Southeastern Outdoors Caving in Tennessee
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Cave & Caving Terms

This is a basic list of caving terminology used to describe cave features or caving related items. It is in no way a complete list but gives a basic overview of terms used particularly in the Southeast United States.
  • Accidental - An animal in a cave accidentally. One that does not usually live in a cave but is there usually by either falling, or being washed in. Usually short lived.
  • Amphibian - A class of cold blooded vertebrates that which breath by gills in early stages of life but later develop lungs and some live on land. Such as Frogs and salamanders.
  • Anchor - A secure object used to secure a rope or safety line used for climbing or rappelling.
  • Aquatic - Living in water, such as fish, crayfish, salamanders.
  • Artifact - An item made by humans usually from times long ago. Such as stone tools, painting, or bones.
  • Arthropods -  any member of a group of invertebrate animals that have articulated bodies and jointed legs, such as spiders, crabs, and insects.
  • Ascender - a device used for climbing or ascending a rope.
  • Bacon - a thin formation of drip stone that is usually semi-translucent. the bands of color resemble bacon.
  • Bat - a mammal that form the family Chiroptera. The only member of the mammal family capable of flight.
  • Belay - safety technique (or device) used to aid in rappelling and/or climbing safety.
  • Biota - all of the living organism of a specific area (ie cave)
  • Breakdown - rocks on a cave floor that were once on the wall or most often the roof of the cave.
  • Carabiner - a oblong mechanical device usually made from aluminum with a spring loaded loaded clip  used in various ways for rope attachments.
  • Carbide - calcium carbide Ca2C, it reacts with water to form the gas acetylene used as a lighting source by cavers and miners.
  • Carbide Lamp - light source that utilizes carbide and water to make acetylene gas that is burned to make light.
  • Carbonic Acid - H2C03 is a weak unstable acid often found in ground water and is responsible for the formation of most caves.
  • Carnivorous - an animal that feeds on other animals.
  • Cave - a natural cavity in the earth large enough to be entered by people and at least 50' in length.
  • Cave Cricket - an insect often found in caves or other dark places such as crawl spaces under houses. They feed on plant mater in the cave or just outside the entrances.
  • Cave Flower - common name often used to describe formation Gypsum flowers.
  • Cave Nazi - term used to describe extremist in the caving world, often associated with caving grottos. These nazi's are often forceful in their ways regardless of facts regarding the specific  issues. 
  • Cave Pearl - a smooth, rounded formation found in small shallow pools where water drips.
  • Cave System - a collection of caves linked either hydrologically or by entrances.
  • Cavern - usually used to describe a larger than average cave.
  • Chasm - a wide elongated gap in a cave floor.
  • Claustrophobia - the fear of being in a closed space.
  • Column - a formation made by the joining of a stalactite and a stalagmite, or when either grow to meet the floor or ceiling.
  • Fissure - an open crack in soil or rock.
  • Flowstone - a formation formed by mineralized water flowing over rocks or soil.
  • Fluorescein - an organic die used in tracing ground water. The reddish-yellow dye is detectable in minute concentrations.
  • Fluorometer - an instrument used for measuring fluorescence of water used in ground water tracing.
  • Formations - a general term used to describe cave growths such as  stalactites and stalagmites.
  • Fossil - the remains of plants or animals preserved in rock or sediments.
  • Gallery - a room in a cave often with numerous formations.
  • Gibbs - an ascender operated by the weight of the climber.
  • Glacier Cave - a cave formed within or under a glacier.
  • GPS - 'Global positioning System' an instrument used to compute locations in longitude and latitude.
  • Grotto - a highly decorated but modest size room in a cave. Also a term used to denote organizations, groups or clubs of cavers.
  • Guano - dung or feces usually from bats.
  • Gypsum - hydrated calcium sulphate CaSO42H2O
  • Gypsum Flower - a formation of a curving deposit of Gypsum on a cave surface.
  • Halite - sodium chloride NaC1 may form as decorations or formations in dry caves.
  • Hall - a large chamber that is longer than it is wide.
  • Harness - a safety device used for safely ascending or descending a rope. Usually either a 'seat harness' or a 'chest harness'.
  • Headlamp - Flashlight, light source that, that is worn on your head or a helmet. 
  • Helmet - a safety device for protecting your head. Also used to attach lights to.
  • Herbivore - a plant eating animal.
  • Hibernaculum - a place where bats hibernate for the winter.
  • Ice Cave - a normal cave that has either perennial or permanent ice in it.
  • Jumar - a brand of ascender.
  • Live Cave - a cave with flowing water and/or active formations.
  • Overhang - a rock shelter or cut under of a cliff that does not actually form a cave.
  • Radon - an inert radioactive gas that tends to concentrate in caves and other underground places such as cellars.
  • Rappel - a method of descending a rope using specialty devices such as harness and descend er.
  • Stalactite - a formation hanging or growing down from the ceiling of a cave, usually conical in shape.
  • Stalagmite - a formation growing up vertically from the cave floor often directly under a stalactite. 
  • Straw - a thin walled stalactite formation that is hollow in the center giving it a drinking straw appearance.
  • Wet Suit - neoprene clothing used in or under water to help insulate it's wearer from cold water.  

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