Participation in the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project

 

Fort Stanton Cave

 

 

 

2016 Expeditions

   
 
 
2016 Proposals Due (FS Cave closed for bats)
   

January 19, 2016

 
Spring Expedition
 
April 16 - April 24, 2016
 
Summer Expedition
 
July 2 - July 10, 2016
 
Fall Expedition
 
Oct. 15 - Oct. 23, 2016
 
Special
 
TBD

 

Expectations for FSCSP participants:

The mission of the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project (FSCSP) is to conduct a variety of activities to document and understand Fort Stanton Cave and the larger karst and hydrological system surrounding it. While there is a pleasurable and entertaining aspect to many of our activities, we have a serious purpose, and we expect participants to keep this in mind. It is important for all participants to read and understand the specific expectations discussed below. Should you have any questions or concerns regarding these expectations, feel free to discuss them with any of the directors.
 
The cave is closed between November 1st and April 15th because of the hibernating bats
 

Participants:

 

A.

 

  Must have a demonstrated caving ability. If a prospective participant has not previously been recognized as having the requisite skills, verification of ability and experience must be completed prior to joining the project. Personal references familiar to project directors normally would suffice, and other means may also be used.
 

B.

  Must be willing to work as part of a team and accept direction regarding work tasks and expected accomplishments.
  C.   Must adhere to accepted safe-caving practices BLM and FSCSP policies, including WNS De-con Process.
  D.   MUST possess all required caving equipment, including--
    1. Proper helmet.
    2. Minimum of 3 reliable sources of light.
    3. Clothing and footwear appropriate to the conditions expected to be encountered.
    4. Adequate other equipment commonly accepted as suitable for caving.
    5. Equipment necessary to comply with personal hygiene requirements while in-cave.
  E.   Uncooperative or unsafe actions may result in expulsion from the project.
       

 

The FSCSP is unable to accommodate persons not possessing all of the above skills, attitudes and equipment during project events in caves. However you are welcome to join us in surface events where we perform other work including ridge-walking and various scientific activities such as geophysical surveys during regular or special expeditions.
 
Fort Stanton Cave is a publicly-owned resource and sections of the cave have been available in the past for recreational trips under a permit system from April 15 through October 31. Although the cave is currently closed to the general public because of White Nose Syndrome requirements, in the future interested persons may contact the BLM for information concerning application for a public entrance permit, or directly at the Roswell BLM office,. In addition to the SWR, the BLM also may be able to provide contact information for caving clubs where appropriate experience may be gained to enable future participation in FSCSP projects.

 

All visitors that enter the cave must follow the BLM decontamination processes that are associated with the White Nose Syndrome that is killing bats in the eastern part of the United States. We are concerned with visitors from outside of New Mexico possibly bringing the virus into Fort Stanton Cave, and also do not want to take any chances of cross-contamination between caves in the area that could affect the local bat population.

     

The 1st generation chemical-based decon system shown above on the right has been replaced by an improved 2nd generation system using water heated to a minimum of 122 Degrees F (50 deg C) for 20 minutes as defined in the National White-Nose Syndrome Decontamination WNS Protocol.

 

 

Guidelines for FSCSP teams:

While the front portions of Fort Stanton Cave are not a technically demanding cave, conditions frequently encountered include wet or flooded passages, low passages, slippery surfaces, unstable footing and potential for rockfall or other natural hazards. The FSCSP is focused on a variety of tasks ranging from easy surface work to strenuous digging and construction activities in various places underground. All activities are related to managing, understanding and improving knowledge of the associated resources.

Snowy River has been flowing since mid August, 2014. As a result there have been no teams traveling to the far southern frontier; we believe that the crystalline surface of Snowy River is softer during the flow and at the same time the calcite is slowly building a new, thin surface covering the previous surface. Observations in the Turtle Junction area, currently the only access to Snowy River, indicate that crystal growth continues under the surface of the flowing stream and continues to coat test tiles and deployed water loggers in Snowy River. During 2015, science, survey and exploration teams continued working in the historic portions of the cave.

For experienced cavers the Snowy River passages require very specialized training to minimize any possible damage to this unique resource. Even a simple visit to the Snowy River surface at Turtle Junction requires a clean change of both footwear and other clothing and equipment. More extensive trips require round shaped packs (which can't be drug over the Snowy River crystalline surface but instead must be rolled) with an outer "dirty" cover that can be packed inside the "clean" pack along with the other dirty equipment. Any accidents causing the tiny specks of black manganese that coats the ceiling in many places to fall onto the Snowy River surface must be cleaned up immediately. Teams going on trips via Snowy River must always have an experienced FSCSP Team member along as a guide to minimize traffic in virgin clean areas and to assist with any cleanup required from ceiling "bits" falling down to the white surface. Teams even stop and remove these ceiling clumps that have naturally fallen to the surface. Conservation of the resource is a primary goal of any travel on Snowy River. The S&L teams (Strong and Light teams) that are currently performing the hydrological surveys in far south Snowy River update their protocol often, and if invited to assist one of these teams the experienced caver is expected to work closely with the team leader prior to the trip to make sure they have the correct equipment.

The FSCSP activities DO NOT have a recreational component and thus are not suitable events for anyone not already experienced in cave exploring skills. The FSCSP does not lead tours nor provide training events for novice cavers. Therefore, in order to participate in the project, the minimal requirements mentioned above have been established to insure safe, effective and efficient operation.

Most of our team members are already members of other caving groups (which include NSS, CRF, TSS, TCMA, TSA , SWR and others) and many have participated in "project caving" for many years. We welcome these cavers because they bring ideas and experience from other areas. We especially welcome cave scientists because we can offer some unique projects and project assistance. We offer a variety of team assignments depending on the participants attending. Many can be quite challenging due to the nature of the cave and some additional guidelines are mentioned below for those "old hands" wishing to plan for some of the special trips.

General team ethics follow our attempt to "leave no trace". Trash found in the cave will be removed. All human waste is to be removed from the cave and appropriately disposed of. Due to the possibility of WNS bat infection, we have been following decontamination guidelines (which are often updated). We expect all the gear from our team members arriving from other cave areas to either be brand new or to be 100% clean to reduce the possibility of infection our own bat population. Areas such as the Snowy River passage have special requirements which involve being able to change into a clean set of gear (clothing, packs and gear) and at the same time being able to contain all your dirty gear inside your clean gear pack. In fact, this last requirement is placing us at almost the maximum extent of exploration in Snowy River South (SRS) because we do not currently camp in the cave. Since we do not travel on Snowy River while it is flowing and have only found limited water sources in SRS, push trips are limited to ~ 30-34 hours which may require 3+ quarts of water (and the empty bottles are used as pee bottles). If you accidentally drop a bit of mud on Snowy River your team is expected to immediately do the remediation (bring your toothbrush and plastic bag). Teams are expected to "survey as you go" and make every attempt to tie to known survey points instead of leaving hanging surveys. Fore-sights and back-sights are checked for precision and teams are expected to record other observations as they progress. A compass course is available for a calibration check on any survey instruments that are to be used in the cave. Photographs are encouraged and are expected to be shared with the expedition leader before leaving the area. A Privacy Policy explains our obligations to the BLM and other team members. Serious cavers wishing to assist on surveying in Snowy River South (SRS) will be interested in these Guidelines for Snowy River visitation, located in our private section, or contact the Project Director for more information.

 

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Rev. 3-10-2016
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