2021/03/02

Tennessee Precipitation

I recently admitted to myself that I only have a vague notion of when the "wet season" is in Tennessee. To fill this gap, I immediately went to my trusty tools in GIS to help me break this problem down into more mentally digestible chunks.

Using North America Climate – Monthly Mean Precipitation data I was able to clip out my area of interest and use zonal statistics to produce a table of data for each county for each month of observation. While the dates of the dataset are from 1950 - 2000, I feel this is a good starting place for this particularly analysis.

Below is a video which shows the annual transitions using the original GIS data.



Below shows the general trends across Tennessee.



For a more detailed inspection, below you'll find the original maps for monthly analysis of precipitation in Tennessee. There are a few interesting things that show up when one looks at this data. October is clearly our dryest month, which I found to be surprising. Precipitation is colinear with elevation to the point that certain geographic features are obvious in given months. One can clearly see the Blue Ridge at any time of year, and March begins to reveal the Cumberland Plateau and the Sequatchie Valley. The Nashville Basin is noticable in all months but January.

Regional trends are also obvious, with the north-east being consistently dryer than surrounding regions and the southern Cumberland Plateau being consistently wetter than surrounding regions.



If you want to dig into the data and see what you can find out for your area, here is the table that I cooked out from the GIS data.

2021/02/10

Jungle Book Film (1994) and the Upper Cumberland

THE STORY BEHIND WALT DISNEY'S DECISION TO FILM RUDYARD KIPLING'S JUNGLE BOOK MOVIE AT LOST CREEK CAVE AND WATERFALL
A PERSONAL RECOLLECTION BY DAVID STARNES RETIRED PRINCIPAL PLANNER LOCAL PLANNING ASSISTANCE OFFICE TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT



I was employed by the State of Tennessee as a community planner from October 1990 to August 2011. The Local Planning Assistance Office of the Upper Cumberland region was based in Cookeville. Our agency was in the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, which also included the Tennessee Film Commission. Occasionally, different agencies would meet to explain their role in fostering economic growth in the state, and this was how my love for caving became entwined in the 1994 Walt Disney live-action production of Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book.

Around 1991, Dancy Jones, the Tennessee Film Commission Director at that time, came to our office and explained the importance of the community planners and film commission as a state agency. She concluded her interesting talk in about an hour, and when she was ready to leave, someone in my office mentioned that if she ever needed a cave location for a movie, she should contact me. She wrote my name down and said her department would contact me if that were the case. I gave her my name and said I would help, but I thought I would never hear from her again, or her department for that matter.

I was an active caver in the 1960s through the 1980s, but there are still cavers in Tennessee who participated in this adventure sport more than I have. At 65, I consider myself retired from the sport, although I like to keep up with current caving such as new caving discoveries and for my data research. During my undergraduate at Tennessee Tech, I majored in geography with minors in geology and history. I was also a member of the local caving club, the Upper Cumberland Grotto (UCG), and the Tennessee Cave Survey (TCS). My interest in the TCS is the cave data pertaining to the geographic location of caves, specifically rock strata and physiographic provinces in Tennessee. Through T.C. Barr’s Caves of Tennessee, I, like many cavers at the time,was intimately familiar with the notable caves in the state, such as Lost Creek. For years, cavers considered this book a Bible for Tennessee Caves.

In the mid-1970s, I visited Lost Creek Cave for the first time with the late Art Bosnak, a well-known local caver who photographed cave formations. Some cavers, in a light-hearted way, thought Art was not suited for caving, especially in caves with tight constrictions, withArt being almost seven feet tall- probably the tallest basketball player to ever play for Tennessee Tech. Professionally, Art was a rural school teacher; however, he also had an academic background in biology. He sampled water in caves to determine the water quality's impact on cave life and published at least one professional paper on this topic.On this first trip to Lost Creek, Art and I were going for water samples.

We first stopped to visit his friend in Sparta, Ross Cardwell. Ross did not cave that day, but cautioned us about rattlesnakes and copperheads being in the sink on such a warm day. After arriving at the sink, we accessed the cave by parking on the sink's north side, which is no longer used because of the larger developed parking area on the southern side of the sink. On our trip back into the cave, we went as far as the 40-foot underground waterfall, a well-known feature. Art retrieved water samples from Lost Creek that day and samples at the entrance of nearby Merrybranch Cave, although we did not explore this one.

