THE BACK CAVERNS
The Back Caverns were excavated during 2001 and then again in 2002. All of the work was done with a jackhammer and a shovel. The 2001 excavation reached a depth of 25 feet and the layout of the cavern resembled a multi-level maze. An audible hollow sound behind certain walls during both 2001 and 2002 suggested that a secret passageway existed within the maze. All attempts to access the hollow space failed during 2001 and when rain arrived in November the cavern flooded and collapsed.
Comparison of the Hondius Map section showing the Back Cavern compared to a clay image located just inside the entrance in 2001.
In 2002, excavation of a new hole began just a few feet away from where the 2001 entrance had collapsed. Digging continued downward for 36 feet until it reached the water table. While tunneling horizontally at the 36 ft. level, a large clay sculpture of a blue stork appeared and adjacent to it was a large blue stone. I photographed the stork and went to remove the stone. As soon as it was dislodged, water began to flow from a small hole in the wall where the stone had been! The hole grew larger and larger as water spouted from it and eventually the tunnel was completely inundated. Several submersible pumps were necessary to draw the water from the cavern. After the flooded tunnel was pumped-out, re-entry was possible. The wall that was spouting the water had completely disappeared and in its place was a large, room-like cavern with a neatly stacked pile of stones at the far side. However, without warning, huge chunks of the cavern ceiling would break loose and crash to the floor. A death-defying close call with a huge piece of the ceiling motivated me to find a safer way to recover the pile of stones!
The Blue Vulture
The Treasure Room
36 feet Below the Surface
A Safer Way
The safest way was to hire a well driller who could drill a hole 3 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep. Then a plastic sewer pipe of the same size was lowered into the hole. A ladder was constructed because standard commercial ladders were not long enough. An electric winch was installed to haul the large stones and buckets. Excavation continued out from the sewer pipe and down to the 36ft. level again. After working virtually everyday for 9 months with little rest, a large stone was removed from the deepest part of the cavern on 12/12/2002. Much to my amazement...there it was...the hollow crawl space I had been trying to locate for two years. I looked inside and from the opening could see that this was the beginning/end of a square-shaped crawl-space just big enough for one man. I climbed up the ladder and back to the surface to share the exciting news. However, the thrill of victory did not last for long. The very same evening, a powerful winter storm blew in dumping eight inches of rain and by sunrise the entire excavation was flooded. Re-entry was impossible!
Preparing for the Driller
Drilling the Hole
The 20 foot long Sewer Pipe