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The 1925 Cave-In That Captivated the Nation

The first contribution I ever made to Neatorama was a blurb that mentioned Floyd Collins. Collins was a native of western Kentucky, an area known for its many caves, most notably Mammoth Cave. Long before it became a national park, Collins had walked -and crawled- many miles through Mammoth, Crystal, and Sand Caves, among others. He eventually became known as the greatest cave explorer ever. In 1925, Collins became the subject of a rescue attempt when a cave-in brought down rocks that trapped Floyd Collins' lower body, deep in Sand Cave. He spent more than a day alone underground before his brother Homer was able to reach him. But getting him out would be a particularly difficult task. The passage that led to him was so narrow that men could only crawl headfirst, and then had to wiggle out backward.     

Worse yet, Collins blocked his own rescue. Pinched from the chest down, his hands and feet were out of view. Homer called up to have some food brought into the cave and fed his brother by hand, pouring a pint of coffee down his throat and bringing nine sausage sandwiches to his lips. Immediately, he began trying to remove the loose rocks clamped around Collins’s body, but new rocks tumbled to take their place.

Homer emerged hours later shivering violently, skin dangling from his fingers. As he recuperated near the cave's mouth, dozens more men attempted to navigate Sand Cave. All failed. Nobody would reach Collins until Homer re-entered at midnight.

Many others tried, and for more than two weeks experts across the country came up with ideas for rescuing Collins. Newspapers nationwide carried constant updates, and the area around the mouth of Sand Cave became a circus. Read the story of Floyd Collins' life, his time trapped in the cave, and his legacy at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: Flickr user Don Sniegowski)


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