Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Episode 527 (6-1-20): Observing Virginia Cave Week with “In the Cave” by Pepe Deluxé

Click to listen to episode (4:12)

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Extra Information
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.)

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 5-29-20.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of June 1, 2020.

MUSIC – ~9 sec – instrumental

This week, we feature a mysterious musical selection written for, and performed on, what might be Virginia’s most unusual instrument—and almost certainly the Commonwealth’s deepest.  Have a listen for about 30 more seconds.

MUSIC - ~31 sec – instrumental

You’ve been listening to part of “In the Cave,” by the Finnish group Pepe Deluxé, on the 2012 album, “Queen of the Wave,” from Catskills Records.  Pepe Deluxé’s Paul Malmström composed the music for the Great Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns, in Page County, Virginia, and performed it there in February 2011.  The Great Stalacpipe Organ, invented in the 1950s by Leland Sprinkle of Springfield, Virginia, produces sounds with various tones and pitches when rubber-tipped mallets strike stalactites, one type of the underground formations for which caverns in Virginia and elsewhere are noted.

As remarkable as this human invention is, it’s matched by the natural wonders found in Virginia’s over 4000 documented caves, of which caverns are spectacular examples.  Formed over millions of years by acidic groundwater acting on limestone and other soluble bedrock, caves are one of several features characteristic of karst terrain, found especially in Virginia’s western valleys and in other areas of the United States and the world.  Sinkholes, sinking streams, and Virginia’s famous Natural Bridge are other karst-related features.

Caves and other karst formations are the focus of Virginia Cave Week, observed this year from May 31 through June 6.  Sponsored by the Virginia Cave Board, the observance aims to increase public knowledge of, and appreciation for, the Commonwealth’s karst heritage of remarkable areas formed by groundwater’s slow and steady dissolving action.

Thanks to Catskills Records for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with about 20 more seconds of “In the Cave.”

MUSIC - ~21 sec – instrumental


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at virginiawaterradio.org, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Ben Cosgrove for his version of “Shenandoah” to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 158, 4-22-13.

“In the Cave” and “Queen of the Wave” are copyright by Pepe Deluxé and Catskills Records, used with permission.  More information about Pepe Deluxé is available at their Web site, http://www.pepedeluxe.com/; click on the “Album Companions” link on that page to access an article on the Great Stalacpipe Organ and the making of “In the Cave.”  A music video of the “In the Cave” is available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkvvcN6rt-I; thanks to Alexandra Thompson, a student worker in 2013 at the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, for finding that video.  This music also used in Virginia Water Radio Episode 306, 3-7-16, on groundwater generally.

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (2 min./22 sec.) of the “Shenandoah” arrangement/performance by Ben Cosgrove that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Cosgrove is available online at http://www.bencosgrove.com.


A view inside a cave; date and location not identified. Photo from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Natural Heritage Division, “Karst Landscapes,” accessed online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/karst-landscapes.

Barricaded opening of Adams Cave in Wildwood Park in Radford, Va., October 6, 2013.

Sinkhole along the road to Radford University’s Selu Conservancy near Radford, Va., September 22, 2009.


The following information is quoted from the Virginia Cave Board Web site, “Ten Questions About Caves and the Virginia Cave Board,” online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/vcbquestions, as of 5/29/20.

1. How do caves form?
Most caves in Virginia were formed by a solution process, the dissolving a way of limestone rock by a weak acid carried in groundwater.  Limestone, being composed of calcium carbonate, is slowly dissolved away by the solutional effect of carbonic acid.  Limestone was formed from sediments deposited on the floors of shallow seas millions of years ago.  The formation of caves does not actually begin until the limestone is exposed to natural elements at the surface.  The formations (called speleothems) found in some caves have resulted from water seeping through limestone, dissolving calcium carbonate, and then leaving behind deposits of mineral calcite and aragonite as it passes into cave rooms and passages.

