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

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CACO3 Calcium carbonate.
Mineral, Rock and Chemical terms. Ref MM
CAINOZOIC The last of the geological eras, includes the Tertiary and Quaternary Periods. Extending from about 65 million years ago up to the present.
Geology. Ref KG
CALCARENITE An indurated sand composed mainly of detrital calcium carbonate fragments. A limestone or dolomite composed of coral or shell sand, or of sand derived from the erosion of older limestones, with sand sized particles. See Aeolianite.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref KG
CALCAREOUS Made of limestone or calcium carbonate.
Mineral, Rock and Chemical terms. Ref MM
CALCIFICATION Calcified. To become hard or stony by being impregnated with calcium salts. May apply to tree roots etc in caves.
Processes. Ref MM
CALCILUTITE A fine grained clastic (silt and clay sized particles) limestone or dolomite.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref KG
CALCIRUDITE A coarse (gravel sized) limestone. The clasts (broken fragments) making up the rock may be fossils or pieces of coral or shells or fragments of limestone, with the interstices filled with calcite, sand or mud with the whole bonded by a calcareous cement.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref KG
CALCITE The common (trigonal) crystal form of Calcium carbonate mineral [CaCO3]and the main constituent of limestone, with different crystal forms in the rhombohedral subsystem. Occurs in caves as massive or finely crystalline speleothems or other crystal forms.
Mineral, Rock and Chemical terms. Ref JJ
CALCIUM CARBONATE CaCO3. see Aragonite, Calcite
Mineral, Rock and Chemical terms. Ref MM
CALCRETE An indurated surface formed by weathering process involving cementation of the surface soils and weathered rock by calcite, drawn to the surface by capillary action. See Kankar, Oolite.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref KG
CALCSILTITE A limestone composed of calcareous sediments of silt size
Karst - Kinds of. Ref EH
CAMBERING FISSURE A fissure that forms behind and parallel to a cliff line, as a result of the outward rotation or sliding of large blocks.
Cave - Kinds of. Ref KG
CANOPY A compound speleothem consisting of a flowstone cover on a bedrock projection and a fringe of stalactites or shawls on the outer edge.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref JJ
CANYON A deep elongated cavity cut by running water in the roof or floor of a cave, or forming a cave passage.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CANYON A deep valley with steep to vertical walls. In karst, often formed by a river rising on impervious rocks outside the karst area.
Karst - Depression Features of. Ref JJ
CAPROCK A surface composed of Calcrete, especially where it is separated from the underlying rock by a clay or similar layer..
Karst - Kinds of. Ref MM
CARABINER See Karabiner. Also Crab, Krab.
Climbing and SRT. Ref MM
CARBIDE Calcium Carbide Ca2C. Reacts with water to form Acetylene gas (and carbon dioxide & calcium oxide) and because of impurities, also produces other noxious gases.
Miscellaneous terms. Ref JJ
CARBIDE LAMP Produces light by burning acetylene gas formed by reacting water and (calcium) carbide.
Lighting term. Ref MM
CARBON DIOXIDE CO2, a colourless odourless gas, which when dissolved in water, forms Carbonic acid.
Mineral, Rock and Chemical terms. Ref UC
CARBONIC ACID H2CO3, an acid typical of ground water systems. The agent responsible for dissolving most caves.
Mineral, Rock and Chemical terms. Ref UC
CARNIVOROUS Carnivore. An animal that feeds on any other animal. cf Herbivorous, Insectivorous, Omnivorous.
Fauna. Ref MM
CATCHMENT The area drained by a watercourse, or by a system of watercourses. The subterranean catchment may well be larger than the apparent surface one. eg as at Mole Creek & Jenolan. Dolines may form a catchment, which may be crucial in their later development.
Geology. Ref AC
CAVE A natural cavity in rock, large enough to be entered by people. May be water filled. May also be blocked partly or fully by sediment or ice. Commonly formed by solution in Limestone. Caves also form in many other rock types, and by many other processes.
