Over 140 people crammed into The Fernie Arts Station on Friday to listen to local cavers describe the rich history of cave exploration in the south Rockies area. The photo focused presentation started with a discussion of historical and current exploration projects, with exploration having been ongoing in Crowsnest Pass, the Flathead and Lizard range for over 50 years.
Attendees also got to learn about the cave environment and what it takes to be a cave explorer. What’s it like to carry heavy bags into a Rockies cave for a week of exploration?
“There’s nothing really that pleasant about it,” said Kathleen Graham, president of the Alberta Speleological Society. But in response to a question on why she does it, she said that “the incremental nature of exploration really pulls me in…We come home from a trip with new problems to solve and we want to go back.”
The discussion covered the Bisaro Project in detail, which recently confirmed Bisaro Anima as Canada’s deepest cave. At 673 metres in depth, explorer and project coleader Jeremy Bruns enjoyed a moment of mirth with the audience as he described how Canadian Geographic magazine was quoted in describing the cave as “11 regulation hockey rinks” deep.
He described the project as “near and dear to our hearts as it calls the Fernie area home.” He described the irresistible nature of “setting your foot somewhere no one has ever been before.” The Bisaro Project has an eight year history and counting, and Bruns pointed out that progress on the project is somewhat limited every year due to logistics and the self funded, volunteering nature of cave exploration.
In response to a question on safety, planning and communication in the cave environment, Alberta Cave Rescue coordinator Christian Stenner pointed out that “plans are useless but planning is essential” in describing how large expeditions inevitably have unexpected twists and turns. He also described the difficulty in communicating with other teams underground on week long trips.
“Care must be taken to avoid injury. As a rule, for every hour we travel into a cave, it would take a large, well equipped and experienced team a day to extract an injured patient.”
Donations for the event went to the venue in support of their ongoing program of events this year. Unfortunately, dozens were turned away once the venue was at capacity. The cavers proposed a repeat event be held in the summer.
They also asked those in the Fernie area for their help in reporting caves that they find. Those interested in following the projects, making a report or getting involved with caving can find the Alberta Speleological Society online at Caving.ab.ca and the Bisaro Project on Facebook or at email@example.com.