Becoming Part of the Cave Exploration
I first learned about the cave in the spring of 1968 when I companied a group of the University of Iowa geology students and instructors on a field trip down the Grand Canyon. Dave Jagnow was one of those students. As we were walking down the Chi bath (?) trail into the depths of the canyon he told me of the discovery of Coldwater cave. I immediately asked him to take me next time when he and Steve were ready to make a public announcement of it. Dave promised that he would.
Sometime later, around summer or early fall the two boys went into the cave again and took extensive photographs of some of the formations. On one trip they stayed in for 72 hours and explored the entire length of the cave as far as they could go, which is about 3 1/2 miles, and took pictures along the way and made a survey with a compass and tape. It was incredible, not only to stay in the cold as long as they did but also to take decent photographs and make a survey that later proved to be remarkably accurate. The funding for these activates didn’t consist of much. They brought their own scuba equipment so the only expense was their travel expense to the spring, which they did in an old car, and the expense of food and film and things like that. Therefore, they could operate pretty cheaply.
When they came out after this three-day expedition both were feverish and had an extensive skin rash but they were completely elated because they knew that they had achieved the goal that they had set out find. That goal was to find a large extensive cave system in Iowa.
On my part I started taking scuba lessons at the YMCA in Des Moines, to prepare myself for going into the cave. I just practiced at the bottom of the YMCA pool, I rented my scuba equipment. Finally, in the fall of 1969. I believe it was October 5th 1969 on a Saturday and the two boys agreed to take me. We met at the little park at Coldwater Spring and changed into our wet suites. There was four of us on the exploration. There was Dave Jagnow and Steve Barnett and another boy Tom Egert who was from Southern Illinois University. Egert was also a caver and he express an interest in going along.