Loss of great caver / cartographer: John Wilcox

This is a new forum to recognize our many caving friends that we have lost. Please feel free to post an "In memory of" thread about your caving friends you have lost.

John Wilcox

Postby Bumbalawski » Sep 2, 2010 7:46 am

I received this e-mail this morning from a good friend and devout caver. I thought I would pass this along for those who knew john Wilcox.

Perhaps a point of interest, I learned this morning that John Wilcox passed
away yesterday. He was a member of the original assault team that made the
Mammoth-Flint Ridge connection in 1972. Although not active in caving for a
number of decades, he continued in prominence in antique gas engine circles
particularly Coolspring Power Museum.
I'm sure his death will be posted on the NSS board if it isn't there
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Flint-Mammoth Connection/John Wilcox

Postby Bumbalawski » Sep 2, 2010 10:06 pm

Flint–Mammoth connection
On September 9, 1972, a Cave Research Foundation mapping team led by Dr. John P. Wilcox, Patricia Crowther, Richard B. Zopf, Dr. P. Gary Eller, Stephen G. Wells, and Cleveland F. Pinnix (a National Park Service Ranger) managed to pursue a low, wet passage that linked two of the area's long cave systems—Flint Ridge Cave System to Mammoth Cave. This connection made the combined Flint–Mammoth Cave System the world's longest. (Flint Ridge had itself recently surpassed Hölloch Cave, in Switzerland, as the world's longest cave.)

On a previous trip deep in the Flint Ridge Cave System, Patricia Crowther, with her slight frame of 115 pounds, crawled through a narrow canyon later dubbed the "Tight Spot," which acted as a filter for larger cavers.

A subsequent trip fielded past the Tight Spot by Crowther, Wilcox, Zopf, and Tom Brucker found the name "Pete H" inscribed on the wall with an arrow pointing in the direction of Mammoth Cave. [8] The name is believed to have been carved by Pete Hanson, who was active in exploring the cave in the 1930s. Hanson was killed in World War II. The passage was named Hanson's Lost River.

On the September 9th trip, by following Hanson's Lost River, the six-person mapping team was led to Cascade Hall in Mammoth Cave, final proof that the caves were connected. John Wilcox emerged in waist-deep water to see a horizontal line across his field of vision, which proved to be a tourist handrail: the "One small step for man" quote for "conquering the Everest of speleology" was his exclamation to the others "I see a tourist trail!" Of all the many miles in Mammoth Cave, only a small fraction is developed with trails and lighting, so it was remarkable that the moment of connection took place in such a familiar setting.
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Loss of great caver / cartographer: John Wilcox

Postby LWB » Sep 6, 2010 3:15 pm

I'm sad to report the death last week of John Wilcox - who by anyone's standards was an extraordinary caver and cartographer. He made radical changes to surveying and cartography standards in the 1970s. And his systematic approach to exploration yielded many miles of cave.

RIP John - it was great to have had the privilege of caving with you...


Photo - Tom, Richard, John & Pat from August 1972
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Re: Loss of great caver / cartographer

Postby Roppelcaver » Sep 7, 2010 9:23 am

John Wilcox was a mentor for me. He taught me how to explore caves patiently and meticulously, document, and organize. Most of what I learned I can credit to John, and the level of success we have had at Roppel can be traced back to him. He inspired me early, and showed me how to to manage the project -- maintaining data, managing notes, documenting with trip reports, and keeping up with the flood of information that flows from large cave projects.

He taught me how to log surveys, search for errors in the survey books, and verify that the cave was hooked up correctly in the data. He taught me how critical the documented report was in exploring the cave -- the survey notes documented what explorers did, but the report documented what they saw and what they thought -- a key tool for finding new cave. A report that said they were tired or cold was a good sign that leads remained that should be returned to. We found miles of cave in Roppel with this approach.

I remember him sending me letters, redlining trip reports I had written of trips into Flint Ridge. He would point out where I could improve and how he knew I could do better, and expressing disappointment when I was got lazy. When he was pleased, I knew I had done well and had learned much; and, he had passed at least some part of his gifts to me.

As Roppel extended well to the NW toward Salts Cave in Flint Ridge, John shared much with me about Salts. The results of some of this is is documented in the book -- makes a good story, but I was never happy about how things ended up. No, not the getting caught part, but the deed itself.

Anyway, John will be missed terribly by many, and I know I am no exception. A tremendous caver, a special person, and a friend.

Jim Borden
Last edited by Roppelcaver on Sep 7, 2010 10:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Loss of great caver / cartographer

Postby Scott McCrea » Sep 7, 2010 9:37 am

Thanks, Jim. An excellent memorial and a reminder of just how important mentors can be. A caving career is not complete without fulfilling the role of mentor. RIP John.
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Re: John Wilcox

Postby George Dasher » Sep 12, 2010 1:21 pm

There is an obit posted in the Surveying and Cartography part of this forum.
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Re: Loss of great caver / cartographer: John Wilcox

Postby NZcaver » Sep 12, 2010 10:49 pm

Please note I have merged both topics relating to John Wilcox.

This topic is listed under the Survey and Cartography forum, but it's just a link leading here to the "in memory of" forum.
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