Questions from a Writer!

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Questions from a Writer!

Postby randomlittlewriter » Jun 26, 2015 11:02 pm

Hi everyone :D
I'm actually posting here because I'm writing a fictional story, taking place about 100 years or so in the future. Some of these people live in cave systems and I want to make sure that everything I'm writing about living in said caves makes sense. So, if you guys could answer a few questions for me, and or provide me with general cave knowledge, I'd be grateful!

QUESTIONS:

How big, on average are cave systems? How deep do they go? How many rooms are there, usually?
What's the air quality like? Could you breathe it constantly for a long time? Would you need ventilation? How would you go about getting said ventilation?
How would you deal with getting rid of bats? If you closed off most or all of the entrances would they still find a way in?
Is it possible for water to flow from another underground area to flow down into another cave like a waterfall? Would that water be clean and drinkable?
Would it be possible for water to carry away waste and not have it build up and be really nasty smelling? How deep would that have to go?

Any other knowledge would be helpful, thanks! :D
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby graveleye » Jun 27, 2015 7:31 am

The bats in your book will have to be left alone or you're going to have some upset cavers and environmentalists. :cave softly:
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby GroundquestMSA » Jun 27, 2015 1:19 pm

How big, on average are cave systems?
Big enough. 35 US states have caves with more than a mile of surveyed passage. 11 states have caves of ten miles or more. I have no idea what the average for cave size worldwide might be. I doubt anyone does.

How many rooms are there, usually?
Six, but some caves have eleven.

What's the air quality like? Could you breathe it constantly for a long time? Would you need ventilation?
Air quality is reasonably good in most all caves. Long term residence in a cave might lead to respiratory problems caused by humidity and dirt and other stuff, but most caves circulate air quite well on their own.

How would you deal with getting rid of bats?
Why would you deal with getting rid of bats? Some caves just don't have bats, sometimes because there are no natural entrances, or sometimes for reasons I don't understand. As bat populations decline, I'd guess that more caves than ever are thus unpopulated.

Is it possible for water to flow from another underground area to flow down into another cave like a waterfall?
Yes.

Would that water be clean and drinkable?
It's possible, but not as likely as you might hope. The landscape that is responsible for cave formation usually carries underground water at relatively high speed, leaving little time for nasty surface stuff to die. The purity of the catchment area will determine, mostly, the purity of cave water.

Would it be possible for water to carry away waste and not have it build up and be really nasty smelling?
Where does your "waste" go currently?

Every little while someone seems to come along with similar plans and questions. The real truth is that you can make whatever rules you want and barely anyone will ever know if something isn't technically accurate.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby Caving Guru » Jun 27, 2015 1:56 pm

randomlittlewriter wrote:How big, on average are cave systems?


When you ask how big cave systems are on average, you could be asking how large the passages are on average or what is the total length of passages on average. If you were to average out all the caves in the world even the ones that are pretty short, then the average passage size would probably be under 5 feet tall by 5 feet wide and the average total length on average would probably be under 1,000 feet of passage. The cave with the largest passage in the world is Son Doong Cave in Vietnam with a passage 3 miles long, 700 feet tall, and 500 feet wide. The cave with the largest total of length of passages is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky with over 400 miles of passage explored so far.

There are some areas of the world that have no caves or hardly any at all so if you narrow the area that you are talking about to a more specific area with lots of caves you could have a higher average. Areas with limestone, volcanic activity, glacial melt, and sea cliffs that are prone to erosion from sea waves are more likely to have caves than other areas for example.

Here is a map of the karst in the United States:
Image

And here is a map of the karst of the world:
Image

randomlittlewriter wrote:How deep do they go?


When you ask how deep they go, you could be asking what is the farthest point from an entrance or what is the elevation difference between the highest point in the cave and the lowest point in the cave. You're not asking about averages so I will just give you the record for the cave that has the farthest point from an entrance and the cave with the largest elevation difference between the highest and lowest point in the cave. The cave with the farthest point from an entrance is Fort Stanton Cave in New Mexico with the farthest point from the entrance being over 12 miles so far. And the cave with the largest elevation difference between the highest point and lowest point in the cave is Krubera-Voronja Cave at 7,208 feet in depth in the disputed territory and partially recognized state of Abkhazia which is claimed by the country of Georgia.

randomlittlewriter wrote:How many rooms are there, usually?


