Thursday, August 11, 2022

New Cave Discovered That Could Connect to Natural Bridge Caverns

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Currently the most active cave exploration effort in the state, recent discovery of a new cave could increase the length of the cavern system substantially.

A highly specialized caving team is embarking on a journey through unexplored cave passage at Natural Bridge Caverns in an attempt to find a connection between a newly discovered cave and the northern reaches of Natural Bridge Caverns. Led by brothers Brad and Travis Wuest, owners and operators of Natural Bridge Caverns, the next expedition is an epic push to try to discover connecting cave passage. The expedition is set for Friday, May 27th, 2022, and could take 24 hours to complete.

New Cave DISCOVERED – Wild Cave
The new cave was first hinted at in 2019 when steam was spotted rising from a narrow crack along a dry rocky creek bed surrounded by thick cedar. The warm air rising from the crack indicated the possibility of a large void somewhere below. The narrow crack proved to be the beginning of a deep pit that aligned with but was beyond the furthest reaches explored in Natural Bridge Caverns. In 2020, T. Dexter Soechting, great grandson of Natural Bridge Caverns founder Clara Wuest Heidemann, was the first explorer to enter the pit. At the bottom he found a small hole blowing air so forcefully it caused his shirt to flap. Early in January 2021, a team of Natural Bridge Caverns cavers descended what is now known as Simian’s Pit. After a day of hard digging the cavers were able to open the airway into a tight crawlway that led to the top of a giant room, Goliath’s Dome. “I was not old enough to remember my great-grandmother before her passing,” noted T. Dexter Soechting, the first explorer of Wild Cave. “So, to be part of the exploration team is not only exciting but a connection with my heritage.”

Exploration of what is now called the Wild Cave has turned out to be a stunning discovery in and of itself. The team uncovered virgin passage – areas where no human had ever set foot – breathtaking chambers filled with incredible formations (never before released Wild Cave 2021-2022 exploration photos and video are available here).

Brad Wuest watches as T. Dexter Soechting descends from the entrance into Goliath’s Dome for the first time. Photo Courtesy of Natural Bridge Caverns, shot by Bennett Lee.

Natural Bridge Caverns’ cavers spearheaded exploration of the Wild Cave in 2021 with hopes for more than discovery of a new cave. In the southernmost reaches of the Wild Cave, a room called the House of Cards is within a tantalizing 300 feet from the end of Natural Bridge Caverns northern most surveyed location, Hope’s Mantel.  

Today the caving team is gearing up for an incredible expedition. The team is planning to push through from the Natural Bridge Caverns side in one of the longest expeditions yet. If the team does find a connection from Natural Bridge Caverns’ Hope’s Mantel area to the Wild Cave’s House of Cards room, the Natural Bridge Caverns system could add another 1,398 feet, bringing the total to 20,475 feet or 3.88 miles. This would make Natural Bridge Caverns the 6th longest cave in the state.

Exploration Restarted in 2019
A new era of exploration began in 2019 resulting in major discoveries of new, unexplored chambers. By February 2020 the caving teams had ventured to the northern most surveyed location of the cavern at Hope’s Mantel, a ledge overlooking a four-story tall room filled with beautiful formations and cavern passage extending beyond and out of sight. Unfortunately, at the time the team had no more rope to continue exploration. It had been a grueling effort to get to this area of the cave (some trips took 23 hours). Up to that point all combined they’d added 1.13 miles of cave passage to Natural Bridge Caverns. Then exploration paused in March 2020 when COVID required the team to focus their energies on navigating the pandemic for their families, business, and employees instead of exploration (a release covering exploration along with photos of exploration prior to 2020 is here. Animated map showing timeline of exploration is here).

Currently the explored and mapped area of Natural Bridge Caverns (without the Wild Cave) is 3.61 miles long, making it the 8th longest cave in the state, moving up from 13th on the list due to recent discoveries. Natural Bridge Caverns remains the largest cave (in terms of volume) in Texas and the cave with the most active exploration in the state.

“No other cave in Texas is being explored to the degree that’s happening at Natural Bridge Caverns,” said world renown cave explorer Bill Steele. “The discoveries have been nothing short of incredible.”

For more information about the expedition and future explorations, please refer to NaturalBridgeCaverns.com and social channels. Interviews with expedition leaders Brad Wuest and Travis Wuest are available upon request.

IVOX NEWS :: SOURCE Natural Bridge Caverns

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