Monday, February 9, 2015

Learning About Things, And Learning About Yourself, Through Books

I find that nonfiction is sometimes a great way to "shake things up" when I get into a literature rut and start mixing up fictional characters, relationships, and plot points. It's also a legitimate way to read books that have quite a few pictures in them--as some nonfiction have lovely full-spread photography or information graphs--while also learning a lot of new information. And, as I discovered recently, nonfiction is a way to discover new things about yourself, explore possible new hobbies and interests, all from the safety and ease of your armchair (or wherever you happen to be reposing whilst reading).

I thought reading about caves would be a good idea. It was a bit of a random scientific field I chose, and I have learned a lot, such as:

1) Most caves are formed out of limestone, but there are also caves created from volcanic activity. 

2) Things like stalactites and stalagmites are called speleothems, and are formed out of calcite, the same mineral that comprises limestone. There is also such as thing as "cave bacon."

3) There are three "levels" of caves: the Entrance Zone (which has basically the same conditions as the surface), the Twilight Zone (no, not that one!), and the Dark Zone. Aside from some fungii that don't need sunlight to survive, no plants exist beyond the twilight zone.  

4) "Chimneying" is kind of like that thing that Pacha and Kuzco do in "The Emperor's New Groove" when they're stuck in the ravine.

5) But in my opinion "Laybacking" is actually way cooler, though since it is a one-person climbing technique I can see why they didn't use it in a movie about cooperation and friendship.

6) "Crimping" is not to be confused with "crumping." In fact I'm pretty sure you'd get hurt if you get the two mixed up when you're actually trying to climb something.

7) I love bats, but

8) Bats can be massively gross if they're just hanging around and not flying about eating all those nasty mosquitoes. Apparently if you're under them you shouldn't look directly up at them, due to guano reasons. But then, I don't know why you'd want to be under them at all in this case.  

9) An area of flooded cave is called a "sump."


10) Always carry three methods of light: one main, two backups.

11) That whole "bioluminescent" stuff in movies is apparently not true. Caves are completely dark in the (aptly title) Dark Zone, and the only phosphorescence is in glow-worms, which are actually the larvae of a certain species of fly.  

12) "Phreatic tubes" are tunnel formations made in rock by a lot of water under a lot of pressure. While looking to find photos to illustrate this I ran across this site for the Dudley Caving Group which has a lot of photos in one place.

13) "Prusiking" is the method of using a Prusik knot in order to make a controlled descent down your rope. There are also a lot of newer, high-tech contraptions called "descenders."

14) The sport is "caving." Only posers call it "spelunking."  

15) I am claustrophobic and afraid of heights. I am so very, very glad I did my research before attempting to go caving myself, or else I might have learned the hard way.

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