Friday, October 30, 2015

A Wind Cave Mystery, Part Two

In Part One of this miniature mystery, I introduced you to Wind Cave National Park and a room within the cave named "Baker Street." This second installment describes my continued hunt for answers about how "Baker Street" was christened, starting with individual explorer's names
Mike Scholl, Dan Swenson, and NeNe Wolfethat surfaced during my initial research. TJ

*   *   *   *   *   *   * 

“May I introduce you to Mr. Sherlock Holmes?” he said to the cabman. “This is Mr. Leverton, of Pinkerton’s American Agency.” “The hero of the Long Island Cave mystery?” said Holmes. “Sir, I am pleased to meet you.” (Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Red Circle)

Wind Cave Tour Routes
I got nowhere finding Mike Scholl or Dan Swenson, but had a lead on NeNe Wolfe. With Google’s help, I found out that Elizabeth 'NeNe' Wolfe was (and is) a veterinarian in Juneau, Alaska. Better yet, I had an e-mail address. I sent her a message explaining my quest.[i] A few days later, she replied.
Hi Tim - I am Nene Wolfe...I'm travelling in mexico (sic) at the moment...will respond to your email when I get home! Plus I have to do some remembering as to why that room got called that. One of the key fellas that named alot (sic) of stuff “Jim Ratxz” died earlier this year...he would have remembered...The other fellas were students of mine and I do not know where they are. More later - take care and why do you want to know this?
That same day, I wrote thanking her for responding and told her about seeing the map, her name on the web site, that I was curator of the world's largest collection of material related to Holmes, and that professional and personal curiosity drove me to find out how the room was named.[iii] I waited, sent additional e-mails, but no new response came from Alaska.[iv] I decided to try another tack.

Working through a Wind Cave staff directory, I came across Rod Horrocks, a physical science specialist. I sent him an inquiry about how place names were chosen in Wind Cave, with a specific reference to “Baker Street.” His response was full and informative.

We use a combination of USGS [United States Geological Survey] place naming rules along with “caver etiquette” rules. One of the projects I've been working on here at Wind Cave National Park is a Place Name Lexicon for Wind Cave…. In that database we keep track of the following parameters: place name, section in cave where found, nearest survey station, date named, who named it, & why the name was chosen. We now have over 1,785 place names in that database and those names are the only official list of names for the cave. We are constantly updating that database with both new names from the continuing survey project as well as corrections or additional information about existing names. The information you saw on the web was from that database.

Our current policy is to give the cave surveyors the opportunity to name
places as they survey. The official trip leader on each trip, who is trained by my staff, recommends names to us after a trip is over. We train those leaders with the following naming guidelines/rules:

1) You cannot name anything after a living person.
2) You cannot name anything with vulgar or offensive names.
3) You must survey the passage in question in order to name it.

As far as Baker Street is concerned: You are right, it is a southern continuation of the Wall Street passage. It was historically part of what was called the Fairy Palace Loop before the 1960s. “Baker Street” was named by a group of National Outdoor Leadership School (N.O.L.S.) students in 1982, who included: Mike Scholl, Dan Swenson, & NeNe Wolfe and on a second trip: NeNe Wolfe, Vince __?, Becky ___?, & Bob ___?. I don't know any of their last names on the second trip. I wonder if this “Baker Street” refers to the famous street in the Marylebone district of the City of Westminster in London, which is most famous for its connection to the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who lived at 221B Baker Street, an address that does not actually exist? However, I'm actually not sure why they named it Baker Street?

I hope this helps. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions or information that can shed some more light on the subject.[v]

This additional information agreed and expanded on a reference from the park’s web site. “Individuals and groups that have been involved in the survey of the Historic zone of Wind Cave include Alan Howard (1962), Windy City Grotto (1970-1973), National Park Service (NPS) staff (1971-present), Gartzke-Kopp [Black Hills Spelunkers] (1974), Bruce Zerr (1976), the National Outdoor Leadership School [NOLS] (1978-1989), and the Colorado Grotto (1990-present).”[vi]

