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Über dieses Buch

This book highlights some of the most difficult and persistent exploration ever undertaken in the United States – in Burnsville Cove, a small limestone valley in west-central Virginia – while at the same time reviewing the scientific discoveries made in the area’s 116 km of caves in the course of 50 years. Overall, the book offers a unique combination of exploration and science by a conservation organization specifically dedicated to the preservation and study of the caves.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Burnsville Cove

Abstract
Burnsville Cove is a small limestone valley in west-central Virginia, Highland and Bath Counties. The presence of Silurian/Devonian limestones and the complex geological structure has permitted the development of at least 97 caves in the Cove. A geographical description of the Cove is provided as well as a short history of the settlement of the Cove over the past several centuries.
William B. White

Chapter 2. Early Exploration: Breathing and Butler Caves

Abstract
Prior to 1958, Breathing Cave was the only large cave known in Burnsville Cove. That changed in May, 1958 when air blowing from beneath a sandstone ledge guided explorers to the discovery of the Butler Cave-Sinking Creek cave system. The exploration of the Butler Cave-Sinking Creek system along with nearby Breathing Cave is described in detail. Breathing consists of a large network maze on the flank of the Sinking Creek Syncline. Butler Cave consists of a master trunk passage and underground stream that follows the axis of a syncline northeast to a series of terminal sumps. Connecting with the trunk passage is a series of network maze caves that extend up the northwest flank of the syncline. Overall, Butler Cave contains 16.71 miles of surveyed passages. The excavation of a new entrance in 1998 allowed easy access to the cave and in recent years exploration is being continued.
William B. White

Chapter 3. BCCS: The Organization

Abstract
The Butler Cave Conservation Society (BCCS) was created as a non-profit scientific, education, and conservation organization in November, 1968. In 1970 the BCCS was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The purpose of the organization to own and manage caves as a conservation strategy, initially in Burnsville Cove, but not limited to the Cove. The organization is guided by a seven-member Board of Directors which includes the officers. Membership is by invitation. Lists of members, board members, and officers are provided. An addendum provides a description of the 50/40 celebration of the discovery of Butler Cave and the founding of the BCCS.
Fred L. Wefer, Keith D. Wheeland

Chapter 4. Exploration of the Outlet Caves

Abstract
Most of the drainage from Burnsville Cove is underground. Surface streams are few and most flow only during periods of high rainfall. The drainage from the Cove re-emerges from four springs in the gorge of the Bullpasture River. Emory Spring emerges at river level from a rubble pile beneath a highway and nothing is known about the feeder system. Aqua Spring emerges from a large cave at the head of a tributary valley 100 feet higher than the river. The cave streams rise from sumps that extend to unknown depths. Cathedral Spring rises on the river bank from a water-filled cave that has been explored by divers to a length of 950 feet and a depth of 150 feet with further exploration limited by diving technology. Blue Spring is fed by a sand boil at the bottom of a 50-foot deep water-filled pit with no further exploration possible.
William B. White

Chapter 5. The Discovery and Initial Exploration of the Chestnut Ridge Cave System

Abstract
Chestnut Ridge Blowing Cave, later known as Bobcat Cave, proved to be the first entrance into the large Chestnut Ridge Cave System. The discovery, however, required five years of patient and extremely difficult exploration to conquer the half-mile entrance series into the big cave that awaited below. A detailed account is presented of the obstacle-by-obstacle advance into what would become one of Virginia’s longest cave systems.
Gregg Clemmer

Chapter 6. The Bobcat Camps

Abstract
Once the large cave system accessed through the Bobcat Cave entrance series had been discovered, there was the problem of how to explore it. The entrance series required 5 h transit time each way, leaving little time and stamina for exploration. The solution was to camp in the cave and to conduct exploration from the camp over several days. Camping techniques are described followed by detailed logs of the first 32 camps. Exploration eventually revealed a large, complex, and deep cave extending over much of the northeastern end of Chestnut Ridge.
Gregg Clemmer

Chapter 7. Finding the Blarney Stone

Abstract
Blarney Stone Cave was discovered by means of an intense digging effort in a small sinkhole where snow had been observed to melt during the winter. A difficult entrance series opened into a large and complex cave system which was explored to both the northeast and the southwest. Blarney Stone Cave is exceptionally well decorated with unusual aragonite speleothems. To the northeast, Blarney Stone Cave approached closely to the southwestern end of Bobcat Cave. After systematic exploration followed by digging to remove clastic fill, the two caves were connected to form the Chestnut Ridge Cave System.
Gregg Clemmer

