Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé: Blog en-us (C) Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé (Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé) Fri, 14 May 2021 00:18:00 GMT Fri, 14 May 2021 00:18:00 GMT Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé: Blog 92 120 Inclusivity It is the mid-2010's and some famous people openly announce being trans. 
The local caving world laughs; I see their posts on the caving group pages, acting like children making fun of people for being uniquely themselves, making plenty of misogynistic remarks.

A few years later and the Black Lives Matter movement rises.
The local caving world laughs; as if it is funny that non-white-people are being routinely murdered. They wear confederate flag shirts to meetings, claiming, "it is just history!", apparently fine with the history that promotes. 

Running into misogynistic walls myself, ignored whenever I speak out for equality, I pulled back from the local 'organized caving world'. But as the years wore on, as Trump fueled these issues into pure hatred, it merely got worse. COVID-19 added a layer of complexity, and as the world yearned for relief and a vaccine developed and approved, I heard those in leadership roles claim COVID is fake, and the vaccine is only to implant microchip tracking. I heard horrible things said about immigrants, about multiple ethnic groups. 

A decade of work in the community, being on leadership boards, holding officer positions, really crumbled because there is no way to push back against such engrained and imbedded hateful views. I was even lied to about my own safety - directly - to my face. I think many women in caving experience assault, but very few speak out, and even fewer are listened to - I know I gave up.

Organizations can claim they have !!!policies!!! But, to what end? No one is ever banned. There is full tolerance of such behaviour. "Boys will be boys." Such a dangerous saying. 

Change can only happen from within an organization if the majority in the organization are willing and able to hold people accountable for their actions.

Most existing organizational structures are unable, or unwilling, to do just that. Therefore, the only way forward is to create new and better groups.

My take on the 'state of the world' as it were, is that as an individual it is hard to affect everything, everywhere. We each have a limited network of connections we make in our lives. But if we help each other grow for the better in our little bubbles of the world, the bubbles themselves grow, interconnect, and eventually combine into a large bubble and in this way we can affect change on a large scale. 

Last year I saw this neat infograph from ohhappydani in which she describes how easily it is to get stuck in the 'Cycle of Inaction', and we need to transform into the 'Cycle of Action'. And it clicked. The caving world as it is, is not one I feel particularly safe in. I also want it to be more inclusive - not just of me (queer/neurodiverse/female) but everyone else who is not the 'typical caver' (ie white cis-male). There *ARE* cavers who feel the same - and we started finding each other during the pandemic as it became quickly obvious about people's true selves during this time. Knowing there are safe people to cave with is great, but it doesn't help solve the inclusivity issues if no one knows who we are.

I struggled with how to approach that until it clicked about taking direct action, some ideas following the internet-rabbit-hole I fell into from ohhappydani's work. The ideas I found meshed great with my bubble analogy I've had for years, that it isn't about some grand scheme it's about what can you offer, what is your sphere of influence, what is your passion? Take *that* and start there. And it was actually from ohhappydani's instagram feed I found the Black Adventure Crew which is local to me, so following her advice I reached out. 

We chatted for a while and eventually did a fun intro trip with kids, but ended up not able to go far into the cave thanks to rain flooding out the main passage. We all had so much fun though that a second trip was planned almost instantly!

End for the dayEnd for the day

This time we went to a cave that even if it rained it wouldn't matter. A lot of people it was their first trip underground! If you recognise this cave you'll know there is a 'wet way' that I have often taken out just to have a different passage and can do a loop of sorts. In this 'wet way' there is a deeper watery spot that one can hop down into and see a hidden waterfall, henceforth named Mermaid Falls because that is what the group decided to call it and to my knowledge it has no official name (so spread the word, if you know the spot I am talking about!). Every single person did this extra-wet side trip: the first time I have ever had everyone jump on in after me! Adventure crew, indeed! (And I looked it up, this was my 30th time in this cave, so that is one group out of 30!)

Elephant's FeetElephant's Feet It is so much fun caving with people who actually care about each other. I may not be able to change organizations, but I can change who I cave with, and I can share my knowledge with *ANYONE* who wants to learn about caving! If you are in TAG (tennessee-alabama-georgia) area, worry about not be accepted, but want to try caving, or other outdoor activities, make sure to check out Black Adventure Crew, feel free to contact me, or check out Southeast Outside facebook group.




(Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé) adventure blacklivesmatter cave caver caving diversify diversify the outdoors diversifytheoutdoors diversity explore inclusive inclusivity lgbtq pride speleology women womeninrescue Fri, 14 May 2021 00:19:16 GMT
Happy Couples Funny how one can not cave for a month. and then multiple times in a week! And this time, only two days apart, and both very unique photoshoots.

The first was my amazing friend's wedding. We hiked all the ropes and rigging - and they their formal wear - all the way up to the cave. As my own partner and I rigged, they got changed into their fancy clothes. You can read all about the logistics on her blog "Don't Go There" so I will just show some photos.

The Scene:

1 - rappelling downThe Scene


Rappelling down the (rope) isle:

1t - rappeling down 04Rappelling Down


Both safety ropes now joined into one rope heart:

03t - heart rope kissRope Heart

Two days later, it's early morning about 8am. I arrive at my friend's house who are also biologists to travel a few hours out to a restricted access cave managed by the National Park Service in order to do a bioinventory. I am greeted with, "Hey did you bring your camera?" Why yes, of course, I rarely ever go underground without it! She replies, "Good, because I want some maternity photos underground now that I'm showing!" Oh! Yes! Okay! So in the span of two days we go from a wedding shoot underground, to a maternity shoot underground!

