Directors of the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project

About Us

It was a sunny May 17, 2017 afternoon at the Fort Stanton - Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area when Knutt Peterson took this photo of the Board of Directors.

(L-R John Corcoran, Lee Skinner, Steve Peerman, Wayne Walker, Lynda Sanchez, John Moses, Pete Lindsley, Ron Lipinski)

History of FSCSP:

The FSCSP (Fort Stanton Cave Study Project) was organized exclusively for scientific purposes. Specifically, we are involved in the detailed study of Fort Stanton Cave including survey and exploration, biological studies including bats, geological studies including gravity and resistivity surveys, hydrology (water studies), cartography and history.

A number of National Speleological Society (NSS) cavers, including two of the current officers and several others, started an informal version of the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project in 1965. At first, we were doing various research projects such as inventory of cave animals (bats, millipedes, Thysanurans, Diplurans, mites, etc.), temperature and humidity spot measurements, and several serious digging projects that were following airflow (an indicator of additional large cave passages). We started updating the existing maps as our knowledge of the cave increased.

In January 1967, we started resurveying the known cave and made a lot of progress during the rest of that decade. In 1969, two of the digging projects had significant breakthroughs into Lincoln Caverns and the Bat Cave Extension. At the same time, discussions with Don Sawyer of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resulted in plans to build two large gates (Main Gate and Bat Cave Gate) to give the BLM some additional physical protection for the cave. The BLM, through Don Sawyer’s efforts, managed to appropriate $5,000 for this effort and in 1970 the FSCSP formally become a non-profit 501.c.3 organization with emphasis on the planning, organization and management of the gating project with the assistance of the Southwestern Region of the NSS. After successful completion of the gating project the group decided to abandon the 501.c.3 status and return to an informal organization dedicated to studying Fort Stanton Cave and surrounding areas. (In March, 2010, the FSCSP was incorporated and again obtained 501.c.3 status as a non-profit organization.)

The FSCSP continued to be quite active until the late 1970s when many cavers started work on other projects. During the 1980s, the FSCSP was doing occasional survey work, lots of ridge walking, more digging, and analysis of prospects for future discoveries. In the 1990s digging continued and a major extension to the cave was discovered in 2001. The new passage, called Snowy River, is very important because of the intermittent water flow in an underground stream - highly unusual for the normally dry caves located in the semi-arid Southwest.

Past Activities of the Project

In the early 1990s, the FSCSP analyzed the larger geologic setting for the FSC system and discussed gaps in knowledge about the cave. In discussions with the BLM we submitted formal proposals to restart some of the most promising historic digs judging by the extensive airflow from most of the terminal breakdown areas in remote parts of the cave system. It was fairly clear that the cave system should have extensive passage both south and east of the known system. In 2000, FSCSP cavers were investigating the north end of the cave to look at both Don Sawyer Memorial Hall (DSMH) and the Snowflake Passage area. It was decided that Priority 7 was the most promising dig in the whole cave so far and the dig at that location resulted in the discovery of the extensive Snowy River passage in 2001.

Since the discovery of Snowy River, a tremendous amount of related scientific research has been accomplished, extensive photo-documentation has occurred, and exploration continues to the extent of human endurance. In 2009 this web site was established to provide a link to members of the public that became interested in the news stories about the new discoveries. The web site also has a private section available to Project contributors, scientists, and others, providing access to an extensive archive of Newsletters and Expedition Reports dating back the past 10 years.

In 2009 the area around Fort Stanton Cave was designated as a National Conservation Area (NCA) with more than 25,000 acres in order to protect this important resource. The new NCA is managed by the Bureau of Land Management out of the Roswell Field Office. The FSCSP worked closely with the BLM during the summer of 2010 to provide museum quality documentation of the NCA and the cave. The new Fort Stanton Museum exhibit was formally opened to the public in August, 2010. Access to most of the new Snowy River discovery is limited to research and exploration teams.

