cf. confer (compare) with the following term which is similar but not
Syn. synonym - a word having the same or almost the same meaning as
AA. n. A surface type of solidified lava, characterised by broken lumps
of material or very sharp prickly fragments. The rough texture is caused
by movement of a partly solidified surface layer, prior to complete
solidification, thus causing the surface to break into sharp fragments.
Surface texture grades from ‘pahoehoe’ to ‘aa’ lava. See lava cave.
ABSEIL. v. The act of lowering oneself down a cliff, pitch or steep
slope on a fixed rope. The controlled descent is obtained by friction
of rope on the body or passing the rope though a karabiner or other
descending device. Derived from the German word ‘abseilen’.
According to W. Hutton "History of Derby" (1801), Abseiling
was developed in the Middle Ages by jugglers in Germany who use to descend
from church steeples for money. One such demonstration by a man called
Chapman occurred in Oct. 1732. The rope was fixed at the top of All
Saints Steeple and the other end at the base of Saint Michaels. This
formed a very steep incline over a horizontal distance of 80 yards (73
metres). Chapman then slid down balanced over a wooden breast plate
with a groove to fit the rope. To execute this balancing feat, he lay
on his belly with arms and legs extended. During this 6 to 7 second
act he fired a pistol and blew a trumpet. Although successful on this
occasion he lost his life shortly after at Shewsbury.
ABSEIL CLEAR. n. A call for the person who has just abseiled, indicating
to others above, that the rope is clear for the next person to descend.
ABSEIL ROPE. n. A rope on which a person is abseiling or a rope set
up for abseilers to use. See static rope.
ABSEILER. n. The person undertaking an abseil.
ABSEILING. n. A call from an abseiler to a belayer. Indicating that
the abseiler is beginning to descend.
ACTIVE CAVE. n. A cave with a streams flowing in it. cf. live cave.
Antonym. of dormant cave or dead cave.
ACETYLENE LAMP. n. See carbide lamp.
ACETYLENE. n. Is a colourless flammable hydrocarbon gas C2H2. It is
produced when water reacts with calcium carbide. Acetylene burnt in
an oxygen deficient atmosphere has a smoky, but bright yellow flame.
When burnt in a good air supply the flame is white. The by-products
of combustion are carbon dioxide and water. See carbide Lamp.
AEOLIAN. (1) adj. Pertaining to or caused by the wind; wind-borne. (1)
n. Landforms generated by the wind, or sediments transported by the
wind. Derived from Æolus, the Latin God of the wind.
AEOLIANITE. n. A rock formed from calcareous dune sand, a dune calcarenite.
AEOLIAN CALCARENITE. n. Calcareous fine sand size particles which have
become air-borne due to wind and are deposited as dunes, later to undergo
consolidation and diagenesis to form dune limestone. Also see calcarenite
and Syngenetic Karst.
ANCHOR. n. A secure object used to attach a person while operating a
safety line or for attaching equipment such as ropes or ladders. Syn.
ANCHOR BOLT. n. A bolt used as an anchor point. See bolt.
ANCHOR POINT. n. Same as anchor.
ANGLES WING. n. Colloquial term for curtain or shawl.
ANTHODITE. n. A speleothem composed of gypsum or aragonite and forming
needle-like crystal clusters eg. gypsum flower.
ARAGONITE. n. The second most common polymorph of calcium carbonate
CaCO3. Usually recrystallised to a needle-like shape.
ARCH. n. A carved structure supported on both sides. In speleological
terms, a rock structure over a large passage or cavity with two or more
entrances in which a person is always within sight of daylight. (during
daylight hours) Syn. natural arch.
ARCHAEOLOGY. n. Scientific study of history from the remains of early
human cultures. Especially prehistoric man, mostly by systematic excavation
and description of remains and artefacts.
ARMCHAIR CAVER. n. Colloquial term for an experienced caver who is now
incapable of caving or a person still able to, but has lost the urge
to actually go caving. On the other hand they may spend much of their
time writing or reading caving books and hours may be spent reminiscing
over photographs from past trips.
ASCENDER. n. A mechanical device which grips the rope (usually with
a cam operation) and allows a person to ascend a rope. cf. prusik.
ASF. Acronym for the Australian Speleological Federation’s.
AVEN. n. A shaft which rises from a passage, sometimes leading to a
passage above, but not open to the surface.
BAT. n. A mammal able to fly. Classified as Chiroptera, meaning `hand
winged'. This order is further divided into two Suborders of Microchiroptera
(meaning ‘small hand wings’) and Megachiroptera. (meaning ‘large hand
wings’). Many Microchiropteras are cave dwelling bats and have good
eye sight which allows them to see in low light conditions, as well
as sonar which allows them to navigate in total darkness. They can fly
at great speed through tight twisted cave passages with astonishing
accuracy. Most species roost in large colonies deep in caves during
the day. At dusk a mass exodus occurs as they leave the safety of the
cave to feed on airborne insects during the night. The small cave dwelling
bats should not be confused with their larger cousins, Megachiroptera,
the fruit eating bats, otherwise known as flying foxes.
BED. n. A layer in a belt of sedimentary rock or unconsolidated sediment.
BEDDING-PLANE. n. The surface separating two beds of rock, often contains
a layer of clay or shale between.
BEDDING-PLANE CAVE n. A cave developed along a bedding-plane, usually
elongated in cross section.
BEDROCK. n. The solid mass of parent rock originally laid down - from
which a cave or feature has been eroded by mechanical or chemical action.
This term includes bedrock which has been transformed in crystalline
structure due to heat (eg. marble) but does not include redeposited
minerals (eg. speleothems).
BELAY. (1) v. To operate a safety line. (2) v. To secure (a person)
at the end of a rope. (3) v. To secure (a rope) to a person or object.
(4) v. To be made fast. (5) n. The set-up of a safety line through a
belay device, secured to an anchor point. (6) n. The securing of a person
or a safety rope to an anchor point.
BELAY BOLT. n. A bolt from which a belay is operated. cf. bolt and belay.
BELAYED. (1) n. The person being belayed. (2) v. Past tense of belay.
BELAYER. n. A person who is belaying.
BELAY-ROPE. n. The rope or safety line used to belay.
BELAYING. v. The act of one who or that which belays.
BELOW. n. A emergency call, warning of danger from falling object/s.
Usually yelled by a person at top of the pitch to warn people below
that an object has been dislodged and is falling toward them.
BLIND VALLEY. n. A valley which is closed abruptly at its lower end
by a cliff or slope facing up the valley. There is usually a perennial
or intermittent stream sink at its lower end, however it may be dry.
cf. half blind valley.
BLOCK. n. A solid piece of stone larger than 3 metres across. cf. boulder.
BOOB TUBE. n. Colloquial term for a clear flexible tube about one metre
long. Used like a straw to drink water from small crevices or inaccessible
The original name was the Super Syphon Sucker, believed to be first
utilised around 1973-74 by Jeffory Smith a Venturer Scout in the Kotara
Unit (N.S.W). Jeffory used it extensively on bushwalking, caving and
cross-country skiing trips and the use of such a tube spread widely
among outdoor enthusiasts from there. Several name changes occurred
over the next few years, however during the last 10 to 15 years the
name Boob Tube has been most widely used. Some sources suggest that
long drinking tubes were in use by some bushwalkers prior to 1973, however
these reports are still to be confirmed.
BOLT. n. A high tensile steel bolt used as an anchor point to attach
rigging for descending or ascending or safety line. The bolt locks into
a drilled hole by one of the following methods; expansion of a threaded
holder, chemical bonding, or by hammering into a slightly smaller hole.
The latter being the least reliable anchor method.
BOLTING. v. The act of placing anchor bolts to assist in a climb.
BOULDER. n. - A piece of rock larger than a cobble. cf. block.
BOULDER CHOKE. n. A collapse of rock from floor to roof which makes
further progress difficult or dangerous.
BREAK BAR. n. A piton hinged on a karabiner or a round bar on a rappel
rack used to apply friction to a rope for abseiling.
BREAKDOWN. (1) v. A fall of bedrock from cave roof or wall under its
own weight. (2) n. A pile of broken bedrock.
BREATHING, (relating to cave) v. Movement of air in and out of a cave
due to changes in atmospheric pressure and/or temperature changes on
BRECCIA. n. Angular fragments of rock and/or fossils, often, but not
necessarily cemented together or with a matrix of finer sediment.
BRECCIA - BONE. n. Breccia containing many bone fragments.
CALCARENITE. n. Soils and sedimentary rock with a sandy texture, which
has become hardened or cemented together and is composed largely of
calcium carbonate fragments which have formed by the mechanical breakage
or abrasion of the parent rock. ie dune limestone. See aeolian calcarenite.
CALCAREOUS. adj. Containing calcium carbonate. From the latin word ‘calcarius’
meaning ‘of lime’.
CALCAREOUS SEDIMENTS. n. Fragmented material, mainly composed of calcium
carbonate, which has been deposited by water or air.
