Ask Cavers: What is your Most Successful Cave Dig?

August 15, 2012
Looking up the entrance shaft of Committee Pot entrance to Notts II Cave

Photo by Goatchurch/Wikimedia

Cave digging is an integral part of finding new cave to explore. We cavers often discover openings in the ground that are clogged with debris or breakdown. Other times there are blockages in known caves that keep us from continuing. The only way to continue (or begin) exploration is to start digging.

Unfortunately, most times when a dig is started nobody knows what they’re going to find, if anything.

For this week’s Ask Cavers question, we want to hear about some of your most successful cave digs. What did you find? How much passage did you open up?

Please share stories with us in the comments section below.

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Comments (12)

  1. Scott Davis
    August 15, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    The most successful cave dig I’ve been on is the new section of Grand Caverns. At least tripled the length of the cave that had been open for 200 years. Took 3 of us 3 days to dig the floor out to 7 5/8″ so we could get in and survey.

  2. August 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Any dig that “goes”!!

  3. Joel Buckner
    August 16, 2012 at 8:11 am

    Enlarged a small hole in a 500 foot long cave which led to 38 miles + of cave (survey still in progress).

  4. Dan Chase
    August 16, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    In 1964, I opened up the “Second Discovery” in Blue Spring Cave, in Indiana, by pushing a large rock out of the way in a small crawlway. It opened up over 6.5 miles of virgin passage. That was my biggest find. As published in the January, 1969 NSS News, subsequent mapping in there and other parts of the cave, made it the sixth longest mapped cave in the world at that time, with 18.9 miles mapped.

  5. August 18, 2012 at 2:51 am

    We dig a sinkhole last year and find a -200m cave with many skeleton.

    • Caving News
      August 18, 2012 at 10:22 am

      How far did you have to dig before it opened up?

  6. August 21, 2012 at 8:11 am

    A little, About 3 meters.

  7. Jonah Kidder
    August 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    I shouldn’t mention my modest discovery after reading of those nice finds, but mine is in Ohio, so that should count for something.
    We enlarged 40 feet of passage to reach 1700 feet (and counting) of virgin cave. The total length is currently 2293′. There are two near sumps that have really hurt our progress. We’ve passed the first one but not the second. 31 feet to go and it’s Ohio’s 2nd longest.

  8. Bill Nelson
    August 23, 2012 at 12:02 am

    I would say, by far, the dig most important to the gemeral recreational caver was the sucessful connrction of Sinnett and Thorne Mountain caves in Pendelton County, West Virginia.
    Literally hundreds, if not thousands of cavers have made the through trip, thanks to the persistance and efforts of the Richmond Grotto and the University of Virginia Grotto in the late 50’s. The only”New” cave was the area between the known parts of the two well-known caves. Aside from making the thru-trip possible, one other effect was a complete revision of the system ecology and bat hybernating areas, due to the chimney effect change in airflow. It now freezes in the Sinnett entrance passage, wnere it used to be quite warm.

  9. Caveair
    August 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm


    My most successful cave dig so far is Sand Cave(Sager’s Cave) in the Black Hills of South Dakota (about 1973).

    I was following a light breeze blowing into my face as Mark Stock and I were again exploring an known dead-end passage in the upper cave. Mark went ahead, up over the top of a small natural bridge at the end, to look the back wall over very close to again check it out for any possible continuation. Meanwhile, I asked him if he still felt wind – because where I was standing on the back side of the bridge 8′ from him, I could still feel the light breeze. He said, “No”!

    I started looking closer where I stood. Underneath the natural bridge I could see that the lower passage here was so low and small that it was still virgin ??? I checked. There was wind down her – but not on top of the bridge! Down underneath again, I started to crawl thru. I felt a stronger wind. Then – where there shouldn’t possibly be anything – I found a very, very low
    crack along the right-side wall that blew air.

    This turned out to be a sand dig. After only 2 feet I was sitting up in a sit-up room. There was a round, but tight hole up in the right side of the room. This passage dropped down into a sand-filled crawlway.

    It took about 3-4 trips to dig out this 20′ low crawl. A chest-tight, scraping point at the end nearly kept us out – but we made it. It went around the corner and into a good sized room.

    A short side passage then led to the largest room in the cave – one that is about the size of a 2,000-sq ft house.

    Did find one more blowing lead in the entranceway to that room that still needs digging.

    So Sand Cave increased by about 50% in length – from about 800′ long, now up near 1,200′.

  10. September 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Dug out a cave in the Southern Sierras after discovering a lightly blowing hole in a marble outcrop. Opened up to a tight 35 foot 45 degree down-trending passage that widened into a well decorated but small 14X8X6 foot tall room. The prettiness made up for the fact that it so small and it has definitively encouraged me to continue ridge walking. See

  11. The Rockeater
    December 30, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    From 1998 to 2007 our group followed a narrow slot where the water went to a depth of 130 feet in a passage length of 180 feet and broke into a dome complex that led to over two miles of big canyon with lots more potential


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