In order to improve the safety and to enhance the availability of the new unique passages to many of the scientists, a vertical 45-foot access shaft was dug from the DSMH location down to the end of the Mud Turtle Passage that connected to the Snowy River passage several thousand feet upstream from the discovery location. The DSMH location is approximately one mile from the only entrance to Fort Stanton Cave. The majority of the expeditions during 2009-2010 have concentrated on improving this access shaft using stainless steel framing, HDPE plastic panels, and concrete made from cement mixed with the talus from the shaft-digging effort. This safety improvement was completed by FSCSP volunteers in October, 2010.

Planned Activities and Current Scientific Work

One of the primary goals of the FSCSP is to enhance our understanding of the complex underground Fort Stanton Cave system by working closely with scientists in various fields. For instance, FSCSP scientists have found extremophile microorganisms and are currently describing their importance to science. Others are using their lab access to help date the formation of the cave. We have installed data loggers to monitor the flow of water in Snowy River, the spring resurgence, and the temperature and humidity characteristics in the main cave and surrounding bat caves. The bat studies are particularly important in understanding the newly-discovered White Nose Syndrome (WNS) that has caused massive bat die-offs in some of the colder eastern caves.

This web site continues to add reports, documents and scientific papers describing the Project work. Three, week-long expeditions are offered each year to interested volunteers, where the emphasis is on survey, exploration and various scientific studies. Not only is detailed work being performed in the cave, surface work is also being done with emphasis on describing the environment, hydrology and detection of yet undiscovered cave passages related to the presently known passages that are over 31 miles in extent.


Many of our cave scientists are internationally known and have won awards for their work in caves all over the world. At Fort Stanton Cave we are performing studies including biology, hydrology (water studies), resistivity measurements, RF measurements, gravity measurements, geology, documentation of historic signatures, precision survey and cartography. Our teams are trained observers that carefully document their findings and provide management information to the BLM in many areas.

Directors of FSCSP:

  FSCSP Directors

January 2011 Board of Directors Meeting

Kathy Peerman took this photo of the directors enjoying a preliminary view of Ron Lipinski's adaptation of a computer game interface into a visual "walk" down the Snowy River Passage
L-R: Wayne Walker, Lynda Sanchez, Steve Peerman, John Corcoran, Pete Lindsley
  It was a beautiful October 2012 afternoon at the FSCSP Caver Headquarters, following our 2nd Board meeting of 2012. (L-R) are Pete Lindsley, Wayne Walker, Lynda Sanchez, John Moses, John Corcoran, Lee Skinner and Steve Peerman. The group is standing next to an early iteration of a hot water decon tank being used by the Project to replace the previous chemicals used for WNS decon. Check out our NEW AD5K decon equipment that replaced the unit illustrated above.

 

Wayne C. Walker

(NSS 15122)

Wayne took over the duties of FSCSP President in October, 2016. He has been involved with various cave projects since 1968 in New Mexico including the Guadalupe Cave Survey (GCS), the Cave Research Foundation (CRF), and the FSCSP. Some of his early caving included extensive cartography work and lead pushing in Carlsbad Caverns National Park with the GCS and later the CRF. He also has worked extensively in Fort Stanton Cave doing both cartography work and digging. In 1972, he returned to Texas to work on his Masters degree in Physics at Texas A&M (1978). While at TAMU, he was one of the organizers of the Aggie Speleological Society Cave Club. After his graduate work, he moved to San Antonio, Texas and became a member of Bexar Grotto and participated in extensive work in central Texas and in Mexico. He was one of cavers that organized and conducted the first two National Cave Rescue (NCR) Symposiums which were held in San Antonio. As a result of his work with NCRS, he was chosen to be Co-Leader of one of the NCR’s first international cave rescues, this being in Mexico. In 1983, his work returned him to New Mexico (with brief forays over the years to California and Alabama) where he resumed his activities in the state and in particular, Fort Stanton Cave. In 1986, he was Campground Co-Chairman for the National Speleological Society Convention in Tularosa, NM. He is also a charter member of the New Mexico Gypsum Karst Project (GypKaP). Recently Wayne has been involved as a volunteer and state officer with the Order of the Eastern Star, which is also a 501.c.3 organization.

