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|The dramatic story of several generations of cavers whose exciting and dangerous explorations in Kentucky's limestone labyrinths culminated in the big connection between the Flint Ridge Cave System and Mammoth Cave, forming the longest cave in the world.|
For mouteneers, the ascent of Everest was the ultimate challenge. For cavers, the great dream was to descend into Kentucky's two vast cave systems, Flint Ridge and Mammoth, to discover a link between them. The story of that spectacular caving adventure is told here by two participants, Roger Brucker and Red Watson, who with a few dozen men and women for twenty years shared an obsession to make that connection. For more than eighty miles, they penetrated further and further underground, squeezing through tight passages, sloshing through underground rivers, chimneying up shafts, climbing down deep pits and squirming on their bellies through virtually endless crawlways without making the conection. At last, in 1972, Pat Crowther forced her wiry body through the Tight Spot, making possible the seven mile connection trip.
This is a firsthand account of that extraordinary breakthrough and of the personalities involved: their courage, their humor, their monomania and their coolheadedness, even when a companion was injured or lost. Sometimes rivalry spurred them on and they were often propelled by a kind of cavalier bravado, in desperate moments repeating to themselves the old but dubious caving adage: "Anything you can get into, you can get out of." Brucker and Watson make you feel the caver's passion: the lure of the unknown coupled with the fear of it and the thrill of going through darkness to places where no one else has ever been before. Here is an entire subterran world, a curious shadowy landscape few people have ever seen, where delicate crystalline gypsum flowers grow eighteen inches long on the passage walls and the fish in pools and rivers are translucent and eyeless.
Here, too, is the history of human exploration of these enormous caves: from the prehistoric people who mined gypsum 4000 years ago (whose footprints have been found in the dust on the passage floors), to Stephen Bishop, a black slave who was Mammoth Cave's most celebrated guide in the nineteenth century, to Floyd Collins, the famous caver whose death after fifteen days trapped in a crawlway made sensational headlines in 1925 and a host of other colorful characters and great cave explorers who found this exotic labyrinthine world fascinating and irresistible.
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