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2016 Convention Trip Report Ely, Nevada

Ted & Cheryl Kayes

We departed Richmond and took about six days to drive to Salt Lake City following the route
that the pioneers travelled en route to Oregon, California and Utah. The U.S. Park Service issues
guides so that interested people can follow the pioneer trails in cars. We visited some great
museums in Council Bluffs, IA, Omaha, NE and the best of them was in Casper, WY.
We did stop at Chimney Rock in Wyoming, which virtually every pioneer, who kept a journal on
the trip west, mentioned. Oh yes, nearly all of the pioneers walked all of the way. You may have
envisioned them riding on the seat of the wagon or inside the wagon. The horses and, far more
often, oxen had all they could do to pull the wagon. People rode when they were driving the
wagon or were sick or very young.
We arrived in Ely, Nevada late on the 16th (Saturday afternoon.)
Sunday, 17 July
The geological field trip was fully booked ahead of time, so I could not
participate. Those that were on the trip said that it was very good. Cheri worked registration at
the school all day, as Margot had gone on the field trip. Cheri also sold something over $2,000
in $2 dollar bills to those coming in to register. The $2 bills are intended to let the towns
merchants and leaders know that the National Speleological Society members are there in great
numbers. Later, we heard some merchants were reluctant to accept them, but we found others
were interested and asked about that caving group
The vendors who were set up opened for business. I dont know that they get much in the way of
sales on Sunday, but many friends and acquaintances from previous Conventions came by and
there was a lot to talk about. The RASS contingent was relatively small this year; the Barns, the
Geislers, the Kayes, the Wagners
The Convention staff arranged to have breakfast and lunch available in the schools cafeteria this
week. The meals were fairly priced and it was great that you did not have to leave the school to
get something to eat. It appeared that the cafeteria did a good amount of business throughout the
week, so the school was likely pleased. The school facilities were very good and most suitable
for the Convention.
In the evening we drove out to the Convention camp ground. It was on the back nine of the golf
course. The Convention committee arranged to rent the back nine and they paid the greens fees
on the back half for the days that the NSS would use the course. The campsite was only about
half a mile from our motel, but we quickly decided that the road was way too dusty to want to
walk to the Howdy Party or the Banquet. Wind and dust around the campsite were a problem for
some and a number of cavers bailed and took motel rooms in town.
Monday, 18 July
The Monday morning Program included the Opening Ceremony, Geology
& Geography Session, Communications & Electronics Session, Nevada: Treasures of the Silver
State, Video Section Meeting, Board of Governors Meeting and the Vertical Climbing Contests.

Cheri returned to Registration, sold the remainder of the $2 bills and visited the vendors. She
had planned to attend the Treasures of the Silver State but the room was completely filled with
no standing room available. This was a major disappointment. I skipped the opening Ceremony
and spent the morning at the meeting of the Board of Governors (BOG). The unusual aspect of
the BOG was that five of the Directors had just been elected. Both Margot and Bob Barns were
there as Directors, Margot for her fifth year and Bob for his first. Normally Directors have
questions for each of the officers as they give their reports and this morning there were no
questions for the President, very unusual.
The President, Wm Shrewsbury, worked his way through the agenda expeditiously and by noon
they had covered most of the items. A particularly useful Act was the creation of a Convention
Financial Officer. Convention finances have often seemed to be on track until the end of the
Convention and then things fall apart and this has happened for a number of reasons.
At this point they adjourned for a closed session, during which they re-elected the three current
vice-presidents: OVP: Dave Haun, AVP: Katherine Crispin, and EVP: Kurt Harler.
The evenings Howdy Party was one of the best. Tongue-in-cheek, the convention renamed this
the Donner Party Howdy Party. Normally they start serving about 6PM when the sun is
blasting down on the attendees waiting in line. This day they began serving at 7PM, which was
an improvement. There were two very large tents and for the first time in many years everyone
could be seated at tables. It was nice not to have to balance a plate of food on your lap. The
portions served were quite skimpy, likely because they ordered meals for 800 and there were
more than 1,000 in attendance; but you could go back for seconds and many people did. The
arrival of the beer truck was a little delayed.
The hit of the evening was having the New Christie Minstrels perform. Some of the original
performers from 1961 were there and others who had been with the group in times past. There
was a nice assortment of beers available. Some of the members danced. A very good evening.
Cheri thought it was the most enjoyable Howdy Party of the two dozen or so which she had
attended. Cheri and I actually danced in public.
Tuesday, 19 July
The Tuesday morning Program included U.S. Exploration,
Speleophilatelic Section meeting, NCRC Presentation, SpeleoArt Workshop, Rebelay Workshop,
and the Vertical Climbing Contest continued. I stopped at U.S. Exploration for a while and had
informal meetings with some of the attendees.
The luminary series is a relatively new tradition that provides cavers a way to connect and
rediscover the older generation of cavers who built the traditions and reputation of the NSS. The
sessions are always well attended so come early to get your seat. The sessions are taped by Alex
Sproul and are available to the general membership.
The first of the Luminary Series was scheduled for lunch time and featured Penelope J. Boston
(NSS 44478) From Inner Space to Outer Space: The Role of Earths Subsurface in Our Search
for Life in the Solar System and Beyond. Dr. Penny Boston is a charismatic and engaging
speaker and I heartily recommend seeing her presentation which will be available from the NSS