Throughout his caving career, his professional scientific background has encouraged him to better understand the geologic, hydrologic, and biologic processes present in caves. As a result, he has been working with numerous scientists to study Fort Stanton Cave since his first introduction to the cave in 1968. In 2010, he was instrumental in reorganizing the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project as a formal entity and is a Charter Board Member of that organization. He is currently the FSCSP President and Assistant Project Director.

Ronald J. Lipinski

(NSS 23791 CM)

Ron moved to New Mexico in 1977 and first visited Fort Stanton Cave in the early 1980s. From 1979 to 1988 Ron was active with the Cave Research Foundation Guadalupe Escarpment Area, serving as personnel manager for much of that time. He surveyed the back areas of Carlsbad Caverns, discovered 1000 feet of virgin passage, and assisted in the cartography of the cave. From 1988 to 1991 Ron surveyed in Lechuguilla Cave. He has been active in the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project since 2008. In 2010, when White Nose Syndrome caused the closure of many caves, and when it became apparent that very few people would be able to access Snowy River, Ron began to build the Caver Quest software. The intent of Caver Quest is to bring Fort Stanton Cave to a larger audience via a 3-D interactive simulation of the cave. Caver Quest has proven to be a very useful public outreach tool and is especially popular with grade school and high school ages. Ron received a Certificate of Merit from the National Speleological Society in 2016 for his work in developing the software. He is currently the Vice Chairman on the FSCSP BOD, and is one of the contributors to the FSCSP book 12 Miles From Daylight published in June, 2017.

Ron has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and has served 38 years at Sandia National Laboratories in the areas of nuclear reactor safety, strategic defense, electron beam propagation, high energy lasers, and launch safety for nuclear batteries on NASA missions. Most recently, his team at Sandia performed the safety analysis to obtain launch approval for the Mars Science Laboratory mission in 2011. He retired from Sandia in 2015.

Stephen S. Peerman 

(NSS 16158 RL CM-FE)

Steve Peerman

Steve was born in New Mexico and began his caving activities in the early 1960s at Endless Cave and several gypsum caves. He first visited Fort Stanton Cave in 1974. He became the Chairman of the Southwestern Region of the National Speleological Society in 1976, and was involved with both cave digging and survey projects in New Mexico and southeastern Arizona. In 1986, he was the Program and Registration Chair of the National Speleological Society Convention in Tularosa, NM.  Shortly afterwards, he was one of the organizers of the New Mexico Gypsum Karst Project (GypKaP), and directed the project for five years, for which he was later awarded the NSS Certificate of Merit. He was later named a Fellow of the National Speleological Society. His work on the FSCSP continued in 2004 and following his professional retirement in 2005 he has devoted much of his time as assistant director of the FSCSP. In 2010, he was instrumental in reorganizing the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project as a formal non-profit entity. In October 2010, Steve was elected by the board to be the Project Director in 2011, and continues to successfully organize and field several special trips in addition to the "standard" three week-long expeditions the FSCSP holds every year. Steve is one of the contributors and authors of the FSCSP book 12 Miles From Daylight published in June, 2017.

His professional background consisted of a career teaching Mathematics and Computer Science at Las Cruces High School. In the 1990s he helped organize and was a member of the Board of Directors of the New Mexico Council of Computer Users in Education. In the late 1990s he became involved with the Adventures in Supercomputing program administered by Sandia National Laboratories.  Eventually he became Chair of the Board of Directors of that organization, shortly before it merged with the New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge, administered by Los Alamos National Laboratories.

