Photo by Ron Simmons

A book of 'Mammoth' proportion
WSU instructor examines cave expansion

By Shaun Tubbs
The Guardian (Wright State University), 3/7/01

WSU instructor and adjunct professor in the WSU Marketing Department, Roger Brucker, and co-author James Borden make their way to Books & Company for a discussion and book signing of their collaborative work, "Beyond Mammoth Cave: A Tale of Obsession in the World's Longest Cave."

"Beyond Mammoth Cave" is the sequel to "The Longest Cave," written in 1976 by Roger Brucker and Richard A. Watson, detailing explorations in Mammoth Cave and the Flint Ridge Cave System.

In "Beyond Mammoth Cave," James Borden provides detailed accounts of the more recent expeditions for which he was responsible, while Roger Brucker describes his own explorations to find cave connections between 1972 and 1983.

For the first time, experts are predicting that the world's longest cave known will almost triple in size before the end of this century.

The veteran explorers Brucker and Borden confront the idea, in their book, that due to recent discoveries in and around Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, the cave system is likely to expand to at least 1,000 miles in length.

Since the 1800's, various private owners and the U.S. Government boasted that Mammoth Cave was the world's longest cave.

However, that claim was not proven until 1972 when explorers discovered a connection between Mammoth Cave and nearby Flint.

Mammoth Cave is now known to be 365 miles long, over three times longer than any other cave in the world.

Discoveries are still being made, and the authors believe that connections with other cave systems in south-central Kentucky are inevitable.

"Explorers have been finding connections between different caves in the area for a long time," said Brucker, past president of the Cave Research Foundation.

Brucker added, "Combined, these other caves contain about 400 miles of known passages. Some are less than a half mile from Mammoth Cave."

"If you add in the major unconnected fragments and anticipated lengths of the caves under other ridges, you get pretty close to a thousand miles," said Borden, director of the Central Kentucky Karst Coalition. "It will take some luck, but given time, a thousand miles is a reasonable expectation."

This does not mean, however, that Mammoth Cave will extend into surrounding states.

The authors explain that Mammoth Cave's intertwining passages are contained, like a bowl of spaghetti, in a relatively small region.

In "Beyond Mammoth Cave," the authors also include a great deal of information about the connectivity of these enormous caves and their systemary usage as natural drainage systems.

Readers might be surprised to learn that Brucker and Borden were once bitter rivals in a fierce competition to discover big cave passages and connect Mammoth Cave with smaller surrounding caves.

The book discussion and signing for "Beyond Mammoth Cave" will take place at 7 p.m. on March 21 at Books & Company, E. Stroop Road in Kettering.

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