Everything You Need to Know About Cave Safety Tips
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Cave Safety tips are important for anyone who is even thinking about going caving – or spelunking. You have to know what you might encounter, and how you can handle each situation so you make it back alive and unhurt.
While there are actual professionals who do this, most of us see it as a pastime sport. We aren’t doing extensive research on cave life and its immediate surrounding. (That process is called speleology.)
Exploring caves does have its challenges, but the experience garnered creates lifetime fun memories.
Cave Safety Tips
Caves are found in many areas such as underground, underwater, and on land, and though they may have different environs, the approach to exploring them is almost the same. They all have formations you have to watch out for, and you have to consider it might be a habitat for some defensive creatures. Either way, from the safe side of life…it is endless fun to go deep and all the way in!
So, could there be any form of danger lying in wait for those who go in without being fully prepared? Let’s take a journey in finding out what’s up…
Why Are Caves Dangerous?
Even though cave exploration provides a lot of fun experiences, one has to be real in saying that the process has many dangers attached to it. Some of the most common risks are falling, flooding, hypothermia, and extreme physical exhaustion. Bear in mind, formations alone have lots of risks associated with them such as the low-hanging stalactites that can take a serious chunk out of your skull.
Also, stalagmites mean the cave’s ground will not be level which means you can slip and fall if you are not careful. If this results in hitting your head? You could be in a world of hurt.
Some of the more critical dangers that could potentially happen include:
Falling and Falling Rocks
Stalagmites make the ground uneven, and some areas are higher than the others. If you are not careful or have not worn the proper footwear, it could cause you to slip and hurt yourself when you fall. Even though you might have heard that lots of the formation is delicate and soft – it does not mean all of them are this way. Also, climbing in caves could see formations or rocks tearing from the base and this, too, means a terrible fall. Take note, there might also be falling rocks and formations that could pose a threat to your life.
Many caves have water bodies and rushing water, which means the risk of flooding is possible. Many times, caves around the world surprise explorers with water coming from unexpected places, and this is a major problem as it could easily wash you away if it is heavy. Interestingly, records indicate that flooding is responsible for lots of the cave fatalities experienced yearly.
Hypothermia and Physical Exhaustion
Numerous spelunkers have noted they experience slight and major cases of hypothermia while spelunking. This is a serious medical condition that sees the body losing more heat faster than it can produce. This process causes the body’s temperature to drop ridiculously low, and this can cause other issues for the body.
If you get wet and the water is close to freezing, you hit hypothermia in 5 minutes or less. Death can occur in 20-25 minutes. This is a REAL danger.
Can You Get Sick From Being In A Cave?
In short…yes! There are many things associated with the whole experience of exploring caves, and one of these factors is getting sick. Enjoying all the fun and games can sometimes lead one to forget about the tour’s risks fully. Caves in warm climates increase the chances of getting histoplasmosis, a fungal infection contracted from bat and bird droppings. This infection has the potential to cause pneumonia and can also spread through the body pretty fast.
Also, leptospirosis is a common disease spread by rats and other animals that frequent caves. Rat urine can easily be mixed with cave waters which is a critical factor to bear in mind. Even though the complications are uncommon, the situation can be critical.
What Skills Do You Need For Caving?
Caving doesn’t have to be hard once you approach it with the right techniques in mind. For a successful tour, you can engage in some of the following approaches:
Check for potential flooding
Do your research on the cave and see if there are any chances of flooding occurring while you are on the inside. You can also make checks yourself as you go along.
Caves consist of many ups and downs and bumpy terrains, so being flexible to get you through these regions is important. You may need to practice your grip game should any sliding occur, and you have to hold on, climbing and balancing are also important.
This might sound weird, but one must-have skill set when going caving. Anything can happen, and you have to stick around for some extra hours…or days! You will need to understand the best survival experiences too to stay alive until you reach safety or help reaches you.
What Equipment Do You Need For Caving?
When going caving, a few equipment is a must to take with you to enhance your experience and mission. Caves have a lot to offer, and here are a few things to take along with you…
Helmet with mounted lights
After you go a distance from the entrance of the cave, lighting becomes a major problem, and you might not be able to see where you are going. As such, wearing a guiding light is important and travels with a hand-held light and other backup lights. Also, ensure you take a few extra batteries with you too. The helmet will protect your head against any hanging formations as well as any falling debris from the cave’s roof.