I really don't know if I could make a guess for this. It is different for every cave. You should look into the area of Cappadocia, Turkey on the internet which has a bunch of ancient underground cities including the world's largest underground city of Derinkuyu. Derinkuyu is large enough to have sheltered 20,000 people and was 200 feet deep. It is currently not fully excavated and probably had thousands of rooms.

randomlittlewriter wrote:What's the air quality like? Could you breathe it constantly for a long time? Would you need ventilation? How would you go about getting said ventilation?


Most caves have good air quality but there are some caves where air quality is a problem and it is hard to breathe. The caves where it would be hard to breathe would be the ones that had mining in them in the past that released harmful chemicals from mining. Also, if there is a tight passage that many people are going through it may deplete that passage of oxygen faster than if there were fewer people and it may become hard to breathe in that passage. Most caves you would not need ventilation. Another case where the air quality would be a problem is where there is a large bat colony which produces a lot of bat guano. You don't want to breathe in any of the bat guano because if you did you could get histoplasma which would not be good. For the cases where you need better air quality, you should wear a mask.

Here is a picture of some Brazilian cavers wearing masks to protect themselves from histoplasmosis:
Image

If you want to learn more about the specifics of ventilation, I would suggest that you read up on the Cappadocians and their ideas for ventilation for their underground cities.

randomlittlewriter wrote:How would you deal with getting rid of bats? If you closed off most or all of the entrances would they still find a way in?


First of all, what would be the purpose of getting rid of the bats? I don't see why you would need to get rid of the bats. In most caves, bats are a rare occurrence to see and are usually near the entrance of caves. They usually mind their own business. For most caves, you only see bats in the winter when they are hibernating. There are some caves though where the bats go there during the warmer months for breeding colonies and some caves where the caves are a breeding colony year round for bats like in warmer/tropical areas of the world. If a cave had a lot of bats in it like if it was a breeding colony, it would be pretty difficult to get rid of all the bats. If a cave had just a couple of bats in it then it probably wouldn't be as difficult to get rid of the bats. If you closed off the known entrances that humans can fit through, there may still be entrances that are bat sized and that we don't know about that the bats could go through to get into the cave.

randomlittlewriter wrote:Is it possible for water to flow from another underground area to flow down into another cave like a waterfall? Would that water be clean and drinkable? Would it be possible for water to carry away waste and not have it build up and be really nasty smelling? How deep would that have to go?


Yes, it is possible for water to flow from one cave to another that cannot be humanly accessible from one cave to the other. And yes there are waterfalls in caves. It would depend on the cave that you are talking about as to whether the water would be clean enough to drink. If the cave was high up in the mountains totally away from civilization the water in the cave would be more likely to be safe to drink. If the cave's drainage basin included a lot of farmland then in would be a bad idea to drink the water because there could be cow manure and all sorts of possible pathogens and viruses that could be a problem if you drank that water. If the cave's water is flowing fast, waste would be carried away faster than if the water is flowing slower. If there is a dam of some sort blocking the water's path in the cave such as a log jam, the waste could collect there possibly. It is generally not a good idea to urinate or poop in a cave. It is generally suggested that you pee in a bottle and carry out your waste in bags rather than do your business in a cave. But if you were to do your business in a cave, it is better to do your business in flowing water than in a dry area of a cave where it will pretty much fossilize if no water flows through that area. If you were to do your business in a cave, the deeper you do your business in a cave (where the water is flowing), the better so people are less likely to smell it and it is more likely that the water will wash it away faster.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby randomlittlewriter » Jun 28, 2015 11:14 pm

Thank you guys so much for your responses! I really want this world to feel real and make logical sense, so this really helps. Especially since I'm not very knowledgeable on the subject :P
I thought bats would be much more of a problem, but it's good to know that they usually aren't! :D
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby ohiocaver » Jun 30, 2015 1:42 pm

To pile on here a bit, there are many instances of people living in caves. Capodicia is one. China and Southeast Asia have many such examples...but most live within sight of the outside light. There is a lot of documentation on the TB patients who lived in Mammoth Cave, well beyond the zone of light, for instance. It was seen as a healthy place to be (but reality interfered).
I think that Jonah has the best advice: Make up any rules you want that don't totally defy logic. Be consistent in applying those rules. You could, for example, have your people train bats to go between caves and carry messages like carrier pigeons. But don't ask the bats to carry gallon tins of fuel. Have them dig or explore to connect one isolated population with one in another nearby cave - with the resultant conflict or cooperation of the two groups.
Have fun with it. Then the readers will have fun reading your book!
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby Caving Guru » Jun 30, 2015 6:09 pm

ohiocaver wrote:Make up any rules you want that don't totally defy logic. Be consistent in applying those rules. You could, for example, have your people train bats to go between caves and carry messages like carrier pigeons. But don't ask the bats to carry gallon tins of fuel. Have them dig or explore to connect one isolated population with one in another nearby cave - with the resultant conflict or cooperation of the two groups.


