On June 8th of 2008 in a torrent of rain, myself, Dr. Hugh Mills, and Quentin Jones ascended the mountain on which Breakdown Palace Cave is located. This was my third trip up these steep slopes. I hoped to entice someone, anyone to go into the cave with me as every previous trip ended up being solo.
The entrance of Breakdown Palace was dug open in 1989 by Mike Rogers and Jack Thomison. It's a nasty climbdown that despite the narrative saying is 15', I remember as being 40' as a near vertical chimney. The chimney is the remains of a collapse feature which was shored up by the less than stable soil. It's sketchy.
Hugh and Quentin watched me climb down into the entrance with a waterfall of chocolate milk flowing over me. They both shook their heads. I was going in alone, yet again. I had my first DSLR, a Pentex K10D, with me and I was hoping to get pictures there with scale of the massive formations.
I snapped pictures with my on-camera flash of the massive room and formations. This would be my last trip into Breakdown Palace. This may have been the last trip into Breakdown Palace ever. It was reported a few months later by Jim Fox that the entrance had collapsed.
Breakdown Palace lived up to its name. Geology happens. As a scientist it's exciting to know and witness the moments when it does, sometimes dramatically. Geology happens over such a long time that many people think the world never changes. But it is a dynamic planet we live on, ever changing. To paraphrase Will Durant, we exist by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
For all the photos, go here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chucksutherland/albums/72157672338964688
Anne Elmore and Bill Walters lead Kristen Bobo, Greg King, Mike West, and I into the far reaching passages of Blue Spring Cave (Tennessee's largest cave [#36 in the world]).
The formations we encountered there were unlike any I've ever seen, and likely will ever see until I return. Delicate, unbelievable, pristine gypsum formations for almost a mile of passage were common place. In other locations coral fossils jutted from the ceilings and walls with water worn weathering stripping the limestone from around them. Not to mention the giant feline paw prints. It was truly an underground museum.
Make no mistake, I'm a caving noob. But I took two even bigger noobs to Lost Creek so they could check out what caving is. Brian Herron and Terry Steadman both (appeared to) enjoyed themselves. We went to the waterfall room and came back out. I noted and explored a side passage the next day (pictures 1 & 2) which was hundreds of feet of tight crawl. It sucked so I turned back.
I was unable to capture Ben White's entrance blowing steam 20+ feet into the air due to the thermal gradient. It was very impressive, but the atmospheric conditions weren't optimal for photography.