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How to Survive in a Cave
Caving, sometimes known as spelunking, can be a fun, exciting hobby and a valuable tool for scientific discovery. But the hidden world of caves can be as dangerous as it is fascinating, and even the most experienced cavers can easily be injured or get lost in a cave. When something goes wrong below ground, you can quickly find yourself in a survival situation. Here’s how to make it out alive.
Enter a cave well-prepared.Caving is inherently dangerous, but you can reduce the risk by learning proper caving techniques, bringing the right equipment, and knowing how to use your techniques. Especially if you’re new to caving, don’t go in without an experienced guide, and never explore caves alone. Always make sure you notify someone where you will be and when you expect to return so that they can notify rescuers if you can’t. Bring warm, NON-COTTON (like polypro or polyester) clothes and a plastic bag or emergency blanket. It is important that all layers of clothes are made of a synthetic fabric, even undergarments and socks. Cotton absorbs and holds much more water than synthetic fibers. Wearing standard cotton garments in a cave will cool your body very rapidly. If cotton layers are worn (as an absolute last resort) make sure they are above the synthetic layers. Doing the opposite will rob your body of heat, as the most wet layer will be in direct contact with the skin. Also, make sure your flashlight or headlamp is in good working condition (and bring a spare light source and batteries). The best way to survive in a cave is to know the cave and to be prepared.
Mark your path.Caves can be maze like and confusing, but there’s almost no reason to get lost in one. Always be aware of your surroundings, and note landmarks. In addition, be sure to mark the way out at all intersections. Use rocks to make an arrow pointing the way you came, scratch an arrow on the cave floor, leave yourself notes, or tie ribbons or leave glow sticks to show you the way back. Make sure you can differentiate your marks from those that other cavers may have left. Not only will marking your path help lead you out safely, it will also help rescuers find you if you can’t get out on your own.
Remain calm.If you do find yourself lost, injured, or trapped don’t panic. Assess your situation and think clearly about how to get out.
Stay together if you’re in a group.There is safety in numbers, so be sure to stay together. Hold hands if you must move in darkness, and don’t let anybody fall behind.
Stay warm and dry.Caves are frequently cold, and hypothermia is one of the most dangerous hazards you will face. Always bring warm, non-cotton clothes, and pack a large plastic bag in your helmet to wear as a poncho to conserve warmth. Keep your helmet on at all times. If you have to endeavor into water (i.e. if the cave is flooded, or if you must cross a stream) take off your clothes to keep them dry, and then dry off and put them back on when you’re out of the water. If your clothes get wet and you don’t have replacements, wring them out thoroughly and wear them so your body heat can dry them. Huddle with your group for warmth, and minimize contact with the cold ground. Try to keep moving (even if it’s just moving in place) if you get too cold, but avoid breaking a sweat.
Ration your food and water supplies.If you told somebody on the outside when to expect you—and you absolutely must do this—help should be on its way soon. If for some reason, such as flooding or cave collapse—it may take a while for rescuers to come, make sure to ration your food and make it last. Make sure everybody gets enough water, but don’t try to save it as long as possible—keep well hydrated even if you’re not thirsty. If you run out of water, you can drink water you find in the cave, but be aware that it may be contaminated and should only be used as a last resort.
Conserve your light.Turn off flashlights when you are not moving, and use only one at a time. Form a chain of people following one with a flashlight. If you're using a headlamp, use the lowest output setting.
Stay put if you don’t have light.Unless you are quite certain that help will not be coming, do not move without light. A cave is a dangerous, unpredictable environment, and the risk of injury outweighs all other hazards. If you must move without light, proceed with extreme caution. Crawling may be the best option to avoid falls.
QuestionHow do I survive in a cave if I'm alone with no light?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStay put if you don’t have light. Unless you are quite certain that help will not be coming, do not move without light, you could injure yourself.Thanks!
QuestionHow do I survive and escape an avalanche in a cave?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTry your best to calculate your distance from the entrance of the cave and attempt to dig yourself out.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are my chances of getting trapped in a cave?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIt is rare to be trapped in a cave, but important to be prepared just in case.Thanks!
QuestionWhat food should I take into a cave?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTake energy bars, nuts, chocolate, dried meat and fruit and lots of water.Thanks!
- In the absence of a draft, smoke always rises. You can try to light up something small that creates smoke and try to follow it. Remember that smoke is dangerous in narrow areas as you may be choked because of it. You also need to make sure that you can control whatever you’re burning.
- Always put cell phone, lighter, and matches in a ziplock bag to keep them dry.
- Mobile phones, watches, and other such devices may be used to provide backup light.
- If you are deep in cave, try to feel where air is flowing and follow it to the source. There are usually multiple ways out from a cave.
- Always have a flashlight as you enter the cave. And always have a backup flashlight or batteries in case the first flashlight runs out of power.
- If you are in a cave near water, be sure to note the times of high and low tide so that you will not be drowned.
- Go with at least 4 people so if one person gets hurt one can stay with them & two can get help.
- Be sure and watch the weather. A 15 minute rain downpour can drown you. Remember caves are mainly carved by water.
- If you’re traveling in a group, have the largest person go in the middle. That way people on both ends can help extricate the person should he or she get stuck in a tight spot.
- If moving in a group, keep a little distance as long as you can see each other. Just a few feet between people can help prevent injuries to multiple people if one person should stumble or if part of the cave falls. When making ascents, only one person should climb at a time, and the others should stay clear of the area below the climber, where rocks (or the climber) may fall and injure them.
- Avoid making vertical ascents over rock that is wet, as this will be particularly susceptible to collapse.
- Do not drink cave water with a strong odor or which you know to be contaminated.
- Look out for sharp stones and slippery rock while moving about in a cave
- There are quite a lot of sheer drops in caves that would kill a person was he to fall through them. When walking without light, always, Always, ALWAYS check the area around and at the place you are about to walk to.
- Beware of the water in a cave, especially during flooding. It can be difficult to ascertain the depth of the water, and there may be a hidden current.
- Do not attempt to move a badly injured person. Keep the victim immobilized and warm and get the assistance of experienced cave rescuers to extricate him.
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