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Earth Science

The Search For the Mount Everest of Caves 233

NoMeansYes writes "An interview with James Tabor, author of the new best-selling book Blind Descent, introduces a pair of accomplished scientists — American Bill Stone and Ukranian geologist Alexander Klimchouk — who are the two most prominent figures in extreme caving. Both have figured prominently in the ongoing quest to discover the deepest cave on earth. Tabor describes what conditions are like inside supercaves like Cheve (-4,869 feet) and Krubera (-7,188 feet), before discussing Stone and his far-reaching technological innovations. These include the Posideon Discovery Rebreather and NASA's ENDURANCE. Extreme caving probably won't remain underground (so to speak) much longer, however. The article notes that James Cameron is planning to release a 3D film next year about extreme cave divers."
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The Search For the Mount Everest of Caves

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  • Re:3D by Cameron? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 11, 2010 @07:57PM (#32870208)

    Pre-Titanic, he used to get the story part right, too.

  • by blackest_k ( 761565 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @08:07PM (#32870268) Homepage Journal

    The articles quite interesting, new antibiotics , a rebreather letting someone say underwater for 10 -12 hours at a time and then theres the nasa mission to europa...

    making a movie is the least interesting thing mentioned.

  • by Chris Rhodes ( 1059906 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @08:29PM (#32870372) Journal
    Will slashdot's far reach cause more people to get stuck in caves? People are always diving in caves. People seeking new passages through small holes get stuck all the time.

    Will the movie result in an uptick in caving deaths? 60 percent [cavediver.net] of cave deaths in Florida are related to cave diving. I've always wanted to go caving, except that everything I read about it, is about someone dying.
  • by moderatorrater ( 1095745 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @08:46PM (#32870466)

    seeing the extreme conditions man will venture into to quench an unstoppable curiosity.

    Or to get chicks. Some people will do anything to impress chicks.

  • The other thing that bothered me about this book was the author's persistent implication that it's *possible* to find "the deepest cave".

    Until we come up with a universal earth-scanning technology that can reveal all subterranean openings (that are passable to humans), this title can't be granted with any certainty.

    Krubera has the current title, but then, many other caves have held the title in the past. It's not like a mountain, where height is (reasonably) verifiable with current technology -- finding the deepest human-reachable location requires lots of effort and luck.

  • I've always found (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gizzmonic ( 412910 ) on Sunday July 11, 2010 @10:39PM (#32870928) Homepage Journal

    Enjoy that McDonald's burger, and wash it down with a Bud Light! Popular=best!

  • Re:yes, absolutely (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2010 @02:18AM (#32872010)

    I disagree. Apples and oranges.

    Quality and popular have never had much of a relationship as demonstrated by Wal Mart.

    Cheap, low quality products are popular, but their consumers wouldn't normally consider them quality.

    Similarly: Toyota vs. Ferrari

    One is much more popular. One is much higher quality.

  • Re:yes, absolutely (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fractoid ( 1076465 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @02:35AM (#32872102) Homepage
    Where are my mod points when I need 'em? It doesn't matter whether some welfare- or parent-supported douche thinks they're the foremost authority on something. Ultimately, how successful and effective something is is the ultimate measure of quality. Just like the way low-budget arthouse films are generally absolutely crap (or if they're not, they rapidly become huge hits, reinforcing the "if it's popular then it's good, and if it's good it will be popular" theme).

    It's the same reason that no matter how much your hacker's aesthetics cringe at using Microsoft Office, it's still used by so many businesses. It gets the job done with less fuss than anything else, and results in a better rate of return on investment, therefore however much you, personally, dislike it - it IS better.
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @04:37AM (#32872536) Homepage Journal

    Do sports count as "doing something"? I would say no, but I've already been accused of being an opinionated old bastard.

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:19AM (#32872884)

    Posting to /. just isn't working like we'd all hoped, is it?

  • Yah, right.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by RichiH ( 749257 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:59AM (#32873004) Homepage

    Whoever modded you insightful has never seen a proper SCUBA diver. It's the least sexy sport, bar none.

    Unless you build a pee valve into your dry suit, the only way to take a leak in a dry-suit are diapers. Yes, diapers.

    Add the fact that you need to stay hydrated very well and that cold water will make your body pull blood into the torso. This, in turn, makes your bladder work overtime. Being perfectly still most of the time during ascent and the nice bubbly noises all around you adds extra fun!

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:13AM (#32873236) Homepage

    It's wrapped in extreme amounts of emotive narrative, but that story just describes how something can go horribly wrong if you do extremely dangerous things without planning them properly, and don't follow established rules. A diver's (Deon) dead body, that's been there for years, found in a deep cave, is recovered for no particular reason than to be heroic. The equipment they use is new, improperly tested and mostly "home-brew" for the situation they want to use it in. Some of it breaks.

    The body-recovery is then portrayed as something brave and necessary, instead of just plain silly to go EXACTLY where a previous expert, experienced diver has died and whose body is STILL stuck, and as a single diver (with only backup crews who won't dive that far down) try, on your own, to recover the body. Something killed the original diver, and you're going to have to stand there and deal with whatever that was in order to free the body.

