THE TEXA.S CA.v-EIEt October 1972
COVER: A breakdown room in a large cave in Arkansas. Photo by Pete Lindsley. The TEXAS CAVER is a monthly publication of the Texas Spelological Association, an internal organization of the National Speleological Society, and is published in Dallas, Texas. Material should be typed double-spaced and sent to the editor at P.O. Box 533, Euless, Texas 76039, no later than the first of the month of publication. Subscriptions ar $4.00 per year for 12 issues and all subscriptions should be sent to James Jasek at 1213 Melrose, Waco, Texas 76710. Single copies are available at 40 each postage paid anywhere in the U.S. (c) 1972 by the TEXAS CAVER. STAFF Editor-------------------Mike Moody Chief Typist-------------Lucrezia Moody Printer------------------James Jasek Distribution-------------Kames Jasek Guiding Light------------Willie Morris The TEXAS CAVER, VOLUME XVII, NUMBER 10 * * PAGE 135 REPORT 133 TRIP REPORTS * * * * * * CONTENTS * * * * OFFICERS O F THE TEXAS SPELEOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION FOR 1972 ARE : * Chairman-----------------Bill Elliott, Dept. of Biology, Texas Tech Univ. Lubbock, Texas 79409 * Vice Chairman------------Jon Vinson, 1222 S. Abe, San Angelo, Texas 7690 1 Secretary-Treasurer-----Ollene Bundrant, 107 Tomahawk Trail, San Antonio, Texas 73232 *
THE TEXAS CAVER, OCTOBER 1972 Page 135 ACCIDENT REPORT Devil's Sirikhole, Edwards County, Texas Saturday, April 15, 1972 The Devil's Sinkhole is a well known pit in southwest Texas which was added in 1972 to the National Regist!Y of Natural Landmarks by the Department of the Interior. The impressive entrance is a circular hole 60 feet across in the flat limestone bedrock in an open country of scattered juniper and oak. The rim is undercut so that nearly the entire drop is freefall for 136 feet to the top of a breakdown mountain in a very large circular room about 240 feet in diameter. The breakdown cone slopes steeply down to the walls of the main room. On the east side, one can scramble down through the breakdown to the lower level of the cave into a beautiful lake room. The view of the main room and entrance from the bottom of the breakdown slope has been described as on of the most impressive sights in Texas. On April 15, 1972, a group of nearly 40 cavers made a trip to the Devil's Sinkhole for the purpose of practicing vertical techniques and general caving skills. Cavers commonly visit the pit in large groups such as this so as to inconvenience the ranch owner as little as possible. The A&I Grotto had obtained permission and were joined by cavers from other groups. Experienced cavers present were: Paul Duncan, Tom Wright, and Craig Bittinger from Kingsville; Richard Booth, Brian Boles, Steven Bittinger and Don Broussard from Austin. Most of the other persons present had had very little caving experience, although nearly all had attended at least one training sessionbefore the trip. Angeline Palmer, a Univeristy of Texas freshman, had twice climed up a 50 foot traning cliff near Austin. This was her first actual caving trip. Upon arrival at the pit, seven ropes were rigged and most people descended to explore the bottom of the pit. There was a shortage of equipment available for the number of people present, as many of the novices did not own equipment. There were three rope-walking rigs being shared among all of the people in turn. In addition, a Texas prusik rig with two Jumars was available but not being used since the ropewalking was obviously easier. At approximately 2:45 PM Angeline asked to use the Texas prusik rig. She and 3 or 10 others had been swimming in the large pool of water lower in the cave. Because her shirt was wet, she was in a hurry to get out, and did not need to wait for an easier rig since she had practiced on Texas prusik before and knew that she could climb out. The top Jumar was attached to the seat sling with two shor lengths of one inch tubular webbing. A bowline was used to attach the webbing to the Jumar on one end and to the seat sling caribiner on the other. A double carrick bend was used to tie
