Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2016

Karla Zajac Celebrates 1 Year with EWLS!

Happy 1st year Karla Zajac as our first co-editor for Extraordinary Women Cavers, the EWLS annual magazine. You have been a tremendous help and great asset to the team!

HRV Ski Team Creates a Snow Cave Shelter

EWLS supports women athletes so we thought it would be fun to share this 2016 picture of the HRV girls ski team after creating a self-made snow cave during a recent wet race at Ski Bowl. #WomenCavers #EWLS #WLeaders


Legend of the Girl Who Died in Odessa's Catacombs

Here is a ghost story for you on Halloween. By some estimates, Odessa's Catacombs in Russia span about 1,550 miles, a little longer than the whole Pacific coastline of the continuous United States! Besides this, they are dangerous and spooky. Sections regularly flood with groundwater, some ceilings a propped with make-shift support beams, and some ventilation systems are completely dismantled. Murders have happened there too. A guy murdered his teenage girlfriend in the catacombs with an ax in 2015 and in 2011 murdered man was found after being dead for three to six months. There is a rumor that the catacombs contain stacked corpses of murdered Jews from World War II too. There is also evidence that they were used for the summary executions of Nazi soldiers.

This is where the tale begins. In 2005 Masha was in the catacombs with other teen students of Odessa's School Number 56. The reason was unclear but it could have been a drunken party or a treasure search. It's rumore…

Blue Spring Cave Survey is Extended 1.3 Miles

In 2010 a three person dive survey team that included Extraordinary Woman Caver Chrissy Richards added an additional 1.3 mi to the cave length of Blue Spring Cave. In only 8 hours this White County, TN cave became quite longer. The dive took 3 hours in 53 degree water. The team found and surveyed an additional approx 1,000' of dry cave.

The team found and surveyed a new sump which ended up finally connecting to known passage.
"Right after this picture was taken, we realized we had made the connection. I was so excited, cold, tired, and proud. I was part of a three man dive team, two man push team, and 16 years of diving effort to make this connection." Christina said.  The cave is now 38.19 mi long.

Virginia Treat Transforms Craters of the Moon Caves to Fashion Icon Supporting Conservation

By Tabitha Rossman, Edited by Lisa Bauman

Virginia Treat, amazing photographer who supports conservation and caves, has a project you will find quite interesting. Virginia has been photographing since 2015 when she found out she enjoyed being behind the camera instead of in front of it. It started out as a hobby just taking photos of family and nature photos, as well as improving on her photography by taking photos of models/friends. Virginia’s work has been published in several magazines and newspapers from the Surreal Magazine, Fashion Bombshell Magazine, Idaho City Newspaper, Idaho Statesman Newspaper and an article that came out in the July/August issue of Greenbelt Magazine.

Then after a family trip to Craters of the Moon, Virginia started talking with her husband about a big idea she had combining nature with high fashion to create a variety of different themes throughout the year. She wanted to create a book and use the proceeds to donate back to nature conservation facilities a…

EWLS Officers attend NCRC Orientation to Cave Rescue South Western Region

By Tabitha Rossman, Edited by Lisa Bauman & Karla Zajac

Karla Zajac and I attended the NCRC Orientation to Cave Rescue South Western Region, a weekend course that took place in the southwestern region in Carlsbad, New Mexico this year. This Introductory level program consists of classroom and field work showing all the phases of cave rescue. It involves underground environment, extrication techniques, communication systems, medical management, and organization and management of cave rescue. The basic orientation course material is presented for students that typically include cavers, emergency services personnel and rescue management personnel. The second day of the class is designed for both cave explorers who have the desire to learn the basics of rescues and personnel who want to expand the knowledge as well as the experiences that are involved in cave rescues. For the orientation you do not need to have any prior caving experience however it does help.
“I feel like everyone …

Wind Cave National Park Shares New Youth Program

A new program at Wind Cave National Park teaches kids how to explore the natural world. The park will host "Adventures in Nature" every other Tuesday until April 5.


Oana Ghiocel Produces Immigrants Under Earth

Oana Ghiocel, Romanian documentary filmmaker is creating Immigrants Under Earth, which follows Romanian speleologists in the 1980s to uncover a world of explorations, discoveries and unexpected freedom. The idea for the film came while shooting The Bear Cult, which investigated the relationship between humans and bears from prehistoric times to the present. With more than 50 hours of interviews gathered, the film will be a medley of stories of a “generation of adventurers” who, between 1979 and 1989 established many speleological groups and mapped an impressive number of caves. Accompanying the on-site shooting and interviews in the film will be reenactments. New shooting will take place in spring and summer and Ghiocel says she hopes to be able to finish production by end-summer.