CALCIFY. v. To harden by the deposit of calcium salt. eg calcified animal
remains or tree roots. cf. calcification.
CALCIFICATION. n. Process of becoming hard or calcified by being impregnated
with calcium salts.
CALCITE. n. The most common polymorph of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).
The most common constituent of stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone etc.
Limestone, marble and chalk consist largely of calcite.
CALCITE RAFT. n. A thin layer speleothem of calcite crystalline material
which forms and floats on the surface of still cave-pools. Disturbance
of the pool surface often sinks the rafts. This speleothem forms on
the pool surface due to degassing of CO2 from solution which causes
saturation of solution and deposition of calcite at the surface. cf.
CALCIUM CARBONATE. n. The scientific name for a crystalline compound
containing, calcium, carbon and oxygen in the proportions of CaCO3.
A primary mineral. Also see limestone, marble, chalk, calcite, aragonite,
vaterite. cf. dolomite.
CALL. n. A specific verbal signal (usually yelled) by a caver to another,
to indicate an action, intended action or possible danger. eg. below,
abseiling, falling, on-belay, climbing, that’s me, up-rope, slack, safe,
off-rope, abseil clear.
CANYON. (1) n. A deep valley with steep to vertical sides. Frequently
formed in karst by a river rising on impervious rocks outside the karst
(2) n. In caves - a deep, elongated cavity in the floor or roof of a
cave formed by running water.
CARABINER. n. American spelling for karabiner.
CARBIDE. n. Calcium carbide, (CaC2) is a grey substance prepared by
heating lime. It was used extensively in early caving lamps. Water dripped
onto the carbide pellets, reacts to produce acetylene gas which is burnt.
The resulting naked flame emits a bright light.
CARBIDE LAMP. n. A type of cavers lamp, with a bright naked flame produced
by burning acetylene gas. Also called acetylene lamp. See acetylene
CARBONATE. (1) n. A salt of carbonic acid eg. calcium carbonate (CaCO3).
(2). v. To charge or impregnate with carbon dioxide.
CARBON DIOXIDE. n. (CO2) A colourless, odourless and non-combustible
gas which is 1.57 times denser (heavier) than air. A by-product of respiration
and metabolism of living organisms. Normal air (above ground) contains
approximately 0.03% CO2, however ‘foul air’ in caves has occasionally
been known to contain lethal concentrations of up to 13.5% by volume.
CARBONIC ACID. n. (H2CO3) A weak acid produced when carbon dioxide,
(CO2) is dissolved in water. Usually present in ground water and is
responsible for forming caves by dissolution of calcium carbonate rocks.
CAVE. n. A natural cavity in rock, large enough for a human to enter.
The extent of a cave system which may have more than one entrance and
consist of many chambers and passages. The term still applies if the
cavity is totally filled with water.
If the cavity is filled with sediment or ice, (making it impenetrable),
then qualification of the term is required.
cf. active cave, dead cave, dormant cave, fault cave, fissure cave,
glacial cave, grot-hole, ice cave, lava cave, limestone cave and live
CAVE CORAL n. Also called "coralloids". This type of speleothem
has branching stems and nodular tips; often resembling marine coral.
When cut in section, concentric growth rings can be seen. Location of
the developing coralloids can considerably vary shape and size. They
can form submersed in a pool (subaqueous) or high up on the cave wall
or ceiling (subaerial).
CAVE ENTRANCE. n. The start of a cave, defined by the dripline or at
a horizontal line across an entrance at the base of a doline. The starting
point of a cave survey.
CAVE PEARL. n. A concentrically-banded concretion that usually form
in shallow cave-pools. Cave pearls can be spherical, cylindrical, irregular,
or even cubical. They can range in size from as small as a sand grain
up to 15 cm in diameter or as big as a basket ball. A single pearl may
sit in it's own "cup" or a group of pearls may congregate
in a "nest". The nuclei around which the concentric rings
of calcite crystals grow is generally foreign material such as a grain
of sand. A cave pearl is sometimes incorrectly called an oolite or oolith
(British). Refer to splash cup.
CAVE-PISOLITE. n. See pisolite. cf. cave pearl.
CAVE-POOL. n. (1) Any isolated body of water in a cave, although generally
accepted as having a small surface area. (2) A deep place in an underground
stream, often formed by a rimstone dam. cf. rimstone pool, sump and
CAVE SYSTEM. n. The whole known extent of interconnected caves and cavities
underground, including those too small to enter, which have been proven
to be atmospherically or hydrologically connected.
CAVER. n. A person who goes caving. (American, `spelunker').(British,
‘Potholer’) Syn. speleologist.
CAVERN. n. A very large chamber in a cave.
CAVERNS. n. A series of large
connecting cave passages.
CAVERNOUS adj. (1) Full of caverns. (2) characteristic of a cavern.
CAVERNICOLE. n. An animal which normally lives in a cave for the whole
or part of it's life cycle.
CAVERNICOLOUS. v. See cavernicole.
CAVES. n. Plural of cave. Usually implies two or more cave systems which
don’t have any known physical underground connection large enough for
CAVING. (1) v. The physical act of entering and exploring a cave or
caves. (2) n. The sport of exploring caves and other aspects included
in the term speleology. Syn. spelunking.
CHALK. n. A soft white limestone consisting of fossilised remains of
very small water organisms.
CHAMBER. n. Any large cavity inside a cave system.
CHIMNEY. (1) n. The cavity between two relatively vertical and parallel
faces of rock which can be climbed by a person applying pressure to
the opposing rock surfaces. (2) v. To chimney - the act of climbing
a chimney. - Syn. chimneying.
CHIMNEYING. v. The act of climbing two relatively vertical and parallel
rock faces, by a person applying pressure with parts of their body to
the opposing rock surfaces.
CHOCK-STONE. n. A stone which has become firmly wedged between two solid
CHOKE. n. A blockage or constriction in a passage, usually of fallen
boulders, clay, sand or surface vegetation washed into the cave.
CLAUSTROPHOBIA. n. A fear of being in enclosed or confined spaces.
CLEFT. n. A space, opening or passage made by the cracking or splitting
of rock. Syn. fissure.
CLAY. n. See sediments.
CLIMB. (1) v. the act of climbing, to raise oneself - ascend. eg. ladder
climb. (2) v. physically climbing on rock to ascend or descend. (3)
n. a place where climbing is necessary to progress.
CLIMBER. n A person who is descending or ascending a pitch either on
a ladder or climbing a very steep incline or near vertical face. For
safety reasons a safety line is generally used. Sometimes the term climber
is used to describe a person prusiking up a rope.
CLIMBING. (1) n. A call yelled by a climber to a belayer that they are
starting to ascend. (2) v. the act of climbing, to raise oneself - ascend.
Can also include descending a steep rock face by means of physical contact
of a persons limbs.
CLINOMETER n. A surveying instrument used in caves to measure inclination
angle of a leg in relation to the horizontal. Also used to measure the
dip of a bedding-plain.
CLINT. n. Surface erosion forms of limestone with irregularly fretted
shape. Characterised by cris-cross grooves. The French word lapiez is
sometimes used for clints
CLOSED TRAVERSE. n. A traverse in which a series of survey legs are
joined to form a loop traverse, thus reducing cumulative error in a
COATING. n. A thin finely crystalline speleothem which covers another
solid body or object.
COBBLE n. - A piece of rock ranging in size from tennis ball to football.
cf. pebble, boulder
COLLAPSE DOLINE n. See doline - collapse.
COLUMN. n. A speleothem which joins from floor to ceiling, formed by
the junction of a stalactite with it's counterpart stalagmite. cf. travertine.
CONULITE. n. A speleothem resembling a hollow tube or cone formed in
mud, sand or other soft material as the result of water dripping in
the one spot. The drill-hole is gradually lined by the deposition of
calcite from solution. Erosion of the surrounding soft material may
leave the crystalline cone free standing.
CORAL. n. See cave coral.
CORALLOIDS. n. See cave coral.
COW’S TAIL. n. A short but strong length of rope used as a safety line
when crossing a rebelay.
CRAWL. n. A low passage negotiated by stooping or crawling on hands
CRUST. n. A thin layer/s of crystalline speleothem covering a bedrock
or soft material (eg. clay or sand) which can be easily removed from
its underlying material with little mechanical effort. Similar to a
coating but more granular and porous.
CRYSTAL POOL. n. A pool, usually with little or no overflow and containing
calcium deposits of well formed crystals.
CURRENT MARKING. n. Shallow hollows formed by solution involving turbulent
flowing water and typically covering walls of stream passages in karst
CURTAIN. n. A speleothem in the form of a wavy or folded sheet hanging
from the wall or roof of a cave, often translucent with various shades
and colours of growth bands. See shawl and travertine.
DARK ZONE. n. The part of the cave system which daylight does not reach,
no matter how faint. cf. twilight zone.
