Along with the world, we are rejoicing today that the Thai soccer team has emerged from their “wild cave" exploration to receive treatment and rejoin their families. This event has sparked both suspense and hope in the hearts of caring people around the world. We are thrilled and celebrating today as the Thai Navy SEALs successfully rescued the 12 boys and their coach. With the many individuals who have been closely watching this rescue mission, the caverns community has been in conversation and prayer for the excellent news we’ve received today. We’ve also been focused on educating the public regarding caverns safety and specifically the differentiation between wild caves and show caves.
In order to bring more understanding to how this situation in Thailand began, it’s important to know the difference between wild caves and show caves. We’ll begin with the basics of the definitions of wild caves versus show caves. Show caves are defined as caves which have been made accessible to the public for guided visits, but wild caves are defined as caves that have few or no provisions which make it easy for the general public to visit. The show caves of America have many procedures in place in order to make your visit into this unique natural environment safe. The Thai soccer team went exploring within some wild caves in Thailand that were not open to the public, the team had no knowledgeable guide, and they had no provisions to make the expedition safe. This kind of excursion is illegal in America, as caves are protected natural resources and also going into a cavern without granted access is trespassing. Journeying into a show cave is as different from an expedition into a wild cave as taking a walk up a hill is different than climbing Mount Everest. We understand that just as mountains are unique with different obstacles or levels of difficulty, caverns are also unique and knowing the difference between taking a tour and going on a wild cavern expedition is important when discussing cave safety.
Now that we’ve addressed the difference between wild caves and show caves, it’s important to know more about how safe DeSoto Caverns is as a show cave. DeSoto Caverns has been a shelter cave for over 2,000 years of human history, which is longer than any standing building in the US! DeSoto Caverns is the most historic cave in the United States featuring mastodon bones, a Native American habitation, and is the first cave on record in the US, thanks to one of George Washington’s Native American Scouts in 1796. This cave has served as a haven for a variety of people as well as animals throughout history and currently offers a safe tour which includes no steps, feels cool (60° year-round), has never flooded since its creation. It also has excellent air quality, which is why the Native Americans called our largest room the “Healing All Cathedral.” This first room is larger than a football field and the ceiling is high enough to fit a 12 story building in it. A small car can be driven into the cave and at no time are guests more that 200 yards from the entrance. Owner Al Mathis has commented “If there ever were any kind of emergency, you would find me running into the cave for shelter, not away from it.”
Our hope is that as people are educated about how diverse caves are, they will understand the safe environment show caves provide and will also know the risk involved in exploring wild caves. We hope we have the opportunity to host your future safe adventure within this historic beautiful natural shelter.