incident at Unnamed Cave

ACA 1973 page 5
25th Feb 1973
Unnamed Cave
Incident type
Difficulty on rope
Primary cause
Insufficient equipment
Secondary cause
Group type
Group size
Aid type
Underground aid
Incident flags
Data status

Injured cavers

Name Age Sex Injuries Injured areas
Bowman, Don 16 Male Not recorded Not recorded

Incident report

Tennessee, unnamed cave

Sunday, 25 February 1973

Don Bowman (16) and a companion (18) entered a small cave which was unknown to local NSS members. "About 50 feet into the cave a very narrow slot leads into a narrow zig-zag passage which descends about 20 feet to a crevice about 30 feet deep. Here the two boys jammed a small log in the upper part of the passage and tied to it a doubled Perlon rope to be used for ascending hand-over- hand. The ropes lay in the narrowest part of the crevice causing a person on the rope to have to chimney out about 3 feet to get around the constriction. They rappelled into the pit on the Perlon (using either a carabiner wrap or single brake bar) and spent several hours in very muddy passage at the bottom. The older boy was able to climb out of the pit on the rope. But because of fatigue and mud now coating the rope Don was unable to climb out, so his companion went for help. The Knox County Rescue Squad was alerted and they in turn requested the assistance of local cavers."

Four NSS members responded to the call for help. Jim Wilson was able to squeeze down through the narrow slot that led to the pit where the boy was trapped.

"Since a direct pull was impossible because of the narrowness of the crevice and the zig-zag nature of the passage it was decided to attempt to get him out under his own power since conversation with him implied that he wasn't hurt. Connie Pierce, another suitably slender caver, joined Jim at the pit. The belay line was tied to the Perlon as a safety in case the log pulled loose. No other rigging point was available. Jim rappelled into the pit and found Don unhurt but shivering uncontrollably. He was given a denim jacket and quickly rigged into the rope using Jumars (Mitchell system). He had no difficulty until he reached the constriction at the top of the pit where it took him 20 minutes with help from Connie to get through. After resting briefly he was able to leave the cave under his own power." (Wilson) It took 6 hours from the time the rescue squad was contacted until the victim got out of the cave.

Analysis: "Inexperience was the cause of the accident. The boys had some knowledge of rope work probably acquired from mountaineering books or magazines but it was obviously insufficient as regards climbing techniques. We were extremely fortunate that Don was able to get himself out when given the proper equipment. Getting an injured person out of this particular cave probably would require enlargement of the passage leading to the "("Wilson)

Sources: Report by Jim Wilson Pierce, C. (1973) "How to Save a Neophyte." Speleotype. Vol. 8, No. 1. pp. 2-3.


Report by Jim Wilson Pierce, C. (1973) "How to Save a Neophyte." Speleotype. Vol. 8, No. 1. pp. 2-3.


Speleotype Vol8 No1 p2

This record was last updated on 18th Nov 2023 at 00:30 UTC.