Glossary of Speleological and Caving Terms
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Copyright © Australian Speleological Federation Inc. 2002

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BACON A thin, translucent sheet of dripstone hanging from a cave wall or roof, and with streaks of colour suggesting bacon.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref UC
BACTERIA Unicellular microscopic plants. They are autotrophs, ie make their own food. They sometimes form aggregations. Very important in caves as decomposers causing high CO2 levels seen in some caves. Probably play a role in most speleogenesis.
Biology - Flora & Fauna. Ref AC
BARE KARST Karst with much exposed bedrock. Syn. Naked karst, Unmantled karst.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref JJ
BASALT An igneous rock that typically underlies oceanic basins. A dark coloured, generally fine grained rock that occurs widely as lava flows of many different ages. Lava caves occur most commonly in basaltic lava.
Geology. Ref DL
BASIN A segment of the earth's crust which has been downwarped. When filled with sediments they increase in thickness toward the centre. cf Craton, Orogen.
Geology. Ref MM
BAT A mammal of the order Chiroptera, divided into several families. The only mammals capable of true flight, having membranes between the toes of their forefeet.
Fauna. Ref JJ
BATHYPHREATIC Referring to water moving with some speed through downward looping passages in the phreatic zone.
Hydrology terms. Ref JJ
BEARING In surveying, the angle measured clockwise that a line makes with north. See also Grid, Magnetic & True north.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref JJ
BED A stratum or layer in a sedimentary rock sequence, or unconsolidated sediment.
Geology. Ref JJ
BEDDING GRIKE A narrow rectilinear slot in a karst rock outcrop due to solution along a bedding plane.
Karst - Miscellaneous features of. Ref JJ
BEDDING PLANE A surface separating 2 beds of rock, usually planar.
Geology. Ref JJ
BEDDING PLANE CAVE A cavity developed along a bedding plane and elongate in cross section. May result from a difference in solubility between the 2 beds.
Cave - Kinds of. Ref JJ
BEDROCK (1) In a cave, a portion of the native rock strata that has not undergone collapse. The walls and roof of caves are often in bedrock. (2) In karst, the rock that underlies the limestone strata.
Karst - Miscellaneous features of. Ref MM
BELAY 1 The attachment (often by a separate rope) of a climber, or a ladder to a secure point. 2 The secure point itself. 3 The use of a belay as a life line during ascent or descent of a climber. see On belay.
Climbing and SRT. Ref JJ
BELAY POINT A fixed point used to support the belay, usually and ideally independent of the support point of the ladder or rope used for climbing.
Climbing and SRT. Ref MM
BELAY ROPE The rope used for belaying, separate (usually) from the climbing rope.
Climbing and SRT. Ref MM
BELOW Emergency call (often shouted) of danger. Signal given to those below that something is falling. Only useful if there is voice contact between the top and bottom of a pitch.
Climbing and SRT. Ref MM
BENCH Some 'benches' form differently by the rolling down of a long flap of wall lining. Gradations can occur, eg. where a thin bench breaks free and starts to roll downwards.
Lava Cave term. Ref KG
BENCH A horizontal shelf along the wall of a lava tunnel, generally close to floor level. It is formed at the edge of a lava flow level, by cooling and solidification of the edge followed by a lowering of the level.
Lava Cave term. Ref KG
BENTHIC Bottom dwelling. The ocean floor, from the low water mark to the greatest depths. Some cave fauna would occur in this zone in submarine or submerged caves. cf Littoral.
Geology. Ref MM
BIOCLASTIC Containing grains composed of fragmented and transported organic material, eg. shell fragments.
Cave - Biota. Ref KG
BIOGENIC Of biological origin. eg most limestone is biogenic.
Biology - Flora & Fauna. Ref MM
BIOGEOGRAPHY The study of the geographical distribution of animals and plants over the globe. cf Zoogeography, Phytogeography.
Cave - Biota. Ref AC
BIOMASS The total mass or weight of living matter, usually relates to a given area, habitat or community.
Biology - Flora & Fauna. Ref MM
BIO-SPACE The separated or interconnected air or water-filled spaces that are inhabited by living organisms. The spaces may be cracks, pipes, channels, interstitial medium, saturated zone, tubes, voids, microcaverns, larger cavities including caves.
Cave - Biota. Ref AC
