Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

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Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby cmkit » May 6, 2014 10:31 am

I went back to finish the survey of a cave this weekend that I'd not been to in a year and we found most of our flagging taped stations had disappeared.

Because of this, we had a hard time figuring out where our tie-in station was. At first we thought it was animal caused, but at multiple stations, some very difficult for any animal to reach, we found the tape mostly gone. Sometimes the tape was visible as small bits sprinkled around where the station was, so it seems likely some natural process destroyed our tape.

Has anyone seen this before?

Does anyone have any good ideas for what may have caused this?

Although light does get fairly far into this cave due to the vertical entrance these stations were all fully in the dark zone so UV should be discounted.
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Re: Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby Roppelcaver » May 6, 2014 10:53 am

Flagging tape degrades over time. I have seen this all over Roppel Cave, although I have not thought much about it. Where there is spray or flooding, I have seen it degrade quickly.

We have gone to casino-grade poker chips tied with nylon cord as our permanent stations. At worst, the cord would stick around though the chips seem pretty durable.
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Re: Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby cmkit » May 6, 2014 9:32 pm

A couple months ago in a different cave I tied into a flagged station that was 10 years old. There must be certain conditions that are more agresive on flagging tape than others.

I'm curious if the disintigration was hastened by more acidic water i.e. carbonic acid.
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Re: Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby Roppelcaver » May 7, 2014 6:08 pm

Seems to be an issue of simple friction -- silt and moving water gradually wear the thing out. In wet areas prone to flooding (and with the expected silt), we have moved to the cord and chip solution. Flagging seems to do okay in dry passages, although it is prone to be torn off if you are not careful. You have to work to remove the chips versus a simple yank of the tape which seems to happen accidentally more than one would think.
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Re: Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby AMF » May 8, 2014 7:53 am

Some tape is marketed as biodegradable, others as extra durable, although I always presumed that was more sunlight-based than anything else.
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Re: Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby William Tucker » May 8, 2014 8:14 am

We have had a number of problems. Mice, or more specifically, desert kangaroo rats, like to make nests of the stuff. In some of our caves, this is a big problem. If large sections of trail flagging are gone, it could be packed into a nest somewhere. I can just see some rodent, "honey, look what I found". We have found some psychedelic nests of flagging tape stuffed back into tight spots from time to time. Crickets also seem to eat the newer biodegradable stuff. I have actually set a station and then on the way out found a cricket gnawing on it. Usually if small holes are found and tiny bits, it could be something feeding on it. I can't speak much as to what moving water does to tape as we don't have much of that in the Guads. The older tape seems to get brittle with age while the newer stuff seems to get eaten. We have tried to find non-biodegradable tape so that it will last longer.
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Re: Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby tncaver » May 8, 2014 8:35 am

Strong airflow has ripped some of our flagging tape to shreds. Critters like to put it in their nests also. :grin:
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Re: Anyone had their survey flagging tape disintegrate?

Postby trogman » May 8, 2014 10:31 am

I have seen flagging tape get calcite-covered after just a year or two. This was in Flowing Stone Cave in GA. Kind of defeated the purpose, that is, designating a path in order to preserve more of the pristine areas of the cave.

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