Proper clothing and footwear
When going for a cave tour, one of the best choices of clothing is fiber or wool as they can dry fast, shed water, and has the potential of keeping you warm even if they are wet. Try to avoid cotton as much as you can, as it increases the chances of hypothermia. Also, when going caving, it is best to carry layers of clothing to take off and put on as the needs arise. If you are going through a cave with excessive water flow, wetsuits are best.
Taking a few tools with you might not be a bad idea as you might need to protect yourself should the need arise. The tools could come in the form of weapons, too, if defensive cave creatures set out to attack you. Don’t be scared off by this – most animals aren’t going to enjoy the dark and venture too far into the cave.
Cave Safety Tips: First aid kits
Caves can be fun, but they also have some dangers lurking and waiting to happen if you manage even to slip. These kits usually consist of backup with every other equipment you might need and other emergency tools. Food and storage containers are also important as urine and feces should not be left in the caves.
Bear in mind, caving can end with camping out (emergency, trapped, or planned), so you might want to take a few extra gear items with you to facilitate this should it happen. Some items like portable cooking gear and sleeping gear are important.
Never Go Caving Alone
Let me repeat that: NEVER GO CAVING ALONE.
That is like the golden rule #1 of all time for anyone’s list of cave safety tips.
Caving is a great sport, but you should never go alone, as one of the most common things to go wrong is getting lost. Caves do have different views from different angles, and when it comes to complex caves, it is relatively easy to lose your way…and this goes for even experienced cavers. To best find your way around, ensure you keep a record of some of the “standout” features in the cave so you can always look out for them when heading back out.
Also, going with multiple people can help solve problems easily should they arise and is ideal for splitting the entire tour’s roles and responsibilities. The groups are critical to things like rescue missions as while some stay back in the cave, others can go out for help. Ensure you carry an expert with you at some point so they can help you maneuver the terrains of the caves you are visiting.
How Do You Get A Blood Infection From A Cave?
Pulmonary infection is a common issue that affects many cavers as they contact contaminated air from fungus-infected walls. This fungus is pretty common in the United States, especially in the Mississippi River valley areas. The fungus mainly derives from bird and bat droppings. (eww) Once the lungs get contaminated, this will spread other diseases through the body.
And we thought we would get rid of masks after Covid? Boo!
Can You Drink Water From A Cave?
Water is generally found in different caves, and many people have asked the question if the water can be consumed. Think of the same rules of the forest if you get lost: never drink stagnant water.
Some cave water is safe to drink, preferably that which flows from the rocks, compared to the stagnant ponds. After all, one might get stuck in a cave, and hydration is a must, but even then, flowing water should still be approached with caution. Please take note, lots of these caves consist of harmful minerals that might do a fantastic job of clearing out your digestive tract.
That isn’t exactly a fun thing if you are stuck in a cave…
Water may look clean, but it can still be filled with bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can result in waterborne diseases, such as cryptosporidiosis or giardiasis.
What To Do If You Are Trapped In A Cave?
Actually, this doesn’t happen as nearly as often as you might think – that one famous story of John Edward Jones was an extreme rarity and he simply didn’t follow basic cave safety, tragically. He broke rule #1: He went alone, and then continued to make mistake after mistake from there.
For those who are new to the whole experience, the first step involves not panicking and taking deep breaths to remain calm and collective. The next step is not to go around trying to find your way out, which will make matters worse. To help you calm down, cave rescuers are good at finding those who generally get lost. Here are a few other things to bear in mind…
The cave climate changes over time, and you might need to stay hydrated to help keep your energy going. We all know we can go over a week without food but barely a day without water. Having plenty of water with you is a top of the cave safety tips item to think about.
Work Your Clothes
Just as staying hydrated, your clothes play an integral role as well, so you might need to add pieces of clothing or remove some based on how the condition is.
Mark Your Way
If you believe you know the way out and want to try for it, ensure you make certain markings as you go along just in case you need to find the base you were originally at (you can use rock piles or even pieces of clothing to tie on rocks).
Cave Safety Tips: Conserve Your Energy
You will need your energy to keep you going strong, so try to avoid strenuous activities.
All in all, caving can be an enjoyable activity, and not only negative factors are associated. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t highlight the risks associated and how you can help yourself have a more memorable experience and deal with certain issues.
Other articles you may find interesting:
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- Best Caving Gloves for Ultimate Protection: Top Picks in 2023
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