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Cant 2003 the Tug of Danger With the Magnetism of Mystery

Cant 2003 the Tug of Danger With the Magnetism of Mystery

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Published by Bradley L. Garrett

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Published by: Bradley L. Garrett on Nov 12, 2011
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‘The tug of danger with themagnetism of mystery’
Descents into ‘the comprehensive,poetic-sensuous appeal of caves’
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University of Wales,Aberystwyth
abstract
This article focuses on the leisure pursuit of caving and those whoparticipate in caving (cavers), to explore how some cavers have constructed cavingas a pursuit that is highly sensuous, disrupting conventional constructions of the‘heroic’ figure of caver. The article locates the practice of caving within a broadercontext of outdoor recreation, identifying how caving has been constructed culturally,highlighting dominant ideas about heroic physical pursuit and undergroundadventure. However, the physical geography of rock and spaces affects how a humanbody may encounter and experience caves, shaping sensuous and intimateunderground knowledges, and caver subjectivities; sometimes revealed in creativeand highly evocative ways. The article examines work by David Heap and IanChandler that demonstrates ‘a love of caving’; they articulate ideas of intimacy andrelations between humans and environments through literature and sculpture,challenging dominant stereotypes, suggesting very particular physical, embodied,emotional and thoughtful geographies.
keywords
 adventure caving embodied-sensuous experiences intimacy leisureoutdoors physical sculpture subjectivities
The Rift Traverse 
I’ve set the body in motionwith a sway and confident notionThe rift is blacker belowand its depth considers go-slowThree from four connectionseach on precarious sectionsMomentum thwarts the gravityas fingers find a nip cavityFriction impersonates a holdthis is no time to drop,I’m told
tourist studies
©2003
sage publications
London,Thousand Oaks andNew Delhi
vol
3(1) 67–81DOI:10.1177/1468797603040531
ts
article
67
 
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 ‘toughmasculinities and an undergroundheroics over nature – a nature that is frequently feminized,bound within tradi-tions of bodies and earth (e.g.Merchant,1980).
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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
tourist studies 3:1
68
 
intimate because he knows caves well.He has caved in ‘all conditions of weather [and] in many different states of mind’and ‘always wants to go back(Heap,1964:9).Intimacy is a wonderfully suggestive and evocative word to describe relationsbetween humans and caves:closely acquainted,familiar,secret,innermost,deep.But ideas of intimacy may disrupt ideas of ‘toughness’.Combined with cavers’individual subjectivities,intimacy suggests complex sensuous relations under-ground.In this article,I explore some of the intimate spatialities of caving,con-necting multiple ideas of ‘physical’.I focus upon the sensual delights of cavingthat reveal engagement of the whole-body in the deliberate human activity of cave exploration;and I explore a poetics of caving that flux between humangeographies of exploration and encounter,and physical geographies of spacewithin rock:limestone,water and calcite.Accounts of caving reveal relationalunderstandings of bodies and environments that dwell on the human-ness of asubterranean physical geography.I begin by locating the practice of caving within a broader context of out-door recreation,and then turn to look at how caving has been constructed cul-turally,focusing on ‘the tug of danger’to identify a particularly dominant ideaabout heroic physical pursuit and underground adventure.This physical pursuitis then placed within the physical environment of caves;however,as differentideas of the physical begin to overlap,‘dominant’ideas are disrupted as individ-ual caver subjectivities begin to emerge.Such subjectivities are sometimesrevealed in creative and highly evocative ways,and I focus on the work of twocavers who articulate ideas of intimacy and relations between humans and envi-ronments through literature and sculpture.They challenge masculinist stereo-types of cavers as insensitive explorers with little time for the expression of poetics.David Heap and Ian Chandler demonstrate ‘a love of caving’,suggest-ing very particular physical,embodied,emotional and thoughtful geographies.Their personal experiences of caving are revealed through the words and sculp-tures they have created to express ‘the comprehensive,poetic-sensuous appeal of caves’(Heap,1964:7).
Caving and outdoor recreation
Caving,the sport of exploring caves,emerged as a popular (albeit minority)leisure pursuit in Britain towards the end of the 19th century.During this peri-od,groups of interested individuals began to organize themselves into clubs andsocieties with the aim of enjoying organized outdoor recreation;early clubsencouraged members to participate in a full outdoor life,combining cavingwith ‘kindred’activities such as mountaineering,climbing and rambling(Yorkshire Rambling Club,1899).Caving was also incorporated within abroader sphere of adventure,heroic masculinities and exploration (e.g.Martel,1896;and see Mangan and Walvin,1987).At a time when Victorian ‘adventurers’were complaining that places such as the French Alps were becoming
Cant
The tug of danger
69

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