You are on page 1of 5

Report to RASS on our trip to the 2018 NSS Convention-

The Kayes took a rambling road trip across the U.S. in connection with the
Montana 2018 NSS Convention. The national parks were among the high lights of
the trip and included visits to Mt Ranier, North Cascades, Black Canyon of the
Gunnison and the Great Sand Dunes National Parks.

After arriving in Helena in route to Canada, we checked the camping area and
Convention Hqs before heading to Calgary. From there we traveled to Lake Louise
for a few days and returned by way of Banff. The signs to the Cave and Basin
Canadian National Park caught our eye and we detoured to check it out. The town
of Banff is a post card tourist destination with flowers galore and neat shops and
art galleries. The prices were likely commensurate with the cuteness. We resisted
temptation and went straight to the National Park.
The cave is a bullet shaped dome with an open blow hole at the top and a hot
spring at the bottom. It was discovered in the mid 19th century by railroad workers
who noticed steam arising from the blow hole. Lowering themselves down, the
workers found the cave and hot springs and opened a steam bath business. After a
series of ownership disputes, including with Native Americans (they like to be
called First Peoples in Canada) which were not resolved in court, the Canadian
government nationalized the site and thus began the Canadian National Park
system. Up until the mid 20th century the water from the hot springs was used for
an internationally known hot spring bath site. At its heyday two swimming pools
were available on site. Today admission into the cave entitles the visitor to entry
into a pool in the town of Banff where water from the spring is pumped.
Originally tourists were lowered into the 50 ft diameter, 75 ft high dome.
Subsequently an opening was dug into the side of the cave and a basin outside the
cave was built. Today there is a circular pool with a quarried stone ledge around it
and a 3/4 circular pool outside where those who were unwilling to enter the cave
could bath. Now both bathing areas are closed and visitors are enjoined not to
touch the water because of an endangered colony of small snails which live in
floating microbial mats in the cave and basin.

Then it was back to Helena and the Convention.

The campsite was excellent! There was plenty of spaces with shade under massive
old willow oaks at the Lewis and Clark camp Campground. Truly the best
Convention camp ground that we have ever experienced. While sound from the

various night activities did travel, there was sufficient room for the quiet campers.
Buses ran on a regular schedule to the Capitol High School.

We arrived Saturday afternoon checked in and put up our tent in good order.
Sunday and Monday Cheryl worked registration and exchanged $2 bills.
Everything at registration was well organized and there were few problems. Cheryl
exchanged nearly $4,000 before running out on Monday afternoon. Registration
came close to 900 participants.

(The reason for the $2 bills at Conventions – It lets business interests in town know
that the NSS is there. Particularly in smaller towns, the $2 bills get to nearly all of
the merchants and they really appreciate the extra business. It is occasionally
difficult to get small towns to support hosting a cave exploring Convention (maybe
they are like motorcycle gangs). Many years after Salem, IN hosted a Convention,
the town recalls us very favorably and speaks well of the NSS to other towns that
are thinking of hosting a Convention.)

After the opening ceremony at high school the sessions opened. Ted attended the
Board of Governors (BOG) meeting while Cheryl worked registration all day and
sold $2 bills. There were a few breaks to visit vendors as well as the art salon.
During its closed session in the afternoon the BOG dealt with personnel matters
and elected the Society’s Vice Presidents to one year terms. For the next year
Mark Skove of Clinton, TN will be the Operations VP, Scott Engel of Knoxville,
TN will be the Executive VP and Katherine (Kat) Crispin of State College, PA
will be the Administrative VP. (The Secretary-Treasurer, Gaylene Speaect, was
elected at the Fall BOG meeting and the President, Geary Schindel, was elected at
the Spring BOG meeting.)

The Howdy Party at the campground featured Montana themed foods as well as
whisky sours made with native Flathead cherries and was well done. (Flathead
cherries are named for a Montana lake, but curiously, they can be bought fresh
hundreds of miles away from the lake.

Tuesday was a very active day. The US Exploration was chock full of great
presentations ranging from Recent Exploration in the Fisher Ridge Cave System in
KY, to St Helens and Mt Rainier Fumeral Caves. The newly formed steam
caverns under the glacier in the crater of Mt St Helens have a toxic atmosphere and
cavers visiting the fumerole caves needed to use self-contained breathing
apparatus, which had previously not been tested at high altitude.

The Fisher Ridge system has been expanded to over 128 miles of passage. There
are continued growth efforts to connect the system with Vinegar Ridge. Cheryl
tried to slip out to hear about Robert Ripley's 1939 visit to Carlsbad Caverns in the
Spelean History Session but ended up chatting with friends instead.