Chapter 8. Burns, Baby, Burns

Abstract
Burns Chestnut Ridge Cave (usually known as “Burns”) was discovered in the 1950s. Exploration over the next 20 years produced only a small and difficult cave. Extremely difficult exploration from 1979 to 2003 finally succeeded in penetrating an interminable sequence of obstacles to discover several stream passages that are part of the Cathedral Spring drainage. The final depth was 782 feet below the entrance making the cave one of the deepest in Virginia. In 2005, exploration from the Blarney Stone Cave side produced a connection and made Burns a part of the Chestnut Ridge Cave System which at the time of connection then had a length of 20.03 miles.
Tommy Shifflett

Chapter 9. Pancakes and the Saga of Our Maple Sugar Digs

Abstract
By 1983 most of the open cave entrances in Burnsville Cove had been discovered. The only way to find new caves was to dig entrances. Clues were shallow sinkholes and places where the snow melted in the winter. Beginning in 1986, BCCS initiated a regular annual weekend to dig for new caves. Since the weekend coincided with the Highland Maple Sugar Festival with its fire-company-sponsored breakfasts, this became known as “pancake weekend” and the caves discovered were collectively known as the “Pancake Caves”. More than a dozen caves have been opened. Maps and photographs of these caves are given. Most of the caves are relatively small but four have been mapped to lengths of more than a mile.
Gregg Clemmer

Chapter 10. Exploration of Barberry Cave and the Construction of Big Bucks Pit

Abstract
Barberry Cave, with a length of 3.4 miles, was discovered by a dig in a sinkhole. The entrance series was tight and time-consuming so a second entrance was excavated. The main part of the cave, with large well-decorated passages, was discovered through a low, easily flooded crawlway. Following an incident of explorers trapped by rising water, a third entrance was achieved by excavating a shaft from the surface into the large passage of the cave. Barberry Cave has some of the largest and best decorated passages in the Burnsville Cove. The Cave is located between the Chestnut Ridge caves and the Butler Cave-Sinking Creek System although no physical connections have been discovered.
Benjamin F. Schwartz, Nevin W. Davis

Chapter 11. Caves of the Water Sinks Depression

Abstract
The Water Sinks Depression is a large closed depression at the northeastern end of Burnsville Cove. It is the final sink point for several surface streams. Two modest-size caves, Owl Cave and Water Sinks Cave, were known earlier. In November, 2007, a collapse revealed a much larger lower level of Water Sinks Cave. The new cave consists of a large master trunk passage, the Water Sinks Subway, and an array of other passages with the characteristics of a floodwater maze. A description of the caves is given along with a detailed description of the exploration of the Subway section.
Philip C. Lucas

Chapter 12. Helictite Cave

Abstract
Helictite Cave was discovered by excavating a small sinkhole above the northeast side of the Water Sinks Depression. There are three main sections: an entrance area maze, the Streamway which is a fragment of master trunk passage, and the updip maze. The cave is formed in the Licking Creek Limestone so there are many chert beds which influence passage morphology. A fault passes through the cave revealed by slickenside surfaces. The cave gets its name from the exceptional displays of helictites found in the entrance area. The cave contains 7.3 miles of surveyed passage and is apparently related to the Emory Spring drainage system.
Philip C. Lucas

Chapter 13. Probing the Wishing Well

Abstract
Wishing Well Cave was discovered by an intensive excavation operation that followed a wisp of air movement from a rubble pile in a shallow sinkhole. Following two years of excavation, the cave was entered and exploration began in 2010. The cave consists of two major passages in the upper portion of the Licking Creek Limestone. Most of the cave is beneath the sandstone caprock and is northeast of the main Burnsville Cove drainage. The cave appears to be a segment of the paleodrainage to Emory Spring. The cave contains extensive displays of speleothems including helictitees and ice-clear stalactites.
Nathan Farrar, Philip C. Lucas

Chapter 14. The Homestead and Other BCCS Properties

Abstract
Acting under the rubric that the best way to conserve natural areas is to own them, the Butler Cave Conservation Society has purchased several properties in Burnsville Cove. The BCCS purchased the 65 acre Butler farm which gave them control over the only known entrance to Butler Cave. After purchase, they made various improvements to the property and now use the old farmhouse as a field headquarters for explorations in the Cove. The organization later purchased 83 acres of woodland on Chestnut Ridge which contains the Bobcat Entrance to the Chestnut Ridge System and also the entrance to Butternut Cave. The most recent purchase was a 9.5 acre tract surrounding the Robins Rift sinkhole with the entrance to Robins Rift Cave.
Keith D. Wheeland

