After the last trip to Wilson Way, on which the ISS had surveyed over 2200 feet and turned around in nice walking passage, the hardcore of the ISS was anxious to return to scoop some booty and see whether it would go under the big ridge or skirt the hillside through a saddle. Tim Pride was leading the trip and they finally settled on Saturday September 28th. The four-person team also included ISS project leader, Dave Everton, Shane Myles and slim Tim McClain.
Since the last trip, several passage improvement trips had been made in the Miller’s entrance section. Teams of cavers had dug out the floor in several low spots making it hands and knees crawl rather than flat out belly crawl. This work made the 1500–foot long entrance crawl easier and reduced travel time. After putting on their wetsuits in the Wetsuit Graveyard, they entered the 1600-foot long low, wet connection to the Wild Wild West. The guys made it to the frontier and were ready to start surveying in just over three hours – a record time. Dave stopped to inspect a good-looking lead overhead about 1000 feet into Wilson Way. It crosses at right angles and looks like it could go in both directions? This coming weekend’s trip is going back here to see what is up there.
They surveyed for a several hours across a rocky hall, where they had ended their survey on the last trip and on through nice steam passage. Dave eventually got brain-fried doing the sketch, which is the hardest of the surveying jobs. He turned the sketching over to Tim Pride and began checking ahead. The passage immediately got lower and for a minute he thought it might shut down. However the passage quickly changed character again and opened up to 12-15 feet in height. It now contained much larger and higher mudbanks that often choked down the usable space.
Dave eventually reached a fork in the main passage. The left hand fork seemed very inviting with a 15-foot high ceiling and a very small stream exiting from it. What was even more intriguing is that the water flowing out was heading into the right hand fork. This meant they had crossed a drainage divide and were now going downstream! Somewhere ahead they could possibly intersect another parallel river passage? The potential length of the cave seemed to be growing almost exponentially these past three months.
Dave eventually made his way back to the others, who were still surveying. They soon decided to call it a day and did their normal next trip investment (NTI).
Their NTI eventually took them to another junction where the downstream continuation of the passage got much smaller. They climbed up a mudbank and into a more inviting passage extending off around the corner. Dave though possibly that some of these junctions may just be meander loops? Only time and survey will tell.
They had scooped enough for the day. It was time to head out. They departed the frontier at 7:15pm. Everyone had exited the cave by around midnight making it a 12-13 hour trip. When the notes were plotted, they had surveyed 1753 more feet and the map showed their survey ended almost directly under the top of the big ridge south of the Vulcan Materials Quarry. They had explored probably around 1000 feet further, which, if the cave continues in the same direction, would put it on the downhill south slope heading towards the vast sinkhole plain stretching all the way to the Ohio River. It would make good sense that they did cross a drainage divide and are heading into a totally new area of the topo map. When we added the new survey to the total for the cave, Binkley Cave was now 38.452 miles in length and had passed Bluespring Cave in Tennessee and was tied with Organ Cave in West Virginia for 9th place on the US long cave list. Binkley has moved up from 22nd spot in early February of 2012 to 9th place in only about a year and a half. Obviously much more remains to be surveyed and these are exciting times for the ISS and the Binkley Cave system. Stay tuned for the results of the next survey trip.