The Luminary talk during the lunch break was given by Mike McEachern, one of
pioneers in 3D and stereo caving photography. Mike began his caving career after
reading Bill Halliday's book Adventures in Underground and caved with Ray
Beach and Dave McClurg while in college. That led to a change in majors from
electronics to anthropology.

He took up residence in Canada to search for evidence of early man in caves in the
Canadian Rockies. Among his caving adventures was the discovery of the Silvertip
system in the Bob Marshall wilderness.
The US Exploration Session continued presentations ranging from Windy Mouth
in West Virginia, new surveys of caves in the Grand Canyon, new developments at
Jewel cave and Lechuguilla among others. Bill Stone presented about autonomous
cave exploration. a new person-portable, Sunfish vehicle tested behavior based
algorithms at Peacock Spings FL. (research was funded in part by NASA).’

The New Members and Fellows Reception in the evening was held at a local Tex-
Mex restaurant. The proportion of new members was significantly higher than
other years and the format was conducive to greater mingling. A good thing.

The highlight of Wednesday was of course International Exploration. It's

fascinating learning some of what is happening all around the world. Speakers
presented info on caves in Mexico, the Bahamas, Peru, Guatemala, Canada and
Montenegro. The program on the exploration of Raspberry Rising cave in Glacier
National Park of Canada gave Cheryl a greater impression of the intrepitude of the
cavers. Raspberry Rising is a resurgence cave that can only be explored during the
winter. Access involves traversing avalanche territory, cave diving in glacial sump
waters and some truly hairy stuff. The cave is well decorated and has significant
biological promise with over 80 new actinomycetes.

Also on Wednesday the National Speleological Foundation held its (closed)

investment committee meeting, which Ted attended.

The Annual Auction was held at the campground that evening and did quite well,
raising several thousand dollars to benefit the NSS. Cheryl, Rick and Margot
volunteered at the auction.
Thursday began with The Congress of Grottos (COG). Each internal organization
is eligible to send representatives. Cheryl was the RASS representative. The COG
deliberates on current issuers and sends resolutions to the officers of the board of
governors. This is a forum were individual grottos can surface issues and present
concerns. Approximately 40 delegates met this year. The NSS president, Gary
Schindel, reported on last year’s resolutions. Progress on making publications and
reports more social media friendly met with some setbacks and new officers have
requested patience as they move forward.

There was no agenda published this year. The main point of discussion was a
motion by Dogwood Grotto to allow reduced membership rates for members of the
Cave Diving section. During the discussion it was pointed out that many of the
cave divers do not share the same interests as the terrestrial cavers. With the advent
of global position systems and other devices, more and more of the cave divers are
dropping out of the NSS. Dropping the membership rates or adding a new
membership class was proposed as a means of retaining their membership. The
motion failed but a discussion of the need to attract new members and to build the
membership was addressed.

We found time to take a cruise on the Missouri river with a good number of other
cavers. We saw one of the camp sites of the Lewis and Clark expedition on their
way to the Pacific Ocean.

The afternoon geology session focused on Alpine Karst. Canada was well
represented with two presentations. The first dealt with marble caves in the
Shuswap Metamorphic Conples in Alberta. The second was about the Sulfur
Mountain thermal springs (Banff Hot Spings). These are an important feature of
The Banff National Park (see the cave and basin report in the initial part of this trip
report) The maximum flow of these carbonate springs has been calculated to be 3.2
km with discharge temperatures of 67 degrees centigrade. The ground water is
thousands of years old rather than recent. Other alpine karst regions were those in
Utah and in the Bob Marshall wilderness. The results of dye tracing in a snow melt
spring in high elevation karst in the Grand Canyon show horizontal flow paths of
up to 23 miles.

The Annual Meeting of the National Speleological Foundation (NSF) was held in
the afternoon. All organizations for whom they manage money were welcome to
attend and since the NSS is their single largest client, anyone at the Convention
was welcome to attend. The NSF manages the RASS funds.
The Photo Salon that evening had two sessions at Helena Middle School. The first
was a shortened version with the full salon later in the evening. The quality of
slides presented in the Salon is amazing.

Friday the Board of Governors met again in the morning. They dealt with matters
not resolved from the Monday Agenda and other things that had come up during
the week. It was announced that the Fall meeting would be at the NSS office in
Huntsville, AL.

In the afternoon we struck our camp and moved into a motel for the night. The
Awards Ceremony and Banquet was held at the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds and
was notably well done.

Saturday morning it was a late breakfast and saying good bye to the few folks that
had not departed earlier.

Just when you think, gosh, Montana is a really beautiful state and would be a good
place to live, you realize winter likely starts in October.

It was a most excellent Convention. The Convention Staff should be very proud of
their work.

We hope to see you next year at the 2019 Cookville, Tennessee Convention.

Ted and Cheryl Kayes