1.22.2007

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... (I'm leaning strongly toward the former;)

This past Sunday I spent three hours doing one homework assignment. It was hard; it was fun. It was hot; it was cold. It was long; it wasn't long enough. It was fulfilling; it was disappointing. It was miserably wet; it was chokingly dusty. It was pitch black; it was blindly light. It was, in short, a study in contrast.
Now at this point, some of you know exactly what I was doing, but I suspect that that most of you are completely lost. I'll try to explain*.
Somewhere between 3000 and 5000 years ago there was quite an upset on the earth, analogous to a starfish trying to eat. The earth's crust was pushed up into jagged mountains, some of them forming here in Tennessee (well, hills at least.) Now here's where it gets interesting. Inside these mountains, the rock underwent tremendous pressure changes. The rock that used to be under a great deal of pressure beneath the ground now had a lot of pressure removed. This caused the weaker sections of the mountains (especially in softer rocks, such as limestone), around joints and layers of rock to fracture and then shatter. These faults in the rock expanded, spreading through the weaker sections. Aided by water, continued movement, and time, the shattered pieces disintegrated further and settled, leaving openings in what was formerly solid rock. Today, thousands of people around the world (myself included) enjoy walking, crawling, squirming, and otherwise exploring these fissures in the earth.
This semester I have the opportunity to take a class in the art of caving, and one of our assignments is to go on at least three caving trips. This shouldn't be too hard, as Southern is fortuitously located right in the heart of TAG, the most concentrated area of caves in the United States! In fact, we have several caves right here on campus, of which one, the Student Park Cave, is open to the general public regularly. During recent excavation in the summer of 2006, near the Student Park Cave, another opening was uncovered, and to the excitement of the first few people who looked in, it had bats in it (in full hibernation), as well as a flow of cool air. This meant that it had to go somewhere, because remember, this entrance had previously been covered up! So, several cavers donned their gear and ventured in to the previously unentered (to our knowledge) cave. Unfortunately, they rounded a corner about 15 in and were met with a wall of fill which almost completely sealed the tunnel. But, at the top there was a small gap between the mud and the roof of the cave and through this opening, cool air continued to spill out. This gave our friends hope of eventually breaking through the cave fill and exploring the cave further.
Which brings us up to my class assignment. Our professor told us this story and announced that there was going to be a cave dig on Sunday and anybody who went and stayed for the whole time could count it as one of their trips. I was excited about getting to work in a virgin cave and planned to go. Unfortunately, Sunday dawned cold (~42° F) and rainy. However, a few (8) of us braved the weather and met outside the cave around 12:00 PM. We commenced excavation around 12:30, and although hampered by lack of equipment (1 bucket, 1 big tub, 1 little shovel, 1 hammer, and 2 little picks) we proceeded to break out and haul away chunks of clay. Being of a slight build, yours truly got to dig and the front of the line quite a lot, which consisted of lying on your side/back/stomach and trying to wrench out hunks of mostly dried mud and then passing them back to the next person in line. We alternated digging and passing and standing outside in the rain for about 3 hours, before realizing that we had more pressing matters to attend to. Although total distance traveled was probably about 15-20 feet and we didn't succeed in breaking through anything or even spying an end to the mud, we found fulfillment in the sheer amount of dirt that we did move and the momentary excitement of finding several small bones lying on top of the dirt. I know it doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun, but for this male, the combination of rolling around in the mud, digging a hole, and spending time underground with enjoyable company was a blast!

Excelsior
(or perhaps in this case, Devexus ;)

*For those of you who know something about geology, I understand that this is not the generally accepted version of how caves were formed. However, I believe that this theory fits better with empirical evidence and it is also consistent with my belief that a catastrophic worldwide flood and its aftermath formed the geological structures we see today. See Cave Formation by Rock Disintegration by Douglas E. Cox for a more detailed explanation of the theory.

13 comments:

  1. Awesome! I thought they were going to close up that part...I had been in that opening last fall, and saw the mud and bats, thats great that you guys are opening it up! Do you think it connects to the other one?

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  2. I have to conclude that because of my friday classes, Sabbath outreaches/NR commitments, and Sunday Bible studies, it is going to be increasingly difficult for me to ever go on a caving trip.

    Good first paragraph. And style of writing in general. I'll have to tell you about the interesting conversation I had with Dr. Diller today. Love ya :D

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  3. I wish I'd been there. Males are odd creatures. I got a great deal of joy from moving tons of Jordanian dirt--even though I failed to find anything and Barry's square (six feet away) uncovered all kinds of treasure.

    can you go back and have another shot at it?

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  4. First of all.... very clever signature ;) I laughed. I'm glad you got to go. Any class assignment which involves playing in the mud and rain sounds like an awful lot of fun to me :P

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  5. good writing Joel :)
    I especially like the sentence in which you described the upset earth as a starfish trying to eat!
    Thanks for the synopsis on your adventures... if clinical papers didn't take so much time... I hope that I can make it to some of the other underground events :)
    for the male kind aren't the only ones who like to play in the mud ;)

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  6. Joel, just letting you know that I changed my address to www.kindlingforhim.blogspot.com . just wanted to let you know so that you can change your link. it's still the same sight just a different address.

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  7. you should come play in the mud with us in Peru. We have rain, an abundance of bats, and lots of dirt to be moved... however the temperature isn't quite so pleasantly cool

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  8. Hey Joel, it's Petra. That sounds like an awesomely fun adventure! I wish I could have been there. Some girls like to play in the mud too. :-)

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  9. in fact, Petra likes playing in the mud more than I do, and that really says something.
    I made up a story in which each of my friends was an animal. you should ask Petra what I made her...

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  10. wow, a plethora of comments!
    johonn: It's possible that it connects, but if so we're not sure where. Sorry, you'll have to wait until I return to the cave for pictures, because I didn't actually take any this time (for reasons including: it was rainy and muddy and I don't have a camera:)

    Paul: I've heard some tales about that Jordanian dirt, Barry does seem to frequently find himself in fortuitous situations;) Hopefully we will get a chance to excavate further!

    Caitlin and Petra: Caitlin, I know you don't have a problem with mud, I've been caving with you;) It's too bad I haven't been privileged to experience a caving trip with you Petra...you'll have to come by SAU sometime and visit us!

    Alex: Good to hear from you buddy! Sounds like you're having a blast down there in Peru! Yeah, I would have gladly traded you some of our cold air for some of your nice warm air:)

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  11. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"

    ....it was also the time for a NEW POST!

    love you bro but you are far too busy :)

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