This is a reproduction of an article which appeared in Australian Caver, No. 143, February 1998, pp7-8.
Australian Caver is the quarterly journal of the
Australian Speleological Federation Inc..

Glenn Baddeley

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Caving Definitions -
A Glossary of Terms


by Max Meth 1

It was good to see the definitions given in AC142 p24 by David & Sharon Gwillim and Lucinda Coates. This follows on from AC134 p15-16 by Garry Smith and Pat & Geoffery Hyde.

It is essential that cavers keep up to date with terms in common usage, so I offer a few more. Some of my terms are based on a list by Ed Bailey in CEGSA NEWS of May 1972 p5.

COLLOQUIAL TERMS

ANCHOR-A heavy rock, tied to the end of a rope, which is then dropped down a pitch to ascertain the depth.
BAT-The sound heard when a flying mammal flies overhead and excretes on one's head.
BEDROCK-At the cavers dinner, the last dance of the evening before everyone leaves to go home.
CAVE SURVEYOR-A person who takes the time to accurately measure a cave passage, but has no idea of the passage of time.
CRAWL-On a caving trip, the method used to get breakfast in bed, especially on cold & wet mornings.
CRAWL-What cavers do when they don't have access to a cave that they wish to visit.
FLOWSTONE-Cavers affectionate name for Florence Stone, who in 1611 invented Stones, 'Green Ginger Wine'.
FOSSIL CHAMBER-A place where elderly cavers can play cards and watch TV.
GASTROPOD-A pocket of foul air encountered in a cave when one is too close to the caver in front.
POTHOLE-A marijuana mine. (more common in the 1960's apparently)
RIFT-In caving, a chasm that develops between a married couple, because only one wants to go caving every weekend.
SOLUTION TUBE-What the caving trip leader wishes for when faced with a serious dilemma.
SPELEOLOGY-The art of spelling.
SPELEOTHERM-A caver that on becoming lost, is now hot and bothered.
STALACTITE-A POW (Prisoner of War) camp for captured troglodytes from which escape is impossible.
STALAGMITE-A POW camp for captured troglodytes, from which escape might be possible.
STUCK-A serious problem for a caver. Prevents movement until a 'six' has been thrown. A set of dice is therefore essential in the emergency kit. Note that an emergency dice made of a sugar cube is pretty useless, as it is difficult to keep your lumps dry in most caves.
THEODOLITE-Sometimes menaces cavers, and is greatly feared and shunned by many. Actually it is a harmless religious troglodyte.
TRACE-If you drop the ladder or the trace down the cave entrance it may disappear without trace.

Well. having disposed of the serious bit, I have time for a little trivia:

It seems that a glossary of caving terms was given by J N Jennings in the AUSTRALIAN KARST INDEX, 1985, in Section 14, pp1-13. The forerunner of this list appeared in the SPELEO HANDBOOK, 1968 pp15-19 and was first compiled in 1960 by Jennings. Both the above books were published by the ASF (Australian Speleological Federation incorporated).

We are now indebted to Arthur Clarke for an update of this list, with some original terms redefined and many new ones added. Arthur's list appeared in the ASF publication PROCEEDINGS OF THE 21ST BIENNIAL CONFERENCE, 1997 PP87-92. Arthur's list was titled KARST BIO-SPACE A GLOSSARY OF TERMS and it omitted some 'non bio' terms.

A complete listing of definitions of caving terms is now required. One that combines Arthur's updated definitions AND Jennings original list with other new terms added.

I think it is also worth repeating some points made by Jennings in 1985:

1) Jennings stated that his list of terms does not purport to be comprehensive, and for more complete collections of terms he gave details of 4 overseas publications that each contained a caving Glossary.

2) Jennings acknowledged the help received from other cavers in compiling the list, and pointed out that there was not agreement on all the terms included, nor on their definitions.

3) And somewhat cryptically, Jennings remarked, "Some terms which have markedly conflicting and confusing usages (in) Australia are omitted as the best deterrent to their further employment here."

But Jennings did not list the terms that he considered conflicting and confusing. And now there is perhaps no way of knowing which ones he meant. But here are three contenders:

FORMATIONS-Synonymous with DECORATION or SPELEOTHEM. This is the term in universal use by the general public and the mass media for cave decorations. Often this term means solely stalactites, and to a lesser extent, stalagmites.
FORMATION-Synonymous with KARST GEOMORPHOLOGY. Curiously, Jennings did not define either MORPHOLOGY, GEOMORPHOLOGY, or KARST GEOMORPHOLOGY. The use of the word FORMATION to describe the process by which the cave itself was formed, MUST BE discouraged, because it is too similar to FORMATIONS which are the cave decorations.
CAVES-Synonymous with CAVE. The use of the plural term CAVES for the singular CAVE is in universal use by the general public, eg 'we went to the caves', and 'it was raining so we sheltered in the caves' when in fact only one cave was involved. The plural usage is OK, eg "Most Australian CAVES are formed in limestone' is quite correct.

