If you're thinking of going caving on your own, think again.
While experienced cavers often venture where they've never gone before, it's not recommended for the inexperienced explorer.
"We've been called out on too many rescues," says Carol Tiderman, a member of the Baltimore Grotto and veteran of pulling to safety a number of "flashlight cavers." Too many inexperienced people venture out without appropriate light sources, clothing or equipment, she says, and inevitably get lost or hurt underground.
In 1988, the last year for which the National Speleological Society has complete records, there were 61 caving accidents in the United States, resulting in four fatalities.
For that reason organized cavers encourage anyone interested in caving to get in touch with a local grotto, attend a monthly meeting and get some introduction to the sport from experienced people. The Baltimore Grotto regularly conducts day trips to nearby caves for Scout and school groups as well as for interested individuals.
Inexperienced explorers may have a hard time finding caves, too, because cavers tend to keep the location of well-decorated caves a secret. Many grottos fear that negligence and growing vandalism will ultimately result in the permanent closing of abused caves by states with cave protection laws and un
The true cave lover wants to see a wild cave remain just that, untouched by human hands. The typical wild cave will show no signs of anyone's having been there, except perhaps a surveyor's markings.
Food wrappings and other waste, even carbide dust emptied from a caver's head lamp, is scooped up and brought out in plastic trash bags by environmentally sensitive cavers, says Ms. Tiderman.
"Our general motto is: 'Take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.' And that's the way we try to treat it."