2. How many caves are there in Virginia?
Over 4000.  Virginia is one of only six states in the United States with over 2,000 known caves.  Many are described in H. H. Douglas, Caves of Virginia,and J. R. Holsinger, Descriptions of Virginia Caves. Data are on file with the Virginia Speleological Survey, affiliated with the National Speleological Society.

3. Do caves have economic value?
Several of Virginia's caves are renowned for their beauty and are tourist attractions, bringing thousands of visitors into the state annually.  To have a wild cave on one's property, however, probably does not increase its value and may even constitute a nuisance to the owner, although there are instances where the owner may use the cave as a water source.

4. Is there any historical significance to caves?
Professional archeologists have only begun to investigate the implications of materials discovered in Virginia's rock shelters and caves, where some evidence of prehistoric habitation has been uncovered.  Indian burial caves can yield important demographic information.  In most recent history, Thomas Jefferson visited and described one of Virginia's caves and George Washington and James Madison left other signatures in Madison Saltpetre Cave.  Up until the close of the Civil War, caves in the Commonwealth were extensively mined for saltpetre (used in the manufacture of gunpowder).

5. Do caves have an educational value?
With today's emphasis upon wilderness experience to develop self-reliance and appreciation of nature, there have been attempts to include caves as part of such programs.  However, this is not an activity to be undertaken without a person in charge skilled both in caving techniques and safety, as well as concern for the conservation of caves, which can easily be damaged.  Speleothems of great beauty can be broken in a careless moment, and it may be years before others will grow to replace them.  A muddy handprint or footprint can permanently mar an otherwise pristine mineral formation.  For the serious scientist, opportunities for research in the field of speleology (the science of caves) exist. Bones and artifacts found in caves are very fragile.  The matter in which they are deposited and preserved is as important scientifically as the objects themselves.  Much of the scientific value of these deposits is lost when they are disturbed by anyone but a trained professional.

6. Are caves hazardous?
The hazards in cave exploration are real but exist primarily for the untrained or careless.  Training for interested novices is available throughout the Commonwealth through organized caving groups affiliated with the National Speleological Society (NSS).  The NSS sponsors a National Cave Rescue Commission, and emergency telephone numbers are available to mobilize cavers in case of a mishap.  Cavers welcome the opportunity to explain caving to other groups who may be involved in rescue programs, working toward cooperation when the need arises.

7. Does Virginia have a law to protect its caves?
The Virginia Cave Protection Act was passed in 1979 to help preserve our cave resources for future generations to enjoy.  Please help!  If you are a caver, leave each cave as you found it.  If you are a cave owner, let us know of problems you may encounter.  It is our responsibility to protect and preserve these unique, non-renewable, natural resources for future generations to experience.  Caves are very sensitive environments.  The animals found in caves can easily be disturbed by man.  Bats aroused during their winter hibernation often do not survive the winter months.  Disturbance during the spring and summer months while bats are raising their young can cause the loss of young bats.  Water pollution may poison streams, thereby killing many other organisms.  Help enforce the law by reporting any and all persons in violation of the law to the cave owner or the nearest law enforcement authority.  In most states as Virginia, it is illegal to [do any of the following]:
Write or mark on walls;
Break or remove mineral formations;
Sell or transport to other states for sale, mineral deposits and/or speleothems;
Disturb or collect cave organisms, including bats;
Remove or disturb prehistoric artifacts or bones;
Litter or dispose of trash or refuge; or
Dump spent calcium carbide.
(From the Code of Virginia 10-150.11 et seq.)

8. What is the purpose of the Virginia Cave Board?
The Board was established by the 1979 General Assembly and may perform the following functions:
Serve as an advisory board to other state agencies on matters related to caves and karst;
Inventory of publicly owned caves;
Provide cave management expertise and service to other state agencies as requested;
Identify significant caves in Virginia;
Report on ways to assist local authorities in obtaining the assistance of experienced cavers in cave rescue situations construction;
Clarify laws relative to cave ownership;
Suggest ways for enforcing the Cave Protection Act effectively;
Study the possibility of a state cave recreation plan; and
Study how cave data might be stored through electronic data processing so as to be readily available to state agencies with a need for such information.”