Pete Lindsley

(NSS 5566 CM-FE)

 

Pete has maintained a strong interest in caves and caving for the past 56 years. He has contributed to several major cave surveys, including organizing the teams working on survey of caves between 10 and 20 miles in length. With a strong interest in photography, he began building an extensive collection of photographs of caves including Fort Stanton Cave. A native Texan, his first visits to wild New Mexico caves were made in the 1960s, when he started work in the Guadalupe caves in the National Parks, National Forests, and on adjacent BLM lands in both southern and central New Mexico. He teamed with other cavers in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas in the mid-1960s to form the Guadalupe Cave Survey (GCS), with emphasis on survey of new passages in Carlsbad Cavern and several other Guadalupe caves. In the late 1960s he began working with the Cave Research Foundation (CRF) in surveying Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, the longest cave in the world . After merging the smaller GCS group with the larger (501.c.3) Cave Research Foundation in 1971, both areas benefited from the cross-coupling of cavers and scientists. He served 18 years on the CRF Board of Directors, including several years as the CRF President and Secretary. He ran the Fitton Cave (Arkansas) Survey Project from 1985 to 2000. He is the current FSCSP Treasurer, and a Director of the organization. Current photography projects involve panorama type photos in Snowy River and elsewhere improving a process to obtain "wall paper" type images for integration with Dr. Ron Lipinski's Caver Quest - Fort Stanton computer simulation project.

His professional background as an MSEE and Professional Engineer emphasized design and development of microwave antennas for both consumer and government applications. With 45 years of microwave experience at Texas Instruments and Raytheon, he saw many of his teams' designs achieve state-of-the-art performance and numerous sensor systems were fielded in production quantities. Retiring in 2007, he moved to northern New Mexico. He is currently the FSCSP.org Webmaster, and supports other caving web sites. Recent projects include publishing the FSCSP book 12 Miles From Daylight published in June, 2017.

Lynda A. Sánchez

Author/historian and retired educator, Lynda Sánchez, has called historic Lincoln town near Fort Stanton Cave her home for more than three decades. She has taught at the high school and college level (Spanish, history and anthropology). Her time in the Peace Corps in South America, her archaeological field work at Mesa Verde, Colorado and in Mexico and for the Blue Creek Maya Research Project in Belize, as well as having New Mexico author, Eve Ball, as her writing mentor, all greatly influenced and guided her to the colorful mosaic representing folk heroes, legends and the colorful history of the southwest. She has served on the BLM Resource Advisory Council, the Lincoln County Historical Society, the Fort Stanton Development Commission, taught teacher workshops (funding from the National Science Foundation) using the science of archaeology as the means to inspire youngsters in math, science, language arts, and biology, and worked in obtaining a grant for an archaeological survey of the Fort Stanton lands. She is a member of Western Writers of America and freelances for Arizona Highways, New Mexico Magazine, True West and others. She speaks before numerous groups and is an advocate for veterans' legacy in New Mexico. Lynda is the recipient of many awards related to these fields including a "cavalry sword" for work on preserving Fort Stanton, and True West's 2007 Best Preservation Project in the Nation award.

Her interest in the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project occurred while writing her book Fort Stanton, Legacy of Honor, Tradition of Healing. Her particular interest in Fort Stanton Cave began with research for a chapter about the fascinating history and the dedication of the men and women who have explored the cave for decades. She is a Director of the organization and also acts as our primary Public Relations Liaison which includes writing news releases, caver profiles and caving related articles, and acting as the local Lincoln County spokesperson for the group. Lynda is a major contributor to the FSCSP book 12 Miles From Daylight published in June, 2017.

Lee H. Skinner

(NSS 4807 FL)

Lee H. Skinner is a retired scientific computer programmer who worked for Texas Instruments, BDM Corporation, Spectra Research Institute, Control Data Corporation, and ETA Systems. He also wrote the HP-35 Math Pac for Hewlett Packard Corporation. Lee joined the Board in April, 2012.