I suppose now I have super-niche-specialties: cave weddings, and cave baby-bump shoots!

denise 1Baby!



(Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé) adventure cave caver caving explore maternity off beat bride speleology wedding women Wed, 21 Apr 2021 01:06:46 GMT
A Friendly Hawk While out hiking, we spotted a sink, which is pretty common in this area of Alabama and of course as cavers we tend to check it out. It was up a steep section of hill, and Brian was the one who went to check it out. It was a hole! 

So we came back with gear. Brian, Brandi, Ben and I set out to survey this (hopefully!) new cave. In Alabama, caves have to be at least 50 feet to qualify. It is interesting how each state survey has its own arbitrary number. I am glad the Alabama Cave Survey has started keeping a database of so-called "Karst Features" which is anything that does not qualify, so at least there are records. Although frankly, my preferred method would be to include everything into the same database.

We hoped this would be a "Proper Qualifying Cave" but wouldn't know until we went down. After rigging to a convenient tree, I was first on rope to descend. Since I was the only one checking it out, I went in unmasked; although our crew is very safety-conscious and that includes being careful in this current pandemic. 

Amata on rapelEntering the HoleGoing down to check out what is there...

Being the first into a new hole in the ground requires a bit of extra awareness. The edge isn't free of debris or loose rock. The boulders overhead hanging down may not be stable. It took me a good five minutes to get the edge cleared off to not let go of stones as I continued, and I deployed the rope as I went, to prevent it from getting cut by falling rock. There were two boulders that seemed to be hanging in the air that I had to duck under, and so I tested them from the top first, seeing if they were at risk to fall or perhaps held up by things I couldn't see yet, or were well frictioned into place. Luckily, they were. So I ducked in.

Once properly into the hole it was obvious it continued! I hollered up to the surface this finding, but continued on my own to scope it out. Right now, I was not sure how stable this rocky slide was. So I stayed on rope and carefully made my way down the cobble, quite aware some were rolling out from under my feet. I heard a bit of water which is always a fun sign. I got to a few larger boulders that seemed to be holding this slippery slide of cobble up and peered over the edge (still attached to the rope), and saw a second drop with water! 

At this point, I knew I needed another rope pad, and this was clearly worth exploring further and mapping. I knew two safe places to be off rope so I could get someone else into the cave to start surveying. I went back up to the top, got more safety gear and Ben volunteered to come down and help. My favourite part of the survey is keeping book and sketching, plus I have experience finding good survey stations. Ben took the Disto X2 in hand and followed me in. A disto is a great piece of survey kit, highly accurate, and easy to use. No more peering though sights trying to line everything up within +/- 2 degrees, now, we go for +/- 0.5 or better. We can average multiple shots with ease, so unless you really want a super-duper-beyond-all-tenth-a-degree-of-doubt survey, we just take multiple forward sights to make sure there was no error with a shot, and move on. This makes surveying a lot faster AND a lot more accurate than older manual methods. We can also pick stations off of good positioning, rather than the need to see past them to the next, which opens up a lot of opportunities and also can increase accuracy further.

I found my first 'safe zone' to be off rope, ducked under some boulders to the side of the first drop, and Ben did some shots and then followed me in.

1 - Entrance pitchEntrance pitchBen making his way down to join me and continue the survey. Once down, Ben ducked into my spot and I went back on rope to continue to the next 'safe zone'. I knew I could get around to the far side of the second drop to stable ground, where I could come off rope and find a good station to set up for shooting the second drop. On my way I set the rope pad so it was all ready, and checked to make sure the rope would make it to the bottom. Good to go, I went to a stable alcove and got off rope. With the next legs of the survey acquired, Brandi joined us as we had enough space to stage three people.

Caught up on the sketching, my next task was to get down the second drop. As I started to descend it became clear there was more loose cobble than I thought around the top, and pulled the rope up to prevent it from being damaged from anything falling on it. There was a bit of an edge that they were falling from, so I cleared it, re-deployed the rope, and continued on. It opened up into a nice freehang space of proper limestone. Above near the entrance had just been mudstone walls with a bit of sandstone cobble. But the cave had made it into a stable very fossil-filled layer of limestone.

I set up a station at the bottom to shoot to and got off rope. The top of the drop was a bit drippy and cold, so Brandi was second down to get out of the waterdrops. Ben got the survey shots and I kept on sketching, then he joined us at the bottom.

The DropThe Second DropBrandi on rappel

Sadly the cave did not continue, but it was a proper cave, at a bit over 75ft of surveyed length. We all climbed back out, happy to add a new cave to the database.

Climbing back out of the second dropBrandi & Ben

Brian we found out, had been hanging out with a redtail hawk the whole time! It liked it's perches in the area, kept stretching and preening while watching the squirrels skitter around in the leaves. He managed to take this picture on his cell phone, just walking up to it!

red tailred tail

Hence the name of the cave...between the slippery slope of cobble and mud and a very friendly hawk, we went with the name Friendly Raptor Slide.

(Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé) cartography cave caver caving discover explore female speleology sunguramy women Sat, 26 Dec 2020 20:41:33 GMT
Testing Just a test for this blog, and so I will show a recent photo from a bioinventory trip!

TN Cave SalamanderTN Cave Salamander

(Amata Hinkle | Sunguramé) Thu, 26 Nov 2020 02:03:43 GMT