Office. Dr. Boston came into caving in a unique way from outer space. Working for NASA
researching for possible life on Mars, she heard about Lechuguilla Cave and its high sulfur
content in a closed environment. Her conjecture that Mars organisms may have retreated to
subsoil environments. When she saw some photomicrographs of substrates from the cave, she
was hooked. With no prior caving experiences, see was trained by Cunningham and Pate for
three hours and off she went for a 5 day caving experience in Lechuguilla. Pretty great for your
first wild cave! Cave biology is her passion .Dr. Boston specializes in extremophiles, those biota
which inhabit high sulfur, exceedingly acid and low oxygen caves in hopes of finding organism
which inhabit environments close to extraterrestrial conditions.
Cheryl spent the day in the U.S.Exploration Session. Presentations featured Lava Beds National
Monument, caves in the Klamath Mountains in Oregon, caves of the Gran Canyon, Sea caves of
California, Colorado caves and Jewel Cave, South Dakota. Attending the US sessions gives me a
chance to learn about and appreciate the diversity of caves in America. The opportunity is there
to experience what I shall never have an opportunity to actually do. The virtual caving
presentation was fascinating. I had no idea the technology was so advanced but did not truly
relate to an actual cave presentation.

They opened Registration for the 2017 Convention (near Albuquerque) and Cheri immediately
signed us up for it. The Kayes are officially number 5 and 6 for next year in Albuquerque..
In the late afternoon the Fellows-New Members reception was held at the train station. It was
very well attended and the finger food was better than what might be expected. Once again the
majority of the participants were Fellows with only a few new members. I wish the meeting had
been better advertised so that more new members would come. The train station was picturesque,
an original depot which is a National Historic Landmark. The sounds of the Ghost train tour
returning marked the point of the meeting. A recurring complaint at the Fellows/new
members meeting is that tables are provided for attendees: in order to encourage mingling, it
would be better if we all had to stand up and mingle. It was really neat to see and hear the old
trains and equipment. The museum is really worth visiting and everyone gave very positive
reports on the train rides.
Wednesday, 20 July On the Wednesday morning Program were International Exploration,
Biospeleology, National Speleological Foundation meeting,
The second of the Luminary Series was schedule for lunch time and featured Forrest M. Wilson
(NSS 16631) (FE) Where No Man Has Gone Before
Forrest Wilsons caving began on his first visit as a child to a commercial cave shortly after
World War II. His father was a med student at Tulane University and the young Wilson had
attended a seminar which showed photographs of unusual fish. So Wilson borrowed some scuba
gear and went diving in a nearby lake beginning a life long fascination with diving. Dry caving
episodes occurred but his two hobbies remained separate until he was hired to set up a new
planetarium at the Smithsonian Institute. Here he met Paul Stevens, who mentioned that there

