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Kentucky man sentenced for raiding Native American graves

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  Louisville, Ky. – U.S. District Court judge sentenced Gary Womack, 60, of Woodburn, Kentucky, to 15 months in prison for three felony violations of the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) on June 6, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The case resulted from a three-year undercover investigation by the National Park Service, based upon allegations that Womack possessed human remains which originated from Mammoth Cave National Park. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assisted Park Service agents throughout.
The undercover investigation revealed Womack’s dealings in artifacts removed from the graves of Native Americans buried in caves and rock shelters in South Central Kentucky and also burials from as far away as the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Womack dealt in artifacts from the so-called “G.E. Mound” case prosecuted in the Southern District of Indiana in 1992. 

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Video: River Cave

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Tham Khoun Xe from Ryan Deboodt on Vimeo.

Not much to write about this time. I’ll let the video do the talking. The film shows a trip through Tham Khoun Xe cave, which envelops about four miles of the Xe Bang Fai river in central Laos.
The cave had been closed to foreigners until about 2005. The video is by photographer Ryan Deboodt. His Vimeo video channel is here.
For more on Tham Khoun Xe, including a detailed map, check out the July 2009 issue of National Speleological Society’s magazine.

Caves and waterfalls

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We spent last weekend exploring caves and waterfalls. And caves at the top of waterfalls, which meant climbing the waterfalls to get to the caves.

Which is how I ended up slipping and breaking a big toe. Not that it slowed me down much. In fact, here’s a list of things you can do on a broken toe before beginning to suspect the toe is broken:

— Climb back down a waterfall.

— Climb up the waterfall again.

— Climb part way down the waterfall trying to figure out where the kids wandered off to.

— Climb back up when realizing the kids are climbing up.

— Explore the tall, shallow cave at the top of the waterfall that starts with an icy spring.
— Climb down the waterfall. Keep in mind this is a Midwest waterfall, more like a stream running down a steep, rocky hill, and not a huge, roaring down a sheer cliff waterfall.
— Explore the ice cave. The ice cave was about half a mile away and offers some shade and natural air conditioning. The deeper reaches appear to have been closed off for now.
— Drive 90 minutes home.
— Get a weeks worth of groceries.

Photo: Palisades paths

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Stone stairs. (C) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

Stone stairs. (C) 2014 J.S. Reinitz

Digging through my old photos the other day, I came across this shot of stone steps on a path through Mississippi Palisades Park near Savannah, Illinois. The place has great views of the Mississippi River, hiking trails and rock climbing. There is even a small cave tucked into the base of a cliff.

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White nose found in more parts of Mammoth Cave

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Park officials have found signs of white-nose syndrome in more areas of Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. The disease was first noticed in 2013, but the new areas are along the tour routes. This is a concern because of the possibility of humans carrying the illness to other caves through their footwear and clothing.

MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky. — White-Nose Syndrome, a disease that is deadly to bats, has been found to be present along the toured passageways of Mammoth Cave, according to National Park Service officials. Park staff discovered WNS in remote sections of Mammoth Cave last year, including colonial hibernacula.

WNS was first detected in New York State in 2006 and has killed millions of cave-dwelling bats in eastern North America. As the disease progresses, bats become active during months when they would normally be in hibernation. Mortality rates of bats have reached almost 100 percent in multi-year infected caves.

“We have observed some increase in bat activity, which may be due to the illness,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead. “We have also found several dead bats in the last few weeks.”

“It is important to remember that White-Nose Syndrome affects bats, not humans,” added Craighead. “As with all our wildlife, we caution visitors not to approach animals, including bats. If contact should occur, please notify a ranger.”

Tours and research are continuing at Mammoth Cave National Park, accompanied by extensive education and outreach on WNS, and adherence to approved cleaning methods recommended by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Visitors must walk through bio-security mats as they exit cave tours.