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2015 National Speleological Society Convention

Waynesville, Missouri
Trip Report by Ted and Cheryl Kayes
We departed Richmond about 8AM on the Friday 10 July. The weather was wet after crossing
into WV and as we approached the Kentucky line it seemingly came down in buckets. 40mph
was an excessive speed for the next twenty minutes.
At Lexington, KY we left the interstate and learned just how much road work was being done
around the city. One area had enjoyed some heavy rain and with insufficient drainage backed up
traffic for several miles. Once out of Lexington travel the rest of the day was a breeze.
The rivers ran high for the next several days. When we crossed the Mississippi it was quite high
and made it necessary to take a detour through Cairo, IL. Cairo was close to the center of the
historic New Madrid earthquakes that began in December 1811. Those quakes were of very
long duration (perhaps four to five minutes - no one then had a stop watch) with many strong
aftershocks. One. or more of them, caused the Mississippi River to run backward.
We arrived in Waynesville, Missouri about 11AM on Sunday. Cheri began helping with
registration and selling $2 bills. [This is done so that local merchants realize the positive
financial impact that a NSS Convention brings to a community.] Allison was doing her usual
magnificent job and the preregistration station cheerfully sent all problems to her. Registration
was very well organized and Margot helped out with it. We enjoyed meeting and talking with
cavers whom we had not seen in a year. Dinner was at the Route 66 Diner, which had a menu
from the 1950's. I really enjoyed the onion rings and milkshakes. We stayed in a bed and
breakfast and were its only guests for four days.
My laptop would not boot up and it was necessary to have the hard drive replaced It is just as
well that I had not saved much data on it; all that had been saved on it was lost. It did prevent
me from sending daily reports back to RASS as I have done in some years.
The Welcoming Ceremony was lightly attended (no surprise there) Monday morning and
somehow they forgot to call on the NSS President to speak as he was supposed to do.
Cheryl continued assisting at registration until Jane Biggers joined the team and received the
RASS banners and flags. When Cheryl left for the Geology session the number of registrants was
in excess of 900, perhaps heading toward 1000.
Ted was off to the Board of Directors meeting. This is where much of the business of the Society
takes place and I would suggest that members should attend more than they do. After the
introduction of the Directors, it begins with the Officer reports. The agenda and reports are
published on line before the meeting, but there are always questions and some of them were very
good. The Treasurer reported that neither the 2013-14, nor the 2014-15 audits had been
completed. This was not good news, though it was suggested that they were getting caught up.
But because the mortgage will have to be re-negotiated this year, it should be a matter of
concern.
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There was a brief report on the 2016 Convention scheduled for Ely, NV. 2017 is apparently
going to be in New Mexico and 2018 will be in Montana. There was a complaint that this would
be too many western conventions in a row. But the location of Conventions is determined by the
willingness of a local organization to undertake the hosting of one. They are a lot of work to put
on, infinitely more than Virginia Region meeting (and there is even difficulty in getting grottos to
sponsor those.)
During the closed Board meeting in the afternoon, the Directors elected the Society's Vice
Presidents. Curt Harler was re-elected Executive Vice President (EVP), Geary Schindel was reelected Administrative Vice President (AVP), and Dave Haun was elected Operations Vice
President (OVP), replacing Dave Luckins, who has done quite an exceptional job.
There had been canoe and float trips scheduled for Monday that many of the cavers had signed
up for, but they were all cancelled because the recent rains had made the rivers too high.
Reportedly one non-scheduled group floated down one of the rivers anyway.
The geology sessions in the morning covered a variety of topics but the sessions on Phytoliths as
climate indicators and the recent Geological history of Jewel Cave was of great interest. As
always, hitting the vendor area and chatting with old friends in the cafeteria was an essential part
of convention. The 3D display by Charles Kahn was well attended.
The Howdy Party, held on Monday evening, was at the Camp Ground and was well attended.