Chapter 15. Scientific Research in Burnsville Cove

Abstract
A summary is provided of the many research projects that have been undertaken using the caves of Burnsville Cove as test sites or objects of investigation in their own right. Research began in the late 1940s with observations of the oscillating air currents in Breathing Cave. This was followed by comprehensive investigations of the geology of Breathing Cave and the geology, hydrogeology, and mineralogy of the newly-discovered Butler Cave. Later investigations in the 1980s and 1990s used Butler Cave for research on clastic sediments, movement of bacteria, mineralogy, and paleoclimate. A recent discovery is that injected oscillating air current can be used to probe possible connections between nearby caves. There is much potential for future research, particularly in the caves of Chestnut Ridge.
William B. White

Chapter 16. The Geology of Burnsville Cove, Bath and Highland Counties, Virginia

Abstract
Burnsville Cove is a karst region in Bath and Highland Counties of Virginia. A new geologic map of the area reveals various units of limestone, sandstone, and siliciclastic mudstone (shale) of Silurian through Devonian age, as well as structural features such as northeast-trending anticlines and synclines, minor thrust faults, and prominent joints. Quaternary features include erosional (strath) terraces and accumulations of mud, sand, and gravel. The caves of Burnsville Cove are located within predominantly carbonate strata above the Silurian Williamsport Sandstone and below the Devonian Oriskany Sandstone. Most of the caves are located within the Silurian Tonoloway Limestone, rather than the Silurian-Devonian Keyser Limestone as reported previously.
Christopher S. Swezey, John T. Haynes, Richard A. Lambert, William B. White, Philip C. Lucas, Christopher P. Garrity

Chapter 17. Hydrogeology of Burnsville Cove

Abstract
The drainage from Burnsville Cove is mostly underground until it reaches the surface at the four springs along the Bullpasture River. Drainage patterns, the interconnections of observed surface and underground streams, and the boundaries of the individual spring drainage basins were determined by an extensive set of tracer experiments with fluorescent dyes. This chapter is an update of the paper with the same title in the Burnsville Cove Symposium issue of the NSS Bulletin, Davis and Hess (Nat Speleol Soc Bull 44:78–83, 1982). The last dye trace covered in that paper was done 21 Dec 1974 even though the revised manuscript was accepted 13 Jan 1977 but was not published until July 1982. Since that time over 35.7 miles of virgin cave passage have been mapped, much of it under Chestnut Ridge. These new data along with more dye tracing have further elucidated the recharge areas for the four major springs in the Bullpasture Gorge. It has also raised new questions covered in the conclusions section of this chapter. During this study, a total of 27 individual sink-to-spring dye tracings were done. These enabled the determination of the spring recharge boundaries, which led to interesting observations of the interrelations between the basins and the spring flow characteristics. Included are descriptions of change in the flow regimes under flood and base flow conditions. Also eight internal traces to the Butler Cave—Sinking Creek System and one internal trace in Barberry Cave were conducted. Interesting observations from these traces are also discussed.
Nevin W. Davis

Chapter 18. Geology of Breathing Cave

Abstract
Breathing Cave, on the northwest side of Burnsville Cove, is a rectangular maze of strongly joint-controlled passages in a limited stratigraphic zone. The cave is confined to a 77-foot section of shaley limestone between two sandstone beds and is little affected by numerous minor folds and faults. It follows the dipping flanks of a syncline through a vertical range of 340 feet. Breathing Cave, which is far from the ground water outlets in the Bullpasture Gorge, exhibits deep bedding-controlled development but it contains some evidence of horizontal enlargement cause by former stable positions of the water table.
George H. Deike

Chapter 19. Geology of the Butler Cave—Sinking Creek System

Abstract
The Butler Cave-Sinking Creek System is composed of a central trunk channel oriented along the axis of the Sinking Creek Syncline with dip-oriented side caves extending mostly up the western flank of the syncline. The overall patterns of the side caves are network mazes with orientations controlled by the local joint pattern. Much of the cave is in the Devonian Tonoloway Limestone with the two interbedded sandstones exerting an important influence. The result is two interconnected tiers of caves with a locally perched drainage system at the downstream end. The cave contains a complex boulder and cobble fill that seems to represent a rapid infilling event of pre-Wisconsinan age. There three streams in the cave all of which ultimately drain to Aqua Spring. The streams are undersaturated with respect to calcite and have low CO2 concentrations consistent with recharge from mountain runoff and from infiltration through thin organic-poor soils.
William B. White

