Abstract - A Statistical Comparison of Boxwork and Cave Passage Orientations: Wind Cave, South Dakota

Stephenson, J. Brad. 1990. A Statistical Comparison of Boxwork and Cave Passage Orientations: Wind Cave, South Dakota. Western Kentucky University. 43+ p.


Each year, South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park attracts many visitors eager to explore its mysterious subterranean world. They are fascinated not only by the vastness and complexity of the cave itself, but also by the intricacy and beauty of the boxwork decorating many of its passages. Seeking to unlock Wind Cave's many secrets, scientists also venture into the dankness to study its complex geology, hydrology, and mineralogy. Despite the wealth of knowledge accumulated by these researchers over several decades, the details of the cave's origin remain subjects of considerable debate.

It is generally accepted that the origin of the boxwork is intimately related to the development of the cave. Mineralogical, petrographic, hydrochemical, radiometric, and isotopic analyses have been performed in an attempt to understand when and under what conditions the boxwork formed. Yet the picture is incomplete. While one may be tempted to see the maze-like pattern of the joint-controlled cave mimicked by the interlocking boxwork exposures, it appears that the cave and the boxwork are controlled by tow unrelated systems of jointing which formed at different times and/or under different stress regimes.

The purpose of this investigation is to statistically analyze the relationship between the orientations of the cave passages and the orientations of the boxwork fines. It is hypothesized that there is a statistically significant relationship between the two patterns at the 99% confidence level-i.e. that the cave passages and boxwork fines are controlled by related joint systems.

Results of the research reject this hypothesis.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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