Monday, March 06, 2006

My Cave Survival Guide

This will forever remain a running joke...

I love my readers, but nonetheless, you guys are crazy. You seem to think that I am some Wonder Woman meets a feminized Crocodile Dundee. But, here is what you have all been joking about: My long - awaited reference, written down, on how to survive if trapped or lost in a cave. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of my advice, as I have never actually been stuck in a cave... although, I've been spulunking in quite a few. So, if you dare to try it, be my guest, but no comments from the peanut gallery if something in this guide backfired on you while attempting to prove this guide useful.

How to Survive in a Cave

If you should ever find your unprepared self in a dark and rocky predicament, please follow to emerge unscathed...
just like these very happy and hippy people.

Stage #1: "Where the heck am I?":

  1. Stop blaming each other, shut up and sit down. The worst thing that you could do is start jumping up and down while screaming bloody murder at one another. Why, you ask? Well, simply because of the sharp overhead rocks and nasty clusters of bats, as well as (depending what type of cave you're in) other not-so-welcoming creatures. Jumping up and down will only give you all a concussion, but screaming could put you in a swarm of bats or in the path of an awakened and grumpy slumbering bear. But before you sit, feel the ground so you don't sit in anything.
  2. Determine which direction you came from and face that way. This will not only make you calm down and focus, but also help you get your bearings. Suggestion: Place your knapsack, top first (or north end), toward the direction from which you came, so that if nature calls and you have to get up, you will remember your original position. If you have 100% figured out where you came from (perhaps by looking at your footsteps on the ground...there's normally a slight amount of dust on the cave floor which will visably allow you to leave an imprint), then start heading that way. Just try to mark your trail, à la Hansel and Gretel, in case you get turned around. If you're actually stuck due to utter confusion or a blocked cave trail, then keep reading.
  3. Take an inventory of all you have with you, including what you are wearing. It's much easier to know what you can do once you know what you have! Don't use up your water too quickly. Only drink it when you have to.
  4. Make sure your flashlight works. Okay, here's where stuff could go downhill. I'm hoping that you were exploring this cave with a flashlight (although, preferably a headlamp). If you weren't prepared and don't have a flashlight...or the reason that you're stuck is because you lost/broke/forgot to put in new batteries, well, we'll get to the issue of light a little later.

Stage #2: "Guys, I think we'll be here awhile!":

  1. Turn off all lights while chatting to one another. Everyone sit around the knapsack, knee to knee as though you were going to play a game of "Telephone." This way, you won't need to see each other because the physical contact is much more reassuring. If you are by yourself, sit at the bottom of the knapsack (or south end) with your body facing the north end. One more thing: Only ONE person speaks at a time.
  2. By goodness, DO NOT DRINK THE WATER FOUND IN THE CAVE!!! Ever heard of E.coli? Well, bat feces are just as toxic as human feces, and there is an extremely good possiblity that the water, if there is any to be found, is contaminated. You'll be sick before you even get out of the cave. The symptoms: naseaua and bloody diarrea (severe blood problems and kidney failure are only occational). Nothing could be grosser than a "cookie-tossing" friend, especially if you're in an semi-ventilated space like a cave and you've got sypathy pukers on your hands. Please remember: FOOD AND WATER CONTAMINATED WITH E.coli BACTERIA LOOK AND SMELL NORMAL.
  3. Determine how long you are going to be there and how to proceed.
    This is the last of the step by step advice. By calmly looking at your situation and figuring out whether getting back to day light is going to require some simple sleuthing or digging your way out, well, you can proceed from there using the tips below.