Apart from the new documentary, she is also working on a book gathering material related to the subject of The Mystery of the Carpathian Sphinx and also a sequel to the film. The plan is to have the book out…

Natalie Erlenbaugh, ISU's Environmental Science Club President

Natalie Erlenbaugh, Indiana State University's Environmental Science Club president and past winners of the 2014 Sustainability Championship lead a trip to the Cave-in Rock State Park and its large limestone cave that was carved out by high-tide by the Ohio. Bandits used to stow away their treasure along there, so she planned the excursion to benefit the numerous geologists in the club. The club is made up of majors in geology, environmental science and related majors, and includes students who enjoy the environment through hiking or other activities. "We're a fun group, with lots of fun people," said Erlenbaugh. She plans to do more cave trips in the future too. #ScienceWomen #WomenCavers #EWLS #Speleology


Delores Gaidowski and the Kickapoo Indian Caverns

Delores Gaidowski passed away last year taking with her decades of women's history in caving that I can only imagine. She came from a time when the web was only developing and women often attributed their accomplishments to their husbands and fathers.

Delores and Ray Gaidowski purchased a 83-acre property in the early 1980s that held the amazing Kickapoo Indian Caverns. At one time this cave was known as Goblin Cave. It was used by Native Americans hundreds of years before soldiers stationed at Fort Crawford discovered the cave in the middle 1800s. But it wasn't until July 4, 1947, when a building was constructed and the keyhole-shaped entrance to the cave expanded to allow for tours.

Kickapoo Indian Caverns is one of Wisconsin's largest cave systems. It is an Indian shelter that was created by an ancient underground river. The passage ways hold several exiting features such as the kiva ‘Nowannus Sukwahan’ chamber of lost waters, a majestic cathedral room with an onyx cei…

Girl Scouts Cave at Bluesprings Caverns

A Girl Scout caving experience last year resulted in unanimous excitement and interest in speleology. Volunteer leaders Amanda Letany, Michelle Smiley, Jeffrin Lozano and Linda Griffith lead the weekend trip to Bluesprings Caverns. The ladies learned about cave exploration and took a wild tour to an undeveloped part of the cave. They walked sideways, crawled on hands and knees, laid down on their sides, scooted sideways and army-crawled to reach a waterfall. Then they climbed the waterfall and came out wet, muddy and loving the experience. The scouts said sleeping in a cave was one of their favorite things. Fifth-grader Hannah Letany said “the best part of the trip was getting to climb and squeeze through the tight spaces” and fourth-grader Olivia Lozano said she liked the boat tour because “it was peaceful and calm." Great job scouts. Thank you leaders from troop 148 and 86 for supporting women in caving! #CaveKids #EWLS


Women Lives in Chinese Cave

Du Meiying, a 52-year-old Chinese woman lived in a cave for three years.

Read the full story here:

Kesley Janes Mural at Mammoth Cave National Park

Sarah Martin, assistant general manager of Mammoth Cave Hotel enlisted Kesley Janes, a senior at Edmonson County High School, to beautify the Mammoth Cave National Park camp store as part of a renovation and rehabilitation project. Kesley recently created mural above the counter featuring the wildlife guests may encounter when they visit. She has been painting images for the last year. She painted a skunk and an owl on support pillar at the store and a blue-tailed lizard near the register. #EWLS #WLeadership


Suzanne Wyatt Lives As Cavewoman For Two Months

Along with 13 other contestants, Suzanne Wyatt would have to hunt and forage for her own food, build shelters, and learn to live without all the creature comforts we take for granted. No phones, no television, no cosmetics and no supermarkets. "Although it was tough, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat, because I learnt and experienced so much. It’s great to be back home. Though I wouldn’t mind going back for a holiday!"


