It was convention time in Indiana and this would be my first NSS (National Speleological Society), convention. John Wallace, Jack Pace and I flew to Indiana in John's small plane. Landing a small plane at a commercial airport was quite exciting, they directed us to the runway from the side as large jets were landing and at the last moment had us make a sharp 90 degree turn and land as quickly as possible. Then taxi at top speed to the nearest taxi way to get off the runway before another jet landed.
The 1973 convention was being held at Indiana University in Bloomington and was a huge success, capped off by our banquet speaker Roger Brucker relating the exciting story of the discovery of the Flint-Mammoth cave connection, making it the world's largest cave system. I was also excited over winning third place in the prusik contest. I climbed 100 feet of nylon rope, in one minute and forty-two seconds in the 30-39 age group. I believe that there may have been only three contestants in this age group!
One of the caves open to the convention attendees was Sullivan Cave. The three of us decided to have a look at the cave. We entered the cave through the small narrow passage for a short distance before connecting with the Backbreaker passage. This was a long passage with a ceiling height of about 3 to 4 foot. This finely intersected the main trunk passage at the “T. " Following the trunk passage to the left to the Mountain Room passage, then a short distance to the Mountain Room. We spent some time exploring the Mountain Room and as we about to leave some very wet cavers appeared. After talking with them they shared that they had entered the cave through the Speed Hollow Entrance.
This was a very tempting choice, to leave by another entrance and avoid that long trip back through the Backbreaker passage. They left a good easy to follow trail as it was wet from their passing through. We traveled about half the distance that we had come thus far and reached a room called the Spiral Room. Crossing over a flowstone floor through a short crawl, we found the Manhole.
Looking down the Manhole, all we could see was water. We turned off our lights and let our eyes adjust to the darkness and then leaned down into the Manhole as far as possible. There was a very slight glow of light shining from the far side of the underground lake. John dropped in first and could not touch the bottom. After struggling for a while he finely found a spot where he could touch the bottom. We all followed behind dropping into the cold water and headed for the light as fast as possible.
As we sloshed through the water the waves reached the ceiling getting us completely soaked, ears, eyes and all. There was no turning back now, we just gulped air between waves and continued. Near the exit the passage became lower until we were crawling in the water with only a few inches of air space. When we climbed out of the water and into the daylight it sure felt good.
Now we had another problem. We did not know where we were. There was no road in sight only an open field and the wooded hills. We did not even know wich direction we had gone in the cave. After exploring the field we found the main road and took a guess at the direction to walk. It was quite an adventure but I believe we try and do a little better planning next time.
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