Article: Stephen Bishop Made Mammoth Cave the Must-See Destination It Is Today

Filed under: Joy's Work — Administrator at 2:14 pm on Friday, February 22, 2019

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I have a new article up at the Smithsonian. It’s about Stephen Bishop, a slave who was also one of America’s first cave explorers. He discovered much of Mammoth Cave National Park, the longest cave system in the world.

… Using ropes and a flickering lantern, Bishop traversed the unknown caverns, discovering tunnels, crossing black pits, and sailing on Mammoth’s underground rivers. It was dangerous work. While today much of the cave is lit by electrical lights and cleared of rubble, Bishop faced a complex honeycomb filled with sinkholes, cracks, fissures, boulders, domes and underwater springs. A blown-out lantern meant isolation in profound darkness and silence. With no sensory impute, the threat of becoming permanently lost was very real. Yet it’s hard to overstate Bishop’s influence; some of the branches he explored weren’t found again until modern equipment was invented and the map he made by memory of the cave was used for decades.

Read the rest here.