3/8/03 Survey Trip Report

Destination: UL1

Participants: Dan Austin, Matt Goska, Bob Lerch

Entry time: 11:00 am

Exit time: 11:15 pm

Our mission for the weekend was to return to the elusive UL1 survey, 10 minutes from the backdoor entrance to Carroll. Tom had instructed us to rig a hand line to help cross the 6-foot gap over Thunder River, and provided us with about 20 pounds of rope and webbing. We started off just as the Transit team was getting going. We first selected a nice piece of wood on the surface to use as our bridge, and lowered it down the hole. Once in the cave, Matt and I took an end of the plank and maneuvered it carefully down to the level of the river. It was slow going, but gave Bob ample opportunity to scout for fishes.

We arrived at UL1 shortly, and dropped the plank, now labeled “The Board of Education,” into place. Matt and Bob tied one end of a long rope to a previously left hand-line on the other side, while I tied the other end around a large boulder on the high bank along Thunder River. We all crossed the gap and proceeded through some incredibly nasty mud and low crawlways to UL1-9. This was the last station set by the previous team, right at the spot where the passage began to open up ahead.

I began sketching, and Bob and Matt ran tape and instruments. After only a couple of shots, Matt stretched the tape out for a 97-foot shot! WOW! While the ceiling only averaged 7 feet, the walls constantly entered and left the main passage through low, wide stream meanders. Mud banks every 10 feet slowed our progress. After I had finished sketching the big shot, I was thoroughly pissed at sketching, and only did a couple of more shots before letting Bob tackle it. By this time, we were walking in totally virgin passage, and Matt and I made the first footprints as we stopped occasionally to take soil samples to be later tested for microbes. As this was an untouched environment, it was an excellent place for collection.

As Bob got caught up on sketching, Matt and I trekked ahead and found that our endless muddy stream meander was blocked by a pile of breakdown, and we soon found ourselves surveying in an upper level formation area 7 feet high and 20 feet wide. We had to duck our heads to avoid the countless soda straws, and continued down the other side of the breakdown back to muddy stream meander. After 10 feet, another pile of breakdown led back up into a low formation room with a single Gray Bat roosting on the ceiling.

In this room, I set what I thought was the last station, as the passage ahead looked like it was a breakdown choke. However, after squeezing ahead, I found a hole in the floor that dropped immediately back down to muddy stream meander. The hole was surrounded by delicate formations, so I backed off. Bob decided to give it a try, and successfully made it through without any harm to the cave. Matt and I followed, and found the delicate hole to be much easier navigable than it first appeared. After 10 more feet of stream, yet another breakdown pile led us up into the most decorated room we had yet seen in UL1. Our last shot of the day went straight across this room to a grouping of large draperies on the opposite wall. I thought the passage would drop back into stream meander again, so I squeezed ahead to check it out. Again, I was at the stream level, but the ceiling was only 1 foot above the floor. I squeezed ahead 25 feet, turned a 90-degree right bend, and squeezed ahead another 25 feet where the mud finally met the ceiling. Dead end! UL1 had been finished!

We retreated to the slippery climb down to Thunder River with over 700 feet of survey for the day. Bob and Matt removed the Board of Education and carried it most of the way back to T-Junction. We stopped once to take a photo, but I discovered that condensation had gotten into my flashgun, preventing a good shot. We proceeded to the entrance, and I timed the ascent of the ladder to approximately 3 minutes per person. Much more convenient than a rope. The ladder crew deserves a huge pat on the back. I also discovered that using a croll attached at the waist was sufficient to climb with, and a hand ascender only helps to tire out the arms. I can’t wait until the elevator is installed. When does that happen, Rick?

Overall, a very productive trip. We did not see the Transit team at all, and they were missing when we arrived back at the campground. Then again, the temp was about 10 degrees, and we didn’t blame them for not wanting to camp. I crashed at Goska’s place in Rolla, and later found out that Tom and his crew had gotten 1200 feet of survey. Wow! An incredible haul for only 2 teams for the weekend – almost 2,000 feet! That’s great! Let’s make it even better next month!

Cave fish Counted: 2 (They’re still hiding)