DAYLIGHT HOLE. n. An opening in the roof of a cave which allows light
to enter from the surface.
DEAD CAVE. n. A cave without streams, pools or drips of water. A more
correct term to use would be dormant cave.
DECORATION. n. A general term encompassing all types of Speleothem.
DESCENDER. n. A mechanical device used for controlled descent of a pitch
or steep slope. It works on the principle of applying friction on a
fixed rope to obtaine controlled descent for the abseiler.
DIG. n. The site of past, present or future excavation, where cavers
are hopeful of significantly increasing the known extent of a cave.
Also a site of excavation to uncover archaeological artefacts or animal
bones. See archaeology.
DIAGENESIS. n. Changes in the mineralogy, geochemistry, texture and
fabric of a sediment after deposition.
DIKE. n. A mass of igneous rock intruded into a fissure in another rock.
In some instances, igneous rock has entered pre-existing cave passages.
DIP. n. The angle of inclination of a bed of rock from the horizontal,
measured in degrees. The true dip is the maximum angle of the bedding-plane
at right angles to the strike. Lesser angles in other directions are
DIP, APPARENT. n. See dip.
DOG-TOOTH CRYSTAL or DOG-TOOTH SPAR.. n. A variety of calcite crystals
with acute shaped points.
DOLINE. n. A closed depression on the surface of a karst area, which
drains run-off rain water to a single low point. A doline may or may
not contain the entrance to a cave or pothole. The shape of the depression
may vary considerably from one to another, however they often resemble
the shape of a bowl, cone, cylinder or elongated shape, ranging in size
from a few to many hundreds of metres.
DOLINE - COLLAPSE. n. A natural surface depression formed by the collapse
of a cavity below.
DOLINE - SOLUTION. n. A natural surface depression formed by solution.
DOLOMITE. (1) n. A double carbonate mineral consisting of calcium and
(2) n. A rock consisting largely of dolomite. cf. magnesite.
DOME. n. A large hemispherical hollow in the roof of a cave formed by
breakdown, often in mechanically weak rocks where bedding and/or joints
play little, or no part in dominating the form.
DORMANT CAVE. n. A cave without streams, pools or drips of water. Antonym
of active cave or live cave.
DRAPERY. n. A wavy or folded speleothem which hangs down from an inclined
wall or ceiling and resembles a curtain.
DRIPHOLE. n. A hole in the cave floor, formed by dripping water.
DRIPLINE. n. A line on the ground at the cave entrance formed by water
dripping from the rock above. A dripline defines the beginning of a
cave survey. ie. start of cave.
DRIPSTONE. n. A general term for speleothems formed by falling drops.
DUCK-UNDER. (1) n. A constriction in a passage where water is at or
close to the cave roof for a short distance, which requires a caver
to become (more or less) fully submersed for a brief period before continuing.
(2) v. The act of going through a duck-under. Also see trap.
DUNE LIMESTONE. n. A limestone made from aeolianite.
DYNAMIC ROPE. n. A kernmantle rope manufactured with twisted core strands
and has the ability to stretch sufficiently to break the fall of a rockclimber.
Rarely used in caving.
EFFLUX. n. Point of outward drainage of water from a cave system or
karst area. May or may not be large enough to allow passage of a caver.
cf. outflow cave and resurgence.
ENTRANCE n. See cave entrance.
ENTRANCE ZONE. n. The interface between the surface and subterranean
(underground) environments leading into the twilight zone. Occurring
in an entrance chamber.
ENTRANCE CHAMBER. n. A chamber which begins at the cave entrance or
a chamber connected to the entrance by a short passage, but still within
the twilight zone.
EOLIAN. n. Same as aeolian..
EPIPHREATIC. n. Referring to fast moving water in the top of the phreatic
zone or in the zone liable to be subject to flood part of the time.
EROSION. n. The wearing away of bedrock or sediments, by mechanical
and/or chemical action, usually facilitated by wind, running water or
other moving agent.
ESCARPMENT. n. A long, cliff-like ridge of rock, commonly formed by
faulting or fracturing of the earth’s crust or down-cutting of streams.
A steep slope or drop of a precipitous line of cliff, thus terminating
high land abruptly.
FALLING. n. An emergency call yelled by a climber who has fallen, thus
warning belayer to expect the safety rope to become taught with full
weight of climber.
FALSE FLOOR. n. Sometimes called a "flowstone benche". Flowstone
once deposited on sediments, but now eroded away, leaving a false floor
which may span between passage walls or project to form ledges along
a wall. Thickness may range from a centimetre or two, up to several
FAULT. n. A fracture in a continuous body of rock where one side has
displaced relative to the other. Movement has occurred along the fault
FAULT CAVE. n. A cave developed along a fault, by preferential dissolution
and may include abrasion by solid particles carried by water.
FAULT PLANE. n. A plane along which movement of a fault has occurred.
FISSURE. n. An open crack in rock or occasionally soil. Not formed by
solution weathering. cf. grike. Syn. cleft.
FISSURE CAVE. n. A narrow vertical squeeze, formed by the splitting
of rock often developed along a joint but not always so. Mostly formed
by solution however sometimes due to tension. Also see cleft.
FIXED LIGHTING. n. Electric lighting with permanent wiring, usually
installed in show caves.
FLATTENER. n. A passage which is wide but very low, requiring a person
to lay on their stomach to facilitate movement.
FLOE CALCITE. n. Thin flakes of calcite having originally formed on
the surface of a pool. May either be floating as a calcite raft or have
sunk to the bottom of pool, or laying across the base of a dry pool.
cf. pool deposit
FLOWSTONE. n. A deposit of calcite formed by a thin film or trickle
of calcium bearing water, flowing over walls or floors. cf. travertine
FLOWSTONE BENCH. n. See false floor.
FLUORESCEIN. n. A powerful but harmless organic dye used for water tracing.
A reddish-yellow in colour which turns to a green fluorescence when
added to water. It is detectable in very dilute solutions.
FLUOROMETER. n. The instrument used to measure the fluorescence in water
when water tracing. cf. fluorescein.
FLUORESCENCE. n. The emission of visible light when exposed to radiation
of different wave length. Often a fluorescent substance converts invisible,
ultraviolet (UV) light into light of a visible colour. Fluorescence
stops as soon as the incoming radiation causing it, is removed. In simplified
terms the ultraviolet light is absorbed by the atoms of the fluorescent
material and the electrons take on a higher energy level. The electrons
then begin a spontaneous release of portion of this energy in the form
of heat as the atoms collide with neighbouring atoms. The heat generated
is not perceptible, however sufficient to reduce the level of energy
which can be re-emitted as light. Since the emitted light has less energy
it is transmitted at a longer wavelength than the original incoming
ultraviolet. Consequently the light produced may well be in the visible
portion of the light spectrum. cf. luminescence.
FLUTE or FLUTING. n. See solution flute.
FORMATIONS. n. A colloquial term, incorrectly used to encompass all
types of speleothem.
FOSSIL. n. The remains or traces of animals or plants preserved in rocks
FOUL AIR. n. ‘Foul Air’, sometimes called ‘Bad Air’, is any atmosphere
which has a noticeable abnormal physiological effect on humans. In limestone
caves, ‘foul air’ can generally be described as containing greater than
0.5% carbon dioxide (CO2) and/or lower than 18% oxygen (O2) by volume.
As a comparison, normal air (above ground) contains approximately 0.03%
CO2 and 21% O2 by volume. However there are some isolated caves which
contain atmospheres influenced by other gases such as:- methane, ammonia,
hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide, but these gases are not common
in limestone caves.
An elevated CO2 concentration is usually the most life threatening foul
air scenario found within limestone caves. This colourless, odourless
and non-combustible gas is the body's regulator of the breathing function.
Physiological signs of foul air include:- increased heart and breathing
rate, headaches, clumsiness, dizziness, loss of energy, feeling hot
and sweaty. (Note, that at high altitudes there is an increased physiological
Elevated concentration of CO2 in limestone caves can be due to the mechanism
by which carbonate deposition occurs and/or a by-product of micro-organism
metabolism and/or respiration by fauna such as bats or humans.
FREE-CLIMB. n. (1) A very steep incline or near vertical rockface which
a person is able to climb with relative ease without the need for climbing
aids. (2) v. The act of climbing a near vertical face without the use
of a safety line. This is a dangerous activity if the climber is high
above the ground.
FREE-CLIMBING. adj. see free-climb.
FREE PITCH. n. A vertical pitch where the rope or ladder hangs away
(free) from the wall for almost all of the pitch length. cf. Overhang.
FRIEND. n. A specific type of mechanical climbing device, used as an
anchor point by wedging it into a crack or hole.
FROSTWORK. n. A speleothem consisting of fine needle like crystals in
radiating clusters similar to a thistle plant or in its composite stalagmite
form possessing spiny limbs like a fir tree. The term was first used
by cave guides in Wind Cave, South Dakota USA, during the 1890’s to
describe speleothems which looked like ice (H2O) frostwork.