    To quote, when they reviewed the footage of that *solo* diver who died going in to recover a body that was already *trapped* in place, the video (recovered only by sheer chance, and recorded on bog-standard video camera in a home-brew housing) showed the body floated. "This was totally unexpected. Deon, as it turned out, was not completely skeletal, and he was no longer stuck in the silt. Instead of decomposing, his corpse had mummified into a soaplike composition that gave it mass and neutral buoyancy. And for some reason--no one has an explanation--the body had become unstuck from the mud as soon as Shaw started working on it. "The fact that the body was now loose, and not pinned to the ground, was not one of the scenarios that we had thought about," Shirley sighs. "The body was not meant to be floating." It's a lot easier to slip a bag over an immobile body than a body floating and rolling in front of you at 886 feet."

    Amazing that a body comes loose when you're disturbing it in order to loosen it. And amazing that a body isn't completely skeletal given that recovery of bodies in every extreme has shown some to be remarkably well-preserved.

    After the video shows the recovery diver's breathing rate increasing (and he's very experienced in dealing with that and the intoxication of breathing diving gases): "Watching the video with a clear head, it is hard not to wonder why Shaw didn't just turn around right then and abandon the dive." The "attempted recovery dive" that he was stating when he was on the surface. And he's quoted earlier as saying "Better one dead than two".

    But he pushes on: "He keeps working to control the body, letting go of his cave light so he can use both hands... Shaw has been at it for two minutes, and the cave line is seemingly everywhere. It snags on his cave light, and Shaw pauses to clear it. At this, Shirley and Herbst bridled. A cave diver should never let gear float loose. "It's a recipe for disaster," says Shirley, who will always regret not being present when Shaw told Hiles (ON THE SURFACE!) he would put the light to the side at times. "Do not do that," he would have warned him."

    Then the video shows more of the hazard that the diver was in: "Suddenly he loses his footing on the sloping bottom. He scrambles back to the body in a cloud of silt." (the bottom where the body was already trapped and claimed its first victim).

    Afterwards, doubt is cast on his abilities by companions - extremely experienced, cave-divers - but the author conveniently tucks it away: "But he also wonders whether Shaw should have done more buildup dives to increase his tolerance for narcosis--much the way a climber will try to acclimatize to altitude--and his ability to recognize when it reaches dangerous levels. "When he started putting the body in the bag and it didn't work, he should have immediately turned around and left," Gomes (the only person to have successfully dived that cave that far) says. "I didn't think it was worth the risk of a diver losing his life to recover the remains of Deon Dreyer," he says flatly."


  • by hesaigo999ca ( 786966 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:07AM (#32873580) Homepage Journal

    3d for this, 3d for that, really , we need 3d like we need a third nipple...useless, especially for something like a documentary....
    I tend to think hollywood just makes all these movies on purpose to waste money when we have a real problem with
    our planet (oil spill) that could use all the help we can give....seems pointless to go to the movies when our planet is dying, and we are doing almost nothing for it...

  • by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:51AM (#32873984)

    159 comments, as of this writing, and not a *single* Colossal Cave reference? Narry an XYZZY to be found anywhere here? And you call yourselves geeks and nerds. Why, back in my day....now get off my lawn!

    That said, I did a little bit, a very little bit, of cave diving in Hawaii, and while you have to trust your equipment completely when underwater, there was always (to me) the comfort that "escape" is just going straight up. In a cave, you don't even have that. It was quite unnerving and, while I'll always say I had a good time, I was glad when I was back on the surface, climbing into the boat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2010 @10:40AM (#32874478)

    There are plenty of tear proof materials, kevlar et al.

    And I imagine this would look a lot like a diving bell, which is technically pretty simple, and handles all air lock and pressure issues. Much simpler to do than a re- breather! So I imagine they already do something like this, and just did not mention it, or there are other issues holding them back more than this.

    I think it is unlikely that we in the 30 seconds we have been thinking about it have hit on a cool invention that will solve the problems that guys who have been doing this all their lives did not think of.

  • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @11:32AM (#32874990) Journal
    Cave diving deaths are all preventable by the simple method of not going cave-diving because it is a fucking insane hobby, so you could argue they're more akin to suicide than accidental death.
  • by phoenixwade ( 997892 ) on Monday July 12, 2010 @02:18PM (#32876874)

    And in DIR terminology (DIR= Doing it right = a very strict diving system), "noobs" are refered to as strokes.

    I'm pretty sure that DIR and GUE analists would refer to much of slashdot the same way - I have zero use for those arrogant assholes. Although some of the philosophy, rational, and developed techniques and equipment placement and choices are quite good, the prevailing attitude of the DIR diver at goes with it puts people off to the point that they are irrelevant and ignored. I do subscribe to the idea that there are people with cave cards that have no business with them (just like US drivers licenses), I just think that some of those with that "i'm better than everyone else, and you're a stroke" attitude should be barred too. The focus should be on saving lives, not on pissing off people in the same hole you're in.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court