2/15/2015 – Biology count the bait sticks trip

Trip date:  14 February 2015
Project manager:  Bill Gee
Trip purpose:  Student biology trip
Areas of Cave visited:  Upstream Thunder
Trip participants:  Bill Gee – Rita Worden – Andy Smith – David Ashley – Students (see report)
Entry Time:  9:40am
Exit Time:  5:10pm
The trip report:    Students:
Burkart, Adam
Cox, Dillon
Kellam, Jami
Lichtenegger, Ryan
Lord, Jeremy
Mantlo, Drew
Shore, Adam
Way, Corvette
West, Loran
Yehle Rix, Jessica

This was a student biology trip for the BIO355 class taught by Dr. Ashley at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph.

Andy Smith and I drove down early Saturday morning.  When we arrived at the silo at 8:15am, we found several of the students already there.  One of them took off for a few minutes to pick up some people riding in a car that probably could not make it up the hill.  Andy and I rigged the cave and then changed into our caving gear.

Dr. Ashley and the remaining students arrived about 8:45.  We got everyone geared up and started down the shaft by about 9:30am.  Andy went first to help everyone get off the rope at the bottom.  As usual, a few of the students were a bit nervous about the drop, but everyone made it to the cave with no problem.

As usual for a large group, it took a while to get everyone down the hole.  We were all in the cave by about 10:40am.  I gave a short orientation talk and discussed the data loggers.  They were recently serviced by the manufacturer, so one of my tasks for the trip was to put all of them back into the cave.

After examining the bait sticks at the ladder and near the Thunder Falls shortcut, we all went over to see Thunder Falls.  The river was running a bit below normal so the falls were not super impressive, but everyone enjoyed the sight.  We got back to the ladder about 12:30 and had lunch.

At 1:00 we started for upstream Thunder River.  At the first natural bridge Jeremy Lord decided he was not going to be able to go on. He broke some bones in his left foot a while back and it was still healing.  He did not have the agility needed to navigate the cave obstacles.  We arranged for some extra clothes and a seating pad for him.  He stayed at the ladder until we all got back.  We talked about escorting him all the way out but decided not to.  It was warmer in the cave than on the surface, and he did not have his own vehicle.

The group divided into two teams.  One team with me and Dr. Ashley leading examined tiles and did fish counts all the way to UL2.  Any time we saw a fish, it was measured for length.  The depth of the water where it was found was measured, and a record kept of the character of the stream bed.  The second team led by Andy and Rita came along behind us with a meter to measure the pH and dissolved oxygen content at each site where a fish was found.  One of the students, Corvette Way, had interned with MDC and was able to borrow a meter from them.

As we were going out, Corvette told me that the pH at every sight was running about 9.0.  He was unable to get valid dissolved oxygen readings, possibly because the tablets necessary were old.  I was at first a bit surprised to hear how alkaline the water was.  After thinking about it, I remembered that this water is flowing over – and dissolving – limestone.  That will make it somewhat alkaline.

The students brought a laser thermometer in case we found any bats.  Two bats were found during the trip.  Both were Tri-Color and were close enough to get good readings with the thermometer.

Dr. Ashley examined all of the tiles.  He reported only a few snails.  Most of the tiles had nothing on them.

The lead team went on into UL2 and continued counting and measuring fish.  The second team caught up to us when we were several hundred feet in.  By that time it was 3:30 and time was running out.  We decided to not continue all the way to Convention Hall.

On the way out we stopped to admire the formations above the UL2 entrance.  The trip back to the ladder was uneventful.  We arrived there about 4:30 to find Jeremy having a nap.  He reported no problems staying warm.  Everyone geared up for the climb out.

I went first so I could help everyone get off the rope at the top.  Andy started putting people on at the bottom.  As soon as one person climbed a few stops the next person clipped in and started up.  Everyone climbed together.  Rita and Andy were last.

The first three or four people got to the top quickly.  We then had a problem.  Jessica had been overcome by an attack of claustrophobia a bit less than half-way up the ladder.  The report from below was that she had passed out.  Unfortunately Rita Worden, who is a trained EMT, was at the bottom of the group and could not reach Jessica to perform an assessment.  I quickly got everyone above her out of the hole, then got out the winch handle and lowered the hook to her.

Corvette Way was the next person below her.  He was able to hook the winch to her seat harness.  He did not unclip her croll from the rope.  One of the students already at the top took over the basement position to aid communication.  I and another student cranked the winch to pull Jessica up the shaft.  She regained consciousness enough to hold onto the cable while we cranked.

It took about 5 minutes to crank her up to the top of the culvert.  At that point I had to go clip into a tail of rope to get her croll unclipped from the main line.  The others were not familiar enough with how a croll works to get it unclipped.  We then cranked her all the way up into the silo, closed the hatch behind her and lowered her back down.  She sat there for a few minutes regaining composure, then went out and changed clothes.

The whole situation took perhaps 15 minutes from start to finish.  Much of that was just cranking the winch down the shaft.  Four of the students jumped in and provided tremendous help.  It was especially handy to have someone at the top of the shaft to relay communications.

Everyone else climbed out with no problem.  Andy and Rita both reported it was cold waiting in the shaft with a breeze blowing up.  We did not take out the rope since I plan to be there in just a few days for another trip.

I talked briefly to Jessica after she changed.  She said she was fine except for a huge case of embarrassment.  She just suffered a panic attack.  She said going down had been no problem and she did not know why coming up triggered an attack.

I restored the winch handle to the garbage can.  Everyone was changed and ready to go down the hill by about 5:40.

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