He started caving in 1957 while at the University of Florida. He worked for the National Park Service at Mammoth Cave National Park in 1960 as a tour leader. In 1961 he started caving in the Guadalupe Caves and Fort Stanton Cave in New Mexico while stationed in the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss, Texas. He actively explored Fort Stanton Cave on an average of two to three weekends a month, digging into and exploring several new areas (Heinz Schwinge Hall, Lincoln Caverns, Don Sawyer Memorial Hall) until the mid 1970s, and during that time became known as Mr. Fort Stanton to other cavers. He was also on the discovery trip of the Guadalupe Room in Carlsbad Cavern and found the Wonderland section of Cottonwood Cave in the Guads, the Mystery Three section of Mystery Cave, Minnesota, as well as parts of Big Mutha Cavern in Texas, and the entrance to Cactus Cave south of Fort Stanton. He is the FSCSP Board Secretary and is also documenting the exploration history of Fort Stanton Cave and is a major contributor to the FSCSP book 12 Miles From Daylight published in June, 2017.

The picture at the left shows Lee at Cactus Cave in 2011, illustrating with his right hand the original size of the small blow hole that was no bigger than a quarter.

John L. Moses

(NSS 7009 CM)

At the April 2012 meeting of the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project, John Moses was elected to the board of directors. "It is quite an honor to have been invited to join the project board, " said Moses, "as, even after decades of study, discoveries in Fort Stanton Cave continue to amaze cave explorers and scientists alike."

A lifelong cave explorer and conservationist, he has served as International Secretary of the National Speleological Society since 1997 and was secretary on the organizing committee (NSS certificate of merit) of the 15th International Congress of Speleology. A member of the Mesilla Valley Grotto, over the years he has also belonged to Greater Houston, Windy City, Michigan Interlakes, Nittany and Pittsburgh Grottos of the NSS. Among his more interesting past projects, he was US team leader of the (then) Soviet - American expedition to Snezhnaya Cave in the Abkhazian Autonomous Zone of the Republic of Georgia. That cave is among the world's deepest.

Moses retired in 2011 as General Superintendent of Texas State Parks in El Paso, which included Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site, Franklin Mountains State Park, Magoffin Home Historic Site and Wyler Aerial Tramway. He joined Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2000 as Park Superintendent at Hueco Tanks, following a 30-year career in international mining and petroleum.

Residing with his wife on the Franklin Mountains in northeast El Paso, he is past chair of the City’s Quality of Life/ Tourism Cabinet, member of the Mayor’s Lyceum, El Paso County Eco-Tourism Committee and board member of the Frontera Land Alliance. He received an MBA from the University of Chicago and BS degree in mineral economics from Pennsylvania State University. Commissioned as an officer, he served in U.S. Army ordnance and combat engineer units. He is a certified (Texas) emergency medical technician.

John J. Corcoran, III

(NSS 7165 CM-FE)

John Corcoran in Trail of Tools survey

John retired from the FSCSP Board in October, 2016, and was named as Director Emeritus. He continues working on parts of the cartography project and is heavily involved in the publication of the FSCSP book 12 Miles From Daylight published in June, 2017.

John moved to New Mexico in 1949 and began his caving activities in 1960. First visiting Fort Stanton Cave in 1962, he quickly became involved in 1964 as one of the founding members of the Guadalupe Cave Survey (GCS), which focused on the caves and karst of Carlsbad Caverns National Park. He started an informal study project at Fort Stanton Cave (FSC) that same year doing exploration and biological inventory; that project continues to this day as the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project.

His professional background at companies including Northrop Grumman, TRW, BDM, Ford Aerospace and others as a Computer Programmer / Analyst / Software Engineer & Architect allowed him to retire in 2007. John acted as the FSCSP Project Director through 2010, and as our President through October 2016. Acting as our Chief Cartographer through 2015, John was very busy attempting to keep our maps of both Fort Stanton Cave and numerous smaller caves up to date.

 

Just in case you happen to have some old historic photos of Fort Stanton Cave, some possible cave locations nearby on your ranch you would like to write to us about, suggest corrections for the 12 MILES book, or just want to write or send us an item that won't go through the e-mail, please use our corporate address in Placitas, New Mexico shown below:

FSCSP

1 Whispering Winds Trail

Placitas, NM 87043-8861

 


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