Students excavate cave under school

Post date: Jun 20, 2013 2:47:54 PM

Capital city works to make cave network safe

Updated: Tuesday, 23 Apr 2013, 9:25 AM CDT

Published : Tuesday, 23 Apr 2013, 9:25 AM CDT

  • David Yeomans

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) - The City of Austin in Texas recently agreed to help Bowie High School excavate a cave underneath the school with the goal of turning it into a learning environment. This is part of a city-wide effort to make area caves accessible to the public.

“I think one of the things that really intrigues people about caving is not knowing what’s around the next corner," cave expert Dr. Nico Hauwert, a hydrogeologist with the City of Austin , said. "You have no idea if it’s a large room, a canyon, a stream. The underground world is so unpredictable.”

Hidden from the light’s reach in south Austin, there exists a hidden world of wonder.

“You wouldn’t believe how many caves are below the ground here," Dr. Hauwert said.

The City of Austin took KXAN on a tour of the Goat Cave in south Austin. This is not one of the caves the city is planning to make accessible to the public, as cave entrance has been deemed too dangerous.

Caves like the Goat Cave serve the important function of moving water from the surface to the aquifer below.

They also host an entire habitat of unique creatures.

“Some of the common species you see are bats [and] the slimy salamanders we can see on the floor of this cave,” Dr. Hauwert said.

Hauwert is spearheading the City of Austin ’s effort to make some of south Austin's network of caves more accessible to the public.

“Even though caves are all over the place, there are not many opportunities for the public to go into them,” Hauwert said. “We’re probably starting with a list of about 10 or 12.”

Besides being a fun adventure, there are proven benefits of climbing around this underground world.

“We’ve seen with surveys that we can take kids into caves and actually learn about the groundwater that way – they do much better on standardized tests than doing a worksheet in a classroom,” Hauwert said.

Sometime in the near future, expect to add ‘caving’ to the list of Austin’s popular ways to cool off in the summer.

“The cave temperature is moderate all year-round," Hauwert said. "So in the summertime it feels really cool when it’s hot outside."

The city has already begun work on making a handful of south Austin’s caves accessible to the public, and KXAN will have updates on when some of those caves may open to the public as the work progresses.