Used for Audio

Catskills Music, “Pepe Deluxé,” online at https://www.catskillsmusic.com/artists/25/.

Mike Diver, “Pepe Deluxé ‘Queen of the Wave’ Review,” published by the BBC, 2012, online at https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/rdzb/.

Friends of the Virginia Cave Board, “Virginia Cave Week,” online at http://www.vacaveweek.com/.

Luray Caverns, “Welcome to Geology’s Hall of Fame,” online at https://luraycaverns.com/caverns/.

Blake Madden, “Inside the Great Stalacpipe Organ: The World's Largest Instrument,” 4/15/15, published by the “Trust Me I’m a Scientist” Web site, online at http://www.trustmeimascientist.com/2015/04/15/inside-the-great-stalacpipe-organ-the-worlds-largest-instrument/.

George Veni et al., “Living with Karst,” American Geological Institute Environmental Awareness Series, 2001, available online (as a PDF) at http://www.agiweb.org/environment/publications/karst.pdf.

Virginia Cave Board, http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural_heritage/cavehome.shtml.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Natural Bridge State Park,” Online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/natural-bridge.

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, “Virginia Natural Heritage/Karst Program,” online at https://www.dcr.virginia.gov/natural-heritage/karsthome.

For More Information about Caves

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/National Centers for Environmental Information, “Speleotherm,” online at https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/paleoclimatology-data/datasets/speleothem.

National Speleological Society, online at http://www.caves.org/.  The organization’s information about White Nose Syndrome, a disease affecting bats in caves in Virginia and throughout the eastern United States and Canada, is available online at https://caves.org/WNS/.

Whitney Pipkin, Virginia cave, home to unique isopod, gains permanent protection, Bay Journal, 6/15/20.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “White Nose Syndrome Response Team,” online at https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/affiliation/5aeb30aeb91d1500104f24d0.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/p/index.html). See particularly the “Groundwater” subject category.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources of information, or other materials in the Show Notes.

2013 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2010 Science SOLs

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
3.9 – Water cycle, including sources of water, energy driving water cycle, water essential for living things, and water limitations and conservation.

Grades K-6 Earth Resources Theme
4.9 – Virginia natural resources, including watersheds, water resources, and organisms.
6.9 – public policy decisions related to the environment (including resource management and conservation, land use decisions, hazard mitigation, and cost/benefit assessments).

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
6.7 – natural processes and human interactions that affect watershed systems; Virginia watersheds, water bodies, and wetlands; health and safety issues; and water monitoring.

Life Science Course
LS.11 – relationships between ecosystem dynamics and human activity.

Earth Science Course
ES.1 – current applications to reinforce science concepts.
ES.6 – renewable vs. non-renewable resources (including energy resources).
ES.8 – influences by geologic processes and the activities of humans on freshwater resources, including identification of groundwater and major watershed systems in Virginia, with reference to the hydrologic cycle.

Biology Course
BIO.8 – dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

Grades K-3 Economics Theme
2.8 – natural, human, and capital resources.
3.8 – understanding of cultures and of how natural, human, and capital resources are used for goods and services.

Virginia Studies Course
VS.1 – impact of geographic features on people, places, and events in Virginia history.
VS.10 – knowledge of government, geography, and economics in present-day Virginia.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.7 – government at the state level.
CE.10 – public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – how selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.
WG.3 – how regional landscapes reflect the physical environment and the cultural characteristics of their inhabitants.
WG.4 – types and significance of natural, human, and capital resources.

Government Course
GOVT.8 – state and local government organization and powers.
GOVT.9 – public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/.

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18 – on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.