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The American Spelunker

Upcoming Spelunks

April 2 Howards Waterfall Cave
Trip leader: Ozzy Johnson. Oz promises "lots of good, safe fun!" He will bring extra flashlights and string for those who need them. Meeting place is the MacDonalds at the Trenton Exit.
April 2 Johnsons Crook Cave
Trip leader: Dave Donson. "No one intending to use string need show up for this trip," says Dave. Meet at the cemetary in Rising Fawn.
April 16 Hank Moon Rock 'n Roll Cave
Trip leader: Hank Moon. Hank finally checked on those persistent rumors of a large cave north of Scottsboro, Alabama, at the back of Dolberry Cove. This trip will be our first to explore what he has named Hank Moon Rock 'n Roll Cave. Meet at the Hardees in Kimball.
May 15 Ellisons Cave
Trip leader: Ozzy Johnson. This trip will attempt to descend a shaft of unknown depth found some distance into this newly-discovered cave. Bring your knotted ropes! Meeting place is the Huddle House in Lafayette, Georgia.

From the Editor

We are in the midst of a civil war, folks. The issue is an old one, and it has divided our club into two bitter factions.

In case you've been living in a cave for the past few years (ha ha), I'm talking about the practice of spelunking with the aid of string. Tension over this issue is growing. We've seen some nasty incidents lately, some going so far as to involve the deliberate cutting of string safety lines.

There is just one solution that I can see: good old fashioned etiquette. If you come to a cave and find it rigged with string, you can either go elsewhere or respect the rights of those already in the cavern. By the same token, string spelunkers should restrict the use of permanent lines to an absolute minimum.

The opposing viewpoints are presented below.

String Makes Sense!

If we are going to turn our backs on the technology available to us, we might as well go spelunking with candles and wet matches. Everyone will admit that the introduction of the mini-mag flashlight revolutionized our sport. For the first time, spelunkers had a lightweight, reliable source of light that would fit in our mouths when necessary (try that with one of those old D-cell flashlights and you'll appreciate the difference). Likewise, modern string safety reels, available from any of several spelunking speciality dealers, make the use of string quick, easy--and mandatory!

Those who advocate the so-called sport of "free spelunking" are nothing more than thrill-seeking daredevils who threaten the established reputation of our club. They brag that they have explored a cave or two, maybe dozens of caves, without the use of string, as if that proves anything. Well, their luck cannot last forever. We've all experienced mini-mag failure at one time or another. Will these daredevils be able to find their way out in the dark without the reassuring guidance of a safety string? I think not.

The bottom line is this: responsible spelunkers know that string is here to stay!

TAB --Ozzy Johnson

String is for Idiots!

When Sir Andy Brown, one of the pioneers of our sport, first began spelunking without the aid of string, some members of the American Spelunking Club attempted to expell him from the organization. We've come a long way since then, baby. Sure, there was a time when string was rightly on the list of the "two essentials" for safe spelunking, but that time is past!

Those who still use string do so because they simply cannot accept the cave on its own terms. When faced with a challenge, they spend their energy eliminating the problem rather than building up their bodies and techniques to rise to it. Those who are afraid to enter a cavern without a umbilical cord to the surface should do their spelunking in Ruby Falls.

Long ago organized spelunkers agreed that the use of spray paint was an eyesore. I suggest that it was something more: an affront to our own self-respect as explorers. To me, string represents that same sort of embarassment. Call me a renegade, call me a daredevil, but I am and my companions are going to continue to explore without string, to accept the cavern on its own terms. Those who think otherwise had damn well better steer clear.

TAB --Dave Donson


The regular meeting of the American Spelunking Club was held at the Whittle 'n Piddle in Kimball, Tennessee.

Dave Donson made a motion that the Club's String Subsidy Program be "immediately and forever" suspended. Donson explained that under this program, the Club purchases string in large quantities directly from the manufacturer and then makes that string available at low cost to members. After much discussion, culminating in angry words, the motion was referred to the String Committee for further study.


Jim Nelson reported on a recent cave accident in which four young spelunkers became lost in Little Airplane Cave (it was noted by Ozzy Johnson that the boys were exploring without string.) Nelson said that local rescue squads appeared to be inexperienced in modern spelunking techniques, and it might be a good idea to form a Spelunking Rescue Squad. The idea will be voted upon at the next meeting.