Chapter 20. The Geology of the Chestnut Ridge Caves

Abstract
The Chestnut Ridge caves consist of the Chestnut Ridge System itself with more than 20 miles of surveyed passages and also a line of smaller caves strung out southwestward along the axis of the ridge. The Chestnut Ridge System contains two branches that converge at the northeast end. The eastern branch is a north-south trend that cuts across the structure and contains segments of maze formed on joints oblique to the main trend. At the southwestern end is the Burns section with streams that drain to Cathedral Spring. The western branch is strike-oriented along the trend of Chestnut Ridge. It includes the Burnsville Turnpike, the largest passage in the system, and includes along the trend line the other caves and also the main trunk of Barberry Cave. Steams in this section drain to Aqua Spring and thus the Chestnut Ridge System displays and underground drainage divide. The system has multiple levels and also many shafts and later-stage modifications.
William B. White

Chapter 21. Geology of the Caves in the Northern Cove

Abstract
The structure plunges to the northeast, carrying the limestone below the Oriskany Sandstone and the Millboro Shale. There are three large caves in this region, Water Sinks Cave that marks the downstream termination of the Burnsville Cove Drainage, Helictite Cave just north of the contact, and Wishing Well Cave, completely beneath the caprock. Much of the drainage from the Cove converges to the Emerald Pool in the Water Sinks Subway and from there follows a major lineament eastward to Aqua Cave and discharges at Aqua Spring. Helictite Cave and Wishing Well Cave are an abandoned part of the Emory Spring drainage but developed deeper below the non-karstic sandstones and shales than might have been expected. Present day recharge along the flanks of Jack Mountain must flow at considerable depth and almost right angles to the structure to reach Emory Spring.
William B. White

Chapter 22. Meteorology of Butler Cave

Abstract
Precise measurements of temperature and relative humidity were made along a traverse from the Butler Cave entrance to Sand Canyon and along the Butler trunk channel. Summer temperatures decrease with distance into the cave but stabilize at the cave ambient only 800–1000 feet inside. Winter temperatures rise more rapidly and reach cave ambient within 100 feet. Temperature rises by a small amount along the Trunk Channel with the highest temperature at the downstream end. The temperature rise with depth along the Trunk Channel is consistent with the geothermal gradient in the area. In a separate investigation, a fan was used to introduce an oscillating air current to one cave entrance which a sensitive anemometer and data-logger used to record air flow from a difference cave entrance. The recorded square-wave pattern confirmed connections between caves over considerable distances.
Fred L. Wefer, Philip C. Lucas

Chapter 23. Minerals and Speleothems in Burnsville Cove Caves

Abstract
The caves of Burnsville Cove contain widely distributed, often sparse but sometimes spectacular, secondary mineral deposits. Massive flowstone and dripstone occur mainly in localized areas, perhaps reflecting the protective influence of the various interbedded sandstones and the overlying Oriskany Sandstone. Helictites, anthodites, nodular speleothems, cave pearls, crusts, and other mineral deposits occur widely in many parts of the caves. An unusual feature is the wide occurrence of aragonite speleothems, especially in the Chestnut Ridge System, the percentage of aragonite being considerably higher than in typical Appalachian caves. Other minerals include gypsum, which seems to be associated with shaley layers in the Tonoloway Limestone, moonmilk, and a suite of phosphate minerals.
William B. White

Chapter 24. Geomorphic Evolution of the Burnsville Cove Caves

Abstract
The cave descriptions and maps were used to produce a highly tentative chronology for the development of the caves of Burnsville Cove. It begins with the establishment in the late Cretaceous to mid-Tertiary of the Schooley erosion surface. There may have been early hydrothermal development of deep solution pathways by the Eocene volcanism. Cave development accelerated in the Miocene by south-flowing water that created the upper level trunk passages in Chestnut Ridge. The Bullpasture River was captured along the Water Sinks lineament producing a reversal of gradients and a reversal of drainage to its present discharge points in the Bullpasture River springs. There was massive sediment in-filling in the mid-Pleistocene followed by removal of the sediment and further modification of the cave systems from the mid-Pleistocene to the present.
William B. White

Backmatter

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