GARDENING. Colloquial term. (1) v. The act of clearing loose rock or
debris away from an abseil face or ladder climb for safety and in doing
so reduce the risk of objects falling on other people. (2) v. Moving
of loose material from a tight or awkward passage to increase accessibility.
GASTEROPOD. n. Same as gastropod.
GASTROPOD. n. One of a large class of aquatic and terrestrial molluscs
including the snails, slugs, limpets and whelks etc., usually having
a single piece spirally coiled shell (univalve) and a flattened muscular
creeping organ which acts as a foot on which they move about. Sometimes
GEOCHEMISTRY. n. The science dealing with the chemical composition and
changes in composition of the earth, particularly the crust.
GEOLOGICAL TIME SCALE. n. An arbitrary chronological arrangement or
sequence of geologic events. It is usually presented in the form of
a chart showing the names of various time-stratigraphic, rock-stratigraphic
or geological-time units, as currently understood. eg. The geologic
time scales published by Holmes (1959), Kulp (1961) and Harland (1964).
GEOMORPHOLOGY. n. The scientific study of landforms and landscapes.
The term usually applies to the origins and dynamic morphology (changing
structure and form) of the earth's land surfaces, but it can also include
the morphology of the seafloor The science has developed in two distinctive
ways that must be integrated in order for the whole picture of landscapes
‘Historical geomorphology’ relies on various chronological analyses,
notably those provided by stratigraphic studies of the last 2 million
‘Process geomorphology’ analyses contemporary dynamic processes at work
in landscapes. The mechanisms involved weathering and erosion
GIBBS. n. A type of ascender which grips the rope with a cam operated
by the weight of the caver.
GLACIAL CAVE. n. A cave formed within or beneath a glacier. cf. ice
GOUR. n. Synonymous with rimstone dam. Derived from the French, the
term ‘gour’ is now widely used in Europe. It should not be confused
with the same word used for surface erosion features in deserts. cf.
GRADE. n. The level of accuracy of a cave survey and resulting map,
based on the precision of instruments used in the survey. Survey standards
range from Grade 1 (a sketch from memory) to the most accurate Grade
9 (precision theodolite survey).
GRAVEL. n. See sediments.
GRID NORTH. n. The direction in which each grid line points toward the
top of a grided map. In a sense it is an artificial north adopted by
map makers, but for practical purposes may be regarded as true north.
Each grid line, in effect points to a north of its own, whereas all
true north lines (meridians) if produced would meet at the north pole.
GRIKE. n. A deep, narrow, near vertical slot with almost parallel sides,
in a rock outcrop caused by solution along a joint. cf. solution tube
GROT-HOLE. n. Colloquial term for a small insignificant cave with no
possible leads, often tight and difficult to manoeuvre oneself in.
GROTTO. (1) n. A small to moderate size cave chamber which is richly
decorated with speleothems. (2) n. A term used by U.S. cavers to describe
a local caving club.
GROUND-TROG. v. The systematic searching of surface ground for cave
entrances. Also ground-trogging. cf. trog.
GROUND-WATER. n. Water below a watertable such as a waterlogged zone
in permeable rocks or soil.
GUANO. n. A large accumulation of bat excrement which may also consist
partly of decomposing animal skeletal material and small fragments of
rock particles. To a lesser extent in caves it may consist of bird droppings.
GYPSUM. n. CaSO4.2H2O; Hydrated calcium sulphate, the third most common
cave mineral and the most common sulphate mineral in caves. Gypsum is
a primary mineral.
GYPSUM FLOWER. n. A radiating cluster of gypsum crystals, simulating
outward-curving flower petals. cf. anthodite.
HALF BLIND VALLEY. n. A blind valley which overflows to a surface stream
when the flow of water entering the blind valley, exceeds the maximum
capacity which the stream sink can accept. cf. blind valley.
HALL. n. A large chamber which is considerably longer than it is wider.
HANDLINE. n. A short strong rope used to assist cavers on an awkward
or exposed climb or traverse (2).
HARNESS. n. An arrangement of webbing tape used to attach the lower
body (seat harness) or upper body (chest harness) to ascender or descender.
HEAD LAMP. n. The main lighting source, mounted on a cavers helmet.
In Australia this usually refers to an electric light source, with the
location of the battery/s being irrelevant. In many other countries
this term refers to a carbide lamp. cf. Head lamp - auxiliary.
HEAD LAMP - AUXILIARY. n. A secondary light source (usually a small
torch) attached to a cavers helmet and used as a backup in the event
of an emergency.
HELICTITE. n. A speleothem which often resembles the form of a twisted
or worm-like shape and having appeared to defy gravity during its growth
HELIGMITE. n. A helictite that grows upward from the cave floor is sometimes
called a "heligmite".
HELMET. n. A non metallic hat designed to protect the wearers head from
bumps or impact from small objects dislodged from above. Miners helmets
with chin strap and head lamp clip are often used, however other varieties
with four point attachment are preferable.
HISTO. n. Abbreviation for Histoplasmosis.
HISTOPLASMOSIS. n. A fungal disease which initially affects human lungs
and may spread to other organs if untreated. The fungus - Histoplasma
capulatum, is an organism which grows in soil having a high nitrogen
content, generally associated with guano of birds and bats. Spore is
breathed in with airborne dust stirred up by the movement of cavers.
The disease usually appears as a mild cold before complete recovery.
Occasionally severe infections occur and if left untreated can lead
Other names for this disease include:- "Histo", "cave
disease", "cave fever", "Darling's disease",
"Ohio Valley disease, "Tingo Maria fever", "reticuloendotheliosis"
and "reticuloendothelial cytomycosis".
HORIZONTAL ANGLE. n. The difference in direction between two survey
lines measured clockwise in a horizontal plane.
HUMIDITY. See relative humidity.
HYDROLOGY. n. The study of water and stream movements above and below
HYDROSTATIC PRESSURE. n. Pressure due to a column (or head) of water.
HYPERTHERMIA. n. An extremely high body core temperature of 41ºC (106ºF)
or above. Can result from a caver exposed to prolonged periods of over-exertion,
combined with insufficient loss of generated body heat. In extreme cases
may result in death.
HYPOTHERMIA. n. A dangerously low body core temperature - below 37ºC.
Commonly caused by prolonged immersion in cold water. May also be caused
by cold air circulation past a caver wearing insufficient or damp clothing
from perspiration or in contact with wet or cold surfaces over a period
of time. Death will occur at or around 30ºC core temperature.
ICE CAVE. n. A cave containing permanent ice and/or seasonal ice. cf.
IGNEOUS ROCK. n. Aggregate of interlocking silicate minerals formed
by cooling and solidification of magma.
INFLOW CAVE. n. A cave into which a stream enters or has been known
to enter, but can't be followed downstream to the surface.
INORGANIC. n.(1) Not having the organised structure of animal or vegetable
life; not living. (2) The chemistry of compounds lacking carbon or containing
it only in the form of carbonates, carbides, and most cyanides.
INVERTEBRATE. n. An animal without a backbone or spinal column.
JOINT. n. A natural division or gently curving crack, which bisects
a bedding-plane. Separating two parts of a once continuous rock without
relative movement along the bedding-plane.
JOINT PLAIN CAVE. n. A cave developed along a joint. Typically high
in relation to width.
JUG-HANDLE. n. A small loop of rock shaped like a handle, used as an
anchor point or hand hold to aid climbing.
JUMAR. n. A single rope ascending device with a simple finger - operated
safety catch. cf. ascender.
KARABINER. n. A metallic link which incorporates a spring loaded gate
allowing a quick and secure coupling. Often used in conjunction with
other equipment when rock-climbing and abseiling. Also see krab and
carabiner. Origin:- Shortened from the German word ‘Karabinerhaken’
which means carbine hook, that is, one used to attach a carbine rifle
to a belt.
KARREN. n. The minor forms of karst due to solution of rock on the surface
or underground. eg. rillenkarren, rundkarren and spitzkarren.
KARST. n. An area of terrain containing features which are formed by
natural waters dissolving rock. In most cases these areas contain caves.
Derived from the geographical name of a part of Slovenia. See solution.
KARST FEATURE. n. Any feature formed by natural waters dissolving rock
above or below ground. eg cave and karren.
KARST HYDROLOGY. n. All scientific study of water chemistry and distribution,
whether stationary or moving in a karst system, as well as the effects
in relation to human activity.
KERNMANTLE ROPE. n. A generic term describing a type of synthetic rope
with a plaited sheath surrounding a core. Approx. 70% of the ropes strength
comes from the inner core, 30% comes from the outer protective sheath.
Ropes have two classifications:- ‘static’ which have parallel strands
in the core and ‘dynamic’ with twisted core strands. The word ‘Kernmantle’
is derived from the German word ‘Kern’ for a core and Old English word
‘Mantle’ for a sheath. The word ‘Kernmantle’ should not be confused
with any particular brand of rope. Sometimes spelt ‘Kernmantel’ which
may be linked to the Latin word ‘mantellum’ or Old French word ‘mantel’
meaning - loose sleeveless garment or cloak.
