Survey Trip Report for April 5, 2003

Area Visited: UR1

Participants: Dan Austin, J. Hinesley, Rita Worden

Our team entered the backdoor entrance at 11:00 am Saturday morning, just before the Transit team and UL2 team. We proceeded up Thunder River slowly, keeping our eyes peeled for fishes. None were sighted, and we arrived at the entrance to UR1 a little short of an hour. UR1 was previously known as UR2 until the Transit team discovered that there was no such passage before that point.

We began by trying to re-label the previous stations to UR1, but found the flagging too damp to draw on with a marker. Instead we flagged a pathway through some of the delicate areas, which I deemed more important than replacing survey flagging. After running out of flagging, we proceeded to the last survey station we had set a month before, UR1-21. From that point we surveyed through some narrow areas and around some gigantic calcified drip holes to find big passage. It averaged 20 feet wide and 6 feet high and was covered with soda straws at almost every turn. After a couple of shots we passed a pure white flowstone mound on the right hand side of the passage that almost choked the entire passage. Rita named it “The Deity.” We carefully picked our way through the stalagmite forest at the base of the flowstone and surveyed another shot. We were stopped by pure white flowstone blocking the entire passage.

Rita pulled on some aqua socks and took off her dirty clothes and carefully tip-toed across the flowstone to report that the passage continued on the other side. We began to survey until we realized the tape was too dirty to drag through such a delicate area. J. and I returned to Thunder River and washed the tape thoroughly. We returned to the white flowstone blockage with a clean tape and began to survey very carefully through the delicate area. At one point we had to duck under an enormous wall of white draperies and across a shallow pool of water underneath. I took some pictures for photo documentation (hope they turn out!) J. and I agreed later on that this area should be known as The Tip of the Iceberg.

Rita found that the flowstone ended and the mud began again, and so we were forced to return to ferry our shoes through the delicate area. In the future, teams need to bring a couple of garbage bags with them so that all the dirty clothes can come through to the other side. It was incredibly difficult staying clean the rest of the survey.

We continued on the other side to find some impressive columns and more flowstone once again blocking the passage. We were able to skirt around these on a lower level and continued the survey on the other side. Eventually we picked up one set of footprints coming and going in the area, which meant that McClain had probably visited before. How he got through the delicate area without soiling it, we couldn’t tell.

After a low duckway with thousands of soda straws and spathites covering the ceiling, we arrived in a low, flat area with a lower level running parallel to it. We proceeded to survey on the upper level through a collapse zone. The passage became increasingly more and more decorated and suddenly opened up into 20-foot diameter borehole with a waterfall pouring from the ceiling. Tons of white flowstone covered the walls in this area, and we also found several large pools with sentinel stalagmites growing from them. One amazing bottle-brush was also found and photographed in one of these pools. Below the waterfall was the only patch of pitch black flowstone I have seen in Carroll, and it appeared to be a coating of Manganese on further inspection.

We halted the survey at this point to take pictures, and found that the borehole was short-lived. It appeared to pinch to smaller size, but kept going up ahead. I noted that below the waterfall were two separate drains which could possibly be pushed into, and would likely yield virgin passage at some point, provided they were large enough.

Our time had run out, though, and we needed to return to the surface. We all decided unanimously to re-name Rio Del Blanco to “The Land of Shock and Awe” as we headed out. We arrived at the shaft to find all the other teams gathered, waiting to head out. I was the last person up the ladder, at 2:00 am.

Overall, a very productive trip with almost 600 feet of highly decorated passage surveyed. It was by far one of the most decorated and most delicate passages I have ever been in, and if and when another team returns to the area, I recommend using extreme caution, and keep your group size to a minimum. This is an incredible discovery, and we need to keep this area as pristine as possible while we survey it.

J. was glad he had made the trip from Alabama, he said it was definitely worth it!

Cave fish seen: 0