Bill Steele (cave explorer)

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Bill Steele
Bill Steele Caving.jpeg
Steele descending into the depths of Carroll Cave, Missouri, 2015
Born (1948-10-17) October 17, 1948 (age 70)
Dayton, Ohio
NationalityUnited States
OccupationWorld Explorers Bureau keynote speaker
Known forDeep cave explorer

Charles William Steele, Jr. (born October 17, 1948), known as “Bill Steele,” is a cave explorer.[1] He is a speleologist who has led and participated in expeditions to many of the longest and deepest caves in the USA, Mexico, and China.[2] He has explored more than 2,500 caves across North America and Asia[3][1][4] and has written two books chronicling his expeditions: "Yochib: The River Cave", and "Huautla: Thirty Years in One of the World's Deepest Caves.” [5] TV shows such as National Geographic Explorer, NOVA and How’d They Do That? have aired programs on his expeditions.[6]

Biography[edit]

Steele was born in Dayton, Ohio. As a child he moved to Los Angeles and Atlanta before settling back in Dayton where he graduated from Centerville High School in 1966. According to Steele, while out on a Boy Scout adventure when he was 13 years old, he discovered a previously unexplored passage in a Kentucky cave. During the trip he got the taste of original exploration and from that moment he was "bitten by the bug."[7][5] The following year, he organized an explorer post that specialized in speleology, joined the National Speleological Society, and became an Eagle Scout.[8]

In the late 1960s, Steele was involved in the exploration and mapping of Ellison’s Cave, Georgia. He began organizing caving expeditions to Mexico.[8] In 1971, he explored and mapped the longest cave in Mexico at the time, Grutas de Juxtlahuaca, which contains the oldest known cave paintings in the Western Hemisphere. Based up on this exploratory work, Juxtlahuaca subsequently became a national park.[9]

He graduated from Indiana University in 1973, and became a full-time explorer for the remainder of the decade. He participated in numerous expeditions to the Silvertip Cave System in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area of Montana.[8]

Through the 1970s, along with others from an Austin, Texas-based group known as the Association for Mexican Cave Studies,[10] he explored southern Mexico to look for deep caves.[11] In 1976 and 1977, he led expeditions to explore a cave said to be the “world’s most dangerous and difficult cave,” Sumidero Yochib, in Chiapas, Mexico.[12] In 1977, he also co-led three expeditions to Oaxaca, Mexico, to explore Sistema Huautla, a cave system first discovered in 1965, and considered the deepest in the Western Hemisphere.[13]

Continuing to explore caves throughout the United States, Steele led and participated in expeditions to Sistema Huautla in Mexico almost every year through the 1980s.[14] In 1987, the Huautla expedition connected the deep cave Nita Nanta to Sistema Huautla; which established it as the second deepest cave in the world. Steele went to Kijahe Xontjoa on the plateau to the east of Huautla with an expedition of Swiss explorers in 1993, and explored depths over 1,000 meters.[8]

Steele joined the Hong Meigui Cave Exploration Society Study Area in 2011 and 2012. The expedition explored two of China’s longest caves in the Wulong Province: San Wang Dong and Er Wang Dong, cave systems which Steele describes as the “Carlsbad Caverns of China”.[15][16]

In 2014, Steele helped to form the Proyecto Espeleologico Sistema Huautla (PESH), an official project of the National Speleological Society and the United States Deep Caving Team.[17] The mission of PESH is to explore, survey and conduct a comprehensive speleological study of the Sistema Huautla area caves. Along with fellow cave explorer, Tommy Shifflett, Steele will lead annual expeditions from 2014-2023 to seek the deep. They have a goal of reaching 100 km in length and 1,610m in depth, a vertical mile. The expedition will also support the underground research of Mexican scientists.[18][19]

In addition to his expeditions, Steele had a 34-year career with the Boy Scouts of America,[20] retiring in 2014 as National Director for Alumni Relations and the National Eagle Scout Association.[8] [21] He is the Chairman for the United States Deep Caving Team.[17] He has written two books that chronicle his cave exploration in Mexico: “Yochib:The River Cave” and “Huautla: Thirty Years in One of the World’s Deepest Caves”, both published by Cave Books.[14] He is well-published in caving newsletters and journals. With James H. Smith he co-authored a chapter for “Encyclopedia of Caves.” He was profiled as one of 120 contemporary explorers in the 2009 book "Adventurous Dreams, Adventurous Lives".[22]

In 2018, Hemirrhagus billsteelei, a newly discovered species of spider was named after Steele in honor of "his contribution to the knowledge of Mexican Caves and his help in the collection of cave tarantulas and other arachnids in the Huautla Cave System".[23][24][25]

Awards and recognition[edit]

National Speleological Society, Fellow Member, 1976 [26]

National Speleological Society, Lew Bicking Award, 1977 [27]

The Explorers Club, Fellow Member, 1979 [28]

National Speleological Society, International SpeleoArt Salon, Merit Award,"Brake Bar Necklace," 2009 [29]

Boy Scouts of America, Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, for accomplishments as a cave explorer, 2011 [30]