Page 136 THE TEXAS CAVER, OCTOBER 1972 the two lengths of webbing together. The lower Jumar was attached to a single piece of sling with a bowline for the foot. Steven Bittinger, a competent caver, helped her rig into the rope and visually checked her equipment, finding nothing wrong. About 20 minutes after Angeline had started her ascent, Craig Bittinger was lying on the edge of the pit and was witness to the accident. He describe the event thusly: f!She appeared to be moderately tired from the exertion involved in having climbed 100 feet. While she was resting on the rope about 30 feet down, I called to her, 'Texas prusik surP is fun, isn't it, 1 knowing full well how tiring the method is.She looked up and smiled. I glanced away for a second and then heard a small gasp and immediately looked back to see two Jumars hanging on a rope with no one attached to them.-My eyes focused on down the pit and I saw her tumbling toward the bottom. I immediately yelled several times for the people on the bottom to look out. A tremendous thud followed. I then screamed to the people nearby, 1 Oh my God! a girl just fell in the pit.' fl Don Broussard immediately jumped into his car and raced to the ranch house to phone for a doctor and an ambulance. An ambulance was summoned from Rocksprings (7 miles), but the doctor was the the hospital in Kerrville (76 miles) and was not available at the Sinkhole. When the ambulance arrived at the ranch, the litter and two oxygen bottles were transfered to a Dodge van which had been prepared for the return trip over rough road back to the cave. Meanwhile, everything possible was being done for Angeline. She had landed on her back near a large rock and seemed to be lying in an unnatural manner. Therefore, every precaution was taken not to move or touch her more than necessary in order not to cause any worse damage. No breathing was detectable so mouth-to-mouth resucitation was begun at once. A plastic oral resucitating tube was available on top and sent down at once to facilitate this procedure. Blankets were also sent down to help prevent shock. Preparations were made to lower a doctor (should one arrive) into the pit, and a rope and belay system was set up to lower the stretcher as soon as it arrived. Thus prepared, the stretcher was lowered into the pit soon after the arrival of the van and the process began of transferring Angeline onto the litter and securing her to it. She was carefully wrapped in blankets and then strapped down with 2-inch nylon webbing so that she could be pu2led out vertically with her head up. About 20 minutes elapsed from the arrival of the stretcher until she was ready to be hoisted. An hour an a half h a d passed since the time of the accident, during which time resucitation attempts had been continued steadily by Richard Booth.
THE TEXAS CAVER, OCTOBER 1972 The stretcher had been multiply tied with lengths of 7/16 inch nylon rope and then fastened to a 300 foot length of Bluewater II climbing rop e (noted for its non-stretch, non-spin characteristics). About 20 people on top were organized to pull the Bluewater, four persons were tied off Page 137 at the edge to help the stretcher over the lip, and several more were stationed across the pit with a second rope attached to the Bluewater with a carabiner pulley to keep the litter out away from the ledge as much as possible as it neared the rim. As soon as Angeline was secured into the litter, she was brought out smoothly and quickly. No more than 9 0 seconds passed during the ascent fromt the bottom of the pit until she was in the Dod g e van. Resucitation continued until the ascent began a n d imme d i ately resume d the litter reached the top of t h e p it. Oxygen was the administered on the way to the ranch house and continued until she reached the hospital at about 6 o'clock. Angeline was pronounced dead on arrival at the Kerrville hospital. ANALYSIS OF THE ACCIDENT Although there were n o eyewitnesses to see what actually happened during the accident, a thorough examination of the equipment shows that the double carrick bend connecting the two pieces of webbing on the top Jumar worked loose due to the jerking motion involved in climbing using the Texas prusik method. As Steven Bittinger describes it, "At the time that I rigged her u p I had no misgivings about the gear. I had used the exact same system (with the same knots, etc.) in a recent club demostration and before that at several deep pits and caves in Mexico." This then was an accident caused by an unforseeable failure of climbing gear. But the accident would not have been fatal if Angeline had fortuitiously had her hands on the rope when the knot worked loose and been able to prevent herself from falling o ver backwards, or if a safety sling had been used to con n e c t the lower Jumar to the seat sling. A third possibility, b u t one that is not quite as likely to have prevented the fatality, would have been for Angeline to have been wearing an ankle loop to prevent her foot from slipping out of the foot loop. In light of the fact that she was wearing tennis shoes, it seems unlikely that this precaution would have been very effective. It is unfortunate that the situation at the bottom o f the pit enc o uraged the use of gear not incorporat1ne all possible safety featu r es. It is a good idea for cavers t o have a nd use only their own climbing g e ar, b u t this is not always
