Harlansburg Cave Resurvey Reaches 3 Miles (Slowly)

By Kim Metzgar
The Harlansburg Cave resurvey has been plodding along, slowly but steadily, for two decades. It has been hampered through the years by increasing responsibilities at my job, coupled with the four-hour round trip ride, interruptions for other survey projects such as Lincoln Caverns and Whisper Rocks and Hesston Cave, and a limited number of very loyal volunteer surveyors. It is taking some time due to the detail with which we are sketching, all the loops in the cave, and of course the muddy conditions.
J. Philip Fawley and Kenneth M. Long of nearby Westminster College in New Wilmington mapped more than four miles of cave passages on the south side of Route 108 and published a map and accompanying article in the Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, “Harlansburg Cave:The Longest Cave in Pennsylvania,” Volume 59(3):106-111. So, I have a mile left to go in the resurvey to begin to pass their length requirement. I’m 75 percent of the way there.
That doesn’t mean that the cave length hasn’t grown. See, Fawley and Long only mapped the South Side of the cave. We had initially mapped some passages on the North Side, including one of the “under the road” connections, which I labled the “Rumble Passage.” So there was about 1,200 feet of passage on the North Side mapped.
All that changed when I got some unexpected help in December from Eric Pelkey, Hope Brooks and several of their friends. Actually more than several. They ended up getting five teams of surveyors. I put them in separate areas and spent the day running between the groups, getting every group situated. and checking on leads. In spite of the fact that there were duplicate shots and a lot of resurvey in some areas, the group got as much survey as I have been getting in a year. The best news? They will be helping again.
A few weeks after that trip, Phil Gowaty showed up to let a smaller group of Abbe Hamilton, Aron and Katie Schmid, Eric Pelkey and Paul Winter into the cave to work some more on the north side. Between the two teams there was a lot less resurvey than had been necessary on the South Side trip of a few previous weeks. Thus, adding the uncounted North Side footage to the four-mile total of Fawley and Long, Harlansburg Cave’s length now stands at 4.52 miles. That moves the cave into the top 200 caves in the United States in length on Bob Gulden’s Long Cave List. I sent the updated length to Bob for his next update.
Two trips are scheduled for this March, hopefully with multiple teams. I will be going on the 30th with Eric’s group.
I have been publishing a small version of the map for our members to see, starting at 2 miles, then at 2.5 miles, and now at 3. I should note that there are some corrections that need made, some minor tweaks and some larger ones from the last survey. I’m still working on it, so it is not up-to-date. But it’s coming along well. Sometimes my work on the map gets interrupted by MAKC business, such as Sarah Furnace, Silers Cave and Rupert Cave work, as well as managing some of our other preserves.
Amazingly when I compiled the list of surveyors who have helped, I discovered I had made 73 of the 75 trips into the cave. Vic Cawthorne, who made the first five trips, was actually the person who introduced me to the cave and who started the map on his own. I’m not sure where he is now. I suppose I should try looking him up on social media. Many people have only surveyed one or two times.
I separated the surveyors out by number of trips. This is not to say that it’s because I have visited the cave more than others. But to point out the many loyal surveyors who have helped time and again. These include Andrea Gillis, phil Gowaty, Tom metzgar, Mike Schirato, Aron Schmid, Katie Schmid, Kerry Speelman, Jared Snyder, Mike Zianni and Sunni Reitmyer, among others. Hey, maybe we will foster a little bit of competition for surveyors.
Here is my list of surveyors to date. They deserve an incredible amount of gratitude for their patience in putting up with me as well as the cave.
Vic Cawthorne (5), Dan Cross (3), Paul Damon Jr. (4), Doug Dean (4), Andrea Gillis (15), Phil Gowaty (13), Jason Gray (3),
Jeff Jahn (4), Dennis Melko (3), Kim Opatka-Metzgar (73), Tom Metzgar (15), John Nestor (7), Sunni Reitmyer (3), Mike Patun (3), Pete Pawlowski (3), Eric Pelkey (3), Dave Ruth (3), Mike Schirato (8), Aron Schmid (10), Katie Schmid (12), Jared Snyder (6), Kerry Speelman (6), Jim Wolford (4), Mike Zianni (4). Parentheses: #of trips 1996-2019.
Two trips: Kara Bond, Dave Field, Abbe Hamilton, Andrew Linsenmeier, John Long, Tara Mizner, Paul Winter.
One trip: Lee Blazek, Alex Boughamer, Hope Brooks, Jeff Cappatt, Aaron Clair, Tommy Cleckner, Mike Cortez, Trent DiMarco, Jon D’Silva, Jeff Farr, Nathan Farrar, Doug Fulton, Larry Geier, Ray Gillis, Kaleb Hammond, Curt Harler, Kelly Hart, Eric Hill, Amanda Iacobelli, Brett Kelly, Neal Krause, Shawn Long, Alan Looney, Stephanie Lyons, Alex Malone, Joe Marchese, Ryan Maurer, Kate Nestor, Erin O’Halloran, Dan Peden, Shara Ray, Nico Russo, Jake Podrosky, Judy Schuster, Chuck Snyder, Ray Wrikeman, Dan and Ryan. Accompanied by caver’s best friend Reardon (6 trips) and Bart (1 trip).