KEYHOLE. n.(1) A small passage or opening in a cave having a keyhole
shaped cross section, round above and narrow below. (2) A short squeeze
of generally oval shape, which is the only access to a large cave extension.
Key-hole, implying unlocking of access to the rest of the cave.
KRAB. n. Colloquial term for karabiner. A steel or aluminium alloy snap-link
used in rope work.
LABYRINTH. n. Syn. maze cave.
LADDER. n. The type used for caving is portable and flexible. They are
usually consist of aluminium alloy rungs attached to galvanised steel
or stainless steel wires.
LAKE. n. (1) A sizeable body of water above ground. (2) In caving terms,
a deep body of relatively still water with a surface area upwards of
several square metres. There may or may-not be underwater passages leading
from the lake. cf. cave-pool and sump.
LAVA. (1) n. Molten rock that issues from an active volcano or through
a fissure in the earth’s crust. (2) n. Rock formed by the solidification
of this substance. Lava surface types include ‘pahoehoe’ and ‘aa’.
LAVA CAVE. n. A cave formed in lava, usually as a result of a flow of
liquid lava through a solidification mass, or by roofing over of an
open channel. Small lava caves may form as gas blisters.
LAY. n. The way in which strands of rope or cable are twisted. eg. left
hand lay (also called ‘S’ twist) and right hand lay (‘Z’ twist). In
caving this term is rarely used due to the overwhelming support of synthetic
LEAD. n. A cave passage noticed but not yet explored.
LEADER. n. In caving, the person directing activities of a caving party
and held responsible for the group’s safety.
LEG. n. Part of a survey traverse between two consecutive stations.
LIGHT-WATER n. Water aerated with bubbles making it less dense, thus
providing less buoyancy to a person and their equipment. Light-water
usually occurs at the bottom of waterfalls, rapids or cascades. Swimming
in a light-water pool directly beneath a waterfall can be very dangerous,
as reduced buoyancy and downward force of water can hold or snag a person
LIMESTONE. n. A sedimentary rock composed mainly of calcium carbonate
(CaCO3). (Containing more than 50% CaCO3). It usually originates from
the accumulation of calcareous remains of marine life.
LIMESTONE CAVE. n. A cave formed in limestone.
LIMESTONE-OOLITIC. n. Composed of small spherical grains bonded together
by a cement composed of calcite.
LITHIFICATION. n. Process by which unconsolidated rock-forming materials
are converted into a consolidated or coherent state.
LIVE CAVE. n A cave containing a stream and/or active speleothems. cf.
active cave. Antonym of dormant cave and dead cave.
LONGITUDINAL (or LONG) SECTION. n A scale drawing of a cave elevation,
sectioned along the length of a cave passage or chamber, or combination
of these, or along a survey traverse.
LUMINESCENT. adj. Pertaining to luminescence.
LUMINESCENCE. n An emission of light. The glowing of an object due to
an increased energy level of it's atoms and without perceptible heat.
The atoms can be excited by radiation, such as light or by electricity
and is re-emitted at any wavelength, but is most familiar as visible
light. Two forms of luminescence are "fluorescence" and "phosphorescence".
MAGNESITE. n. MgCO3. The mineral - magnesium carbonate. Magnesite karst
areas are rare, however several sites exist in Tasmania, one being at
Keith River. Magnesite can also occur as crusts and as moonmilk in caves
in dolomite rock.
MAGNETIC NORTH. n. The direction in which the needle of a compass points,
differing in most places from True North. cf. MN. and grid north.
MARBLE. n. Limestone which has been recrystallised after being subjected
to high temperatures as may occur in nature from surrounding volcanic
action. The resulting marble is much harder than limestone and is able
to be polished, making it much sought after for sculptures and architecture.
Also see metamorphism.
MASTODON.n An extinct mammal related to elephants (they have unusually
large molar teeth such as the elephant's ivory tusks)
MAZE CAVE. n. A complex network of connecting cave passages, often on
two or more levels, forming a three dimensional maze.
MEANDER. n. A bend or semi-circular curve in an underground stream bed
which has the same origins and looks similar to a meander in a surface
MEANDER NICHE. n. A hemispherical recess or depression in a cave roof,
formed by a stream meander. A stream meander in the cave roof.
METAMORPHIC. adj. Of or pertaining to metamorphism.
METAMORPHISM. n The process whereby rocks undergo physical or chemical
change or both to achieve equilibrium with conditions other than those
under which they were originally formed. Factors which may cause metamorphism
are heat, pressure and chemically active fluids. Weathering is usually
excluded from the meaning. eg. When limestone comes into contact with
molten lava it undergoes metamorphism to form marble upon cooling.
MICROBOD. n. A colloquial term used to describe a child or an adult
caver of small build - able to fit through narrow passages and seemingly
able to dislocate their joints to negotiate tight corners.
MICROCLIMATE. n The climate (ie. temperature, humidity, air movement,
etc.) of a restricted area or space. eg. of a cave or on a lesser scale
of the space beneath stones in a cave.
MICROGOUR. n. A miniature rimstone dam with associated tiny pool, approximately
10mm wide and deep. They commonly occur in flowstone.
- PRIMARY. A natural occurring homogeneous solid, of definite chemical
composition and crystal structure. (eg. calcium carbonate., quartz,
gypsum). Rocks may be comprised of several minerals (eg. granite or
basalt), others composed of a single mineral (eg. limestone or dolomite).
- SECONDARY. A mineral originating from another mineral as a result
of chemical change caused by atmospheric oxidation, carbonic acid and
water. ie. Speleothems consisting of calcite, aragonite or gypsum.
MN. n. Abbreviation on maps for Magnetic North.
MOONMILK. n. A term used to describe, finely crystalline substances
of varying compositions. Texture, not composition is implied by the
term "moonmilk". Most commonly composed of calcite which forms
a soft white powder when dry and feels like cream cheese or cotton candy
MORPHOLOGY .n. The study of form and structure. (1) Geological - The
study of the physical form of land or region. cf. geomorphology (2)
Biological - The study of the form and structure of animals and plants,
without regard to function.
NAPPY. n. A colloquial term for an abseiling harness worn around the
hips and thighs.
NATURAL ARCH. n. An arch of rock formed by weathering alone, - without
human intervention. Syn. arch.
NATURAL BRIDGE. n. A bridge of rock which spans a ravine or valley and
is formed by erosion.
NOTHEPHREATIC. Referring to water moving slowly through cavities in
the phreatic zone. cf. epiphreatic.
OFF-ROPE. n. A call from an abseiler or belayed climber to indicate
that they have disconnected from the rope. cf. abseil clear.
ON-BELAY. n. A call made by the belayer (to a climber) that the set-up
has been checked and they are ready to operate the manual belay system.
OOLITE. n A morphological term meaning a small spherical or subspherical,
accretionary body consisting of two or more concentric rings. The overall
size being smaller than 2 mm in diameter. Anything larger is called
a Pisolite. The body can be made of any material and not necessarily
calcite. A rock may be said to possess an oolitic texture if it consists
largely of oolites. (Pettijohn, F. J., 1975). In general the term oolite
should not be used to describe a cave pearl.
British publications refer to a cave pearl as an "oolith"
or if unpolished, included in the general term of "cave-pisolite"
which covers all types of concretions formed of concentric layers. See
cave pearl. cf. pisolite.
OUTFLOW CAVE. n. A cave from which a stream discharge flows or formerly
did so, and which cannot be followed upstream to the surface. cf. efflux
OVERHANG. n. (1) A ledge or shelf of rock which projects past the rest
of the rock face below. Includes a rock shelter or simple cave in which
no part is in the dark zone. (2) n. part of an abseil (either above
or below ground), where the abseiler is hanging free of the rock face.
Specifically, once an abseiler has passed a projection of rock which
makes it impossible for the abseiler's feet to touch the rock face without
swinging on the rope. For a ladder climb the overhang is considered
to be that section of a pitch where the ladder free hangs, clear of
the rockface and for some distance.
PAHOEHOE. n. A type of lava in which the surface was relatively fluid
just prior to complete solidifying and so formed smooth or porridge-like
surfaces. Variants include wrinkled or ‘ropy’ surfaces, like thick flowing
tar or pitch, and surfaces with small rounded knobs. Surface texture
grades from ‘pahoehoe’ to ‘aa’ lava.
PALAEONTOLOGY. n. The study of bones and fossils.
PASSAGE. n. A cavity which is much longer than it is wide or high and
may join larger cavities.
PEARL, CAVE. n. See cave pearl.
PEBBLE. n. - A rock between the approximate size of a golf ball and
tennis ball. cf. sediments and cobble.
PENDANT. n. A smooth sculptured projection of bedrock suspended from
the roof or wall of a cave. Formed by erosion, - not redeposited as
a secondary mineral deposit. Not a speleothem.
