Bad Air

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Bad Air

Postby cvr602 » Oct 3, 2005 4:22 pm

Last weekend, Myself and some friends investigated a lead that we knew of, and found it to be a nice pit, but has Bad Air. I am wondering whether it is high in Co2 or low in O2. The lighter struck all the way to the bottom, but at the botom, it just shot a fireball. That is somethnig that low O2 would do, but it doesnt tell us anyting about Co2. I had the worst headache of my life after I got back to the top of the pit, and I felt like I had just done 400ft. on rope.(I free climbed most of it, with a safety, and it is only 50ft. or so deep.) The logest anyone was at the bottom was maybe 15 minutes, possibly 20. After we were at the top, We had an O2 tank to breathe from, and after about 5 minutes of oxygen, my headache subsided.

I am also curious as to how grants work. There are a lot of caves with bad air here, and a big drainage, and they are probably all one big system. We cant explore them for the bad air, and a grant or something would help us get Air monitoring systems or something. It looks as if to explore such a cave, we would all need to carry 2 O2 tanks for around a 5 or 6 hour push.(full mouth and nose cover also.)

Tony
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Postby Squirrel Girl » Oct 3, 2005 5:24 pm

Air has approximately:
78% Nitrogen
21% Oxygen
0.03% CO2

In order for there to be less O2 than normal, something has to replace it. Because animals (and bacteria) respire, we and they take in O2 and breathe out CO2. So, in normal circumstances, if there's a change from typical air, you get a concomitant decrease in O2 with the increase in CO2.

If you're in a coal mine, you could get methane, but that's not what you'd find in a cave, except in some VERY weird circumstance. Or maybe some H2S, but that, too, would be very, very unusual.

CO2 is known for producing horrible headaches. I've had one of those high-CO2 headaches myself and it was wicked. But then, a lot of things give me headaches. :cry:

As far as grants go, usually it's a university researcher or a graduate student who proposes to do some research and submits their proposal to a granting agency. There can be variations on the theme, but you'd have to find some grant giving organization. Then you'd have to write up why your study is important, not to mention important to their funding objectives*. Finally, you also have to convince them you're credible.

Oh, and don't forget luck. That's always a variable.

*You might be researching a cure for cancer, but if you apply to an aerospace agency, they won't give you money, even if you are brilliant.
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Postby bigalpha » Oct 3, 2005 6:07 pm

that is pretty crazy. you are a brave brave man lighting a match when you don't know what is floating around in the air. heh, with my luck, the whole cave woulda exploded.

could there be an increase in CO2 and decrease in O2 due to decomposing plant/animal material? maybe not in that section of the cave, but maybe another? Maybe plants and such get washed down in the cave and decompose, leaving CO2 there. is CO2 heavier than air?
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Postby cvr602 » Oct 3, 2005 6:25 pm

yes, Co2 is heavier that O2. It could be plant decomposition, but I dont know for sure. Yeah, those headaches are really wicked.

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Postby David_Campen » Oct 3, 2005 6:28 pm

that is pretty crazy. you are a brave brave man lighting a match when you don't know what is floating around in the air.


I suspect it was a butane lighter not a match. A standard piece of equipment for caves with possible bad air and when you are not using carbide lamps.
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Postby David_Campen » Oct 3, 2005 6:30 pm

Here is a Drager rebreather - 4 hours and weighs 30 lbs. Probably very pricey.
http://www.afcintl.com/resp1c.htm
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Postby CKB69 » Oct 3, 2005 6:39 pm

The upshot of the whole affair,is that I almost incinerated an entire group in another cave that is part of the same system.
Many years ago,an Amocco had a leak in 1 of thier pressurized lines,and it went directly into the cave stream.

Along comes a group of cavers,led by me(I even had a carbide lamp! :shock: ).
We did not notice the smell untill we reached the stream level.
Needless to say,I extinguished the carbide and switched to an electric light in quite a hurry!
I then joined the others in a full rout. :oops:

This system has several caves that contain bad air. Several others in the same system have good air.
All the caves blow great quanities of air,and,are close to the surface(less than 150' ).

