Cave Exploration - Windy City Grotto
Windy City Meets Wind Cave
While returning from the NSS Convention in Lovell, Wyoming in 1969, three members of the Windy City Grotto, John and Jim Scheltens, and Ralph Earlandson stopped by Wind Cave for a visit. At the park they accidentally bumped into Bob Ernst, fellow NSS member and seasonal ranger, who informed them of the need for mapping and exploration in the cave.
Following a year of preparation and coordination with the National Park Service, the Windy City Grotto made its first trip to Wind Cave in August, 1970 with 17 participating members.
The Windy City Grotto basically picked up where the Conns and Schnute left off. During its first trip, which lasted 3 weeks, they surveyed about 2 miles of new passage which included the discovery of Windy City Lake and the largest helictite bush yet discovered some six feet in height.
In 1971 another major breakaway was made when a survey team lead by Chris Hill found their way into the massive Master Room. Miles of huge virgin cave soon opened from here including the monstrous Half Mile Hall.
Between 1970 and 1973, the Windy City Grotto surveyed or resurveyed some 107,000 (over 20 miles, in Wind Cave, more than doubling the known size of the cave at that time.
Did You Know?
Fire is an important factor in protecting the prairie. Historically, fires burned across the prairie every 4 to 7 years. Fires burn the small trees that would otherwise march across the prairie and turn the grasslands to forest.