These 3 terms should not only never be used by Speleos, but also, their use by the general public should somehow be discouraged. And, by being omitted from the previous glossary, it does not appear that their usage has reduced. They are still in common usage by the general public, and by some cavers.

It is my opinion that it is better for these terms to be in the caving glossary, with a note that they are NOT recommended to be used.

More trivia: I have actually seen the term SPELEOTHERM used in a 'serious' article, when the writer actually meant SPELEOTHEM. (But I can not locate the reference just now). Of course I am seeking a SPELEOTHERM. A natural hot spa in a cave would be just the thing to find at the end of a tortuous crawl.

Here are a few definitions of terms that are of interest, that are not in either Jennings, or Clarke's lists. Some of my terms come from a "Dictionary of Geological Terms" 1957 by the American Geological Institute, New York.

ARMCHAIR CAVER-An experienced caver who now rarely if ever goes caving, but offers advice to those that do.
AVEN-A dome or vertical hole in a cave roof, that does not reach the surface and (usually) does not have any passage leading from it. cf Blind shaft.
CAVES-This term not to be used. The objection is the use of the plural when only 1 cave is implied. Use CAVE, or better yet, name the cave. eg 'we went to Big Cave' is OK, 'we took shelter in the CAVES' is NOT OK. 'Many CAVES contain a streamway' is OK.
CORALLINE-Limestone having the structure of or composed of corals, as, coralline limestone.
DOME SYNDROME-The tendency for cavers to go to the known end of a cave, especially when without due regard for the cave itself nor for its contents, and merely to be able to say 'been there, done that'.
FORAMINIFEROUS-Limestone that is composed chiefly of the remains of Foraminifera, a subclass of Sarcodina, unicellular (mostly microscopic & marine) animals that secrete tests (hard coverings) of calcium carbonate.
FORMATION-This term not to be used. Use KARST GEOMORPHOLOGY, referring to the creation of a cave. The term FORMATION is generally confused with FORMATIONS, which also should not be used.
FORMATIONS-This term not to be used. Use DECORATION or SPELEOTHEM. This term FORMATIONS is generally confused with FORMATION, which also should not be used.
KARST GEOMORPHOLOGY-The scientific study of karst landforms (both surface and subterranean) and the processes which contribute to their development.
OOLITE-A type of rock, often calcareous which grows by radial or concentric means around a nucleus. cf Kankar.

I am maintaining a glossary of caving terms that currently lists over 500 terms.

My list currently includes:

In particular, I do not have a definition for the following terms: ANTHODITE, FROSTWORK, HELIGMITE, PIT, STANCE, STATION, STEGAMITE, SUBJACENT KARST, SWIRLHOLE, SYNGENETIC KARST, TAFONI, TAPE, TOWER KARST, TRACER, TRAVERSE, VAUCLUSIAN SPRING, VERMICULATION, VERTICAL ANGLE, WATER SINK, WATER TRAP.

A complete listing of the glossary will be supplied to anyone interested, via mail or email.

A worthwhile revision of the glossary will not be possible without the cooperation and help from cavers.

I AM SEEKING COMMENTS FROM CAVERS:
1) AS TO THE SUITABILITY OF THE TERMS THAT ARE INCLUDED
2) AND OF THEIR DEFINITIONS
3) SUGGESTIONS FOR ADDITIONAL TERMS TO BE INCLUDED (or deleted).

SUCH COMMENTS CERTAINLY NEED TO BE ADDRESSED BEFORE ANY THOUGHT OF PUBLICATION OF AN UPDATED LIST.

Comments are invited:
Phone/Fax03 8625 2700,
MailPO BOX 622 Ceduna SA 5690
E-mailmmeth-spam99@bigpond.com 2

Max G Meth

References to selected glossaries

CLARKE Arthur, 1997, Karst Bio-Space - a glossary of terms, in Proceedings of the 21st Biennial Conference (compiled by Johnathon Walsh), ASF inc.

JENNINGS Joseph N, 1985, Cave and Karst Terminology, in Australian Karst Index 1985 (edited by MATTHEWS Peter G), ASF inc.

SMITH Garry, 1997, DEFINITIONS AND COLLOQUIAL TERMINOLOGY, Australian Caver #134 pp15-16 { and also on line on the internet at http://wasg.iinet.net.au/altterm.html}

WEBB Rauleigh, 1995, CAVE AND KARST TERMINOLOGY, {on line on the internet at http://wasg.iinet.net.au/terminol.html}


Notes by Glenn Baddeley

1 Copyright © Max G Meth 1998.

2 New email address. Was mmeth@arcom.com.au.


Links to Glossary

The Caving Glossary is available on the web at one or more of:

Max Meth


Copyright Warning

The Caving Glossary is the copyright property of the AUSTRALIAN SPELEOLOGICAL FEDERATION INC. and any reproduction of it either in part or in full, should have the approval of the ASF, and should be accompanied by a copyright notice. (similar to this one).

Max Meth


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