Sunday, July 20, 2008

Caving

The big news around here has been this story of a local girl who got stuck for about 16 hours in a cave in a state park:
An afternoon outing at Devil's Den State Park turned into a nightmare for a Van Buren teenager.

About 2 p.m. Friday, Bianca Calloway, 17, ventured into a cave with a group of friends from the Community Bible Church in Fort Smith.

The group slid through a crack in the wall of the main cave into a section called Satan's Maze. Bianca lost her footing and slipped into an hourglass-shaped crevice. Her legs were wedged in the rock formation.

More than 50 rescuers worked through the night to free the frightened, cold teenager.

Rescuers, using a pulley system and a harness, pulled Bianca from the rocks shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday. She walked, with help, out of the cave.

* * * "She was wedged vertically into a vertical space," said John Luther, director of the Washington County Department of Emergency Management. "It was an hourglass-shaped hole and you had to fall a certain way to get trapped. There was no way to work on either side of her." Rescuers had to work from above.

Luther said the unique rock formation and the limited space was a nightmare for rescuers.

"Our smallest guys had to wiggle through a tight space, then turn sideways and pull the rest of his body through," Luther said. "It was one of the strictest natural confinements you could have."
. . .

Rescue workers continued to emerge from the mouth of the cave with frustrated faces, and Comstock would send more back down. Because of the tight proximity of Satan's Maze, only a few workers could fit down there at a time, Comstock said.

The remaining emergency responders had nothing else to do but sit around the cave entrance on a rock wall and crags around the cave and wait for their turn to return to the cave.

* * *
Baby oil was one of the low-tech methods applied, Luther said.

It was so constricted, workers had trouble passing bottles of baby oil hand-to-hand over their heads in complete darkness, Luther said, shaking his head.



On a local caving website,* I found this picture that someone managed to take of the narrowest part of that passage:



That photo isn't turned sideways, as I know because I've been through that passage myself. It's that the passage is extremely tall and narrow, and the only way to get through it to wedge yourself sideways and scoot through, with open space above and below you. The one time that I went through there, I had gone feet first, and the only way I could get through was to 1) exhale every bit of air in my lungs (when I breathed in, I couldn't move at all); and 2) then pull frantically with my toes. By this process, I'd move a few inches. Also, it's not a lighted cave, so it was completely pitch black except for a few flashlights, which weren't much help when you couldn't even move your head to look in a different direction. At the time I was concentrating too intensely to feel claustrophobic, but I definitely wouldn't do it again. The only reason I went through that passage in the first place was because some college friends (all thinner than me, and I'm not fat in the least) insisted that it was fun and that I'd have no problem fitting through. Ha.

* Photo is in the discussion thread here. The guy's description: "a lot of the corridors were very narrow in the maze. this is a spot i didnt think i would make it through. i found myself suspended in the air between 2 rock walls."

2 Comments:

Blogger jilcov said...

* * * "She was wedged vertically into a vertical space," said John Luther, director of the Washington County Department of Emergency Management

5:46 PM  
Blogger Mary said...

I've gone through Satans Maze twice. It isn't scary as long as you and verbal direction from someone who has been in there and are prepared right. I'm a girl of 130 pounds and 5'5'' tall. Some parts are hard to go through, but I made it and would do it again.

12:10 AM  

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