PENDULITE. n. A kind of stalactite which is or has been partly submerged
in cave water for some time and now has a growth of dog-tooth crystal
over that part which was submerged, to give the appearance of a drumstick.
PERCOLATION WATER. n. Water which is moving downward through pores,
cracks and tight fissures in the vadose zone. Syn. seepage water.
PERMEABLE. adj: having pores or openings that permit liquids or gases
to pass through.
PERMEABILITY - PRIMARY. n. The property of rock or soil to allow passage
of water or gas through the interconnecting pores in its grain structure.
PERMEABILITY - SECONDARY. n. The state of rock allowing water or gas
to pass through joints and / or bedding-planes.
pH value. n. A scale of values, ranging from 0-14, indicating the acidity
or alkalinity of a solution; 7 is neutral, lower values from 7 to 0,
show increasing acidity, and alkalinity increases from 7 to 14.
PHOSPHORESCENCE. n. Similar to fluorescence, however the emission of
visible light continues after the removal of the original radiation
light source. Also see luminescence.
PHREATIC DEVELOPMENT. n. Enlargement of existing joints and bedding
planes by movement of water under pressure (ie with no free airspace).
PHREATIC WATER. n. Water in the phreatic zone.
PHREATIC ZONE. n. The level in the strata which is below the watertable
and all cavities in the rock are filled with water.
PILLAR. n. A column of bedrock reaching from floor to roof, remaining
after surrounding rock has been eroded away.
PINNACLE KARST. n. A tropical karst of near vertical sided spires. cf
PIPE. n. A tubular cavity in karst rock extending from its surface to
a depth of a metre or more and often filled with sediments and/or breccia
for some of its depth cf. solution tube, fissure and grike
PISOLITE. n. A morphological term meaning spherical or subspherical,
accretionary body consisting of two or more concentric rings. The overall
size being larger than 2 mm in diameter. The body can be made of any
material and not necessarily calcite. cf. cave pearl and oolite.
PIT. n. A term used by cavers to describe a vertical or near vertical
shaft and without passage or chamber leading from it. A pit often has
a flat bottom of earth or rock fill. The entrance may be open to the
surface or below ground in a cave. A pit is wider than a chimney. cf.
shaft, chimney and pothole.
PITCH. n. A vertical or near vertical section of a cave where ladders
or ropes are normally used for descent or ascent.
PITON. n. A metal peg hammered into cracks for an anchor. Although this
was the original used, with environmental awareness of damage caused
to the rock face, it's use as an anchor point has diminished considerably.
These days it is used more as an abseiling device.
PLAN. n. A cave sketch or scaled map, showing details projected vertically
onto a horizontal plane.
PLUNGE POOL. n. A pool, usually of large size and often containing light-water,
occurring at the bottom of a waterfall or rapid. May be on the surface
or underground. cf swirlhole.
POLYMORPHS. n. A substance (such as calcite) which has the ability to
assume several crystalline forms.
POOL. n. Any small isolated body of water or a deep place in a stream.
POOL DEPOSIT. n. (1) Any sediment which accumulates in a cave-pool.
(2) Any speleothem precipitated in a cave-pool although usually of crystalline
shape as well as structure. cf. calcite raft, dog-tooth crystal and
POROSITY. n. (1) The property of rock or soil with small voids which
may or may not be permeable. (2) porosity due to fractures and joints
in rock. (3) porosity of a karst system due to conduits. cf. permeability
and percolation water.
POTHOLE. n. An English speleological term. (1) A vertical or almost
vertical shaft or chimney, open to the surface and requires rigging
to enter. (2) a cave system containing multiple pitches requires the
use of ropes or ladders to enter. cf. pit.
QUONSET.n. A prefabricated shelter made of steel set on a foundation
built with a semicircular arching roof.
PRIMARY MINERAL. n. see mineral - primary
PRUSIK KNOT. n. A friction knot which grips on the fixed ascending rope
when weight is applied and runs free along the rope when weight is removed.
Used to ascend ropes, however it’s possible to descent but rarely used
this way because the method is very slow. The knot was first described
by Dr. Karl Prusik in an Austrian Mountaineering Journal of 1931. Possibly
first introduced to caving in 1952 by Bill Cuddington of Virginia, when
he successfully rappelled and prusiked a 40 foot pit in Haynes Saltpeter
Cave, West Virginia U.S.A.
PRUSIK SLING. n. A loop of rope tied to another rope with a prusik knot.
PRUSIKING. v. The modern day term refers to either ascending on a rope
using prusik knots or ascenders.
QUATERNARY. adv. Of or pertaining to the youngest geological period
covering approximately 1.8 million years to the present. - n. The quaternary
RADON. n. The heaviest known gas which is colourless, odourless and
radioactive, (atomic no. 86, atomic weight 222 -most stable isotope).
Formed by the radioactive decay of radium-226, formerly called ‘niton’.
symbol (Rn). Radon-222 was discovered in 1900 by the German chemist
Friedrich Ernst Dorn (1848-1916).
Radon has a half-life of 3.8 days, decaying by the emission of alpha
particles into an isotope of the element polonium. Small quantities
of radon, formed by decay of uranium minerals, are found in rock and
soil. Concentration of the gas, can collect in some caves and is believed
to be a potential health hazard.
RAPPEL v. Syn abseil.
RAPPEL RACK. n. A mechanical abseil device, able to be set with variable
degrees of friction to suit the weight of the abseiler.
RAFT. See calcite raft.
REBELAY. n. Any additional attachment points (after the initial anchor
point) on a rope down a pitch. Rebelays are placed to avoid rub or wear
points on a rope or to split a long pitch. Also used as a redirection.
REDIRECTION. n. A rebelay used to redirect a rope so that cavers, either
abseiling, prusiking or climbing, avoid a dangerous hazard such as a
RELATIVE HUMIDITY. n. Is the amount of water vapour that air actually
contains at a certain temperature compared with the maximum amount it
could contain at that temperature. Changes in relative humidity of a
cave air, correlate to variations in atmospheric pressure, ingression
of ground-water and variation in cave temperature. Expressed as a percentage,
the relative humidity of saturated air, such as fog or cloud is 100%.
Most caves have a high humidity.
RESURGENCE. n. The point at which a stream resurfaces like a large spring.
This occurs when water of a surface stream disappearing into a stream
sink, where upon it flows underground for some distance. The resurfacing
point of this stream is the resurgence. The underground water stream
may also originate from a combination of many small surface streams
and seepage in a cave system, before resurfacing at the resurgence.
RHIZOMORPH. n. A speleothem originally formed around tree or plant roots,
which may have long since decayed, but the calcareous deposit has preserved
their shape and form. cf. rootsicle.
RIFT. n. A long, narrow, high and straight cave passage with development
controlled by a relatively straight weakness in the rock. (eg. formed
along a fault or bedding plane).
RIGGING. (1) v. The setting up of descending or ascending equipment.
The term also includes a belay if required. (2) n. The equipment in
total, required for an ascent or descent.
RILL. n. A small solution groove on the surface of exposed karst rock.
cf. rillenkarren, rundkarren, spitzkarren, solution flute.
RILLENKARREN. n. Well developed solution flutes. Small linear hollows
separated by narrow, sharp ribs, which run down the steepest line of
slope on steeply inclined to vertical faces. Usually formed on the surface
of karst bedrock exposed to the atmosphere. cf. rundkarren, spitzkarren.
Syn. solution flute.
RIMSTONE. n. A deposit precipitated from water flowing over the rim
of a pool. cf. speleothem.
RIMSTONE DAM. n. A barrier of calcium carbonate or other precipitated
deposit which obstructs a stream or pool. The ridge or dam formed is
often curved convexly downstream. Syn. gour. cf. travertine.
RIMSTONE POOL. n. A cave-pool lined with a rimstone dam.
RISING. n. A natural flow of water from below ground, issuing from rock
or soil, to the land surface or into a body of water. Syn. spring.
ROCK. n. A consolidated mass of mineral matter.
ROCK PENDANT. n. See pendant.
ROCK SHELTER. n. A rock overhang or simple cave which has been, or could
be, used by humans for habitation or shelter from the elements.
ROCKHOLE. n. A hole in karst or non-karst surface rock, usually round
in form and holding water after rain. Generally shallow if formed by
weathering or chemical erosion, and can be deep if formed with the aid
of running water.
ROCKPILE. n. A heap of rocks in a cave, usually conical or part-conical
in shape and formed by local collapse or breakdown.
ROOF CRUST. n. A crust formed on the roof of a cave.
ROOF-SNIFFING. (1) v. Colloquial term for the act of edging oneself
along a small water-filled passage, on your back with only sufficient
airspace for eyes and nose. Also roof-sniff. (2) n. A place where a
caver must roof-sniff.
ROOTSICLE. n. roots of trees or plants which grow into a cave cavity
and become calcified. The roots and speleothem comprising the rootsicle.
