Cave Passages: Roaming the Underground Wilderness

Cave Passages: Roaming the Underground Wilderness

by Michael Ray Taylor
     
 

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"The primal draw of the cave is as undeniable as the primal dread in which it is wrapped. So long as there are holes in the ground, uneasy adventurers will poke into them, candles flickering." Michael Ray Taylor thus describes the beckoning subterranean wilderness in this literary exploration of the sport of caving--a stunning blend of natural history,

Overview

"The primal draw of the cave is as undeniable as the primal dread in which it is wrapped. So long as there are holes in the ground, uneasy adventurers will poke into them, candles flickering." Michael Ray Taylor thus describes the beckoning subterranean wilderness in this literary exploration of the sport of caving--a stunning blend of natural history, travel/adventure writing, and personal essay.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If cave diving is the ultimate in extreme sport, then cave exploration is right behind it. Taylor, a veteran caver and expedition leader for the National Speleological Society, points out that because the last frontiers are space, the ocean floor and underground, caving is the obvious choice for most individuals. He gives a vivid account of special adventures-slithering through narrow chimneys, using rock-climbing techniques to descend, and squeezing through passages less than a foot high in icy water. The Grim Crawl of Death, in Wyoming's Great Expectations Cave, is, he says, the ultimate test of skill and resolve; it is the Eiger of American caving. Taylor describes a 1991 rescue-which took four days and involved 170 people-of a woman in the Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico. He chronicles other underground adventures in China, Jamaica and the Old Croton Aqueduct in New York State. Taylor reminds us that caves are exceedingly fragile systems-a careless or clumsy caver can destroy 10,000 years of geologic sculpture. This is an involving introduction to another mysterious world. (June)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Cavers are a unique breed, a point Taylor gets across very well in this eloquent collection of underground (and some surface) adventures. An experienced caver, he introduces us to some unique personalities and escapades, including "squeezes" through places with names like Agony, Criso Creak, and the Grim Crawl of Death. He leads us through caves in Florida, Wyoming, Jamaica, and China, among other places. He even gets us safely through the old Croton Aqueduct in the Bronx. Safety cautions and advice on how to join a caving group are included. Sadly, the occasion for the book seems to have been the death of a much-respected caver, Sheck Exley. Taylor's chapters on Exley are quite moving: obviously, he and many others have lost a dear friend and mentor. Recommended for natural history armchair travel collections.-Nancy J. Moeckel, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
Booknews
Taylor (journalism, Henderson State U.) takes us spelunking around the world in flooded & dry caves and, something the caving books of past decades missed, in China. Good writing, high (low?) adventure. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Caving exploits, some of them terrifying, elegantly described by Taylor (Journalism/Henderson State Univ.).

There is a small, international fraternity of the intrepid and obsessed, whose members actually find it recreational to plunge deep into subterranean darkness, inching forward on their backs or bellies through shoulder-width, seven-inch-high crawlways, often awash in freezing water, sometimes having to gulp air from pockets in the ceiling, not knowing where a passage may lead, the only certainty the constant presence of danger. Call them cavers ("spelunkers" is déclassé), and expect to find them most anywhere that limestone gives evidence of stygian glories. They poke about the underworld gloom of Borneo, crawl around deep under the sands of the Sultanate of Oman, wander slack-jawed through Switzerland's Holloch and Russia's Peschtschera Optimistitscheskaya. Taylor, now a dad, has for the moment retired his carbide lamp, but this collection of stitched together magazine articles is testament to his caving credentials. Taylor celebrates both caves and cavers: caves as diverse as the great labyrinths of China's Guizhou and Guangdong provinces (Taoist monks mapped these vast underground networks in the early 17th century) and segments of Manhattan's abandoned Croton aqueduct system (he kisses the brick where an Irish laborer scratched his name a hundred years before); cavers ranging from the Coons, a husband and wife, both 70 years old, who continue to survey South Dakota's depths, to caving legend Sheck Exley, who came home in a box following a 1,000-foot descent in the Mexican desert into what turned out to be a flooded hole. Along the way, Taylor details the winding road of his freelance writing career—interesting, if familiar, terrain; but his true element is down under, with all its geological intricacies—latticeworks and crystals and rushing waterways—and with those curious souls at home in the netherscape.

Mesmerizing, but not recommended for anyone with even a hint of claustrophobia.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679781257
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/25/1997
Edition description:
1 VINTAGE
Pages:
285
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.76(d)

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