Page 138 THE TEXAS CAVER, OCTOBER 1972 possible under conditions such as existed at the Devil's Sinkhole. The following suggestions are recommended to prevent any future repetition of this accident; (1) The Texas prusik climbing system (or any other system) should never be used without a safety sling from the bottom Jumar to the seat sling. Foot loops should be well secured to the feet, and strong boots should be worn to insure that the ankle loops are an effective (2) Any knot in a climbing rig made of webbing should be sewn shut or else securely backed up by other knot (such as half-hitches) to prevent the main knot from coming untied. Knots should also be checked constantly during climbing activity. * * * DATE 12 September 1972 prepared by Members of University Speleogical Society * * DESTIN ATI O N: Watt Cave No. 1 and Four Points Talus Cave PERSONNEL: David McKenzie and James Reddell REP ORTED BY: James Reddell * We drove north of Austin to McNeil to begin mapping and locating the caves in that area prepatory for reissuing the TSS report on the "Caves of Travis County," but were unable to get permission at that time, so we went cave-hunting in the Jollyville area. Besides picking up many good leads which will in volve contacting owners in Austin, we located two small caves. Watt Cave No. 1 is about fifteen feet deep and thirty feet long and of only passing interest. Four Points Talus Cave is wellknown locally despite the fact it is only about sixty feet long, floored with trash, and has four entrances Maps of both were mad e and they were carefully located on the topographic map *
'l'tiE TEXAS CAVER, OCTOBER 1972 DATE: 25-27 August 1972 DESTINATION: Palo Pinto County PERSONNEL: David McKenzie and James Reddell REPORTED BY: James Reddell Page 139 We left late Friday night and drove to a roadside park north of Mineral Wells and slept. We then drove to Graford and talked to Joe Manley, the owner of the only cave known definitely to exist in Palo Pinto County. H e was very cooperative and showed us the entrance to Manley Water C a v e (also known as Dow Spring Cave). The entrance is a small sink at the head of a shallow draw from which water runs following heavy rains in the area above the cave. We mafped the first 500 feet of the cave, at which point the brunton had filled with water. From here two 2-3 foot high crawls extend for at least 100 feet each with no signs of an end. A future trip is planned to complete the mapping and exploration of this very interesting cave. Besides its geological interest (its being located in an area of small isolated reefs of the Merriman limestone of Pennsylvanian age) the cave is of great biological importance. We collected troglobitic diplurans, trichonscid isopods, asellid isopods, amphipods and rhadinid beetles. After leaving this cave we decided to check a lead on a possible spring cave near Oran. The owner was very reluctant, for safety reasons, to allow us to explore the cave, but he did take us to the entrance. The entrance is a two ft. high, three ft. wide opening with about 6 of water at the base of a thirty foot high cliff of fairly thick-bedded limestone. I was allowed to crawl back just into darkness with a flashlight to see if the cave continued and to look for aquatic crustaceans. The cave extends at least 100 feet as a two-three foot high,three-foot wide crawl. Blind asellid isopods were collected from under rocks just inside darkness so it will doubtless be a good collecting cave. Future explorations will probably be allowed if legal releases are prov ided. On the 27th we spent the day cave hunting around Possum Kingdom Lake. There are 75-100 foot high b l uffs of good limestone exposed around the east edge of t h e lake, but the only land known to have caves is on a large ranch where permission was vehemently denied. The area is very promising for small to medium-sized caves, but permission is likely to be difficult to obtain. Whatever is found, however, will be very important geologically and biogically.
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