RUNDKARREN. n. Surface karst solution feature consisting of rounded
grooves, normally formed under soil, heavy litter or moss. cf. spitzkarren
SAFE. n. A call made by a person who has finished climbing (ascending
or descending) to a another person who has been belaying, - to indicate
that they are safe and that the belay rope is no longer required.
SAFETY LINE. n. A safety rope attached to a caver climbing a ladder
or undertaking a difficult manoeuvre, and belayed by another person
either above or below. Syn. belay rope.
SAND. n. See sediments.
SATURATED. (1) adj water logged (hydrology). (2) adj. The state of a
solution which will hold no more solute (physical chemistry).
SCALING POLE. n. A lightweight pole, often constructed from short sections
and assembled in situ to raise a ladder to a point inaccessible by climbing
without the aid of anchor bolting.
SCALLOPS. n. See solution scallops.
SCROGGIN. n. An edible random mixture of nuts, dried fruit, rice crisps,
unwrapped lollies, chocolate and edible seeds. The mixture is consumed
by cavers, bushwalkers and other outdoor enthusiasts as a source of
high energy food. It is made up to suit an individuals taste and requirements.
SEA CAVE. n. A cave in present-day or emerged sea cliffs, formed by
wave action, or solution to sea water.
SECONDARY MINERAL. n. See mineral - secondary.
SECTION. n. A sketch or scale drawing of a cave in vertical plane, which
shows floor, walls and roof, to represent the shape of cave passage
or chamber at the section.
SEDIMENTS. n. Fragmentary material deposited by water or air.
Clay - The individual particles are too small to be seen with the naked
eye. It becomes very sticky when wet. cf. terra rossa.
Silt - Very fine grit but the particles can be seen with the naked eye.
Sand - About beach size sand. (Approx. 1 - 2mm diameter).
Gravel - Rocks generally the size of small blue metal chips (smaller
than a pebble), however may contain a mixture of smaller sediments.
For descriptions of larger rock material which may fall into the category
of sediments see:- pebble, cobble, boulder and block.
SEDIMENTARY ROCK. n. Rock formed from accumulation of sediment, which
may consist of rock fragments of various sizes, remains or products
of animal or plants, production of chemical action or of evaporation,
or mixture of these. Stratification is the single most characteristic
feature of sedimentary rocks.
SEEPAGE WATER. n. Syn. percolation water.
SELENITE. n. A coarsely-crystalline, transparent variety of gypsum;
colourless when pure, but sometimes tinted brown or grey by impurities.
SELF-GUIDED CAVE. n. A show cave which is set up in a manner which allows
visitors to guide themselves around marked tracks. Usually with explanatory
literature and/or recorded messages and fixed lighting.
SHAFT. n. A vertical cavity or passage with approximately equal horizontal
dimensions and much larger vertical dimension. A shaft has at least
one passage or chamber leading from it. The entrance may be open to
the surface or below ground in a cave. A shaft is wider than a chimney.
cf. pit and pothole.
SHAWL. n. A triangular shaped curtain. Type of speleothem.
SHOW CAVE. n. A cave open to the public for guided or self-guided tours.
Often with formed tracks and fixed lighting.
SINK. n. A place where a stream sinks. See stream sink.
SINKHOLE. n. A natural drainage hole or cavity in rock, worn by the
action of water usually along a joint or fault. Often formed in a doline.
(A word of American origin.)
SILT. n. See sediments.
SIPHON. n. A waterfilled passage of inverted ‘U’ profile. Water flows
out of the siphon whenever the head of water feeding into the upstream
side of the trap rises above that of the siphon passage.
SLACK. n. A call made by a person being belayed, to the person belaying.
A request for extra slack in the belay line.
SLING. n. A loop of rope or tape.
SOLUTION. n. A homogeneous mixture formed by dissolving one or more
substances, whether solid, liquid or gaseous, in another substance.
In karst areas, water containing carbon dioxide or other dilute acid
in solution causes the chemical erosion of carbonate rock. The acidic
water, erodes the bedrock (eg. limestone) when its ions go directly
into solution without transformation and are carried away.
SOLUTION DOLINE. n. A doline formed by solution in karst rock and not
modified by collapse.
SOLUTION FLUTE. n. A solution hollow running down the maximum slope
of the rock, of uniform fingertip width and depth, with sharp ribs between
each groove. Usually found on surface limestone due to weathering. Syn.
SOLUTION PAN. n. A dish-shaped depression on flattish rock. Its sides
may overhang and carry solution flutes. The bottom of the pan may have
a cover of organic remains, silt, clay or rock fragments.
SOLUTION PIPE. n. See pipe.
SOLUTION RUNNEL. n. A solution hollow larger than a solution flute,
running down the maximum slope of the rock and increasing in depth and
width over its length. Thick ribs between neighbouring runnels may be
sharp and carry solution flutes.
SOLUTION TUBE. n. A hole or small tunnel, formed in calcium carbonate
or other material which has been created by the chemical action of water.
Orientation is irrelevant. Larger in size and more round than a grike.
SOLUTION SCALLOPS. n. Current markings that intersect to form points
and are due to the action of swirling water. These shallow depressions
in the rockface are most commonly found in solid bedrock.
SPELEOGEN. n. A karst cave feature formed in rock by solution or erosion.
eg. pendant and current markings.
SPELEOLOGIST. n. A person who studies caves in any of the scientific
aspects. cf. speleology.
SPELEOLOGY. n. The exploration, mapping, photography, description and
scientific study of caves, subterranean environments and phenomena relating
to karst terrains. Includes:- hydrology, geology, mineralogy, palaeontology
etc. The term is often extended to include ground-trogging.adj. speleological.
SPELEOTHEM. n. A secondary mineral deposit formed within a cave, most
commonly calcite. However may be aragonite or vaterite or other secondary
mineral. The formal definition of the word "speleothem" as
introduced by Moore (1954) and widely accepted (Greek speleon, a cave;
them, deposit), does not exclude stalactites and stalagmites of ice
SPELUNKER. n. American name for a caver.
SPELUNKING. v., n. Syn. caving. cf. spelunker.
SPITZKARREN. n. Solution spikes. A karst feature which has developed
in conjunction with bedding grikes, and due to erosion, sharp fluted
spikes have formed on the upper faces,. This feature usually develops
in steep to vertically dipping beds. Height may vary from 0.5 to 3 metres
depending on limestone composition and climate. cf. Pinnacle karst,
rillenkarren and rundkarren.
SPLASH CUP. (1) n. A shallow cavity in the top of a stalagmite caused
by dripping water. (2) n. Any shallow depression caused by dripping
water. Syn. conulite. cf. driphole.
SPONGEWORK. n. A complex of irregular, inter-connecting cavities intricately
perforating the rock. Cavities may range in size from a few centimetres
to more than a metre across.
SPRING. n. The natural source of ground water flowing upwards from rock
or soil onto the land surface to form a small pool and/or stream. cf.
SQUEEZE. (1) n. A small opening in a cave which is passable with effort.
Also see:- crawl and flattener. (2) v. To wriggle or push through a
SRT. Acronym for ‘Single Rope Technique’ - includes abseiling and prusiking.
STALACTITE. n. A secondary mineral deposit (speleothem), hanging from
the roof of a cave and often shaped like an icicle. Most commonly consisting
of calcium carbonate which forms by seeping or dripping water depositing
calcium carbonate out of solution. Travertine is the form of limestone
which makes up this type of speleothem. However the term "stalactite"
also includes formations of ice, lava and other deposited cave minerals.
STALACTITE STRAW. n. See straw.
STALAGMITE. n. A secondary mineral deposit (speleothem), which grows
upward from the floor of a cave. Most commonly consisting of calcium
carbonate which forms by dripping water depositing calcium carbonate
out of solution. Travertine is the form of limestone which makes up
this type of speleothem. However the term "stalagmite" also
includes formations of ice, lava and other deposited cave minerals.
STATIC ROPE. n. A kernmantle rope manufactured with parallel core strands
and has little stretch with the weight of a person abseiling or prusiking.
This type of rope is not suitable for rockclimbing as the small amount
of stretch would induce high shock loading on a person, when arresting
a fall. Static ropes are mainly used by cavers. cf. dynamic ropes.
STATION. n. A main survey reference point, usually in a chain of such
points used to survey a cave or surface feature.
STRAW. n. A hollow thin-walled stalactite, uniform in diameter over
its whole length. Usually less than 7mm in diameter. Also see speleothem
STREAMBED. n. The ground over which a stream or flow of water is running
or once did. The lowest path of a valley or cave passage formed or altered
STREAM SINK n. A point at which a surface stream disappears into an
underground drainage system, usually into an obvious karst feature.
Often a depression containing a hole or number of holes into which the
stream flows. May also percolate down through streambed sediments. See
sink and resurgence.