Great Basin National Park Prepares for the NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

During the Jan. 22 to 24 weekend in 2016, Great Basin National Park hosted its annual Lehman Caves lint camp cleanup. About 25 volunteers from three states carried buckets, brushes and other cleaning supplies into the cave network. After a cleanup, “people notice that part of the cave looks brighter,” chief park ecologist Gretchen Baker said. “It’s an ongoing effort ...The National Speleological Society convention is coming, so we want to make sure cavers coming from all over the world have a good view. The lint and debris have been building up for decades. Over 30,000 people go through the cave a year.” #WLeaders #WomenCavers #EWLS


Becky Kagen, Award-Winning Underwater Photographer

Becky Kagen is an award-winning underwater director of photography. Other then being a photographer, she is also a tech instructor. Becky has had a had a curiosity for what was underneath the waves since she was a kid and she always thought that documenting it was what she was going to do. Becky is an Emmy Award winning underwater camera operator, photographer and technical diver. She has been seen on major networks including National Geographic, Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel. She has done several exploration projects and has earned her place within the Fellow Explorer Club. In 2013 she was introduced into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. She has filmed in challenging environments such as caves, under ice, shipwrecks, and even sharks. She has over 20 years of diving experiences, logging thousands of hours underwater making her comfortable in most any environment. She has passion about the underwater world and loves to share her photography and give diving lesions. Her advent…

Georgia Girl Guides Amy Ward & Christine Rose

Amy Ward and Christine Rose were Georgia State Parks employees in 2011, but frustrated with the budget cuts they decided to quit and start their own business called Georgia Girl Guides where the two take people on guided tours into caves in Cloudland Canyon State Park and Pigeon Mountain. Ward is trained in cave rescue and Rose has a master’s in ecological teaching and learning. #WLeadership #EWLS #WomenCavers


QUOTE: Karla Zajac

"I love to survey and help with restoration. I try to participate on as many projects as I can ... Caving has definitely changed my life."

Karla Zajac
Clinical Chemist and 2015 EWC


Frances Benjamin Johnston, The First Woman Cave Photographer

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864 – 1952) is said to be the first woman cave photographer. Her primary work consists of magazines, portraits, and social and architectural documentation. Frances started to experiment with photography during the 1885 when she started her professional studio in Washington, D.C . She was a writer as well. In 1891 she went to Mammoth Cave to gather content for the Demorest’s Family Magazine June 1892 article and her book Mammoth Cave by Flash-Light published in 1893. Later in life she photographed prominent members of Washington’s political and social circles and authored a series of articles about women photographers for the Ladies Home Journal. #WomenCavers #ewls #CavePhotography Source:
Written by Tabitha Rossmann
Edited by Lisa Bauman

QUOTE: Carolina Shrewsbury

In the 70s "there was a kind of hazing I had to go through to be accepted [in caving]. I had been told you were not a caver unless you could cave with no equipment. I learned to climb through fear."

Carolina Shrewsbury
Founder of SpeleoArt and the International Society Speleological Art and 2015 EWC


QUOTE: Adriana F. Sánchez

"There is a clear need in the speleology community to open safe spaces for women to not only participate in the speleology community but also to grow into the leadership role models.”

Adriana F. Sánchez
Cultural Resources Manager, President of Xanvil Culture and Ecology, and 2015 EWC


QUOTE: Jennifer Macalady

“New microbes are as exciting to me as virgin passages – for me there’s a similar thrill of discovery. You know it’s a great day when you get treated to both!”

Jennifer Macalady
Associate Professor, Geomicrobiologist, and 2015 EWC


QUOTE: Christine Grosart

“You need to treat your team how you would like to be treated and give the young, new divers a taste of the action ... you have to give something back."

Christine Grosart
Founder of WetWellies Caving, Cave Photographer, Paramedic, and 2015 EWC


QUOTE: Elen Feuerriegel

“Young women are so often discouraged from pursuing ‘hard science’ fields” but that they “are just as capable, if not more so, as boys and men of doing the dirty work of science and doing it well.”

Elen Feuerriegel
Rising Star Expedition, PhD candidate, and 2015 EWC


QUOTE: Laura Demarest (Young)

"If there is any caving skill I possess, it must certainly be a dogged will to just keep putting one foot in front of the other ... The majority of my accomplishments have happened ... all because I jumped out of my comfort zone"

Laura Demarest (Young)
Watershed Coordinator and 2014 EWC


QUOTE: Rebekah Bauman

“My mom taught me … I like caving because there is a chance I could see bats!"

Rebekah Bauman
Caving since 3 years old and 2013 EWC


QUOTE: Stacy Gantt-Blackwood

My small size "was like something that had been a disadvantage [but when I became a caver] it suddenly made me a super hero.”

Stacy Gantt-Blackwood
Environmental Scientist and  2014 EWC


QUOTE: Mary Sue Socky

“I enjoy taking people underground for the first time, and seeing that look of wonder on their faces.”

Mary Sue Socky
NSS Fellow, Retired Biology Teacher, and  2014 EWC


QUOTE: Marian McConnell

“Caving gives me ideas for songs, and artwork - along with self-confidence ... Caving truly changed my life."

