Means of access: All of the caves in SK lie on the East side of the country, and I live on the West. Therefore, every cave takes 3 hours to get to at the least. Whilst a long journey sounds promising, don’t get your hopes up: caves will last about half an hour to an hour of exploring. (an hour if you go round it twice but much slower) No more from my experience and the experience of a few others I had talked to on the trip. Of course, there may be longer treks out there. Show caves are show caves, no entry allowed. Every other cave seems to be very free to enter with no permission, although I don’t plan the trip so I could be wrong on that part.
BATS:Seeing bats is freaken cool. They are really tame so you can just pick them up and they’re fine with it. I don’t wanna touch them but goddamn they’re cute. How do they stick their little feet on the wall like that?
Leading on from this: our group takes bat urine and spit samples to make sure they are not diseased in any of the caves they go into. They also take water samples from as many caves as possible. They take photos of every single insect they see 100 times and collect different small water insects too for later inspection. I didn’t really understand why at first, but the next point explains that out.
They’re pretty much alone: When we were in the cave, one of the ropes became loose and dislodged. It caused some problems. Of course later I explained how England has, like .. a ‘head caving’ group that sorts all of that out and checks up on it. Ladders, ropes etc get replaced every couple of years and BCA (British Caving Association) helps make that possible. (correct me if i’m wrong) So anyways when I asked about that kind of thing in Korea, the only reply was: “we ARE that association.” As in, this group of about 10 people are the only people that ACTUALLY cave in Korea, and so they’re the only ones that can take care of caves and make sure these things get done. That’s why they rigorously test every animal, bug and piece of water they see.
There’s no callout: Well, if 10 people go into a cave, the only 10 people who actually cave in the whole damn country are inside. Plus, I guess it’s enough for 1 or 2 to run out of the 10 minute caves to get help. I don’t think callout has been invented here yet.
The caves are… non life threatening: I mean, if you hurt yourself in here then *clap* *clap* *clap* you can walk out by yourself and get yourself sorted in the car park thank you very much. The best way to think about it is the length of Suicide Pot but without the SRT. Plus, most caves don’t have water. They’re basically mostly dry. The ground is flat and sandy/muddy. There’s hardly a rock to trip up on round here and you can just wear your trainers indoors. Caving in the winter however, is a death trap because Korea reaches the good old -20 degrees so you’d be a bit crazy to go out and cave then.
All In all: this group is about truly conserving the caves they have and the animals that live inside them. Most of the people on the team are studying Biological cave species (or something along the lines) and feel the need to help the cave life systems here. There’s no talk of ‘digging out more cave’, but more ‘are the bats ok in here and are they getting on ok?’ There’s a feeling I got that told me they felt the responsibility to look after these caves very well, as if they knew there was only 10 of them to do it. Well they should be bloody proud of themselves, then!