The Explorers Club, Fellow Emeritus Member, 2013 [31]

The Explorers Club, Citation of Merit, 2015 [32][33]

National Speleological Society, SpeleoArt Salon, Best of Show and Caver Popular Vote, "Calcite-covered Rope," 2015 [34]

National Speleological Society, Spelean Arts and Letters Award, 2015 [35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Where No One Has Gone Before: Caver Bill Steele". Scouting.org. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  2. ^ Kleinfield, N.R. (December 4, 2001). "Alive and Well, No Matter What the Lists Say". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  3. ^ Mossman, Allen (Spring 2016). "Retirement Adventure: Retiree Goes Underground" (PDF). Now & Then. 49 (1): 3. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  4. ^ Steele, Bill (September 2015). "50 Years of Exploration: Sistema Huautla, the Deepest Cave in the Americas". Ripcord Adventure Journal. 1 (4): 17–34. Archived from the original on 2016-04-09. Retrieved 21 October 2015.
  5. ^ a b "C. William "Bill" Steele- Keynote Speaker". World Explorers Bureau. World Explorers Bureau. Archived from the original on 2015-02-21. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  6. ^ Steele, Bill. [http:boyslife.org/features/135946/how-to-get-started-caving/ "How to Get Started Caving"]. Boys Life Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  7. ^ Mossman, Allen (Spring 2016). "Retirement Adventure: Retiree Goes Underground" (PDF). Now & Then. 49 (1): 3. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b c d e Zuber, Ron (June 2009). "Bill Steele Interview for NSS News". National Speleological Society News: 19–22. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  9. ^ Steele, C. William. "Flag Report: Grutas de Guerrero Expedition" (PDF). The Explorers Club. The Explorers Club. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  10. ^ "The Association for Mexican Cave Studies". The National Speleological Society. The National Speleological Society. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  11. ^ Imherr, Kris (March 1986). "The Underground World of Bill Steele". Scouting. 74 (1): 34. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  12. ^ Steele, C. William (December 2, 1985). Yochib: The River Cave. Cave Books. ISBN 978-0939748105. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  13. ^ Moye, Jayme. "The 22 Greatest Record-Breaking Feats of 2014". Men's Journal Magazine. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Recent Publications". Cave Books. Cave Books. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  15. ^ Sparling, Gretchen. "Go Underground with Caver Bill Steele". Bryan on Scouting. Bryan on Scouting. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  16. ^ Steele, Bill (2013). "Caving in China: Amazing Trip Report" (PDF). The Texas Caver Magazine. 59 (1): 8–11. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  17. ^ a b "United States Deep Caving Team". United States Deep Caving Team. U.S. Deep Caving Team, Inc. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  18. ^ "The PESH Mission". Proyecto Espeleologico Sistema Huautla. www.stepheneginoire.com. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  19. ^ "2015 Sistema Huautla Finds New Sections". Caving News. National Speleological Society. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  20. ^ "Caving In: How Bill Steele Follows His Passion For Going Underground". Blueprint Earth. Blueprint Earth. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  21. ^ Mossman, Allen (Spring 2016). "Retirement Adventure: Retiree Goes Underground" (PDF). Now & Then. 49 (1): 3. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
  22. ^ Schoonover, Jason (September 15, 2007). Adventurous Lives Adventurous Dreams. Rocky Mountain Books. ISBN 978-1894765916.
  23. ^ I. Mendoza, Jorge; F. Francke, Oscar (2018). "Five new cave-dwelling species of Hemirrhagus Simon 1903 (Araneae, Theraphosidae, Theraphosinae), with notes on the generic distribution and novel morphological features". Zootaxa. Magnolia Press.
  24. ^ Bisharat, Andrew (7 June 2018). "One of the Deepest Caves in the World is Even Bigger Than We Thought". National Geographic. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  25. ^ Wendell, Bryan (26 April 2018). "Real-life Spider-Man: New tarantula species named after Eagle Scout caver Bill Steele". Bryan on Scouting. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  26. ^ "Fellows of the Society" (PDF). The National Speleological Society Fellows. The National Speleological Society. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Lew Bicking Award Recipients". The National Speleological Society. The National Speleological Society. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  28. ^ "C. William Steele, FE'79". The Explorers Club. The Explorers Club. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  29. ^ "2009 International SpeleoArt Salon Winners". National Speleological Society. National Speleological Society. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  30. ^ "Distinguished Eagle Scout Award". Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts of America. Archived from the original on 5 April 2014. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  31. ^ "Fellows". The Explorers Club. The Explorers Club. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  32. ^ "The Spirit of Exploration: Citation of Merit". The Explorers Club. The Explorers Club. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  33. ^ "Modern Explorers Seek a Place in a GPS World". The New York Times online edition. The New York Times. Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  34. ^ "2015 Fine Art Salon Winners". National Speleological Society. National Speleological Society. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  35. ^ "2015 Spelean Arts and Letters Award Recipients". National Speleological Society. National Speleological Society. Retrieved 3 October 2017.