STRIKE. n. The direction of a horizontal line through a bedding-plane
in rocks inclined to the horizontal. On level ground it is along the
direction in which inclined beds of rock outcrop. At right angles to
STROMATOLITE. n. A mound like structure of calcareous sediments, formed
by fine layers of inorganic debris (eg sand grains) deposited on successive
gum like mats produced by Cyanobacteria (formally known as Blue-Green
Algae). Stromatolite fossils date back to the Archaean and Proterozoic
eras, and their presence suggest the process of photosynthesis began
at an early age in the development of life on earth. Excellent examples
can be found in the limestone deposits of Brachina Gorge - Flinders
Ranges South Australia. Also see stromatolitic stalagmite.
STROMATOLITIC STALAGMITES. n. A type of stalagmite found only near the
entrance and twilight zones of some caves. This type of speleothem may
have a lobster or crayback appearance which can be contributed to the
growth of algae (often Cyanobacteria more commonly known as Blue-Green
Algae) which has preferentially enhanced deposition of calcite on the
light facing side of the stalagmite. In some locations such as through
arches, the deposition of calcite on the stalagmites may be influenced
by a constant air flow as well as algae. Thus the stalagmite is elongated
in section and oriented toward the cave entrance. This type of stalagmite
can be classed as both speleothem and stromatolite. Also see stromatolite.
SUBTERRANEAN. n. Pertaining to underground environments (in karst).
SUMP. (1) n. A pool of water completely filling a submerged passage
as in a water trap. (2) n. The lowest point in part of a cave system,
where water collects in a pool before draining or seeping away slowly.
cf. cave-pool and lake.
SUPERSATURATED. n. Referring to water that has more calcium carbonate
or other karst rock mineral in solution than the maximum corresponding
to normal conditions.
SURVEY (cave). n. The measurement of distances and direction (compass
bearing) between survey points (station) and noting of prominent cave
features. Usually for the purpose of producing scaled drawings of cave
plans and sections (cave map) from the measurements.
SURVEYING.(1) n. a branch of applied mathematics that teaches the art
of accurately determining distances, direction and area of any portion
(eg. cave) and delineating the whole on paper. (2). v. The act of doing
SWIRLHOLE. n. A more or less circular hole in rock of a present or past
streambed, eroded by eddying water with or without the mechanical action
of sediments up to the size of a cobble.
SYNGENETIC KARST. n. Karst developed in aeolian calcarenite when the
development of karst features has taken place at the same time as the
lithification of calcareous dune sand.
TAG. n. A small marker with a cave number marked on it. Usually made
of corrosion resistant sheet metal (25mm square), with the number stamped
on the face.
TAGGING. v. The act of fixing a tag (bearing the cave number) to the
solid rock, tree or structure, near the entrance of a cave.
TAPE. (1) n. A flat or tubular webbing tape, usually made of nylon.
Used to make harnesses and slings. (2) n. A graduated tape measure,
used in surveying. Tape materials presently available include; steel,
plastic, wire-reinforced cloth, fiberglass and carbon fibre (kevlar).
TERRA ROSSA. n. Reddish clay soil developed on or around limestone.
TERRACE. n. A gently sloping series of rimstone dams.
THAT’S ME. n. A call from a climber to a belayer who is taking up the
slack in the rope - indicating that the belayer is feeling the weight
of the climber with no slack in the rope.
THEODOLITE. n. An accurate instrument used to measure horizontal and
vertical angles by means of a small telescope. Used in cave surveying
for Grades 7 to 9.
THROUGH CAVE. n. A cave which may be followed from entrance to exit
along a stream course or passage which formerly carried a stream.
TOURI. n. A colloquial term used to describe a group of tourists at
a commercially developed caving area. In other words those people who
go on guided or self-guided cave tours where fixed lighting is provided
to view the caves.
"Stay out of sight of the tourists (touri)", is usually one
of the conditions attached to a caving permit, where the permit cave
is in the vicinity of a commercial tour cave.
TOWERKARST. n. Residual limestone outcrops with very steep to overhanging
lower slopes. Between the towers there may be alluvial plains or flat-floored
TRACE. n. A short length of woven wire fitted with interlocking rings
fitted at each end and used to attach a flexible ladder or rope to an
TRACER. (1). n. A substance introduced into surface or underground water.
It is used to determine drainage connections and travel time.
(2). n. A material introduced into cave air to determine interconnecting
chambers and tunnels.
TRAP. n. A place where a cave passage becomes completely full of water
to the roof (usually for some distance) before rising above water to
a siphon. cf. duck-under and sump.
TRAVERSE. (1). n. The commonest form of cave survey in which distance,
direction and vertical angle between successive points are measured.
A series of legs between stations.
(2). n. A way along ledges above the floor of a cave.
(3). v. To move along such a route.
TRAVERTINE. n. A form of dense, closely compacted limestone consisting
mainly of banded layers. It is often coloured white or cream and consists
mostly of CaCO3 which is deposited from spring, river or lake water.
Specifically in caves, any flowstone or dripstone deposit consisting
mostly of CaCO3. ie. Stalactite and stalagmite.
The word travertine comes from an old Roman name Tiburtinus of Tibur
(now Tivoli), a town in Italy where large deposits of travertine occur.
TROG. (1) n. Colloquial term for caver. Abbreviation for troglodyte.
(2) v. Systematically searching the surface ground for cave entrances.
- Same as ground-trog.
TROG-UP. v. Colloquial term. To get changed into suitable clothing and
necessary equipment in readiness to go underground.
TROGGED-UP n. Past tense of trog-up. Attired in caving gear in readiness
to go underground.
TROGLOBITE. n. An animal (cavernicole) living permanently in the dark
zone of a cave and unable to live outside the cave environment.
TROGLODYTE. n. A human cave dweller.
TRUE NORTH. n. The direction to the geographical north pole from the
position of the observer. cf. grid north and magnetic north.
TUBE. n. A smooth cave passage of nearly circular or elliptical section.
TUFA. n. A porous, light yellow crystalline limestone often with a spongy
like appearance, deposited in solution from spring or surface water.
Calcium carbonate which is deposited over twigs, dead leaves, moss and
earth, builds up mounds or terraces in the above ground streams. Over
time the vegetation decays, leaving the calcium carbonate with a spongy
appearance. cf. travertine.
TUNNEL.(1) n. A nearly horizontal cave open to the surface at both ends,
fairly straight and uniform in cross-section. Not necessarily in sight
of daylight cf. arch. (2) n. A spacious cave passage, fairly straight
and uniform in cross-section. (Not open to the surface.)
TWILIGHT ZONE. n. The outer part of a cave where daylight penetrates
and gradually diminishes to zero light, Between the entrance zone and
VADOSE DEVELOPMENT. n. The down-cutting action of a cave stream having
a free airspace. Cave development due to water (vadose water) which
descends freely and is not under hydrostatic pressure. The fast moving
water carries rocks and grit which also cause mechanical erosion of
the bedrock. A tell-tail sign of ‘vadose development’ is scallop markings
in the bedrock, caused by running water.
VADOSE FLOW. n. Water flowing in a free surface stream, thus having
no hydrostatic pressure.
VADOSE SEEPAGE. n. Syn. percolation water.
VADOSE WATER. n. Water in the vadose zone.
VADOSE ZONE. n. The zone where rock cavities are partly filled with
air and through which water descends under gravity.
VATERITE. n. The least common form of calcium carbonate found in caves.
WALK-THROUGH. n. A passage with plenty of headroom where a caver can
walk through without stooping or crawling.
WATER SINK. n. Either above or below ground. A place where flowing water
sinks into an impassable passage.
WATERTABLE. n. The upper limit of the phreatic zone, or the level of
saturation of the strata, (usually very localised in limestone terrain).
WATER TRACING. n. Determining the water connection point of a steam
sink and its reappearance at the efflux or resurgence. See Tracer.
WATER TRAP. n. See TRAP.
WEATHERING. n. The processes of physical disintegration and/or chemical
decomposition of solid rock materials at or near the earth's surface.
Physical weathering breaks up rock without altering its composition,
and chemical weathering decomposes rock by slowly altering its constituent
minerals. Weathering may alter the colour, texture, composition, or
physical shape of rocks.
WET CAVE. n. A cave containing a lake/s and/or active stream with deep
pool/s, which require wading or swimming to progress through the cave.
The caver can expect to become very wet and possibly cold. The wearing
of wetsuits may be advisable. This term also includes caves where inflatable
rafts are used to cross a deep section of water.
WHALETAIL. n. A mechanical descender made from an aluminium block, designed
to apply varying degrees of friction depending on the number of slots
the abseil rope is passed through.
WINDOW. n. An irregular shaped hole through a thin rock wall, between
cave passages or chambers.
ZONE, DARK. n. See dark zone.
ZONE ENTRANCE. n. See entrance zone.
ZONE, PHREATIC. n. See phreatic zone.
ZONE, TWILIGHT. n. See twilight zone.
ZONE, VADOSE. n. See vadose zone.