UIS Commission on Karst Hydrogeology and Speleogenesis

Book Reviews

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Book Review: Sinkholes and Subsidence: Karst and Cavernous Rocks in Engineering and Construction

Waltham A., Bell F. and Culshaw M.

Re-published from: Cave and Karst Science, 2004, 31 (3), 142-143.

Sinkholes and Subsidence: Karst and Cavernous Rocks in Engineering and Construction. Tony Waltham, Fred Bell and Martin Culshaw. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, and Praxis Publishing Ltd., Chichester. [Springer-Praxis books in geophysical sciences.] ISBN 3-540-20725-2. Published price £100.00.

At last – a book about engineering geology (and related topics) that is dedicated to karst and karst-related issues, written by a team that knows about and appreciates karst. The author team is strong and knowledgeable, to say the least, but there is also a list of additional contributors drawn from the worlds of engineering geology, karst geology/geomorphology, and beyond.

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Waltham A.

Abstract: Overview of the geo-sciences within this volume was evidently the task of the second editor, Will White, already well known for his many papers and books on cave geology and hydrology. There are 39 entries that cover the main components of cave geo-science, and these vary from exciting and up-to-date syntheses to rather mundane reviews that have largely been seen before. One entry describes the multiple aspects of solution caves, and another provides the best available review of cave development by sulphuric acid; both are by Art Palmer and both are excellent. Entries on cave passages, passage development and underground karren features further explore cave genesis. Processes of stalagmite deposition are described by Wolfgang Dreybrodt, in an entry that is happily more readable than some of his erudite classics. There are then more entries that overview stalactites, stalagmites, helictites and gypsum deposits, with another very readable item on saltpetre mining – though all its data refer to historical sites in American caves, with no mention of ongoing activity in China’s caves. An all-too-common failing of American publications is their parochialism; this tome is no exception, as too many examples, concepts and terms lack true internationalism. Karst hydrogeology, water tracing, coastal caves, epikarst, closed depressions and subsidence sinkholes each have their own good reviews that stand out from the crowd; surface karst has no entries of its own.
Among the entries are 15 that describe “exceptional caves”, all with names that international cavers will recognise. This could have been where parochialism paid off with some good overviews of American caves, but it doesn’t. Too much caving, too little caves; though there are some useful descriptions. Friar's Hole is a classic of upland karst evolution well described by ex-Brit Steve Worthington. The nearby Burnsville Cove caves have little more than their exploration related, though there are some great photos. The entry on Mammoth Cave is surprisingly sparse, with no photos and no mention of the exciting 26Al/10Be dating that showed how very old are its clastic sediments. The Wakulla Spring caves have a welcome entry, but there is no scale on the maps. Lechuguilla is well reviewed and has an incredible survey but none of the fabulous photos for which this cave is famous, while Kazumura Cave has a better illustrated overview of its unbroken lava tube that is 41km long within a system of 65km of passages.

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Book Reviews

Barry F. Beck (Editor). Geotechnical Special Publication No. 122. American Society of Civil Engineers, 2003. 737 pages. ISBN 0 7844 0698 7. US$120.00

Sinkholes and the Engineering and Environmental Impacts of Karst is the proceedings volume from the ninth multidisciplinary conference primarily sponsored since the early 1980’s by P.E. LaMoreaux and Associates, Inc. This volume, like others in the past, provides an excellent collection of the current state of the art work conducted in karst landscapes. Over 60 original papers are contained in this proceedings volume written by karst specialists from both sides of the Atlantic. This volume is divided into 11 sections or sessions spread out over 700 pages.

The keynote address presented by Milanovic discusses the difficulty of constructing dam sites in karst with examples of design criteria for grouting.

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Review: Encyclopedia of Caves and Karst Science

Ford Trevor D.

Abstract: This massive compendium was compiled and edited by John Gunn and a team of 14 advisors. These are among the 200 or so contributors, drawn from speleologists and karstologists from all over the World. They have written nearly 400 entries on almost all karst-related topics, ranging from process-oriented topics to regional surveys, from historical reviews to reports on the larger individual cave systems such as Mammoth, Carlsbad–Lechuguilla, Mulu and Hölloch, and comments on archaeological caves and on biospeleology. Entries are arranged alphabetically and most comprise only two or three pages. They follow a pattern of reviewing the state of knowledge of their topic, giving a handful of cited references and a short list of Further Reading. Gypsum and salt karsts are included as well as pseudo-karst on granites, sandstones and other rocks. A few topics get extended treatment, e.g. 15 pages on Groundwater and 18 pages on Speleogenesis. Cave sediments were split between two groups of entries: 6 pages under the heading Sediments, and a further 6 pages under Paleoenvironments.