UC Writer, Photographers Go Underground
Date: Oct. 4, 2000
To Stay on Top of Biology Research
By: Chris Curran
Phone: (513) 556-1806
"Just get on your stomach and slide in head first. It
will pull you right down."
Those were supposed to be words of
encouragement from biology graduate student Molly White. They
didn't quite have the right effect.
After climbing about 500
feet down a steep cliff face, we discovered the entrance to
Overlook Cave appeared to be little more than a rabbit
Now, she expected us to blithely slither through this
crevice into the darkness below, keeping our bodies and our
precious cameras safe from obstacles we couldn't see and couldn't
imagine. Photographer Colleen Kelley managed to ignore her mild
claustrophobia and take the plunge. I didn't have much choice
after that. Down we went.
Underground, it didn't seem so bad
after all. We found ourselves in a roomy cavern, and the lights
on our miner's helmets made it easy to scan the nearby walls.
That prompted a quick warning from our team leader.
up the bats. They'd start flying around, and I hate that." Ah,
Molly had a weakness! Actually, we all had our weaknesses. At the
height of ragweed season, my asthma kicked in full force in the
dusty scrabble to get over the rocky debris piles to the research
site a quarter mile away.
Photography intern Jacob Hand and
biology grad student Adam Hott really didn't have a weakness --
just a natural flaw. They're both over six-foot tall, and it was
a seesaw battle to see who would claim the prize of Most Bumps on
the Head. Those miner's helmets definitely did their duty on this
As we crawled and climbed through the cave, it turned out
the biggest obstacle to reaching the research site wasn't the
two-story crumbling piles of fallen rocks known as "breakdown."
It was a ledge about five feet high. We needed to get up on the
ledge to continue the trip. Molly's gymnastic training came in
handy. Pushing one leg against the cave wall, she flung the other
up and over the ledge in a nearly complete split. Ouch! That
wouldn't work with the 40+ crowd. I relied on Colleen pulling and
Adam pushing to clear the height. (Thanks again folks!)
time we left the cave three hours later, we were all feeling
pretty confident in our caving abilities.
But it was still a
muddy slide up and out the tiny cave entrance. Molly says it's
nicknamed "the birthing canal," and it lived up to its name.
Which is more than I can say for the cave.
"It's a dry cave,"
Molly had assured us. Look closely at the photos, and you have to
wonder what a "wet cave" would look like. Between the muddy slide
down the hillside and the final exit, there wasn't a crew member
who didn't look like Dennis the Menace after a romp in the
We were lucky though. Molly's discovered that "baby wipes"
make for easy post-caving cleanup, and we were able to make
ourselves presentable enough to celebrate at the local
Up next: The cave known as "Knee Shredder." (Or maybe
not! We hear it's a "wet cave.")
Return to main research story.