Photo by Ron Simmons

Cave dwell
Cave crusaders talk about love for Mammoth Cave

By Alyssa Harvey
Bowling Green Daily News, 2/22/01

Roger Brucker and James Borden don't mind people knowing that they are obsessed with Mammoth Cave.

The veteran cave explorers have a combined 75 years of experience exploring southcentral Kentucky's most famous natural resource. One of their best known feats was helping discover that Mammoth Cave, once thought to be the world's second- or third-longest cave, actually is more than three times longer than any other known cave.

Now, Brucker - an advertising professor and retired advertising executive in Dayton, Ohio - and Borden - a date storage manager for Vencor Inc. in Louisville - have written "Beyond Mammoth Cave: A Tale of Obsession in the World's Longest Cave," a narrative written from two points of view about their explorations and the cave's length increase to 365-known miles from 1972 through 1983.

Brucker and Borden will talk about their book and sign copies of it at 2 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Booksellers.

"We were actively involved in exploring at that time," Brucker says of the years the book covers. "It was 144 miles at the time, and we loosed it to more than 300."

Because new connections constantly are being discovered in the cave, the authors believe it is inevitable that it stretches deeper into southcentral Kentucky.

"We predict that it will reach 1,000 from Munfordville to Bowling Green, maybe in the next 50 years," Brucker said.

"Mammoth Cave is still large," Borden said. "We'll never find the end of it - at least not in my lifetime."

Discovery in Mammoth Cave involved a lot of risk and competition. Even Borden and Brucker walked a fine line between being friends and being rivals.

Brucker worked with the Kentucky-based Cave Research Foundation, while Borden was with Central Kentucky Karst Coalition.

Sometimes, rivalry between the two groups could get nasty, the authors agreed.

"We were friendly rivals," Borden said. "We were competing to try to get the upper hand."

"He viewed himself as a rival of me," Brucker said of Borden. "We viewed him as insignificant, because he was finding lots and lots of caves, be we were adding to Mammoth Cave faster."

"They worried that were secretly trying to connect Mammoth Cave to their cave."

Despite the fact that they don't explore Mammoth Cave daily any more, the explorers still find it fascinating.

"I take trips (to the cave) on an average of once a month," said Borden, who plans to visit the cave Sunday. "There is a lot of environmental interest in protecting the ground area."

"Cave exploring is one of the few things that you can do to see new things that people have never seen. It's quite a rush."

Brucker agreed.

"There's no place else where you find that extent of caves," he said. "Mammoth Cave is a wonder of the world."

Brucker plans to teach a speleology class at Mammoth Cave National Park in June.

"The only evidence of a cave at first is a hole," he said. "The only way to understand a cave is to explore it and make a map to find the missing parts. That's how discoveries are made."

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