The food and service was good and featured excellent barbeque and gave everyone a chance to
gather and compare notes from the last year. The music was what we were accustomed to by a
local band, Clinton and Company. They performed well and kept things lively well into the
evening. It was a great time to run into cavers that you had not yet seen.
TuesdayFor me, the luminary series is one of the highlights of the season. These one hour sessions are
filmed and are available to the grottos for meetings etc. The opening speaker was Dr Stan Sites.,
a name very familiar to those at all involved with the Mammoth-Flint ridge system. This
presentation was highlighted with vintage photos featuring well known cavers and caving
projects dating from the 60s. I was amazed that so many of the old folks actually had long dark
hair. In 1961 Stan was one of the only 2 cavers in MVOR but that did not stop him from cohosting an MVOR. His early caving haunts include early exploration of the Devil's Icebox,
Mark Twain and Tom Moore Caves. Included in the slides were some interesting photos of
discovery day for Berome Moore Cave.
But Stan is best known for his fascination and work in the Flint Ridge and Mammoth cave area,
not only in the actual caves but also in the human and cultural history of the area. In 1971 he was
part of the crew that found the Pete Hanson's initials confirming the connection between
Mammoth Cave and Flint Ridge. The slide show continued through his years in Vietnam where
he was thwarted in his attempt to reach Marble Cave. Stan was decorated by the Vietnamese for
his contributions in providing medical care to the civilian population. Decade after decade of
photo documentation rounded out the presentation ending with pictures taken in 2015.
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Tuesday was also the day for US Exploration, always a popular session. The 10:00 session by
Phil Lucas and Mark Minton was of particular interest. Phil and his crew were allowed to enter
Warm River Cave to perform scientific investigations and ended up mapping 3 miles of new
passage making Warm River the 2nd longest thermal cave in the world. (There were apparently
some cries of 'Lucky Bastards', but those may have been immediately afterward.)
The Western breakthrough in Jewel Cave by Dan Austin and Mike Wiles documented the
discovery of 6.8 miles. A new camp in Jewel celebrated mapping 175 mile of passage.
Currently the length of the cave is listed at 177.6 miles with further leads.
International exploration sessions were held Wednesday. Caves from Bermuda to Haiti to
Romania were featured over the daylong session which was well attended. Two sessions of
particular interest was a presentation by Pat Kambesis on the Jaguar Caves in Quintana Roo,
Mexico, and one by Jim Coke on underwater cave explorations in the same area. I left convinced
that I NEVER want to go cave diving
Wednesday's luminary was Diana Northrup and she gave a presentation on how caving interests
developed with her fascination with extremophiles. Her pioneering work in cave microbes has
lead her to become world-renowned. She began caving in 1966 when she joined the Outing Club
at West Virginia University. The recreational caving sparked her interest in unusual subterranean
life forms, particularly microbes. Dr Northrup has authored or co-authored 13 book chapters
related to cave science and has been featured NOVA episode, a National Geographic presentation
and a Discovery Channel program. She assembled the SLiME (Subsurface Life in Mineral
Environments) Team to pursue studies of bacteria, archaea and fungi in caves. She is particularly
interested in caves that are hostile to humans, but friendly to microbes, the extremophiles.
Cheryl was the RASS delegate to the Congress of Grottos. This was a very lively session which
lasted for several hours. The major issue was the release of information. Recently a clearing
house for caving/karst information has been developed, the Karst Information Portal(KIP) (I
believe that this is at the University of Florida.) The KIP is collating information for Karst
researchers around the world. Dogwood Grotto donated several boxes of old newsletters,
publications , and miscellany to the KIP. Subsequently cavers found privileged information
especially cave locations and maps on the KIP . That information had been restricted to NSS
members by agreement with the landowners. KIP has removed the information from the public
domain.
At the present time the NSS does not have current acts allowing for the posting of certain
publications on the web that would be shared with the general public. The Greater Allentown
Grotto proposed 10 motions to resolve the issue . Discussion ranged from access of information
to researchers to honoring the commitment to restrict information to NSS members in the news
letters. A recommendation that abstracts be provided to KIP for publication was approved.