Marian McConnell
Author, over 30-year caver, and  2014 EWC


QUOTE: Kirsten Alvey-Mudd

"Saving habitats, extending known species records, and rescuing and promoting conservation is my calling.”

Kirsten Alvey-Mudd
Chef with a Masters in Biological Sciences, Executive Director of Missouri Bat Census, and 2014 EWC


Kelly Smallwood

Kelly is a caver from Tennessee. She has been caving for 13 years. However, she did not join the NSS until 4 years or so into her caving. She is now a lifetime member and Fellow of the NSS. When she started with photography, she used a typical point and shoot camera. On a photography trip Tumbling Rock Cave, a SCCi Preserve in Alabama in 2005, Kelly was inspired by Nathan Williams who taught her a few tricks that day. After this, she purchased her first DSLR and some flashes and self-taught from there. She’s always preferred FUJI cameras but she’s not to technical. She works very simple in caves. Her work has been on two covers of the NSS News, and she has won a few Merit Awards as well as Honorable Mentions Awards in the NSS Salons. Kelly designed newsletter covers for TAG Caver and has won awards for that as well.
She tells new cave photographers “be prepared that anything you take underground can be destroyed by a cave environment. If you purchase high-dollar cameras or flashes, co…

QUOTE: Gayle Chaney

"All my caving is geared towards education, conservation, exploration, and especially fun.”

Gayle Chaney
Audiologist, caver for 24 years, and 2014 EWC


Cristina Mittermeier, Marine Biologist and Cave Photographer

Cristina was born in Mexico in 1966. She is a photographer as well as a Marine Biologist. For the past 20 years she has been working as a writer and photographer. In 2005 she funded the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP).

Cristina has elevated conservation photography to a whole new level. Back then when she started out with Nature and conservation photography it was considered taboo to talk about the environment. In 2010 she was awarded the Mission Award from North American Nature Photography Association; an organization that experiments with ideas to show how photographers can have an impact on conservation. The organization is now launching a non-profit called Sea Legacy whose mission is to share the power of photography and story-telling to raise awareness of biodiversity and marine conservation.

Cristina uses her photography to show the importance of cave conservation. The destruction of species and landscapes ignited by her passion for conservation. She…

QUOTE: Chrissy Richards

“I love exploration. There is something about being the first person in a passage ... it becomes yours.”

Chrissy Richards
Cave Diver with a Masters of Fisheries and Aquatic Science and 2014 EWC


The Caves of Haiti Exhibit "BETWEEN IMAGINARY AND REALITY" moves to Quebec

Montreal (Quebec) at TOHU
March 23 to May 8, 2016

After its great impact at the UNESCO House in Paris in January 2015, the exhibit highlighting the importance of these geological riches in the culture and history of Haiti is now invited to Montreal (Quebec) at TOHU, from March 23 to May 8, 2016. This multimedia exhibit, presented by the Association Hommes des Cavernes, displays works by three cave photographers: EWLS Social Media Reporter Carole Devillers, Jean-François Fabriol, and Olivier Testa of the team. It was put together by curator and caver Stéphanie Jagou, of the same team. Come and discover it! #speleology #womencavers #ewls #cavesofhaiti

Carole Devillers, EWLS Social Media Reporter

QUOTE: Carole Devillers

“When I cave, I feel a connection to the Creator. The beauty leaves me speechless. The
awesomeness of it all is breathtaking.”

Carole Devillers
Expedition Photographer Caves of Haiti Project
EWLS News Reporter & 2014 EWC


Top 10 Pins of Women in Cave Archaeology

Over the years EWLS has found a many women leaders who have worked to contribute in cave archaeology. Read our top 10 below!

Anges Milowka (23 December 1981 – 27 February 2011) was an Australian technical diver, underwater photographer, author, and cave explorer. She gained international recognition for penetrating deeper than previous explorers into cave systems across Australia and Florida, and as a public speaker and author on the subjects of diving and maritime archaeology. Read more here.

Elen Feuerriegel was featured in our annual 2015 publication this April as an Extraordinary Woman Caver (EWC) and was one of the 6 women scientists who recovered and cataloged than 1200 hominid fossil elements in the South African Rising Star Cave. Congrats Elen. Read more here.

Florence Guillot, speleologist for the past thirty years, is co-responsible for the speleological expedition IOWA 2014 in Papua-New Guinea. Guillot has a PhD in History and is an archaeologist and director of …