52 ways to die in a cave

Some upbeat reading for your coffee and donut time.

A couple of weeks ago, I read Blind Descent, a book about speleologists exploring the some of the deepest caves* on Earth. One of the things that struck me about the story was just how frequently potentially deadly accidents happened. Towards the end, it got to the point where somebody was cheating the Reaper every other page or so. But, really, that's kind of the whole deal with deep cave exploration—when the surface is a multi-day trek away, through constricting passages and up sheer cliffs, just about any injury can quickly become life-threatening.

In fact, author James Tabor was able to come up with a list of 52 different ways deep caving could kill you—and that's with lumping all "incapacitating injuries" into one entry.

*"Deep" in this case means depth from top to bottom of the cave, not depth below sea level. These were journeys into the Earth, but they tended to start up a mountain and end at the bottom of a river valley, rather than in the land of the mole-people. That distinction confused me through the first few chapters, and left me still wanting to know about caves that go deep below the surface of the Earth, as opposed to caves that are just deep.