By Mark Wenner, Jim Borden, Pat Kambesis
Project cavers know, after years of mapping any cave system, it develops a life and mind of its own. A small group called Karst Terrain Explorations (KTE) has spent decades pushing the Roppel Cave–Logsdon River dive lead, following up on the ground work provided by our predecessors—our goal being to gather volumes of data and then systematically pass it forward to the next group involved. With continued support from the Central Kentucky Karst Coalition (CKKC) and Cave Research Foundation (CRF), KTE have religiously set up operations at CRF’s Hamilton Valley’s field station, just outside of Cave City.
With a spirited team of players, support in place, patience, dedication, and blind luck, KTE’s work was once again rewarded last September. Divers Matt Vinzant and Mike Young traversed underwater passage through Sump 1 (~700 feet); hiked 1,000 feet between the two sumps portaging gear; and then pushing underwater again, surfaced from the furthest reaches of Sump 2 (2,794 feet) in walking trunk passage. It has been 35 years since divers Ron Simmons and Wes Skiles penetrated Sump 1 for the first time, to survey the dry passage beyond. Their original challenge and efforts became our exploration’s starting point, each dive team tying into the previous divers’ final station. Every minute the divers are exposed to these elements, they’re closer to a place, where mindful is just another word, even more difficult for them to return. Those of us left on surface watch can only imagine, wondering what’s going on below.
This is the culmination of KTE’s efforts to date, and the hope is to provide a cross section of our results. Maps, photos, accurate geo referencing using the latest in underwater radio location tools, etc. With each expedition we continue to compile the latest rendition of a very complex puzzle, with everyone’s safety our priority.