BIOSPELEOLOGY The study of plant, animal and other organisms living in caves.
Cave - Biota. Ref JJ
BIOTA The total assemblage of living organisms of a district. Biotic.
Fauna. Ref AC
BIVALVE A Mollusc. A soft bodied animal having a shell in 2 halves. eg scallop, oyster. Often preserved (along with other mollusc types) as fossils in limestone.
Fauna. Ref MM
BLANKET A dripstone curtain, thicker than Bacon, and not noticeably translucent.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref MM
BLIND SHAFT A vertical extension upwards in a cave that does not reach the surface. cf Aven
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
BLIND VALLEY A valley which ends at its lower point in a ridge or wall of limestone. It has (or had) either a perennial or intermittent stream flow, that escapes underground at the lowest point.
Karst - Miscellaneous features of. Ref JJ
BLISTER CAVE Strictly, a cave formed by gas pressure pushing up a surface crust. True blisters are rare, & generally too small to enter. Some large ones are known overseas. The term has been misused for single simple chambers formed by drainage of liquid lava.
Lava Cave term. Ref KG
BLOWHOLE A hole to the surface in the roof of a sea cave through which waves force air and water.
Karst - Miscellaneous features of. Ref JJ
BLOWHOLE A vertical hole often circular, on the surface in karst through which air blows in and out, often audibly. Common feature of the Nullarbor Plain. Elsewhere in Australia known as a Pipe or Solution pipe. In USA known as a Blowing cave.
Karst - Depression Features of. Ref JJ
BOBBIN A descender that opens to enclose the rope around two fixed pulleys. May have a handle ("STOP") which must be squeezed to allow descent.
Climbing and SRT. Ref RW
BOLLARD A projection of rock over which rope, tape or wire can be placed to create an anchor.
Climbing and SRT. Ref RW
BOLT A high tensile steel bolt used as an anchor.
Climbing and SRT. Ref JJ
BOMB A large fragment of volcanic ejecta. Some bombs show twisted forms indicating that they were still liquid when ejected, but solidified before landing. 'Breadcrust' and 'cowpat' bombs are named for their appearance.
Lava Cave term. Ref KG
BONE BRECCIA A breccia containing many bone fragments. see Breccia. [Advise cave manager if such items are found.]
Cave - Erosional & Solutional Features. Ref JJ
BOOBTUBE A clear plastic tube about a metre long, used as a straw to drink water from crevices and otherwise inaccessible pools.
Miscellaneous terms. Ref MM
BOTRYOID A speleothem shaped like a bunch of grapes. A variety of Coralloid, formed either in air or water.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref HF
BOULDER CHOKE A collapse of rock from floor to roof which makes further progress difficult or dangerous.
Cave - Parts of. Ref MM
BOXWORK A speleothem composed of intersecting mineral blades. In Nullarbor caves they are formed by the filling of cracks that form in dried out sediments with calcite material then the sediment has been eroded away.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref UC
BRAKE BAR A round bar hinged to a karabiner or rappel rack used for abseiling.
Climbing and SRT. Ref JJ
BRANCHWORK A dendritic system of underground streams or passages that join successively to form larger and larger streams and passages. cf Dendritic.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
BREAKDOWN (1) Rock that has fallen from the wall or roof of a cave. (2) Enlargement of cave chambers by this process.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
BRECCIA Rock that is composed of fragments of other rocks cemented together, often in a matrix of finer sediment.
Cave - Erosional & Solutional Features. Ref JJ
BRUNTON COMPASS A type of compass, with a hinged mirror and including a clinometer. Designed for measuring rock dip & strike.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref JJ
BRYOZOA A Phylum of tiny colonial animals 'Lace corals', that build calcareous structures of many kinds. A fossil that was common in warm shallow Tertiary seas.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref KG
BURST See Flap.
Lava Cave term. Ref KG

Copyright © Australian Speleological Federation Inc. 2002

The Glossary of Speleological and Caving Terms is the copyright property of the
AUSTRALIAN SPELEOLOGICAL FEDERATION INC. (ASF) and any reproduction of it either in part or in full, should have the approval of the ASF, and such reproduction should be accompanied by a copyright notice similar to this one.

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