Memorial Day Cave Break Through
by Devin Kouts
18 January 2002
During the most recent Germany Valley Karst Survey work
weekend a long awaited break through was made at Memorial Day
Cave. Memorial Day Cave was first noted on Memorial Day, 2000,
as Gordon Brace, Devin Kouts, and others ridgewalked near the Germany
Valley fieldhouse. Gordon was first to spot grass moving in the breeze
blowing from an eight inch by two inch crevice in limestone.
Substantial digging efforts by many cavers (including the late Dick Sanford) in very hard rock managed to enlarge the crevice to a small pit about five feet deep, but the narrow crack continued onward and remained impassible until recently. Renewed efforts on January 12, 2002 succeeded in breaking through to human sized passage. These photos by Charles Kahn document the approximate 300 feet of passage that were followed during that first weekend. They were taken with a Canon PowerShot S300 digital camera inside a waterproof dive case.
The text accompanying Charles photos was taken from a recent trip report filed by Tom Barton of the Rockeaters. His report details the effort expended the day Memorial Day Cave "went" and describes the passage he saw on their first enry into the cave.
Tom Barton's report
We opened up Memorial Day - an air blower of a joint - to revel a very nice bit of cave on Saturday. Without the help of survey, I'd say that we have an overall depth of ~40-50' and a length of perhaps 800 or more feet. This was a dig project in Germany Valley that was stopped shortly after discovery of the airblower 1 1/2 years ago. Rick Orban from Pa. and I - with the help of others - got into the cave in just 1 day...... There's tons more work in cave, the air is sucking - very loudly - down through a pile of breakdown on the floor in one dome area. We are - at that level - just about at the contact of the McGraw - Big Valley.
Clare came here on Friday, then we picked up Rick Orban in Milford, PA.... Nice and un-eventful 8 hour drive to W. Va with one stop for some 2x6s at Home Depot in Hagerstown (which we wound up not needing - used old farm scraps to cover over the dig hole instead). We started out Saturday by going over to Rick Lambert's Great Grandmothers place to pick up sand bags that I thought I had left in the barn. They weren't there, so we went up to the chicken barns on the cabin property and asked the landowner for feed bags, which he gladly gave us. We filled about 16 with dirt and threw them in the van and took them with us to the dig.
Memorial Day is a small joint about 6' deep, widened to 24" or so by the GVKS guys almost 2 yrs ago. It blows tons of air in the summer, and sucks in air in the winter. At the bottom of the little drop, there was a small tube leading off somewhere. Rick Orban from PA and I, with help from others, spent the day Saturday opening up the rest of the entrance crawl.
Since it is near the farmer's barns and close to his road, we wanted to keep the noise of our digging efforts to a minimum. We started off doing some drilling in the ceiling and walls of the tube to get the height and width of the passage-to-be set. I had left my supplies home on the work bench, and Rick O. had only a minimal supply. Rick L. had a funeral to go to, so would not be digging. I wound up heading over to Rick's place (45 min.) to pick up more. When I got back, the hole was much larger, and looked very hopeful. You could stick your head in and look down a winding joint for a few feet. Still tons of air being sucked in...
Gordon had showed up, and needed Rick's help at his dig (Virginia Creeper, located elsewhere on the farmer's land - Ed.) to get rid of a large obstruction. The Virginia Creeper sink hole became a small double dome cave when the boulder was removed from the top of the first dome.
Barry Horner I continued to work on the entry to the joint and once there, found that it went about 3' then hooked hard to the right. Rick showed up and told us about Gorden's new cave, which inspired me all the more. Barry left; Rick, I decided to have a go at taking the far wall - the "nose" of the joint, the result being a huge mess of rock. Other people came, helped a bit, and went on during the day, unfortunately at this point it was just me and Rick left. We retired to the cabin to have dinner and recruit some bucket haulers. After eating and rounding up Susan, Gordon, and Charles to help, we returned and started clearing out the blocks and rubble. Finally I could see around the nose and into what looked like larger walking passage. Of course, everyone thought I was just pulling their legs, so I let Rick have a go at the last of the large blocks, and minutes later he disappeared into blackness. All we could hear was shouts of amazement. Gorden encouraged us to go ahead and have a good look around, so I joined Rick and did a bit of caving. The way out of the first large room was blocked by calcited breakdown in a joint, we removed that easily enough. We explored several more nice domes, until finally the passage went under a ledge, and opened up into walking 4' wide, 12' high "trunk" with a nice flat (contact) ceiling. At this point we turned around and came back, finding the surface team gone, we returned to the cabin for the night.
Early Sunday, everyone geared up to explore our finding. Past the point that we turned around the cave only continued a few hundred feet, finally coming to an end where a joint had opened to the surface, creating a heavy pile of breakdown and cobble. It'll be tough to get through there. Bob Zimmerman found a small joint just before the end that we were able to get through, reveling another series of nice round domes and a passage trending upward - total length of this add-on is probably a few hundred feet.
Clare and I were the last to head out, and on the way we noticed that as we slipped under the ledge and up into the Chicken Feather Dome, the cave air got much colder. We had been quite puzzled by loosing the strong air flow by the time we got to the back of the cave. Well, we found it in here in this room, on the way out. I could hear it. We stopped and I listened, and could hear it roaring down a hole on the left side of the dome, at the floor level (the floor is made up of breakdown also). We found another sucking hole a few feet from the first - and they do really suck down the air. Very LOUDLY..... So next trip thats where we dig. We could be sitting over a large dome or joint leading to big cave below. I must say that I have never heard air this loud or strong before.