Sorry, but I disagree. If I were reading a book or watching a movie about people living in caves, I would prefer one that is more along the lines of this writer's idea of being realistic. Having people train bats to carry messages like carrier pigeons sounds pretty unrealistic.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby CaverScott » Jul 1, 2015 10:22 am

Why not? After all, he said "I'm actually posting here because I'm writing a fictional story, taking place about 100 years or so in the future."

Them bats are smarter in the future, right? :bananabat: :bananabat: :bananabat:
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby Caving Guru » Jul 1, 2015 12:53 pm

Well, the writer said that he "wanted to make sure that everything he is writing about living in said caves makes sense". Saying that bats are passenger pigeons doesn't seem to fall in line with his statement. I don't think that there is a single case in history where a bat was used as a passenger pigeon. I don't think that it is possible to train a bat like a passenger pigeon. But who knows. Maybe I am wrong.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby GroundquestMSA » Jul 1, 2015 6:29 pm

Caving Guru wrote: I don't think that there is a single case in history where a bat was used as a passenger pigeon.


There are also no historical cases, that I know of, of long-term habitation "deep" inside caves. Our author clearly plans to depart from reality, practicality, and even logic to a considerable extent, if his/her questions are any reliable indication. This is ok.

It is understandable that no writer would want to put down lines that will provoke sheepish dismissal from the reader. No matter the stated intent of the original poster, I believe this is what they are really trying to guard against.

RLwriter, I and my coreligionaries have so far failed to make one very meaningful suggestion: Go caving. Indeed, it seems unforgivably irresponsible to trust an extremely important aspect of ones work to second-hand internet insights. I am positive that many cavers, myself included, would be glad to take you underground. In that setting too, many of your questions could be more easily and fully answered.

Also, if you get to the point of putting words down and want a "proofread" by an untrained bibliophile, give me a shout.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby Caving Guru » Jul 1, 2015 7:38 pm

GroundquestMSA wrote:There are also no historical cases, that I know of, of long-term habitation "deep" inside caves.


That's no true. The people of Cappadocia lived underground for long periods of time to hide out from the invaders such as the Huns and Mongols. And then there is also the case of the Jews from Ukraine that lived deep within one of the largest caves in Ukraine for something like 6 months during World War 2. Chris Nicola wrote a book and film documentary about those Jews and in the movie he brings the Ukrainian Jews' descendants back to the cave where their parents/grandparents hid out from the Nazis.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby GroundquestMSA » Jul 1, 2015 7:49 pm

Caving Guru wrote:
GroundquestMSA wrote:There are also no historical cases, that I know of, of long-term habitation "deep" inside caves.


That's not true.


'Tisn't now, but it was when I wrote it :wink:
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby Caving Guru » Jul 1, 2015 8:25 pm

GroundquestMSA wrote:
Caving Guru wrote:
GroundquestMSA wrote:There are also no historical cases, that I know of, of long-term habitation "deep" inside caves.


That's not true.


'Tisn't now, but it was when I wrote it :wink:


Fine, be particular with my grammar. I am sorry that I wasn't specific enough for you. I guess I should have said that it is not true that there are no historical cases of long-term habitation deep inside caves (to be more specific). It was just easier to keep it simple and to the point. My statement was correct if you knew what I was talking about.

And I am surprised that you have never heard of Chris Nicola and his book/documentary about the Priest's Grotto. He is always going all around the country (and for that matter, the world) giving presentations on his book and documentary.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby GroundquestMSA » Jul 1, 2015 8:46 pm

There are quite a lot of things I haven't heard of.

This is all outside the point. I'm only trying to say that the writer intends, knowingly or not, to part with reality to some extent. And to some extent, this can be embraced. A good writer can make a success of any setting, realistic or fantasy.
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Re: Questions from a Writer!

Postby CaverScott » Jul 2, 2015 7:13 am

GroundquestMSA wrote:
Caving Guru wrote: ....

RLwriter, I and my coreligionaries have so far failed to make one very meaningful suggestion: Go caving. Indeed, it seems unforgivably irresponsible to trust an extremely important aspect of ones work to second-hand internet insights. I am positive that many cavers, myself included, would be glad to take you underground. In that setting too, many of your questions could be more easily and fully answered.....



:doh:

:clap: :clap: :clap:
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