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Who are you calling a SPELUNKER?

My hubby on the Flint-Mammoth Connection Anniversary Trip 2007
In the caving community, there is a strong understanding that you don't ever, EVER call a caver a "spelunker".
Dem's just fighting words 'round these parts.

If you ask a caver what the difference is, there's a good chance they will tell you:

"The difference between a caver and a spelunker? Cavers rescue spelunkers."

What's the big deal? Well, before you insult a caver, let me break it down for you.

By definition {Merriam-Webster}, a spelunker is one who explores and studies caves as a hobby.

Imagine, if you will, a couple of kids finding a cave and taking a flashlight to check it out. They are inexperienced, don't have the proper equipment, don't know the caving rules or techniques, and are really just in there to ...well... as they say... "fiddle-fart around".  They are on an adventure to have fun and discover a new world, yet they are at high risk of injuring themselves and destroying the cave with their lack of knowledge, experience, and respect.

A caver, on the other hand, doesn't view caving as a hobby. Instead, caving is a way of life. In each caver, there is still that curious kid looking for an adventure and need to discover, but now there is a passion; a passion that is fueled with purpose; a purpose that is grounded in respect for both the cave and the caving brotherhood.

 Jeremy Reedy in the Bare Hole in Mammoth Cave ~ Photo taken by Jackie Wheet

Believe me, following protocol does not kill the sense of adventure or the majesty of the cave.

My hubby going through the Brice Crawl in Mammoth Cave

Danger is very real. The risk of getting hurt is real.

A rescue could take many hours. That's why there must be a level of respect for technique, equipment and the safety of one another.

A caver with purpose will generally be a part of a caving group. My caver is a member the Cave Research Foundation. The organization's members devote some of their time to explore, map, and collect pertinent data from caves across the nation to help others understand the importance and relativity of caves to our ecosystem and our nation's history.

Cavers also understand the need for preservation. Not only do they get to be one of the few that get to see virgin areas of these chasms, but they know that for the benefit of generations to come, leaving it the way they found it is imperative. "Take only memories, leave only footprints." You will never find a caver-to-the-core smuggling cave formations or artifacts out of the cave. It just isn't done. It's code.{By the way, in a National Park, it's also known as a federal offense.} Every precaution is taken to make sure that the cave is in the same shape it was in when they arrived.

Me on the Wild Cave Tour in Mammoth Cave 2010
So, now you know.

"And knowing is half the battle."

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