was a sump at Organ Cave and maybe Wilson should take a look. Here is the genesis of the cave
diving section. Wilson, described as an enthusiastic cave diver with a knack for tools,
developed many solutions for the problems in underwater caving, including an early rebreather.
His adventure are many and span 4 decades of cave diving. The 70 year old Wilson still is an
active caver and is exploring what is described as the longest underwater cave in Alabama. His
zest for adventure, innovative solutions and intrepid spirit make Forrest Wilson the Senior
Statesman of Cave Diving in American.
The international session was well attended and included presentations about caves in the
Caribbean, Cuba, the Philippines, China, and of course Mexico. I particularly enjoyed the
presentation by John Mylroie who explained the he did old man caving in the Cayman Islands.
This was a particularly busy day for Ted. The Foundations Investment Committee met and took
nearly the whole morning. In addition to the normal investment matters, two of the Trustees
made substantive proposals that needed to be heard and discussed. A vote on their proposals
was deferred until the afternoon Trustees meeting.
The Foundation Trustees meeting began at 2PM and there were about 10 visitors, once they
found the right room. There was much to discuss and vote on including the matters from the
Investment Committee meeting, a realignment of committees and a possible loan to the NSS to
enable them to pay off the mortgage on the NSS Office.
Following the meeting the Trustees hosted President and Mrs. Shrewsbury at dinner at the
Prospector Casino.
Concurrent with the Foundations meeting, the Congress of Grottos met. This is not a very
popular session. It can be boring and often feature wrangling about minutia and takes up the
whole afternoon.. But it a very important part of the NSS and every convention. This is the
representative body of all of the grottos and section and provides an important forum for member
expression The session was presided over by Bill Stringfellow, the vice chair as Blake Jordan
the chairman was absent with other duties. Cheri was the only RASS representative. No subjects
were carried over from the preceding year and the only new matter was a motion That the NSS
not borrow money from the Life Members Fund to pay off the mortgage.
The President, Wm Shrewsbury, took the podium to describe the financial situation. The
following is a non-verbatim summary of Wms comments.
The current NSS office in Huntsville was purchased almost five years ago and the Society has
been paying more than $10,000 per month on the mortgage. The mortgage, on which is owed
$1,300,000, must be refinanced before the 15th of December. A long time member and Kentucky
caver, Roger Sperka (8463), left a bequest to the Society of something more than $500,000 and
the BOG intends to use that to reduce the amount remaining on the mortgage. An anonymous
donor has agreed to gift the sum of $400,000 in stocks to the Society to further reduce the
mortgage balance. Those two gifts will reduce the outstanding mortgage balance to about

In addition to those two gifts, the NSS is still fund raising and expects to have something more
than an additional $50,000 from donations at the Convention and other announced gifts that
have not yet been received. By the end of the year it is expected that the total indebtedness on
the more may be reduced to about $300,000.
The National Speleological Foundation (NSF) manages the NSS Life Members Fund. This fund
pays the dues for the life members each year and is conservatively invested. The contract
between the NSS and the NSF specifies that the NSS can borrow up to 20% of the Life Members
Fund per calendar year, up to 50% of the total (including the loan) for good purposes, if the NSS
Board of Governors and the Foundation Trustees agree. This has about $2,000,000 in it and
20% would be about $400,000. This ability to borrow from the Life Members Fund has been
used very successfully in the past to buy property, such as the old NSS office and Great X cave.
To set this up, if the Board of Governors and the Trustees agree, the Foundation takes a
mortgage against the property and the NSS makes monthly payments, amortizing the debt until
the mortgage has been paid off. Then the NSS will own the building outright and the Life
Members Fund will be intact.
I mentioned earlier that the Life Members Fund is conservatively invested. Because of the very
low interest rates, the bond funds are typically earning less than five percent. The agreement
between the NSS and the NSF that will be negotiated will provide for a 5 1/2% rate of interest
that the NSS will be paying itself.
After serving for 6 years as President of the National Speleological Society, my term will end at
the Convention in New Mexico next June. I sincerely hope that my last official act will be to
burn the mortgage at the Opening Ceremony. I shall work diligently to raise the necessary funds
to pay off the mortgage.
So I ask your support for this action to refinance the NSS mortgage and then to pay it off by next
The session ended when Bill Stringfellow was elected Chair for the upcoming year. Any motions
for consideration by a grotto can sent to him.
The annual Auction was held in the evening. Attendance was moderate to sparse. This
fundraising event was initially left out of the program but several signs and notes in the daily
paper informed every one of the event. Biding on several items was uncharacteristically low,
perhaps because of transportation difficulties. Cheri was one of the volunteers displaying items
for sale and delivering to the winning bidders. The #1 and #2 Registrations are auctioned off for
the Convention to years hence, in this case for the Whitefish, Montana Convention. Russ
Kennedy was the winning bidder for #1 for, I think, $1,000. Dick Blenz has normally bid on and
won the #1 registration for the past decade was not present due to ill health (he is over 90). His
bids on the #1 registration have been a great help to the convention planners. The auction did
raise over $5000.