Researchers could pay the $35 fee for the abstract or join the NSS and have free access. Other
issued include the publication of electronic copies which could undermine the NSS's printing
investment.

Wm Shrewsbury spoke to the Congress with several items relating to this which will be
discussed at the next BOG and requested that COG not act at this time. Cheryl has a copy of the
agenda with all of the provision. Please see her if you wish further information. Blake Jordan ,
previously the VP was elected President of COG and Bill Stringfellow, the previous president
was elected VP
The annual auction on Wednesday evening raises money for the Society and brought in more
than$4,000. Dick Blenz (CL 5671) successfully bid on the Number 1 registration for the 2017
Convention in New Mexico (He had the Number 1 registration for this Convention and has the
Number 1 registration for the Ely, NV Convention. Dick is a retired professor and continues to
be the greatest individual donor to the NSS. They would probably give Dick the Number One
registration each year, but it is not necessary because he bids the most for it and really enjoys
doing it.
Thursday
Cheryl found the Spelean History sessions outstanding. Bert Ashbrook's presentation , 'The
Caves of Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State Virginia' was detailed and engrossing.
Cato Holler's 'Cavers and Conjurers' was both entertaining and interesting. This is not a session
that I have attended often but I plan to do so in the future.
The day's Luminary was Bill Steele. This was the most dynamic presentation of the series and
stressed his role as "Explorer". For over 50 years Bill has directed his energy and his passion
toward unraveling the "Mysteries of the Underworld". He is a renowned TAG caver, known for
his pit descents. He was a team member for the original 440 foot decent in the Incredible Pit in
Ellisons's cave and during a 1/2 year long expedition mapped Grutas De Juxtlahuaca. Bill is
perhaps best known for his caving and his writings about Huautla and wrote Huautla; Thirty
years in One of the World's Deepest Caves.
The Audio Video salon on Thursday evening was very good. The problem is that you see so
many great slides and some good videos that it is sometimes a little hard to take it all in.
Friday
The Archaeology session was held Friday morning and had only 5 presentations.
A northern Laos cave was found to be a site for coffins. Terry Bolger discussed the discovery and
significance of the cave in light of the native culture.
Angel Gonzales , the president of the Cuban Speleological society, was the last presenter.
He discussed Cuban Cave Art Sites and invited NSS members to visit. The modification of
speleothems by early people was illustrated by a number stunning slides. Of course with the
relaxed rules it would be fairly easy to visit Cuba now. RASS might consider Cuba, instead of a
trip to TAG.
Friday Ted missed the meeting of the Board of Directors because it conflicted with the National
Speleological Foundation Investment Committee meeting in the morning and the Trustees
general meeting in the afternoon. He was elected President of the NSF.

Farewell Banquet
The Banquet Hall was filled on Friday evening and there was plenty of food and dessert, though
even with six serving lines it took a long time to feed everyone. There was the normal difficulty
of deciding whether one should sit with the grotto, or the section or some other friends; knowing
again that you are not likely to see some of them for another year.
Unfortunately, when the new Fellows of the Society were announced there were no RASS
members among them, though at least two had been nominated. The traditional passing of the
helmet ceremony, from the current Convention Chair to the 2016 Convention Chair took place.
It tends to be a little corny, but TRADITION.
The highlight of the evening was the announcement that Dave Luckins was the recipient of the
Stephens Outstanding Service Award (the Society's highest.) His speech was outstanding and
was perhaps the best I have heard in 25 years.
Geary Schindel found it necessary to resign as Administrative Vice President immediately after
the Convention. He was a very good officer and we should all hope that he will again be an
officer of the Society.
Cheri and I headed west Saturday morning and made it to Colorado before seeking a motel. It
took us four more weeks to get home.
During August you should have received an addendum to this report by e mail; with our report
on Ely, Nevada; the small city that will host the 2016 Convention.