We all know what a ‘super cave’ is, well wrong. A supercave is something else, a vast geological monster miles long and many thousands of feet deep. Their exploration requires huge, costly expeditions, multiple subterranean camps and weeks spent underground.
‘Blind Descent’ chronicles two teams both aiming for the deepest cave system in the world. Bill Stone in Mexico with American money and Alexander Klimchouk with Russian. 20 years of exploration reach a finale (of sorts) in 2004. Bill Stone was looking at a Mexican cave called Cheve (limestone and massive chambers), Klimchouk at Krubera in Abkhazia, south eastern Georgia (vertical, tight and harsh). These were driven men and a few women, all of whom pulled their own weight.
Tabor, a writer with National Geographic, describes the work of these two teams. They dig, they drill and bolt, they crawl, they live underground for weeks, they sump dive at 6,500 ft with out oxygen, they haul 40 lbs loads in batches of 16 (that what it says on the photo L). 99% of the work supports the 1 % at the sharp end. And they die. In one passage alone a team laid 120 explosive charges to clear a squeeze for a litter to pass through.
The campsites are numbered upwards, so Camp 6 is the very deepest. At the end of a months exploration two people passed through a sump, using re-breathers, and did not exit that sump for 6 days. Then three days ascent to sunlight. There was no-one else in the cave system, for the whole of those nine days. They were over 5 miles from the entrance and nearly 5,000 feet down. Margin of error?
Tabor is writing for the mass market and his technical descriptions are a little fuzzy. Some 40% of the book is taken with his references. But the stories are stunning and the descriptions are excellent, the writing carries you deeper. The power of obsession is very impressive.
A must read book.
Buy the Ebook from Amazon here