[In the evening my sister, Shirley, notified us that there had been a severe storm Tuesday
evening in Richmond with a lot of wind. I asked that she go by and check our house. We had
several trees down and a lot of debris to remove but the house was not damaged.]
Thursday, 21 July The Thursday morning Program included the Spelean History Session,
Cave Photography Session, Medical Section meeting, Use of Walls Cave Mapping Software,
Vertical Techniques Workshop.
[My sister called back and advised that the big oak tree on the hill behind the house had blown
over, but away from the house. Also, the power was out for the neighborhood, but the generator
did come on as it should have. There were lots of branches down, but none of them were poking
out of the roof. She said that the neighbors expected the power to be back on within a day or
two, but nothing else major.]
The Spelean History sessions are consistently interesting and informative and the mornings
session included several that were particularly good. Two presentations by Bert Ashbrook were
very interesting. These dealt with the strange episode the Quakers exiled from Pennsylvania
during the American Revolutionary war and their sojurn in Virginia and Henry Gilpins caving
trips in Virginia in the 1820s. He left questions to be answered at next years presentation.
The third of the Luminary Series was schedule for lunch time and featured Donald G. Davis,
(NSS 4956) Caving and Science: An Hour with Donald Davis.
Donald Davis has no fancy degrees in the area of Speleogensis but his careful observations made
during his cave explorations and his insight on the similarities and differences in various cave
lead him to alternative theories about cave formation than that which was accepted by many
other authorities. His observations about pyrite oxidation as a source of sulfuric acid for cave
formations lead to a coherent, unifies theory which was published tin the NSS Bulletin. A
member of the first scientific team to explore Lechuguilla , he measured the wind velocity and
estimated the size of the cave. His experiences in the caving community are wide and varied, but
all acknowledge his contribution in the fields of science and exploration
After the Spelean History session Cheri and went to down town Ely and had lunch at an old
fashioned ice cream parlor. It offered great sandwiches in addition to milk shakes and ice cream
sodas. We stopped at the White Pine Public Museum, which gave a glimpse of the history or the
small city, which has been primarily sustained by mining. The star feature of the museum which
is staffed by local volunteers who were amiable and willing to chat at some length, is the
skeleton of a giant short-faced bear, Arctodus Simus. There is also a one room school house and
a jail cell from the old Ely City jail as well as mineral collection and a variety of memorabilia.
From there we drove to the Great Basin National Park. The great basin includes all of Nevada,
most of Utah and significant parts of California, Oregon, Idaho and Colorado. It typically
receives less than ten inches of rain a year and has more unusable land than we could imagine.
Unfortunately all of the trips into Lehman Cave, which is inside the Park) were fully booked.

Friday, 22 July
The Friday morning Program included The Future of Cave and Karst
Science & Exploration, Board of Governors Meeting, Video Salon Viewing, Vertical Section
Business meeting and Session, Cartographic Salon Critique.
The Board of Governors meeting was the most interesting item on todays agenda. A motion that
is important to all cavers was the NSS Statement of Understanding Regarding WNS Act
Crispin moved: The NSS issues a statement of understanding regarding White Nose Syndrome
as follows:
The National Speleological Society supports recent published statements by Merlin D.
Tuttle, Ph.D., entitled White-Nose Syndrome: Origin, Impact and Management (May 1,
2016) and A Turning Point in Saving Bats from WNS (June 7, 2016). Dr. Tuttle
recommends focusing resources on helping survivors of WNS rebuild resistant populations
and also protection from disturbance, especially during hibernation. Future research should
First, do no harm and be minimally invasive. Emphasis should be on electronic
monitoring in summer habitats to evaluate efficacy of conservation activities and to
credibly support threatened and endangered listings. Cooperation with local, regional and
national agencies to fully evaluate cave closure status should be an ongoing effort and,
where possible, access to caves should be restored. Cavers are a critical resource to
evaluating the health of bat populations and should be more fully utilized.
The Act was passed unanimously.

The NSS Headquarters Refinancing Act 26-921 authorized borrowing up to $350,000 from the
Life Members Fund and it passed unanimously. You will note that this is a little higher than the
projected $300,000 mentioned earlier. The Board chose to give President Shrewsbury and
Secretary-Treasurer Barnes a little leeway since $400,000 of the incoming donations will be in
stocks, which might fluctuate a little until they are liquidated.
The closing Banquet was very well organized and the food and an assortment of beers was
plentiful. The tents were again large enough to seat everyone. There was fund raising following
the dinner. I passed out more forms for Team 405 to everyone who would take them and Cheri
and one of the other ladies passed the hat and collected several hundred dollars.
During the awards segment it was announced that Stevan Biggers had been made a Fellow of the
National Speleological Society. Congratulations
A good Convention.
Footnote: It might be noted that in the program on page 42 in the Ely Businesses Section there
are two entries under Brothels, Big 4 Ranch and Stardust Ranch.
Saturday morning we set off promptly for several National Parks and then to Oregon to see the