Comanche Springs Cave. A maze of water-hewn channels, domes, pits and squeezes, lying directly beneath the city of Fort Stockton road to fabled Comanche Springs.
|Pausing on the way down a man made entrance to Comanche Springs Cave is Bill Bentley.|
|Bill Bentley swigs water in a domed chamber of Comanche Springs Cave to combat high humidity and heat Bentley and others have assisted in exploration of the Fort Stockton site.|
"We could tell it was the tunnel entrance," recalled Dennis. "We figured it was just rainwater that had created a sump, like in a sink. But we didn't think we'd get permission to pump it out."
It took several years - until last February in fact -- but with the help of the editor of The Fort Stockton Pioneer and County Commissioner M.R. Gonzales, the three brothers finally were granted the go-ahead to pump out the passageway.
It took two weeks. At one point, the brothers almost were overcome by carbon monoxide poisoning as the fumes from the gasoline engine hugged the head high bottom of the pool. When the pump finally breathed only air, the brothers fought mud for 138 feet of squeezeway before coming up into a small chamber with a comparatively dry passage- way threading through the earth.
All about them sparkled millions of fossilized seashells imbedded in limestone as they had been for 130 million years.
For Dennis, it was an incredible culmination of years of anticipation and wonder.
"The main thing we search for in caving," he said, "is virgin caves. To me, it was Like being the first man to cross West Texas in the frontier days, or being the first to set foot on the moon. Most people don't understand it, became most people haven't been where no one's been before. It was exciting, not knowing what was around the next curve. You never knew what you were going to find. Comanche Springs is one of the biggest in West Texas, and we knew it had to be big inside."
As they endured 100 percent humidity and temperatures in the upper 70’s in exploring the maze along with Annie Riggs Museum curator Mary Kay Shannon, they discovered a half mile of domes and crawlways and pristine pools which glowed bluish-green before their headlamps. But a problem began to arise -- the natural entrance had begun to fill with water again. With compass, tapemeasure and their wits, the spelunkers decided upon a point in the ceiling of a squeezeway and began to dig their way out. They dug for eight hours, shoveling the dirt back down the doghouse-sized passage. After they stopped for the night, Glenn was poking around with a crowbar in a small hole In the bed of Government Spring -- which they believed lay directly above their subterranean dig -when the ground suddenly collapsed.
With placement of six 55-gallon drums welded end on end into the cavity, a man-made entrance was created as rising water finally flooded the natural one.
Now, six months later, waters again have stymied exploration. Within the crystal clear purities of a pool dubbed Stephen's Well lies that which has raised Dennis imagination to a fever pitch: a submerged passageway immense enough to drive a car through.
|Dangling legs, tense muscles, vocalized pain—its all a part of squeezing through Mary’s Misery in Comanche Springs Cave, Richard Galle Discovers.|
It is even conceivable, said Dennis, that the entire system might equal the 230 miles of cavern which includes Mammoth Cave on Flint Ridge in Kentucky.
|Richard Galle of Midland checks Bill Bentley’s rope as the latter rappels to the pool of Stephen’s well.|
'"To us," said Dennis, speaking in behalf of his brothers, "this half-mile of cave or so is pretty great, but we're disappointed we didn't go further. But we think we will. It may take us another year or two, but we think eventually we'll get into the main system."
If so then a new page in history of Comanche Springs may have to be added. *This was taken from the September 10th, 1983 Midland Reporter Telegram.
News Story by Pat Dearen, Photos by Ron Jaap and Cody Bell.