The Cave Formation Repair Project
Michael C. MANSUR
Self-published e-book. 2021. 62pp, 171 colour photographs. $26.95
DESCENT (281) included an article by Mike Mansur on how he was involved in speleothem repairs in New Mexico for which, of course, the techniques could be used anywhere in the world. In essence, Mike was logically using epoxy adhesives to join broken stal, often having first drilled both pieces and inserting a length of stainless steel rod to strengthen and support the structure.
The real drawback, though, was how to support speleothems while the epoxy set, which sometimes required a long time in a cold, humid cave environment. To solve the problem, Mike invented the Speleoclamp (a lightweight device to hold fragments of stal in the correct orientation while setting, prior to being attached) and the Stalactijack (to support a stalactite from below while the epoxy cures). Now, Mike has gone a stage further in imparting knowledge of his demonstrably successful techniques with the release of an e-book, The Cave Formation Repair Project.
For a digital download, the book has a higher cost than might be expected in the UK. However, the work has been edited and designed professionally by Carrin Rich and Lois Manno, so it is stylish and lacks the errors that are so common in many self-published works. It is a move that has scored on that front. In addition, $5 from each sale is being donated to the NSS Save the Caves Fund, which promotes cave conservation by restoring human-related damage to caves whether this be malicious or accidental.
Over the course of four chapters the book goes a lot deeper into speleothem restoration than the article, covering the caves where repairs have been made and how these were done, and the tools and how to make them. Far more are described than the Speleoclamp and Stalactijack; the variety of tools that can be made or adapted on the spot from uPVC plumbing materials is impressive. The book closes, aside from appendices, with ‘new methods and procedures’ which include cleaning and sorting fragments to identify which should be mated, and using photography to record broken surfaces – the results significantly speed up the task of spotting which stalactite stub belongs with which reassembled stal.
A stunning amount of detail is included. The instructions are both clear and concise, especially as they are backed by over three years of experience and are provided with a huge number of illustrative photographs. For example, this covers how to drill both halves of the calcite so that the line-up is exact and how to conceal repaired joins with paste containing dust from the drilling to obtain an exact colour match.
Beyond the Descent article, for a taster anyone can view Michael’s YouTube presentation online at https://tinyurl.com/stal-repair, then head for Speleobooks at https://tinyurl.com/cave-repair to purchase the e-book. If you are faced with having to perform any speleothem repairs in any cave, anywhere, some of the tips in The Cave Formation Repair Project could save you significant time and expense, not to say increase the likelihood of a successful reconstruction. You gain a lot for your money.