Participants – Bill Gee
John Roth
Pamela Hart

Time in = 9:45am, time out = 1:00pm

In mid-October we received a trip permit request from Dr. Pamela Hart. No one had any idea who she was, but the trip permit mentioned Matt Niemiller who we have worked with in the past. After further discussion with Dr. Hart we figured out this was a legitimate request. Jeff Page left it to me as leader of the Biology Project to make appropriate arrangements.

Dr. Hart describes her research like this:

“My name is Pam Hart and I am a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oklahoma in the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History. I am a colleague of Dr. Matt Niemiller and Dr. Mike Slay (at the Ozark section of the Nature Conservancy). My work is NSF funded and focuses on the North American cavefishes of the Amblyopsidae and their non-visual sensory perception. My project includes laboratory experiments examining how sensitive the cavefishes are to water movement and disturbance as well as the genetic basis for these non-visual adaptations. This work has implications for human health, as the sense of movement in these fishes is related to hair cells that are very similar to human ear-hairs, helping us examine vestibular diseases. I am requesting access for me and a small group to enter the system and collect no more than five Typhlichthys eigenmanni fishes at one time. These fishes will be collected for laboratory experiments and tissue collection for genetics work. I have requested access for November 5th, however if we do not collect five fishes, I would like to request additional access on the 6th for a short period of time as well.”

“I have a Missouri scientific collection permit for fishes that I have attached. Additionally, I believe Matt would like to collect some invertebrates though I’m not sure exactly what. I have 8 years of experience caving in the southeastern US with Matt and Dr. Jonathan Armbruster at Auburn University and Charles Stephen also at Auburn. I have additionally gone caving in Thailand with Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty. My supervisor at OU is Dr. Dahiana Arcila.”

The original request was for November 5. For various reasons we could not make that date. We settled on a date of Sunday 14 November. I put out a call for more people to participate. John Roth and two others stepped up to help out. As it turned out, the other two had to back out. However, this was a short trip, and both John and I are experienced with Carroll Cave.

Since this was going to be a short trip, I did not camp. I drove to the silo Sunday morning arriving about 7:50am. Two weeks ago when I did the bat census trip, I had a lot of trouble getting the lock on the silo to open. A few days later I was there with Rick Hines for a work day, and we had more trouble getting the silo lock to open. Rick doused the lock with some penetrating oil. On this trip I had no trouble whatever with the lock. It opened easily on the first try.

I rigged the rope and set up the cell phone repeater. Dr. Hart arrived about 8:20 and John soon after. We chatted for a few minutes and then changed into our caving gear. We were expecting a fourth person. When they did not arrive by shortly after 9:00am, I called and found they had completely forgotten about the trip. We decided to go ahead with just three of us.

John went down the rope first so he could help Pam get off the rope if necessary. Pam went second and I was third. We were all in the cave by 9:45am.

Pam provided several aquarium nets for catching fish, and also some pint-size Nalgene bottles. Each of us took a couple of bottles. Since the goal was fish, we went straight down to the stream from the ladder. Within 2 minutes we had captured the first fish. We filled the Nalgene bottles about 3/4 full with water from the stream, then dropped the fish in.

Pam had been worried about the time it would take to find five fish. I knew better! 🙂 We had our five fish within about 15 minutes, and only had to traverse a few hundred feet of stream. We actually captured six fish, and there were a couple that we chased but did not capture. After evaluation, we let one go. Pam’s collection permit was only for five fish, and we did not want to exceed that.

We decided there was plenty of time, so we were going to have some caving fun. We went upstream Thunder River admiring formations, especially the two shower heads. We turned around at the entrance to UL1. Along the way we saw another 8 or 10 fish. There was plenty to choose from!

We took a detour up to the Angel Pool where I showed John and Pam a pocket behind some flowstone that has some really nice cave pearls. From there we went over to Thunder Falls. The stream level was running a bit below normal, so Thunder Falls was a little anemic. It is still an impressive sight.

Back at the ladder at noon, we had a snack and then climbed out. We were out of the cave by 1:00pm.

After changing to clean clothes, John and I spent some time going over the trip leader training topics. We got through everything, and John is now qualified to be a Carroll Cave trip leader. John brought along a pair of loppers and spent a few minutes with them clearing brush from around the skycrapper.

We left the silo about 2:00pm and drove to Camdenton where we had either late lunch or early dinner at one of the Mexican restaurants. Mid-afternoon on Sunday is the time to go there! We had our food only five minutes after ordering. There was plenty of parking and very few other people in the restaurant.

We left there about 3:45pm and everyone drove straight home.

Trip report by Bill Gee

Grotto salamander in upstream Thunder River.
A grotto salamander in Upstream Thunder River. Photo by Pamela Hart.
First shower head in Upstream Thunder River
The first of two shower head formations in Upstream Thunder River. Photo by Pamela Hart.
Second shower head formation in Upstream Thunder River.
The second of two shower head formations in Upstream Thunder River. Photo by Pamela Hart.
The Angel Pool.
The Angel Pool. Photo by Pamela Hart.
Boxwork formation.
An area of boxwork near the ladder entrance. Photo by Pamela Hart.