Imagine a world of darkness surrounded by rock and mud where exotic formations, streams and waterfalls, tight crawl-ways, deep canyons and pits, and huge rooms with large blocks of breakdown, crickets, bats, and rats await you. That’s what I experienced while caving in New Brunswick, Canada. I was taken into a world much different form that above ground.
We entered the underdeveloped and “wild” gypsum cave system in Hillsborough, White Cave, by a large sinkhole downstream from the upper sinkhole. The stream that covered the entrance floor guaranteed that I was wet and cold immediately, but the coldness quickly fled because of the warm, cave air.
It was a 105 meter crawl through tight squeezes, wiggling down tunnels on my belly and my backside to reach the passage end in the South Cave, also known as the Bat Cave.
The pitch darkness was what made caving so different from my other adventure sport experiences. All of the challenges of movement in a confined space were increased because I had nothing more than a headlamp or flashlight for light.
Once we reached the Bat Cave, my friend and caving leader, Shawn, suggested we turn off our headlamps to truly experience the darkness that filled the air. Pitch black was a term with which I thought I was familiar, but I was mistaken. When our lamps went out, a fear of the unknown surrounded me. I placed my hand directly in front of my face until it touched my nose yet I still saw nothing. I wondered if blind people ever felt the same paralyzing fear of their surrounding or were the use to not knowing what was around them? Are their other senses heightened by the absence of sight? I took a deep breath and tried to focus on the noises and smells of the cave.
After a long hesitation, we decided to crawl out of the south cave without the use of our lamps. My fingers and hands slowly guided me along the floor of the cave as I listened to Shawn’s voice explain the curves and turns the lay ahead.
Although I wasn’t jumping out of a plane or rafting class V rapids, caving was an adventure worth experiencing. I was exposed to a world seldom seen and I witnessed the immense beauty and mystery of the underground.