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Roger Brucker, 2006
July 27, 1929 |
Shelby, Ohio, USA
|Known for||Cave Explorer and Author|
Roger W. Brucker (born July 27, 1929) is an American cave explorer and author of books about caves. He is most closely associated with Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the world's longest cave, which he has been exploring and writing about since 1954.
After graduating from Oberlin College with an art degree in 1951, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio where he wrote and directed documentary, technical and training films.
Cave exploration career start
While in the Air Force, Brucker was temporarily stationed in New York City, where he became friends with some people who introduced him to caving, through the National Speleological Society (NSS). It was through those connections that he participated in the highly publicized Floyd Collins' Crystal Cave (C-3) Expedition in Kentucky in 1954, in which dozens of explorers spent one week underground, in an effort to determine if Crystal Cave might be connected with other caves. Although such connections were not found at that time (they later were), the ambitious expedition set new standards for organized cave exploration, and became the subject of Brucker's first book, The Caves Beyond, which he co-authored with Joe Lawrence, Jr.
Convinced that Crystal Cave would one day connect with caves in nearby Mammoth Cave National Park, Brucker and other explorers formed the Cave Research Foundation (CRF), to survey and study Mammoth Cave and other caves in the area. Through the late 1950s and 60s, under the leadership of Brucker and others, CRF expanded the known reaches of Mammoth Cave and other caves under the adjoining Flint Ridge. In 1972, cavers found a connection between Mammoth Cave and the Flint Ridge Cave System. That historic discovery made Mammoth the world's longest cave, inspiring Roger Brucker and Richard Watson to write The Longest Cave, which is now considered a classic in the field of speleological non-fiction literature.
Following publication of The Longest Cave, Brucker began working on the book Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins with historian Robert K. Murray. Brucker had long been fascinated with the true story of Floyd Collins, who was trapped in a cave in 1925 and could not be rescued, despite a massive effort that received national attention. The authors interviewed dozens of witnesses and studied hundreds of documents to uncover facts about the tragedy that were not previously known. As part of the research, Brucker and a small group of explorers even ventured into Sand Cave several times to the spot where Collins was trapped, to better understand why rescuers had been unable to free him.
Trapped! was published in 1979, and became an instant success. The book helped to inspire the stage musical Floyd Collins by playwright Tina Landau and composer Adam Guettel. Landau has referred to Trapped! as her "bible" during the period in which she wrote her play. In 2006, the book was optioned by actor Billy Bob Thornton, who planned to develop it into a movie. A screenplay was written by Thornton's writing partner, Tom Epperson, and the project was reportedly greenlit by Paramount Pictures. However, Thornton's option expired, and rights to the book were then acquired by producer Peter R.J. Deyell in 2011.
In 1983, rival groups of explorers, including Brucker, discovered a connection between Mammoth Cave and nearby Roppel Cave, further expanding the known reaches of the Mammoth Cave system far beyond the boundaries of the national park. Brucker later teamed up with James Borden, who was instrumental in the exploration of Roppel Cave, to write Beyond Mammoth Cave: A Tale of Obsession in the World's Longest Cave.
In 2009, Brucker's fifth book and first historical novel was published. Grand, Gloomy, and Peculiar: Stephen Bishop at Mammoth Cave is based on the true story of Stephen Bishop, a slave who gained fame as a guide and explorer at Mammoth Cave in the 1840s and 50s. Brucker researched Bishop's life for several years, in a desire to write the story as accurately as possible. At the age of 79, he even ventured deep into Mammoth Cave, following routes that were once explored by Stephen Bishop, so that he could describe them accurately. Although the book is classified as fiction, Brucker claims it does not alter any known historical facts.
Other career activities
In addition to spending more than 50 years exploring Mammoth Cave, Brucker worked as an advertising executive and was, at various times, an adjunct professor of marketing at Wright State University in Dayton. He is a co-founder of, and is active with, Karst Environmental Education and Protection, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of land containing sinkholes and caves.
He and his wife are avid bicycle travel enthusiasts, kite flyers and agility dog trainers. Brucker has drawn cartoons and illustrations for publications on caves, dog training and bicycling.
- The Caves Beyond with Joe Lawrence, Jr. (1955), ISBN 0-914264-18-4 / ISBN 978-0-914264-18-7
- The Longest Cave with Richard A. Watson, Ph.D. (1976) ISBN 0-8093-1322-7 / ISBN 978-0-8093-1322-8
- Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins with Robert K. Murray (1979), ISBN 0-8131-0153-0 / ISBN 978-0-8131-0153-8
- Beyond Mammoth Cave: A Tale of Obsession in the World's Longest Cave with James D. Borden (2001), ISBN 0-8093-2346-X / ISBN 978-0-8093-2346-3
- Grand, Gloomy, and Peculiar: Stephen Bishop at Mammoth Cave (2009), ISBN 978-0-939748-72-3 (pb) / ISBN 978-0-939748-71-6 (hb)
- "Author reconstructed rescue attempt of cave explorer for his novel". Kentucky New Era. Associated Press. 2006-03-10. Retrieved 2010-08-31.
- "Floyd Collins Book Acquired by Producer Peter R.J. Deyell". Broadway World. 2011-04-26. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
- Knippenberg, Jim (2001-03-25). "Exploring with Roger Brucker and James Borden: Authors follow underground obsession into world's longest cave". The Cincinnati Enquirer. Retrieved 2010-08-31.