To my surprise, in late 1993 or early 1994, the Tennessee Film Commissioncontacted me through the Local Planning Assistance Office. A movie company filming in Tennessee needed a cave entrance in the Cookeville area that could be used for the positioning of wolves. The movie company, Walt Disney, was filmingThe Jungle Book,released in December 1994.The location manager for the movie was Edward Bowen, or “Eddie” as we called him, and he was coming to Cookeville so I could take him to a cave that could be used in the movie. I was known to have knowledge of area caves, so they thought I would help find them a cave. I knew exactly what they were looking for: a cave to have an entrance that (1) they could position wolves for a young boy (Mowgli) to encounter after becoming lost in the jungle; (2) did not have cave formations, as these could be a distraction; (3) has a relatively level floor for cameras; and (4) could be readily accessed from a nearby road and be fairly easy to walk to with the movie equipment.

Eddie arrived at the Local Planning Assistance Office and I explained I knew of two caves in the area that might fit their purpose. One was Kuykendall Cave, in Putnam County, which we visited first, it being less than five miles north of the planning office on East 15th Street. The second was Lost Creek, which was much further out, in a rural area of southeastern White County. Both caves were generally described to him, and we would visit the smaller Kuykendall Cave in the morning, and then the much larger, remote Lost Creek Cave in the afternoon.

Joining on the the trip to the caves was an assistant from the Tennessee Film Commission and Kay Detwiler another staff planner at LPAO. Kay was helpful to the film company in the local logistics of having a base of operation in the Cookeville area.

After arriving at Kuykendall Cave, located about 100 yards east of Free Hill Road on the northern edge of Cookeville, we proceeded into the cave with flashlights. Eddie Bowen took several photos inside the cave of a sizable room, as well as the entrance itself. Although it might be useful for a minor shooting location, as opposed to a principal location site, I think Eddie's opinion was that he would like to see the Lost Creek Cave, in order to see if its larger cave entrance could better accommodate a film crew. Kuykendall's location and accessibility to Free Hill Road were good, but the twenty-foot wide but only seven-foot high entrance could be restrictive in getting movie cameras into the cave. In addition, ledges suitable for positioning the wolves seemed to be few and too small.

After Kuykendall Cave, we had lunch at a now defunct steakhouse, Quincy’s on South JeffersonAvenue in Cookeville. During lunch, Eddie mentioned we could not talk to anyone about a film company coming to the area to make a movie. Any leak out may make Disney move to another location. Eddie also planned Fall Creek Falls State Park as a principal location. Since he earned fame for his Oscar nomination “Silence of the Lambs”, Eddie told us Disney was trying to get Anthony Hopkins to be in the movie, either as Colonel Geoffrey Brydon (Kitty's father), or the physician Dr. Julius Plumford. This fell through and Sam Neil or John Cleese took the role meant for him.

On the drive to Lost Creek Cave, I told Eddie that "Lost Creek Cave, as well as having a large entrance, is situated in a large sink, with a 60-foot waterfall that is considered to be quite scenic". He politely but firmly responded, "well, we are not interested in any waterfalls or the sinkhole itself, just a cave entrance to position wolves for a filming shot". I responded by saying, "okay, and I do hope this large cave entrance could be what you are looking for". We arrived at the small, gravel parking area on the north side of the sink. A major ice storm hit this part of the state a few days after our visit, so if we had not visited when we did, we likely would not have been able to.The storm caused considerable damage in the Upper Cumberland including downed power lines and road closures due to fallen trees.

Eddie took photos of the steep walls on the walk into the sink and of the large cave entrance on our left. Unfortunately, someone parked directly above the cave and threw a dead goat, which was now lying at the entrance on a rock slab. We Walked to the 60-foot waterfall where Eddie took more photos. It was a dreary, overcast day and the green foliage that covers the sink in spring and summer was notably absent, leaving this karst feature with a brownish-grayish appearance. Fortunately, the lack of foliage allowed us to see how big the sink was. Since Eddie was obviously photographing features other than the cave entrance, I approached him to ask what he thought about this place. Eddie let us know he was impressed with Lost Creek Sink, not only the large cave entrance, but also the 60-foot waterfall and the sink itself. He was so impressed he was to meet with the movie director, Stephen Sommers,who was flying into Atlanta from India, after likely filming there. Eddie was going to try to convince Sommers to rewrite the script to accommodate, what he thought, was a very beautiful and exotic place.When we returned to the planning office, Eddie thanked us for a great tour of the area.