Hank Moon reported that he has been unable to confirm or deny the long-standing rumors about a competing organization, the so-called "National Spelunking Society" that is supposedly headquartered in Alabama. However, Hank has been able to confirm that the Communist Spelunking Club (CSC) is a hoax.

The program was an excellent talk by Hank Moon on knots for spelunking, highlighted by a demonstration of the difference between a square knot and a granny. Afterwards, we adjourned to the "meeting after the meeting" at Hardees.

Trip Reports

Johnsons Crook Cave

Ozzy Johnson, Bernie Wright and I arrived at the parking area at Johnsons Crook early on the morning of September 7, and proceeded quickly through the woods to the cavern entrance. Oz proudly rigged his brand new knotted "PMI" rope, which he got from a local outdoor store. I really believe this new brand of rope is going to revolutionize our sport. First of all, it's supposed to be stronger than the manila we're all used to, and should last even longer. The rope is a bit slippery, but it knots up quite well and I had no problems gripping with either my hands or my feet. There's absolutely no stretch to this rope, so the days of tiring out your arms just getting off the floor are over.

Darkside Cartoon

We all descended the 20 foot entrance drop without incident, except for Bernie, who got his hand caught under the rope at the lip and almost swallowed his mini-mag. Oz tied the end of the safety string to the bottom of the rope and we set off into the breakdown maze. We wandered around for quite a while without finding the way into the cave. I deployed my safety reel and started checking possibilities. Bernie did the same, but got all tangled up, and I had to come back to help him. Finally Ozzy found the way through, and we were soon in larger passages.

The trip back to the Dungeon was quite enjoyable. Everyone had something to say about the Sewers section of the cave, especially Bernie, who dropped his maglight down a crack and had to leave it. He had been mostly in the dark, anyway, because as usual he had forgotten to put in fresh batteries. At this point I'm sure he appreciated the hours we all spend on string drills, laying out line in the backyard just to keep in practice. As the saying goes, take care of your string, boys, and your string will take care of you.

Next we attempted to reach the Topless Domes area, but ran out of string about a hundred feet short. We were all disappointed, but vowed to come back better prepared next time.

TAB--Jimmy Nelson

SSS Conservation Trip

The newly chartered Stringless Spelunkers Society held a clean-up trip to Johnson's Crook Cave on the night of September 7. In about three hours, SSS members Dave Donson (SSS 1), Rufus Clemmons (SSS 3), and MariBell Bop (SSS 2) collected what seemed to be several miles of string from the breakdown maze near the entrance. String spelunkers had been at it again, putting line down every muddy crack and crawlway as they went around in circles, trying to find their way into the cave.


It's bad enough when stringers pollute the caverns temporarily during their attempted explorations, but leaving their tangled web of garbage behind when they depart is inexcusable! Unfortunately, this kind of thing is going to happen as long as the use of string is condoned. Until the happy day when that policy changes, it looks like the SSS Conservation Committee is going to be one busy bunch of spelunkers!

TAB--Dave Donson

Book Review

As an introductory leap of faith for young spelunkers, The Boy's Guide to Spelunking falls short.

The author has an impressive amoung of spelunking experience, and he gives some good, if sometimes outdated, advice. He also gives some bad advice. Given the fact that most of his spelunking buddies don't make it home alive, you won't be surprised to learn that this young spelunker doesn't use string. While he has figured out some of the basics, he remains ignorant of modern spelunking methods.

The book does serve to drive home a point. The ASC must reach out to these weekend spelunkers and educate them in safe spelunking practices. These people are going to go spelunking, and were are neglecting our responsibilities if we don't teach them to do it safely.

TAB --Ozzy Johnson

The American Spelunker has been published just this once by the fictional American Spelunking Club. Yes, this is a joke. All opinions expressed herein are soley those of the imaginary authors and are not intended to represent the views of any living person, including Hank Moon. Incidentally, using string to explore caves is not a completely lost art--cave divers use string on every dive, since underwater caves can easily silt to zero visbility. Anyone else using string in a cave needs to exit the cave immediately and go fly a kite instead.


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