Saturday, August 27 presents
Nancy Aulenbach

Journey Into Amazing Caves
April 5, 2001

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CC498: Hi, Nancy. I have an extreme fear of caves. How would you suggest I go about conquering those fears? Seeing some highlights of this amazing movie makes me feel like I am missing something by not exploring caves myself!

Nancy Aulenbach: Try visiting some show caves. Those are caves with paved walkways and electrical lights. Contact the National Caves Association at That will give you a listing of all the commercial caves throughout the U.S. You can get hooked up that way.

Scooter: As a beginning cave photographer, I am wondering about ideas to transport equipment and the best lighting options that are compact.

Nancy Aulenbach: For transporting your camera, use pelican cases. They're heavy, but bomb proof, and can withstand mud and water. For lighting, slave flashes and flash bulbs are the way to go. Most importantly, some very patient friends to help out. And lots of warm clothing.

Bill: Nancy, I understand you and your co-star in this film had not met before. Have you since been on other spelunking adventures together?

Nancy Aulenbach: Yes. We have become very good buddies and enjoy caving together when we get a chance. But it's difficult because she lives in Colorado and I live in Georgia.

Jaqui: How many different caves were explored during filming?

Nancy Aulenbach: Goodness, let me think about that one. Six or seven caves. I don't really remember how many.

Shona: Nancy, what has been your favorite or most spectacular cave so far?

Nancy Aulenbach: Of all the caves I've explored, I would have to say the one cave that actually brought me to tears from its sheer beauty was Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico. It's in Carlsbad National Park. And it's only open to experienced cavers for scientific research only. I've been there twice. Once on a 7-day trip in the cave. The other was a 5-day trip. The cave formations are truly world class!

Myrthynn: The caves featured in this movie posed a wide variety of physical challenge. Which cave site was the hardest for you?

Nancy Aulenbach: I guess the Greenland caves were the most challenging for me because we had to wear so much gear to keep us warm, as well as crampons on our boots, so we had a difficult time maneuvering on our ropes, and also had to be careful not to slice our ropes in two.

Soo What: Do you have any sorts of fears or are you afraid of anything when you cave?

Nancy Aulenbach: Ok, I'll be honest about this one. (smile) I have an unbearable fear of cave crickets, but it's not without just cause. When I was four years old, caving with my Dad and one of my brothers, we explored a very small cave, crawling on our hands and knees, where there were cave crickets all over the ceiling and walls. My helmet barely touched the ceiling and sheets of crickets went down into my clothing. ARGH! It made a lasting impression! But it's something I have to deal with every weekend when I go caving. They are everywhere!

Kyres: I was very interested in the search you all are doing for different types of micro-organisms. Have you or any of the cavers discovered ones that may be useful as medicines?

Nancy Aulenbach: That's what we're hoping to find in the samples that we collected in these extreme cave environments. Unfortunately, this is not a field for the impatient. It takes several years of lab work to positively identify and work with these microorganisms, to learn how they can be useful for medicinal purposes.

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