At the Atlanta meeting, the men decided that what was supposed to be a minor would now be a principal location. In the script rewrite, the wolves that were supposed to be in a cave entrance, were relocated to the grotto-like base of the Lost Creek Waterfall. They built a monorail on the south-side of the steep sink slope for Mowgli to slide in down into a dark and scary forest. The Lost Creek Cave only appeared at the end of the movie when Mowgli and Kitty are fleeing Monkey City. As they leave the dark cave into sunlight, they immediately have a dramatic confrontation with Shere Khan the Tiger. At the end, Disney used the waterfall as a backdrop for a romantic scene between Mowgli and Kitty and the credit’s backdrop. It is likely more movie scenes involve Lost Creek Sink, but these are the most prominent.

Disney likely secured the right to film in Lost Creek through longtime owner, James Rylander, since at the time it was not a state natural area. According to Larry Matthews's book, Caves of Fall Creek Falls, Rylander deeded the cave and surrounding property to the state as a part of Fall Creek Falls State Park. I believe this took place sometime around 2004, but the state website says that it was designated a state natural area in 2012. Fall Creek Falls State Park, not far from Lost Creek, may have influenced Disney to consider it as a principal location. Fall Creek Falls seemed to serve as a primary base of field operations for the filming in the area. Several scenes in the movie were filmed at the state park. These include the crossing at the top of Fall Creek Falls by Captain William Boone and his men on the way to Monkey City, and the dramatic jump of Mowgli off a high cliff into the large pool at the base of Cane Creek Falls. There were also scenes involving the swinging bridge over Cane Creek Cascades and the gorge area downstream of the cascades.

Filming started in a few weeks, especially at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Along with some dignitaries that included local and state officials, Kay and I were invited to the state park for half-a-day to see filming and to have lunch. After arriving and unsure of where to go, we by chance asked a man where we were expected. Of all people, it was the producer, Edward S. Feldman himself, a very nice and down-to-earth individual. He told us to head on down to the Cane Creek Nature Center where other guests were meeting (Photos 1 and 2). At the center, a group was led into the Cane Creek gorge where a for a filming of a movie scene involving Baloo the Bear (Photos 3 and 4).

Following the shoot, we went to the parking lot, where the tiger from the movie was kept in an open grassy area nearby. Park visitors were not allowed near the animal and it was fenced off by yellow ribbons around trees. A movie assistant walked the lion around and tended to its needs (Photo 5). Kay and I drove a short distance to a large red/white tent that was set up for lunch (Photo 6). The catered lunch was excellent and the movie producer, Edward Feldman sat to my right telling us how niceTennesseans were and how the state park personnel were helpful in their filming. Following lunch, our VIP tour was over and we headed back to the Local Planning Office in Cookeville.

A short time later, Kay and I had supper at Applebee’s in Cookeville with Eddie, where he again thanked us for our help. Our conversation about filming gave me the impression that the monorail didn't really prove that useful. There are only a few seconds in the movie involving it and it was at night when the movie viewer couldn't really see what was going on. I inquired if the crew saw any snakes, especially the poisonous types. He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and muttered something like "oh man!" I took this to mean that they probably had at least one snake encounter while being there.

Although work at the Local Planning Assistance Office is rarely routine, it can be mundane with reviewing subdivision plats, zoning issues, and preparing land use studies and grant applications, etc. I was grateful that the Tennessee Film Commission contacted and involved me in the making of Walt Disney's “The Jungle Book”. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Tennessee has many exotic and reasonably accessible locations for movie crews. I hope movie companies will continue taking advantage of the beautiful natural settings in our state, as well as urban settings that can be found in our major cities such as Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga.


Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
Local dignitaries waiting to walk down into the Cane Creek gorge to see the filming of a bear scene for The Jungle Book movie.

Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
Left to right, David Starnes, Doug McBroom (former county executive of Putnam County), and former state representative Jere Hargrove. Remainder are film crew personnel standing around waiting for the movie scene involving the bear to be set up and filmed.

Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
Film crew personnel standing around waiting for the movie scene involving the bear scene to be set up and filmed

Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
Filming of the bear scene with the bear visible near the middle of the photo. A trainer appears to be giving the bear a treat to make it rise up.

Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
A trainer walking the tiger (in the middle of the photo) in the parking lot at the Cane Creek Nature Center.

Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
Film crew location site that was set up in the park south of the nature center. Large red and white tent is where catered lunch was served.

Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
Another photo of monorail. According to the location manager, this apparatus may not have been used as much as expected by the film crew.

Jungle Book Filming - Photo Credit David Starnes
David Starnes standing in front of the entrance to Lost Creek Cave.

Letter From Location Manager - Jungle Book Filming - Credit David Starnes
Letter From Location Manager



The following photos are courtesy of April Moore.


Jungle Book Filming, Lost Creek area, White County, Tennessee 2 Jungle Book Filming, Lost Creek area, White County, Tennessee 3 Jungle Book Filming, Lost Creek area, White County, Tennessee 4 Jungle Book Filming, Lost Creek area, White County, Tennessee 5 Jungle Book Filming, Lost Creek area, White County, Tennessee 1



The Junglebook Watch Guide for Locals


Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book on Amazon Prime Video

Below is a watch guide for Disney’s 1994 live action Jungle Book movie. If you know the Upper Cumberland region, you’ll recognize these iconic locations!

Time Location
0:15:50 Lost Creek Falls
0:16:27 Lost Creek Falls
0:26:16 Cane Creek Cascades
0:28:56 Fall Creek Falls
0:30:50 Cane Creek
1:18:42 Fall Creek Falls
1:27:32 Cane Creek Falls
1:27:36 Buzzards Roost
1:27:48 Lost Creek Falls
1:27:53 Cane Creek Gorge
1:28:25 Cane Creek Falls - unsure
1:29:42 Cane Creek Cascades jump
1:29:44 Cane Creek Falls jump
1:43:07 Lost Creek Cave
1:44:07 Lost Creek Cave
1:46:05 Lost Creek Falls

2021/02/09

How to Look for and Photograph Petroglyphs

While I am by no means the expert at either of the things this blog post is about, I know a little more than the average Joe. I provide this knowledge here to those curious, and for my own records. The information provided here is especially relevant to the southeastern United States. If you are from elsewhere you may find that not all the information I provide suits your environment, the types of petroglyphs you have, or your photography needs.

Early along in my caving career it was shared with me that some of the sites we were visiting had prehistoric records in the form of pictographs and petroglyphs. Pictographs are painted onto the wall with a medium, like charcoal, or red ochre. Petroglyphs, or glyphs, are incised marks on stone. The two are different enough to warrant separate articles on how to photograph and image. If you are interested in photographing pictographs, check out this article I wrote on the subject.

I should note that the techniques I provide here for imaging petroglyphs are also effective for discerning text on old grave markers. It is non-destructive, but should probably be done during hours where sunlight won't interfere with your photography.

What is a petroglyph?

Here's your obligatory definition grabbed directly from Wikipedia:

A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found worldwide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples. The word comes from the Greek prefix petro-, from πέτρα petra meaning "stone", and γλύφω glýphō meaning "carve", and was originally coined in French as pétroglyphe.

What I often see in the field are two types of petroglyphs. One is a scratched image or writing, and the other is more deeply incised into the parent rock.


Sun Glyph, Unnamed Cave 12 Sun Glyph, Unnamed Cave 12

In the above two images, the glyphs are both of the sun, and even found in the same cave. The glyph on the left is a simple scratch, and the one on the right is a more time consuming carving into the rock.

Where does one find petroglyphs?

We tend to find these images along dry, flat surfaces, near the entrance of the cave just inside the dark zone, or within the twilight of the cave.

Dry surfaces are important, but as as necessary for glyphs as they are for pictographs. A pictograph will be weathered away quickly on a moist surface. A glyph may be more prone to weathering if it is on a wet surface. Remember that while a surface may not seem like it is weathering away rapidly, it doesn't have to if it has hundreds or thousands of years to work.

Flat surfaces aren't required, but obviously preferable for the same reason that you and I like to write on flat surfaces. It's easier.

How do I look for petroglyphs?