Cave - Kinds of. Ref JJ
CAVE COMPONENT Alcove, Aven, Cavern, Chamber, Chimney, Crawlway, Decoration, Dome, Fissure, Flattener, Gallery, Grotto, Hall, Passage, Pillar, Pitch, Pothole, Rift, Rock pendant, Room, Shaft, Siphon, Speleogen, Speleothem, Squeeze, Sump, etc.
Cave - Parts of. Ref MM
CAVE AGE Most karst cave passages are less than 1 million years old, though Relict Caves could be hundreds of millions of years old. The most recently formed passages may be as little as 10,000 years old.
Speleology term. Ref DL
CAVE BLISTER A speleothem consisting of a hemisphere shape of thin calcite. See also Cave postule.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref JJ
CAVE BREATHING The movement of air in and out of a cave entrance. May occur on a daily cycle. The associated air currents within the cave. Breathing may be due to a number of causes: (1) Daily pressure changes due to the sun heating the air outside the cave.
Processes. Ref JJ
CAVE BREATHING, (CONT) (2) Barometric pressure changes (approx weekly). (3) Draught due to a cave with entrances on different levels. (4) Cold air sinking into a cave displacing warmer air. (5) Wind blowing over cave entrance. (6) Streams entering a cave may cause air flow.
Processes. Ref MM
CAVE COMMUNITY All the cavernicolous animals (and plants) that live in a cave, bound together by food chains and other processes.
Cave - Biota. Ref AC
CAVE CORAL Speleothems consisting of short stalks with bulbous ends or nodular, prickly, globular, pop-corn or coral-like form. Often occurring in large numbers, covering entire walls of chambers. See Coralloid.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref JJ
CAVE CRICKET An insect of the order Orthoptera. Also known by the NZ name of Weta. Usually scavengers feeding on plant detritus in caves, and fresh or dead plant matter outside of a cave entrance.
Cave - Biota. Ref MM
CAVE DEPOSIT An accumulation of material other than speleothems, such as charcoal, fossils, skeletal remains and flood borne debris as well as clay, silt, sand and gravel. See Cave Fill.
Cave - Erosional & Solutional Features. Ref MM
CAVE DEVELOPMENT Equates to cave genesis, the processes that work together to produce caves.
Speleology term. Ref EH
CAVE EARTH See Cave fill.
Cave - Erosional & Solutional Features. Ref JJ
CAVE ECOLOGY The study of the interaction between cave organisms and their environment. eg energy input from surface, climatic influences.
Cave - Biota. Ref JJ
CAVE ECOSYSTEM The interaction of the cave community organisms with their subterranean biospace environment.
Cave - Biota. Ref AC
CAVE EXTENT The length, breadth and depth of the smallest cube that will contain the entire cave. See Cave Length.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref MM
CAVE FILL Transported materials such as silt, clay, sand, gravel and humus, deposited in a cave, and which may partly or wholly block parts of a cave. Syn Cave earth.
Cave - Erosional & Solutional Features. Ref JJ
CAVE FLOWER See Gypsum flower.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref JJ
CAVE GROUP A number of caves, not interconnected, but geographically associated in some relief feature or geological outcrop.
Speleology term. Ref WM
CAVE GUANO Accumulations of dung in caves, in some places may be partly mineralised. Main source is bats and birds.
Speleology term. Ref WM
CAVE LENGTH The total length of all the passages of a cave. This normally exceeds the Cave extent. The exact method of determining Cave length varies from cave to cave and from State to State. A universal method should (ideally) be agreed on.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref MM
CAVE MINERAL A secondary mineral formed in caves from a primary mineral, by a physico-chemical reaction. Examples are minerals formed by reactions with guano.
Mineral, Rock and Chemical terms. Ref UC
CAVE PEARL A smooth polished and rounded speleothem found in shallow hollows into which water drips. Consists of concentric layers around a nucleus. Also as Pisolite, Pisolith.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref JJ
CAVE POSTULE A white, hemispherical wall and roof deposit of calcite. See also Cave blister.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref JJ
CAVE RAFT See Raft.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref HF
CAVE SHIELD See Shield.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref WM
CAVE SPRING A natural flow of water from rock or sediment within a cave.
