A widening reaches apart a cross,muscles extend with decreasing lossHere’s a restriction to slope in declineto squeeze in suspension,that’s ﬁneIt’s easy along with rhythm and styletaking height away all the whileThe ﬂoor develops in the chemical lightand a lasting step stomps in delight.(Ellis,1998:9)
Ellis’poem presents an evocative account of a cave explorer,illustrating beauti-fully the rhythmic motion of a human body as it makes contacts within andmoves through a space that is more widely appreciated above ground in physi-cal geography,the rift.This poem relishes bodily actions of muscles ﬂexing andextended limbs moving through darkness,side-to-sideways movements,care-fully negotiating an underground rock face,constructing a precarious spaceinformed by an intimate knowledge of caves and embodied experiences of caving.The poem also draws attention to the ways in which a human experi-ence of caves is connected to a physical geography of holes in the ground.Thephysical geography of rock and spaces affects how a human body mayencounter and experience caves,shaping sensuous and intimate undergroundknowledges.As a speciﬁc kind of space within which human leisure sometimestakes place,caves provide a space within which ‘the physical’may be exploredmultiply.This article focuses on the leisure pursuit of caving,a type of outdoor recre-ation that involves venturing underground into some of the darker recesseswithin the natural environment – the exploration of caves (e.g.Bedford,1985;Lyon,1983).Those who participate in caving are known as cavers.Cavinginvolves a series of very particular physical encounters within a speciﬁc kind of dark space that is unlike any above ground.Recent studies of leisure havesought to address individuals’embodied experiences and geographies (e.g.Carter,2001;Crouch,1999;Macnaghten and Urry,2001),and drawing on awider context of outdoors leisure (Matless,1998;Morris,2001;Taylor,1997),this article examines cavers’accounts of cave exploration to explore how somecavers have constructed caving as a pursuit that is highly sensuous,disruptingconventional constructions of the ‘heroic’ﬁgure of caver.Caves are hidden places;we learn of them as cavers return to the surface,translating and narrating their explorations vividly through stories and images.Many of these accounts suggest ‘tough’masculinities and an undergroundheroics over nature – a nature that is frequently feminized,bound within tradi-tions of bodies and earth (e.g.Merchant,1980).
They describe an extremeenvironment and the bodily discomfort their pursuit often leads them through,but amidst such constructions of masculinist heroics,are more diverse,personalsubjectivities.David Heap suggests that such relationships between cavers andtheir love of caving are best described as ‘intimate’.For Heap this relationship is
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