Sometimes the caves are easy to find.
In surveying these three caves, we have assembled a team of divers familiar with
sidemount and comfortable in smaller caves. Each is able to work at depth and
experienced with mixed gasses. Each individual brings along additional specialized
skills, which include underwater photography and videography, computer-aided cartography,
and detailed sketching.
Normally Missouri has relatively mild winters, but, to our surprise, on the drive down, the forecast was for 4-7 inches of snow and we were hearing about school closings on the radio. The state has already had twenty inches of snow this winter, and it was so cold that we suited up in our hotel room in Licking before driving to the dive site. The air was so cold that the pressure relief valve in our compressor kept freezing and had to be warmed with a thermos of hot water so we could continue filling tanks. The upside however, was that when we put our tanks into the 58 degree spring water, the pressure jumped and we were rewarded with "Florida fills", even though our compressor only pumps to 3200 psi.
The river, however, was in the low 40s, and the the google-eye and bass decided they'd be
better off in the warm spring water. This is not as easy as it sounds, entering the
spring requires jumping over a dam that raises the spring pool. However, there are hundreds
of fish in in the cave, all the way back to the gravel choke. Fortunately, they are better
behaved than the fish in Big Spring - usually they'll stay out of your way and not silt
out the cave.
The spring is surrounded by private property, across the Big Piney River from the Boiling Spring public access, a gravel easement normally used for launching canoes and small fishing boats. We clipped on our tanks and waded across the river to the spring. Because of the cold weather, the edges of the river iced up overnight, and we were forced to break away sheets of ice before we could get started each morning.
Ethan Brodsky came through next and took depth/floor/ceiling measurements at stations A1-A7 and azimuths for all 23 stations. Micki Feakes sketched the entrance and passage cross-sections at stations A1-A4. That evening, Ethan archived data and plotted a 3D stick map on the computer. Unfortunately, Keith had to leave before he could contribute further, as his Army Reserve unit was called up. We cut his hair before he left.
The next day, Tami and Ethan pulled tape and measured left/right data for stations A1-A7 and A13-A18 and took additional cross-sections in the gravel slope. Micki sketched A5-A7 and added detail to the A1-A4 sketches. Marvin Zaske joined the group and sketched cross-sections of the pit at A9-13 and estimated wall distances. Due to insomnia, Tami began work on a preliminary map that night.
The next dives were devoted to cross-checking some confusing data, taking measurements to complement sketches and detailing particularly interesting parts of the cave. Tami took still photos to document the cave and the survey effort. She also sketched additional detail at A0a, A7-A9, and the air bells. Ethan and Marvin pulled tape to measure distances for the A9-A13 cross-sections.
A final dive was devoted to photography and clean-up. Tami took pictures, while Ethan
and Marvin went back to double-check data on the air bells. Finally, Marvin began pulling
the station markers while Tami removed the entire survey line. Marvin also removed an
ancient tattered line tangled in the cave at 120 feet depth. The original gold line
At each station, we used the survey tape to measure the passage geometry. We took turns working the dumb end of the tape. In previous projects, the passage geometry was fairly regular, and we just took left/right/up/down measurements. Here, the passages were much more complex, and we first sketched the cross-section and then took quantative measurements with the tape.
(L) Profile stick-map, viewed from South.
Profile stick-map, viewed from East (R)
The map was submitted to the Missouri Speleogical Survey and exibited alongside our other two maps in the Map Salon at the National Speleological Society - Cave Diving Section 2003 Workshop.
The Boiling Spring on the Big Piney survey concludes a year-long effort to map
three long-unappreciated sidemount springs in Missouri. The effort yielded not
only three maps, but also an understanding of the investment in time and
resources required to produce top-quality maps. Along the way, Tami took a
bunch of great pictures, and Eric Parker Andersen and Richard Dreher produced
a documentary film about the effort.