In caves and rock shelters, go to the places described above. Hold a light against the wall and shine it so that its light is tangent to the rock's surface; that is, hold the light so that it side-lights the surface of the rock.

This will accentuate any irregularities in the surface of the rock. Inspect slowly the flat, dry areas near the surface of a cave or rock shelter. Be sure to also be looking for painted surfaces since one finds pictographs in the same places as one finds glyphs.



How do I photograph petroglyphs?


You will want to use light to accentuate these features in the same way as you used a side-light to find them.

Basic technique would be to have your camera stabilized using a tripod, use a remote trigger to fire your camera, and use a synchronized off camera flash to provide illumination. The tripod and remote trigger is of great use later if you want to stack images and blend or mask them together in Photoshop. For your external flash, I would consider photographing the glyphs at least five or six times, if not more than a dozen from different angles, and differing heights in relationship to the glyph. Sometimes the undulating nature of the rock's surface makes it impossible for a single photograph to tell the full story of the glyph, for this it is also useful to mask and blend multiple images.


Individual shots



Each of the above images is a single flash and a single exposure. These five images comprise the next three images, which are image stacked and composited using a blending method. Note that the direction and angle of lighting alters between images. This gives us more data to work with if we are to composite these images.



Darken



The image above uses the darken image blending mode where it displays the darkest pixel shown from the five stacked images.



Lighten



The image above uses the lighten blending most where it displays the lightest pixel shown from the five stacked images. The curves tool was used to lower the middle luminosity values to approximate a "normal" exposure.



Transparency



The above image is a transparency blend. Each image was set to 20% transparency and the image was flattened and contrast adjusted. 

Each of these three images may be useful for interpretation by themselves, or set aside to create another image stack with masking or blending options. For this glyph, I didn't feel it necessary.

Secrecy and Ethics


There are plenty of people out there who would happily dig up an archaeology site and collect or sell what they find. Keeping places secret keeps them safe. Please do not dig without the supervision of an archaeologist and follow state guidelines. Especially don't dig on property that isn't yours, including public lands. Illegal digging destroys valuable context to archaeological sites that can never be recovered.

The practice of Leave No Trace ethics in places of archaeological significance is especially important. If you find something that you believe to be important, please contact your state archaeologist.

2021/02/08

Historic Signatures, Prehistoric Markings, and Modern Frauds

As someone who caves and explores, I sometimes find historic, or apparently historic signatures on rocks and in caves. While I am by no means an expert, I know a few things which may serve to help others provide evidence towards authenticating historic or prehistoric markings.

I want to note that we very rarely every know with certainty most things. What we can do is document the evidence and see where it points us. I should also point out that in modern times leaving a signature or a drawing in caves or on overlooks is not only a criminal act, but an unethical act. The study of how humans have previously marked their landscape is in no way advertising that we should also do the same - in fact the opposite. I will write more on this later, but leave any petty or trifiling argumentation regarding what's historic and acceptible here. The remainder of this article shall be strictly about identification.

Now, imagine that we've been wandering in the woods for hours and come upon a cliff with a signature. We investigate it. I think it's potentially historic. You say, "Any fool can write a date that is incorrect, so how does one authenticate an alleged historic signature?"

Let's explore a few signatures and examine their style, medium, and context.

Mammoth Cave, Mammoth Cave National Park, Edmonson County, Kentucky

Disgovered (sic) Riggs & Kino, Mammoth Cave, Mammoth Cave National Park, Edmonson County, Kentucky


Style: Print
Medium: Candle
Context: Ceiling of Mammoth Cave
Text: Disgovered (sic) / Riggs & Kino / Aug 12th / 1841

It being on the ceiling lends itself to being made from a candle. Also, when you've seen a lot of candle signatures you can just tell by the way it is (I am teasing and I know that isn't terribly helpful!). Here's what I see: candle doesn't lend itself to accuracy. Soot accrues on one side of the line, or the center of the line and wafts back and forth as does the breeze within the cave. It's a wide swath of carbon that it lays down, and tends to work best when used on a ceiling.

Mammoth Cave has been thoroughly explored since well before the alleged date of 1844, and is rife with historic signatures. Early cave owners allowed and encouraged people to leave signatures of their names. Vandalism - modern signatures being left in the cave are much less common and result in criminal charges when people are caught. So the likelihood that this is a modern fake seems unlikely. I'm sure a tour guide would notice someone holding a candle to the ceiling, right?

