the conservation of wildlife.

Oh my, I can feel my clausterphobia level rising just looking at that picture. I guess I have heard to many stories of people suffocating in small spaces ! Smile That, and when I was very smal I saw a movie ( where they discovered new underground caves ) but surprise surprise - a Monster lived there - and he/she/it started to kill people.
Yeah i feel the same! I'm too much of a girl to do something like that i think, i would get claustrophobic quickly and be worried i wouldn't be unable to get out again. Respect for being able to do this though!
Claustrophobia? Well, I wouldn't say suffering from it is "being too much of a girl".. well, mainly because some girls would tan my hide for saying that.. Smile

Indeed, there's a bit to it, if one is afraid of tight spaces. I can take small rooms and tight spots quite alright - my father likes to tell how I once stuck my head between the bars of my cot, and got stuck. The experience seems to have had an interesting effect..

Actually, my worst fear in the cave is that of getting lost. As you move about inside, you tend to get quite disoriented. And if crawl a bit faster than your companions, you'll start hearing your own breathing - and putting the hand to your spare light.. actually, not even the dark worries me so much as not being able to find the way out - I get lost often in large buildings, and these have markings!

Well, if you forget your fear of closed spaces, darkness and have blood as cool as a vampire's, you might just pull yourself out of jam. Caves tend to have openings at different heights, all over the rock formation. Since air inside is either colder or warmer as outside (in summer and winter, resp.), it will move in or out of those holes. Our guide explained how a colleague of his, after losing the main and spare lights, still managed to exit alive by following the draught. Bear in mind though, the guide highlighted many times how experienced and fortunate the guy was - in some passages, a slip would make you plummet some 30m into hard stone.

That being said, I find caves very peaceful places - as far away from civilisation as you can go in earth!
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