Detailed Map of Wind Cave Showing Baker Street
Knowing that Scholl and Swenson were students (according to Wolfe’s earlier e-mail), and that Park Service records indicated they were part of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), I fired off an e-mail to NOLS staff asking if they had any record of “my” explorers or their activities at Wind Cave. NOLS initial response was negative; they had no record of Scholl or Swenson in their database.[vii] A second note to NOLS included Wolfe’s name, along with a reference received from Rod Horrocks. In the meantime, I sent new notes to Wolfe and Horrocks inquiring about any new information that might have surfaced, along with a request to Horrocks for a more detailed location or map of Baker Street within the cave.[viii] NeNe quickly responded with the names of other NOLS “cavers” who led classes during the 1980s and Rod provided a more detailed cave map near the Baker Street area.[ix] Names of additional NOLS instructors were forwarded to Cha Caruthers at NOLS headquarters along with a drafted note she promised to send to everyone on the list for whom she had current contact information. As of today, no new word has been received.

To be continued....

[i] E-mail to NeNe Wolfe, December 5, 2005. Dear Dr. Wolfe, Please excuse this note if I've contacted the wrong Dr. Wolfe. I'm trying to find the NeNe Wolfe who, along with Mike Scholl and Dan Swenson, was involved in naming a cave room at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The specific cave room is “Baker Street.” I'm trying to find out how this name was chosen, if it has any connection with the Baker Street of Sherlock Holmes' London, and if you might have contact information for either Mike Scholl or Dan Swenson. Thank you for any insights you might have and, again, my apologies if this message has gone to you by mistake.
[ii] E-mail from NeNe Wolfe, December 8, 2005.
[iii] E-mail to NeNe Wolfe, December 8, 2005. Hi Nene, Thanks for responding. Basically I wanted to know more because a) I visited Wind Cave two summers ago, saw the cave room name while taking a tour, found your name on the Wind Cave web site, and was curious, b) I'm curator of the world's largest collection of material related to Sherlock Holmes, and c) I'd like to write up my findings on how this room was named…. Hope you have great travels in Mexico. No rush, but I'll look forward to anything you turn up after you get back home. Take care, Tim
[iv] E-mails to NeNe Wolfe February 17, 2006 and September 5, 2006. These and other messages bounced back to me; Dr. Wolfe’s e-mail box was full and not accepting additional messages.
[v] E-mail from Rod Horrocks, September 12, 2006. Horrocks has written extensively about Wind Cave. In an article co-authored with Bernard W. Szukalski, “Using Geographic Information Systems to Develop a Cave Potential Map for Wind Cave, South Dakota” (Journal of Cave and Karst Studies 64(1): 63-70) the authors state in the abstract that “Based on passage density, the length of the Wind Cave survey could range from 400-1760 km. Since the current 166 km of survey represents no more than 40% of the minimum predicted length of the cave or as little as 9% of the maximum predicted length of the cave, a tremendous amount of surveyable passage remains in the system.”
[vii] E-mail from Cha Caruthers, NOLS, June 11, 2008.
[viii] At this point the reader will realize that the hunt for information has lasted over a decade. I went back and covered earlier terrain to see if anything new had popped up since the quest began in late 2005.
[ix] E-mails from NeNe Wolfe June 20, 2008 and Rod Horrocks June 25, 2008. “Hi Tim, I haven't forgotten your request.....actually have been thinking of other people that may help you and who maybe remember....I can't remember if I suggested trying to find thru NOLS in Lander Wyoming, these people who caved then and may have named it. They are old NOLS instructors of that era: Kathy Bogan, Waco (I think this fella's real name is Ron Weissinger ?), Walter Fish, Heather Pullen, Merl (can't think of his real name), Steve Matson. I believe the person to talk to in Lander (NOLS) is a person named Willy Cunningham who remembers all these folks and also is the alumnie (sic) coordinator etc and can tract folks from the past. Hope this helps ! Ne2” Messages were sent to Bogan, Weissinger, Fish and Matson in August 2008. Three of the fourBogan, Weissinger, and Fishresponded, but unfortunately in the negative; they didn't have any answers that would help solve the mystery.  Both Wolfe and Caruthers suggested I contact Willy Cunningham, the NOLS alumni projects coordinator in Lander, Wyoming. He was contacted in August and November 2008, replied that he didn't have any information, but suggested asking Steve Matson and Haven Holsapple at NOLS. Holsapple's reply came back negative; no word has been received from Matson. In the meantime, another e-mail has gone to Wolfe, asking her to clarify her role on the original trip and if she remembers anything else about Scholl or Swenson that might help track them down.

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