Hydrology terms. Ref JJ
CAVE SYSTEM A collection of caves linked by enterable passages, or linked hydrologically. Or a large cave with extensive complex of chambers & passages.
Speleology term. Ref JJ
CAVER A person who enters a cave for recreation and or scientific purposes. Syn, potholer, spelunker.
Speleology term. Ref MM
CAVERN A large chamber within a cave. Also used poetically to denote a larger than average size cave.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CAVERNICOLE An animal which normally lives in caves for the whole or part of its life cycle. Most are invertebrates. cf Accidental, Trogloxene, Troglophile & Troglobite and the aquatic equivalents Stygoxene, Stygophile & Stygobite.
Cave - Biota. Ref JJ
CAVES Unsatisfactory term. The plural CAVES should not to be used when the meaning is the singular CAVE. eg "some caves are big" is ok, "we went to Big Cave" is ok, "we took shelter in the caves" is NOT OK. In the last case use CAVE, or use the cave name.
Unsatisfactory term, not recommended. Ref MM
CAVING The entering and exploration of caves. Also referred to as indoor mountaineering.
Speleology term. Ref JJ
CENOTE A partly water filled doline, often having vertical walls.
Karst - Depression Features of. Ref JJ
CHAMBER The name for the largest space in a cave. Compared to other parts of the cave they generally have greater width, length & height.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CHASM In caves, a deep, wide and elongated gap in a cave floor.
Cave - Parts of. Ref WM
CHERT Nodules commonly less than fist sized, but may range up to 1m diameter. Flakes can be used as knife or scraper tools.
Speleology term. Ref JJ
CHERT A hard flint like rock of fine crystalline silica, from white through light grey to black or red or dark brown. Insoluble in water. Fractures irregularly forming very sharp edges that resist weathering. Occurs in limestone in discrete strata as nodules.
Speleology term. Ref JJ
CHIMNEY A vertical opening in a cave that is narrow enough to be climbed by chimneying.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CHIMNEYING Ascending or descending by means of opposed body and or limb pressures against 2 facing walls.
Climbing and SRT. Ref JJ
CHOCK A device, being a block of metal, for use as a chockstone.
Climbing and SRT. Ref JJ
CHOCKSTONE A rock wedged between 2 fixed rock surfaces and used as an aid in climbing.
Climbing and SRT. Ref JJ
CHOKE A cave passage that is blocked by sediment or by local collapse of walls and or roof.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CLASS 3th rank in Taxonomic system. Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.
Biology - Flora & Fauna. Ref MM
CLASSIFICATION In biology, the scientific naming of all life forms eg plants, animals, fungi, algae. See Taxon.
Biology - Flora & Fauna. Ref MM
CLAUSTROPHOBIA An irrational fear of being in a closed space.
Miscellaneous terms. Ref JJ
CLINOMETER An instrument for measuring vertical angles, or angles of dip.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref JJ
CLOGGER A type of ascender without a handle, used with a karabiner to keep it securely on the rope.
Climbing and SRT. Ref JJ
CLOSED DEPRESSION In karst terrain, a depression having no outlet for surface water. see Doline, Uvala.
Karst - Depression Features of. Ref WM
CLOSED TRAVERSE In surveying, a traverse which forms a loop, thus enabling determination of a loop error.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref JJ
COCKPIT KARST Karst of tropical areas, with residual hills that are chiefly hemispheroidal and the closed depressions often lobate. It grades up to Cone karst then Tower karst. Some geographers describe a variety of other intermediate forms.
Karst - Hill Features of. Ref JJ
COFFEE AND CREAM A cave decoration caused by salt exudation finely shattering base rock to the consistency of flour. Deposits have colours resembling coffee and cream.
Cave - Erosional & Solutional Features. Ref NP
COL A saddle or low point on a ridge or between adjacent peaks that gives (the easiest) access from one side to the other.
Geology. Ref KG
COLLAPSE DOLINE A doline which has formed chiefly by the collapse of rock strata. cf Solution doline, Doline.
Karst - Depression Features of. Ref WM
COLLAPSE DOME A chamber formed by progressive roof collapse until it reaches a stable dome-shaped form. A rubble mound will generally be present on the floor. Collapse may initiate by the removal of hydrostatic support when the water level falls.