Now I can easily understand how a cave with little air exchange with the surface,could develop an o2 poor/co2 rich atmosphere.
WTH could cause a large system,with many entrances all with great airflow,and,having passages close to the surface,to develop this degree of bad air?
The pit previously mentioned is close to another cave that blows a literal gale,yet,you cannot get a cigarrette lighter to light 20 vertical feet above the entrance! We surveyed some 500' in it before calling it quits due to some goofy LRUD's....

There is potential for a 10+ mile long system,but it seems to be fighting back HARD.
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Postby David_Campen » Oct 3, 2005 6:44 pm

The pit previously mentioned is close to another cave that blows a literal gale,yet,you cannot get a cigarrette lighter to light 20 vertical feet above the entrance!

Wow, that is fascinating!
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Re: Bad Air

Postby kvart » Oct 3, 2005 8:00 pm

cvr602 wrote: I am also curious as to how grants work. There are a lot of caves with bad air here, and a big drainage, and they are probably all one big system. We cant explore them for the bad air, and a grant or something would help us get Air monitoring systems or something. It looks as if to explore such a cave, we would all need to carry 2 O2 tanks for around a 5 or 6 hour push.(full mouth and nose cover also.)

Tony


Dogwood City Grotto issues grants to cavers. Just like one other poster said, you have to give them a written proposal of what you want to accomplish. The only thing they require is a written report of your accomplishments to be published in the Georgia Underground.

You can find contact info on the NSS web site at

http://www.caves.org/io/iolookup.php?state=GA

scroll down and click on Dogwood City Grotto

Glenn Mills


Now....for those of you who dont know, all of the grant money DCG has given back to cavers for various purposes over the years has come from the profits of the TAG Fall Cave-in. I know its a big party, but there is a side benifit. I cant possibly list everything here, but if you Google "Dogwood City Grotto grants" you can read of some of the good things being done by the money you spend on admission and t-shirts.

offa da soapbox.....

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Postby bigalpha » Oct 4, 2005 8:27 am

I do not get the difference between carbide/butane/match. I figured that since they were all (lighter/match) fire, then it would ignite flammable gases.
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Postby Scott McCrea » Oct 4, 2005 8:44 am

Yesterday, in the Cavers Digest, William Halliday posted some interesting info on CO2 in caves. There is a chart listing how different levels of CO2 will effect you and other references to this subject.

Copyright laws prevent me from reposting Mr. Halliday's info, but you can get it by visiting the Cavers Digest web site (linked above) and searching the archives for issue #5824. (Though it is currently not yet archived...) or someone could email Mr. Halliday and ask him to post it here. His email is: bnawrh at webtv.net
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Postby CKB69 » Oct 4, 2005 8:54 am

The possibility of flammable gasses igniting has to do with thier concentration,the amount of available oxygen,and the presence of an ignition source.
The LEL(lower explosive limit..)and UEL(upper explosive limit) are expressed as a percentage of the gas in a normal atmosphere ( 21% oxygen).

Carbide doesn't explode,but the acetalyne it produces is explosive in a very wide range of concentrations,more so than propane,or,methane.
An o2 deficient atmosphere( <21% o2),will decrease the chances of combustion.

http://www.ilpi.com/msds/ref/flammablelimits.html :shock:
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Postby hunter » Oct 4, 2005 9:30 am

CKB69 I'm curious, what do you mean by "shot a fireball" at the bottom? If the flame from the lighter was larger than expected then CO2/Low O2 probably isn't the problem, since O2 is required for a larger flame and CO2 isn't flammable.

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Postby David_Campen » Oct 4, 2005 12:39 pm

I think the low O2/high CO2 causes the flame propagation rate to decrease so that the flow of butane from the tip of the lighter is faster than the flame propagation causing the flame to be blown away from the tip of the lighter.
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Postby bigalpha » Oct 4, 2005 2:35 pm

wow - this is very technical....no more for me :S
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