Contemplations & Reflections (with Toni Matulis)

Maroon & Gold

Bloomsburg State College (PA) - December 9, 1966

Subterraneans "A Journey to the Center of the Earth" Is a Reality; Bloomsburg State's Cavemen Like To Go Underground

"O, for a draught of vintage! that has been cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth," wrote John Keats, and there are several students at BSC who can literally fulfill his wish.

Spelunkers are cave explorers, or perhaps more romantically, modern cavemen. Here at BSC there are presently about twenty such advocates, led by Paul Hackenberry and Barry Scheetz, members of the National Speleological Society, sporting more than 100 and 80 hours underground respectively.

Subterranean Journey

When asked what prompts their subterranean journeys, both Paul and Barry could list several reasons: some humorously, like Barry’s: “You see, it’s all Freudian: there’s this long, dark tunnel that you are somehow compelled to go through…,” and some quite frankly serious: “It provides for a spirit of adventure that is sometimes hard to find these days.”

But it s not all for adventure or for Freudian fulfillment. During the trips Paul does a bit of mapping for M.A.R. (Mid-Appalachian Region) correlating cave entrances and plotting their winding courses; Barry takes slides and pictures of some of the rock formations that they encounter, and hopes to be able to do some extensive work with fluorescent lighting arrangements on various formations in the near future.

Bloomsburg’s Grotto

Also in the near future is the hope of having a Grotto Club here at Bloomsburg as there are at Shippensburg State, Penn State, York, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and many other areas. A Grotto Club is an approved branch of the National Speleological Society, and Paul and Barry hope to get enough people on campus interested in cave-exploring to form a Grotto as a campus organization.

They are presently training some eighteen other advocates by taking them on expeditions to caves around the Lewistown area, as they are the nearest ones to Bloomsburg, and are rather elementary as far as caves go, having no vertical drops that the novice would have to negotiate on his first trip, and being quite safe.

Safety First

Safety is one thing that both explorers were equally anxious to stress. “Caving is only as dangerous as one allows it to be,” said Paul. They then listed some of the safety equipment they are in the habit of carrying with them on their trips, among which are three sources of light (carbite lamp, flashlight, and candles), first aid kits, hard hats, ankle supports (in case of an injured ankle, support must be provided to help the injured person from the cave), ropes and other climbing equipment. They also stressed other basic safety precautions which serve as a type of spelunker’s commandments, the principle one of which is to never explore alone. They seem to have safety covered quite thoroughly, for they’ve never, in all of their hours underground, had an accident.

Paul mentioned the N.S.S. motto of “The only thing you take is pictures and the only thing you leave is footprints” in regards vandalism in caves. They were both justly appalled by the damage which is done in caves by careless and unthinking; people who are not trained in appreciating the caves for which they are, especially so in the destroying of various rock formations and “soda straws” (hollow deposits which hang from the roof of caves) which on average take 20,000 year to form one cubic inch. This Is Fun (?)

It was most interesting to listen to their narrative of one particular expedition that they made into a cave that was only large enough to let someone squirm through the entrance, and where the cave served as a sort of sewage disposal plant; so much so, in fact, that half way through the passage one had to crawl through a truck tire that had wedged itself into an impossibly small opening. They jokingly said that they didn’t fear getting lost in that particular cave, for they left a trail of rags from where their pants were torn on broken refuse.

Having already made several trips to Fort Royal in Virginia, they are planning on an outing of about four days to that series of caves, from approximately the 25th to the 28th of next month.

Both spelunkers are also looking forward to the national convention of the N.S.S. in Birmingham, Alabama during the second week of June.

Anyone interested in making the search of Keats’ “draught of vintage” is encouraged to contact either Paul or Barry. Happy spelunking.