There are other methods one could pursue to authenticate a signature like this. Who were the people? Were they known? Are there records external which show them in the area? Given that I am less of a historian, and more of a geographer, I'll leave the case where it lies: almost certainly 100% authentic.




Historic signature, Johnson Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 1

Historic signature, Johnson Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 1


Style: Script
Medium: Pine charcoal
Context: Wall of Johnson Cave
Text: G. L. H? / July / 19 / 1882

This cave was a well known local saltpeter cave which produced for the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. A date of 1882 seems consistent with its well known status and perhaps indicative of ongoing saltpeter mining or recreational use. The darker, thinner line drawn on the wall is consistent with the dark sticky line left by pine charcoal, which is also historically consistent with the alleged date. Also a great candidate for a 100% true historic signature.




"The road to hell - This cave is haunted beware", Newman Cave, White County, Tennessee

"The road to hell - This cave is haunted beware", Newman Cave, White County, Tennessee


Style: Print
Medium: Paint
Context: Wall of Newman Cave
Text: The road to hell - This cave is haunted beware

Note how strongly the text has faded. The medium for this feels like it could be a water based paint, or something similar. The medium itself suggests something more modern, perhaps in the last 50 - 60 years. The style of print, blocky letters of consistent size and shape is consistent with what I was taught in the 80s as proper print. While this method of writing has been around for a while, it grew in popularity for common use in the modern era. The message also is one that maybe calls to this space's use as a haunted house, a modern attraction. Perhaps teenage boys were trying to scare their dates, but the wiring in the cave also suggests a former landowner's interest in developing the resource into something more. All these signs - converging evidence point towards a modern origin.




Historic red ochre signature, Campbell Cave, Christian County, Kentucky

Historic red ochre signature, Campbell Cave, Christian County, Kentucky


Style: Script
Medium: Red ochre pen, sanguine, red chalk
Context: Wall of Campbell Cave
Text: James *cannot read*

This is a little more interesting. Red ochre, a basic pigment has been used since times prehistoric over much of the world. Obviously since this is script and in English, we can rule out it being prehistoric, but the medium is certainly not that common, especially in modern use. This would point us towards the historic. The script is also flowery enough to believe it to be historic. Its superposition relative to the painted JA shows us that it's older than whatever JA was painted on with. This is very likely historic.




Sun glyph (composite image)

Sun glyph (composite image)


Style: Print and art
Medium: Etch, petroglyph
Context: Wall of an unnamed cave with associated pictures
Text: AH CC *cannont read* RED

What's really going on here? This is where things get a little fuzzy. The sun and moon look to be prehistoric. They are both common motifs of regional prehistoric petroglyphs. The sun appears to be attached to a handle - perhaps the original artist, or an intervening artist intended to repurpose it as a weapon - a mace of the sun. I can only speculate.

Within and next to the art are modern etches of English letters. We can be certain that at least that much is historic to modern. There appear to be two pairs of initials that have been crossed out, which makes me think there was a couple there who carved their names in the rock. Again, only speculation. But them having been crossed out is significant - it would have been someone local who would have repeatedly visited the site. This is near civilization, so even in times historic this could have been possible, as it is still.

This one is all over. Parts of it could be prehistoric, but we don't know. Parts of it could be historic or modern. Again, we just don't know.




1835 donkey, historic rock art

1835 donkey, historic rock art


Style: Print and art
Medium: Etch, petroglyph
Context: Ground at overgrown overlook. Trees blocked the view, and a thick layer of moss was peeled back to expose the petroglyph.
Text: OUT / NORTH / W / 1835 / TAKIR?

This one is a lot of fun, and surely all signs point towards historic. The donkey, the smiling face, that all this was found at an overgrown former-overlook near to several historic roads really provides solid converging evidence to its authenticity as a historic piece.




Burnt Ridge, Rockcastle County, Kentucky

Burnt Ridge, Rockcastle County, Kentucky


Style: Print (mostly)
Medium: Spray point
Context: Overlook
Text: *various*

I throw in this obviously modern case of abuse to also highlight that these "conversations" people are having with the rock likely go to historic times. It may go back to prehistoric times. Don't cover things with spray paint, you're destroying your own cultural heritage.




