Cave Statistics in the World of Commercial Caves


Almost every cave has some kind of statistic highlight, told to astonished visitors by the cave guides. Sometimes it is true, sometimes not, who cares, there is no chance to verify such a statement. There is no institution which collects speleologic world records, not even the Guiness Book of World Records does. Although they tried a few times, with questionable success. Many cave owners want to impress their visitors with some kind of superlative. So they try to find some aspect of their cave, which is extraordinary. Today such a thing is called unique selling proposition (USP).

  1. It is rather easy if you really have a great cave. Many facts are collected in official statistics, hundreds of cavers all over the world distribute information to some institutions like the NSS or the UIS. This are attributes like length and vertical range, which are well defined and measured by surveying teams.
  2. Also there are historic superlatives like first lighted, first mentioned in literature or oldest cave paintings. This information is also collected by historians and other scientists.
  3. And finally there is a third category of superlatives, which are a little strange, but still easy to understand: longest tour path, most visitors, most steps, or longest boat ride. They are not really of any use, but at least they are more or less true.

But this is the humour section, and now it starts to become wierd and funny. In order to impress their visitors, cave guides often start to develop a certain kind of creativity. They start to make up their superlatives. And this is how it works:

  1. Telling outdated information: Probably it once was the biggest known cave entrance, way back in the first half of the 20th century. Speleologists are still discovering astounding caves nearly every day. Our knowledge increases and we know much more now, than we did fifty years ago. So all those allegations are only valid for some time. But cave guides tend to repeat things they once learned, and do not update their knowledge very often.
    Especially the terms tallest stalagmite and longest stalactite are often used.
  2. Inventing a new type of measuring: There are various ways to do so. Just try to find a direction that has the most outstanding dimension. Then postulate it was the biggest, tallest, longest, widest or whatever.
    The most impressive usage of this kind of creativity is made at Grotta Grande del Vento in Italy. The huge chamber called Abysso Ancona, although really impressive, is measured from the lowest point of the floor at one side to the highest point of the ceiling at the other side. This is probably the only place on Earth where the dimension of a chamber is measured diagonally.
  3. Ignore all foreign countries: Some countries tend to think they are the salt of the Earth, the center of the universe or whatever. This affects the behaviour of the cave guides: they just check if their biggest whatever is biggest in their own country. Then they tell their visitors it was the biggest whatever on Earth. Has some kind of inner logic, as their own country is the best of the world, anything best in this country is at the same time best of the whole world. This is called transitivity. We found this in all kinds of egocentric countries, in communist eastern countries as well as in the U.S.A..
    We guess, they just look in their own country, to avoid being sued....
  4. Inventing a type of speleothem: Speleothems are extremely various, and they are classified into a few types, like stalactites and stalagmites. So if you do not have a largest stalagmite, how about the largest stableford on earth? Just tell your visitors in a trustworthy way what a stableford is. Its okay to make up a plausible explanation, as there is no such thing as a speleothem called stableford.
    Cathedral Caverns in the USA owns the largest frozen waterfall, but it does not contain any ice. They just named some dripstones frozen waterfall, and as nobody else does, theirs is the biggest.
  5. Modify the definition: Often it is possible to reduce the competition by narrowing the definition. If you definitely do not have the tallest stalagmite, how about the tallest blueish stalagmite? There aren't many blueish stalagmite, so you don't have many competitors, and it's such a strange quality, there will definitely be no official list of tall blueish stalagmites.
    Cathedral Caverns in the USA did this with their impressive cave entrance. After learning that it wasn't the largest cave entrance in the world, they modified it to widest. Still it wasn't true, so they modified it to widest entrance of any commercial cave in the world. This is not true either, so probably they will soon change it to "widest entrance of any Cathedral Cave".
  6. Make a Joke:  Seneca Caverns in Bellevue, Ohio is the Caviest Cave in the USA.
  7. Just lie: If anything else fails, you can still do this.

We found numerous caves on earth, which tell strange things. Almost everybody tries to look a bit better than he really is. The most impressive example in this sense is  Cathedral Caverns in the USA. It seems they lately searched the internet or probably speleologic literature, to find new statistical highlights. So they now offer six different world records, which are either a bit complicated, or simply fantastic.

  1. It has the widest entrance of any commercial cave in the world, which is a complicated phrase but nevertheless not true.
  2. Cathedral Caverns is home to Goliath, the largest stalagmite in the world, 18m tall and 61m in circumference.
  3. Cathedral Caverns has the largest flow stone wall, which is 9.7m tall and 41m long.
  4. Really weird is the largest frozen waterfall, no size given though.
  5. Cathedral Caverns has the largest stalagmite forest of any cave in the world, again no dimension given.
  6. Cathedral Caverns has the most improbably formation in the world which is a stalagmite that is 10.6m tall and 7mm wide!

We guess, there are at least three more world records:

  1. Cathedral Caverns has the world's most faked world records.
  2. Cathedral Caverns has the coolest and most educated cave guides in the world.
  3. Cathedral Cave is the most improbably cave in the world.

See also


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