Last Update: 1 March 2008
Butler Cave, Bath County, Virginia, was discovered when two local Burnsville boys told Oscar Estes about a crevice in a ledge on the Carl Butler farm that blew cold air. Ike Nicholson and two boys from Staunton investigated it on Memorial Day 1958. They moved some rocks, squeezed through a small opening and descended a 30-foot pit. At the bottom was a small hole blowing air. They enlarged this hole, which came to be known as The Glop Slot, until Don Miller, the smallest of the three, could get through. He reported that the cave continued and got larger but they did not go on that day. Subsequent trips led to the discovery and mapping of the miles of cave known today and its designation as a National Natural Landmark.
I first visited the cave on 23 November 1958 and again on 7 February 1959. My first photography trip resulted in a few pix a week later and a more intensive photographic effort was mounted on 15 May 1960. At this time Kodachrome film was ASA speed 10 and my camera had an f/4.5 lens so light was a real issue. I may have had a better camera for the 1960 trip but the larger shots on that trip required several #22 bulbs for illumination and some smaller #5 bulbs for fill in. For those younger folks or non-photographers who have never seen them, a #22 flashbulb is about the size of a regular 100-watt lightbulb.
All of the Kodachrome 35-mm slides, especially those from 1959, have faded and lost color balance to some degree. They have all been scanned and then edited in PhotoShop in an attempt to restore some semblance of the real colors. All photos on this page are by John Sweet unless otherwise indicated.
Bob Peare at the balanced rock traverse in the entrance complex, 14 February 1959.
Bob Peare at the rimstone pool passage at the end of Dave’s Gallery, left, and in a large passage one traverses on the main route into the cave.
Ed McGavock examining a gravel bank in the main stream passage
below the Sand Canyon campsite, 14 February 1959.
Bill Nelson peers out of the entrance to Butler Cave as we prepare to enter, 15 May 1960.
Bill Nelson in front of the same gravel bank shown in the 1959 photo, above,
and Earl Geil in the right foreground, Butler main passage, 15 May 1960.
John Sweet examines a gravel deposit (photo by Earl Geil) and formations in the Moon Room.|
15 May 1960.
Above and below — formations in the Moon Room, 15 May 1960.
Bill Nelson in the Butler main passage where the stream enters
from the right among the breakdown blocks, 15 May 1960.
Earl Geil at the entrance to the Moon Room, 15 May 1960.
Bryce Canyon mud formations near the Moon Room, 15 May 1960.
The flashbulb used for scale is about 5 cm high.
Earl and Bill crossing the stream and Bill on a ledge overlooking the stream, 15 May 1960.
Earl and Bill on the climb up to the Crystal Craters and a small stalagmite in that area, 15 May 1960.
Earl Geil at the Chandelier formation near the Moon Room, 15 May 1960.
J R S