Stars, Dunbar Cave, Dunbar Cave State Park, Montgomery County, Tennessee

Stars, Dunbar Cave, Dunbar Cave State Park, Montgomery County, Tennessee


Style: Art
Medium: Possibly river cane charcoal, pictograph
Context: Wall of the cave
Depictions: Possibly stars or astronomical phenomena

This is an obvious example of prehistoric art. Note the dark medium and note the etchings that are above it, which shows that it predates the etches. That's right, someone thought their name was more important than very rare Native American art from this period. The depictions, the medium, the location within the cave, and the superposition relative to etches all point directly to prehistoric.




This is by no means exhaustive, but should begin to provide some background on identifying historic and prehistoric markings. As a final word, I want to point out that pharmacists are exceptionally good at reading terrible handwriting and can be very useful for discerning hidden text.

2021/01/12

The Life and Death of Tires-to-Spare Cave

Tires-To-Spare is a fascinating cave whose entrance opened violently on April 25nd, 1994. The roof fell out of a previously unknown cave system exposing a passage down into the dark.

In the video below, retired geology professor Ric Finch tells of its original exploration and what was found within.



A description of the cave, written for the Tennessee Cave Survey by Ric Finch reads as follows:

The sink entrance is 101 feet long, with a maximum width of 43 feet, and 31 feet deep. The entrance chamber is 50 feet by 75 feet. Two small holes through breakdown lead to the upstream passage. This solution passage carries a permanent stream and is subject to frequent flooding. Conduit dimensions are typically 15-20 feet wide by 10-12 feet high. The main conduit has been mapped 577 feet upstream from the breakdown, trending nearly due west, to a point where the ceiling lowers and the passage is submerged. There are several short loops and on significant side passage, for a total of 1230 feet in the upstream passage.

Downstream from the entrance chamber, through two small holes in the breakdown, the stream passage continues 200 feet to terminate in a permanent sump.

A dye trace performed in April 1995 shows that the cave sump pool and The Canal sump pool are one and the same, and that both streams flow into Ament Cave (PU1). A dye trace on April 8, 1995 connected Ensor Sink to the cave. Warning! This cave is subject to flash flooding. (Ric Finch, 1995)

The day after Christmas in 2016, approximately a week prior to the above video being filmed, myself, Ric, and Alfred Crabtree visited Tires-to-Spare cave, in what would be the last documentation of the cave. 

Tires-to-Spare Cave entrance, Putnam County, Tennessee 1
Ric chatting with the landowner. Note the thick soil profile above the bedrock where the cave entrance is.


Ric Finch, Tires-to-Spare Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee
This photo was taken just inside the cave. The deep reds and blacks are weathered and fresh faces of the Warsaw Limestone in which the cave is formed. The talus slope that Ric is sitting on drops nearly to to the stream level of the cave.


Alfred Crabtree, Tires-to-Spare Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 5
Looking back out of the cave, Alfred gives us more perspective on the size of this cave. Despite the collapse being 20 years old at this point, large boulders moved and rolled as we walked over them. In geologic time, 20 years is quite new. New caves, and caves not often explored are more dangerous in this way. Our trip was likely one of just a few (if any) that had happened in the last five years.


Alfred Crabtree, Tires-to-Spare Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 4
This photo of Alfred in the terminal sump shows floating garbage. If you've watched the video above, there was once  considerably more trash in this location. Despite it being less terrible, it's still not pleasant standing in water like this.


Alfred Crabtree, Tires-to-Spare Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 2
Further upstream from the sump we are close to where we popped in from the room above. This "hallway "is typical Warsaw Limestone phreatic cave passage. It exhibits scalloped surfaces, large rounded amorphous edges, and an obvious strand line. The darker color below the strand line is likely the result of natural tannins in the water which stain the cave walls.


A few years later, prior to the 2019 National Speleological Society Convention in Cookeville, Tennessee (which began on June 17, 2019), Sid Jones was researching locations for the geology field trip he would lead for said event. He wandered to the entrance of Tires-to-Spare Cave and found it to be partially filled with trees and brush and covered with soil. Later visitation confirmed the landowner's intention was to fill the cave in and destroy its one natural entrance. It is unknown to the author if the entrance is now filled, but it is strongly suspected to be the case.