I went back to Des Moines and wrote up the experience for an article in picture magazine using Jaagnow’s photographs to illustrate. The article appeared in December of 1969 and that was the first public announcement of the caves discovery. Various official agencies immediately got involved. The State Preserves board first thought that the cave could be protected by declaring it a “State Preserve.” Then the Conservation Commission became interested. Steve and Dave finally made a presentation to the state legislature in the spring of 1970. They showed their color slide pictures on a big screen in the House Chamber.
The legislature eventually made an appropriation of $75,000 for further exploration of the cave and it was decided to put it under the jurisdiction of the Iowa Geological Survey. The Survey purposed a scientific exploration of the cave over a period of three years. For that purpose, they dug or cut an entrance shaft into the upper end of the cave giving scientists easier access for going under water to enter the cave. The shaft is about 30 inches in diameter and a hundred feet deep. It was cut on the farm of Kenneth Flatland.
The Survey entered a contract with the Flatlands paying them $5000 over a three-year period for an easement for two acres of land that surrounded the shaft and consisted of the shaft itself. These two acres were designated agricultural cornfield that the Flatlands harvested every year.
Constructing the shaft required drilling three standard well holes down through the rock. On the first one they hit a very small void only about 6 inches. They moved location about 15 feet to the South drilled again and hit a void of about 4 feet. Moving to the South again, about another 15 feet the drill bit went straight down and entered the cave. They were able to lower a special TV camera down the hole to determine that they, had in fact, hit the cave passage way. On that basis they drilled the 30-inch diameter shaft straight down into the cave. An aluminum lander was bolted to the side of the shaft to help climb down and climb back up. They also made a cast iron plate to close it when not in use.