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Spelunkers take deep dive in unexplored, underwater Black Hills lake

Black Hills Cave Expedition
Adam Weaver
/
Brooks Cave Expedition

This interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

A team of spelunkers has taken a deep dive into a previously unmapped, underwater lake near Rapid City.

The expedition took place in Brooks Cave, which is located in the Black Hills Cave and Nature Conservancy. Brooks Cave is one of several caves in the Black Hills that intersects the Madison Aquifer.

A dive was first attempted 30 years ago, but technical limitations made it impossible to collect data and survey the area safely. Fast-forward to 2022, and developments in technology have opened new doors for exploration.

The expedition was supported by the National Speleological Society. Adam Weaver is NSS vice president. He says the NSS invited some of the best cave divers in the world to explore the lake. It's unclear how deep the lake goes, because the Madison Aquifer extends thousands of miles.

"The divers went down and found new underwater passages, some with formations," Weaver says, "which is interesting because those formations only form when it's dry. There's a history of the water table fluctuating a lot around Rapid City."

He says that information helps researchers study changes in the Black Hills as they continue to grow.

Weaver says over the next couple of weeks, the team will compile video and data and update the cave map with new information.

"Knowing where the cave is helps us protect it and helps us manage it," Weaver says.

Three divers with a support team of 20-25 people participated in the expedition.

Carl Norquist is a producer and writer for In the Moment. An EMMY-winning producer, Carl previously worked for KTIV News 4 in Sioux City, IA. Carl is a Minnesota native and graduate of Augustana University with majors in Art and English.