Cave - Parts of. Ref KG
COLLUVIAL Transported sediment deposited on a slope.
Geology. Ref MM
COLUMN A speleothem joining floor to ceiling, formed when a stalactite and stalagmite grow and join, or when either grow to meet bedrock.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
COMMON NAME In biology, the name used in publications aimed at a wide audience as opposed to the specific name. see Species.
Biology - Flora & Fauna. Ref MM
COMPASS An instrument with a magnetic needle that is free to point to magnetic north. Measures a bearing, the angle in degrees clockwise from north.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref JJ
CONDUIT 1 An underground stream course (often circular or elliptical in cross section) completely water filled and under hydrostatic pressure. 2 A dry passage inferred to have been such a stream course.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CONE KARST Karst of tropical areas, dominated by its projecting residual relief rather than by its closed depressions. Intermediate between Cockpit karst and Tower karst. Similar to Chinese term Fengcong.
Karst - Hill Features of. Ref JJ
CONTIGUOUS KARST The interconnected air filled or water filled solutional or hydrological network of spaces in any area of karstified carbonate rock.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref AC
CONULITE A speleothem which is hollow and conical and which forms in silt or other soft material, as a drill hole under a ceiling drip. A "splash cup". The drill hole sides may calcify, later erosion may leave the crystalline lining free standing. cf Boxwork.
Cave - Erosional & Solutional Features. Ref UC
COPROLITE Fossilised large excrement of animals as found in caves, especially those used as lairs.
Miscellaneous terms. Ref JJ
COPROPHAGE A scavenger which feeds on animal dung, including guano.
Miscellaneous terms. Ref JJ
CORALLINE Limestone having the structure of or composed of corals, as, coralline limestone.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref MM
CORALLOID A speleothem which is nodular, globular or coral-like in shape and which forms from thin films of water. Cf Cave coral.
Speleology term. Ref MM
CORRASION The wearing away of bedrock or loose sediment by mechanical action of moving agents, especially water, ie Corrosion & Abrasion.
Speleology term. Ref JJ
CORRIDOR An alternate name for a passage, especially when of walking height.
Cave - Parts of. Ref WM
CORROSION Syn. Solution.
Processes. Ref JJ
COVERED KARST Karst where the bedrock is mainly covered by soil or superficial deposits.
Karst - Kinds of. Ref JJ
COW'S TAIL A length of rope used as a safety when crossing a rebelay.
Climbing and SRT. Ref RW
CRAB See Carabiner. Also, Krab, Karabiner.
Climbing and SRT. Ref MM
CRATON A relatively large block of the earth. Being immobile the rocks are often of great age.
Geology. Ref MM
CRAWL(WAY) A passage which, because of its low roof height, must be negotiated on hands and knees. cf Flattener, Stooping, Walking.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CROSS BEDDING Sets of inclined layers or beds, typically seen in dunes.
Geology. Ref KG
CROSS SECTION The shape of a cave passage across its width.
Survey & Mapping term. Ref JJ
CRUST A speleothem composed of thin mineral layers on bedrock or soil surfaces in caves.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref HF
CRYPTIC Animals that are inconspicuous either because they are small, secretive in their habits, or well camouflaged. Applies to many cavernicoles, due to their habit of living in darkness, as well as the other reasons.
Fauna. Ref AC
CRYPTOZOA The terrestrial animals that live in darkness beneath stones, logs, bark etc, or in the soil. They are potential colonisers of caves.
Cave - Biota. Ref JJ
CRYSTAL POOL A cave pool, usually with little or no overflow, containing well formed crystals.
Cave - Parts of. Ref JJ
CURRENT MARKING Shallow asymmetrical hollows formed by solution by turbulent waterflow and distributed regularly over karst rock surfaces. cf Scallop.
Speleology term. Ref JJ
CURTAIN A speleothem of dripstone, in the form of a wavy or folded sheet hanging from a cave wall or roof, often translucent & resonant.
Cave - Depositional Features. Ref JJ

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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