Stage #3: "Some Handy-Dandy Tips":

  1. Got food? Ration it using the math of days and the number of people you have to feed.
  2. Chewing Gum? Well, stop chewing it. Whatever you've got in your mouth you can keep on chomping on, but save the rest for an emergency adhesive.
  3. H2O? No more guzzling. Who knows how long you're going to be there.
  4. Caves are a perfect grow-op for bacteria because it's so nicely damp and cold. So, try not to touch the ground and then your eyes, food, etc.
  5. Straps, belts, hair elastics and other such things can be used for hanging food off the ground. (There are still little critters and bugs that would love to eat that granola bar you brought!)
  6. Need light? Think before you light. If you are in a small and enclosed space, you might want to rethink the fire idea. The problem with fire is the amount of oxygen it can use up. If you are blocked by a cave-in, perhaps darkness is a fair compromise for having enough O2 to breathe. If you are simply lost deep underground in a large cavern room, well, go ahead. Just be careful of what you burn. Wet and moldy tinder will not burn clean, creating a ton of smoke. So...
  7. Need firewood? Empty all pockets for fuzz, pencils, bus tickets, bus transfers, business cards that might be in your wallet (although save your donor card), gum wrappers, facial tissue, paper (although save your notebook in case you need to leave a note and stick it with the gum..hint, hint)...even cutting off a little hair will work extremely well, too. All of this will work wonderfully to help light your fire, but it won't last more than a few minutes, depending on how much you were able to scrounge up. If you are in a big cave, it means that there have most likely been other before you. Still not catching on? Well, most people, unfortunately, leave a trail behind them of stuff like walking sticks and other things that you can search for and use. So start praying and look around you for wood.
  8. No matches? Well, try sparking a battery over some kindling, or taking a shoe lace and wrapping it around a stick so you can turn it back and forth, or rubbing two sticks together (yes, it does work), or take a pen and rub it fast for a while against some paper until the tip is really hot...I've tried it. It will ignite the paper if it's completely dry. Thin bus transfers and fuzz, especially, will light immediately, so be ready! Also, nail polish will ignite, but be careful as it will smell like hell if you're in a small area. (You'll also get a high, so this is an emergency measure ONLY! You will need to stay alert to stay alive.)
  9. Your butt getting a little wet? Quiet down and you hear water? Is it dropping down from the ceiling or is it just running past? There are a lot of underground streams, so it's not like you can just follow it out of the cave, but by monitoring its speed, you can determine if there is a chance of flooding. If you can, try to move to the sides of the cave or up on a rock. It's less moist, has a better view and will keep you dry.
  10. Feeling Cold? Did you know that most of your body heat escapes via your head? If you have a hat, keep it on. If you don't, wrap a tanktop or tee around your head to keep warm. Hypothermia is a very real possibility, so keep warm. Hug each other and show some love!

Now, it's all written down. I could think of more, but I'm sure you are already shaking your head at all of this. If you have any question, comments or challenges, please feel free to make them.

So, until next time, enjoy life and always be prepared!


At Tuesday, February 28, 2006 9:05:00 PM, Blogger Hannah said...


You are such a funny girl! Sorry i didn't comment before this, I was away on the retreat.... I should print this off and tuck it in my pocket for whenever I may need never know! Very useful stuff, and made me laugh out loud when I saw you had actually gone this far...who knew there was so much involved in cave survival!! My room mate was mentioning tonight at dinner that she wants to go caving in kentucky, so i will pass your information along! We missed you this weekend, hope to see you soon,


At Wednesday, March 01, 2006 9:53:00 AM, Blogger Amy said...

I love the caves in Kentucky! My fave are the Mammoth Cave system. It's touristy, but there is so much history to see underground. It's relatively affordable, too! There are the family walks (cavern-walking, not spelunking), then there are actual caving groups that call for a required height/waist measusurement to make sure that everyone fits. My grandma and rest of the clan only live about an hour or so away, so their caving is like our hiking. lol.

Hmmm...I should do an ultimate pack list, too...this is too mauch fun!

At Thursday, March 02, 2006 12:07:00 AM, Blogger Cherly Upto said...

Wow Amy, I didn't read the whole thing, but like Hannah says, I should print it off and keep it incase I ever need it. I suppose then I would need to pack it in my knap sack next time I go exploring in a cave...

At Thursday, February 18, 2016 3:35:00 AM, Blogger Devon Pollard said...

I found this super entertaining, and I think you are spot on with a lot of your advice! Thank you.


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