incident at Harvey's Cave

Publication
ACA 1973 page 7
Date
1st Feb 1973 approximate
Cave
Harvey's Cave
State
New Mexico
County
Unknown
Country
USA
Category
Caving
Incident type
Hypothermia
Primary cause
FILL ME IN
Secondary cause
Group type
Cavers
Group size
Unknown
Aid type
None
Source
Unknown
Incident flags
   
Data status
Incomplete

Injured cavers

Name Age Sex Injuries Injured areas
Rhodes, Doug 28 Male Hypothermia Not recorded

Incident report

While four cavers started surveying Harvey's Cave, Doug Rhodes (28) and Cal Welbourne headed for the back of the cave to check out a pit. They dropped several 10-to-15-foot pits and attempted to push a passage which turned into a complete siphon. Both cavers were completely soaked. As the others continued mapping or checking leads, Rhodes sat on a rock huddled over a carbide lamp and waited for his companions to finish.

On realizing that he was beginning to develop the symptoms of hypothermia, Rhodes left the group for the surface and the cars. Just inside the entrance he stopped and talked with a porcupine. On the surface, Rhodes knew to head toward the lights of a small town 15 miles away, but instead he walked in the wrong direction towards the lights of a single ranch house. After walking several hundred feet in a 20-to-30-mph wind (temperature about 15° (-10° Rhodes realized his mistake, returned to the cave, and headed towards the correct set of lights. He started his car but was unable to remove his frozen clothes or do anything else until the car's heater had rewarmed him.

Analysis: "Cal was prepared for exposure to water and knew what was in store. He had on long underwear and several layers of caving clothes. Rhodes wore one layer of cotton caving clothes. Welbourne is of stout construction and was thus also better equipped physically to handle exposure than Rhodes who has a slender build. Rhodes was in the early stages of hypothermia when he left the survey team for the entrance. Others should have been observing him and someone should have escorted him out. On reaching the entrance he was disoriented and lacking in judgement (signs of advanced hypothermia). He was probably on the verge of losing consciousness when he reached the cars. This near accident could have been prevented by better planning (warmer clothes) and an awareness of hypothermia dangers on the part of the entire caving party." (Rhodes)

Notes

Doug Rhodes report

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