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Mid-Appalachian Region of
the National Speleological Society


Times certainly have changed since Ralph W.Stone published Bulletin G3 -Pennsylvania Caves in 1930. The early maps revealed little detail and many descriptions were brief. Over the years, detailed maps became more common and artistic renderings of passages began to show up on maps. However, throughout the evolution of cave mapping, there was one man who seemed to be ahead of his time. Bernard L. Smeltzer.

"Bernie" was among the first to add detailed cross-sections showing the underlying geological formation of dips and strike. As shown in the profile on numerous cave maps, he included artistic renderings such as massive flowstone, as early as 1950. It would be years before caving caught up with his vision. Bernard was one of Pennsylvania's finest cartographers!

Bernard first became interested in caves in 1947 when a family vacation to the southwestern United States introduced him to the wonders of Carlsbad Caverns. In 1948, relatives living near Reading in Berks County [Pennsylvania] told him about South Temple Cave, and this became his first wild cave. An NSS member in Reading told him about Bulletin G-3 Pennsylvania Caves by Ralph Stone, and he immediately procured a copy. He joined the NSS, receiving his membership card [NSS #1104] with a letter dated October 6, 1948. As he proceeded to visit the caves described in that publication he noted that many of the caves had no maps, the few maps included had little detail and did not show all the passages, and he was able to find caves, which were not mentioned at all. This coupled with artistic abilities and a desire to represent natural objects by drawing them led to his interest in cave mapping.

His first map was of Crystal Pit and his second map was of North York Cave, both in York County. The maps are undated but were done in 1948 or very early 1949. Other undated maps from this early period include Refton Cave in Lancaster County, Noecker Cave and Dreibelbis Cave in Berks County, and an early version of Peiper Cave in Cumberland County. They were all a bit crude by his later standards, but they showed some of the detail and cross-sections for which he would become famous in later years. After attending the NSS Convention in April 1949, he started dating his maps and replaced the NSS symbol with "Prepared By the National Speleological Society". His first dated map was Parker Cave in Cumberland County, dated May 29, 1949. This was followed by maps of Brownstone Cave (August 3, 1949), Peiper Cave (August 14, 1949), and Carnegie Cave (September 18, 1949).

He sent copies to the NSS Cave Files and to the Philadelphia Grotto, whose field trips he often attended. For his efforts at locating and mapping caves, the Philadelphia Grotto made him an Honorary Member on May 5, 1949.

His earliest caving companions were high school buddies Medford Smith and Marlin Kauffman. They both joined the NSS in mid-1949 and were issued numbers 1311 and 1318. In a letter dated August 2, 1949, Bernard was asked to start an NSS Grotto by then secretary John Petrie. It was pointed out that if they signed up Ralph Stone, they would only need one additional member to meet the minimum requirement. For whatever reason, this was never done. Perhaps, like most teenage cavers, they were too busy exploring caves to be bothered with the organizational details of running a club.

In 1950 Charles Mohr was doing bat counts and biological work in Pennsylvania in preparation for the publication of NSS Bulletin 15, Caves of Pennsylvania. Although still a teenager, Bernard was well known and was asked by Mohr to accompany him to Central PA for a few days of caving. Mohr was also interested in seeing any of the local caves, which might be of biological significance. Starting in February 12, 1950 they spent several days in the field. Among the caves they visited were Wind Cave in Lancaster County, Peiper Cave in Cumberland County, and Aitkins, Seawra, and Johnson Caves in Mifflin County. They also visited Kooken, Arch Spring, and Plum Creek Caves in Huntingdon County, as well as Woodward and Stover Caves in Centre County. At Stover they found a bat which Mohr had banded 9 years earlier. A second trip occurred March 12-14, 1950. Among the caves visited on this trip were Bootlegger Sink in York County, Boyer No. 2 in Snyder County, Woodward Cave in Centre County, and Maitland, Seawra, and Aitkin Caves in Mifflin County. At Maitland they found a bat which had been banded by Mohr 8 years earlier. The photographs of Bernard, which appear in NSS Bulletin 15, were taken by Mohr on these trips.

During the 1940s and 1950s the NSS encouraged members to seek favorable publicity for caving and the NSS. Bernard did his part, with no less than 15 newspaper articles in 1950 and 1951.

When NSS Bulletin 15, Caves of Pennsylvania by Ralph Stone finally was published in 1954, 92 of the 272 cave descriptions and 22 of the 44 cave maps were done by Bernard. It is hard to imagine what this publication would have been like without his contributions. It should be noted here that his maps, which appeared in Bulletin 15, do not show his usual level of detail and cross-sections. To make his maps comply with standards of the day, his maps were re-drawn, deleting most of the detail and eliminating or simplifying the cross-sections. For his efforts he was awarded a Certificate of Merit at the 1954 NSS Convention. He was 23 years old at the time. When Fellows awards were created by the Society in 1968, all Certificate of Merit awardees automatically became Fellows of the NSS.

The Mid-Appalachian Region was formed in 1953, in part due to the cooperation resulting from the gathering of material for Bulletin 15. At the initial meeting Bernard was elected a member-at-large of the board, representing independent members who were unaffiliated with any grotto.

A major article appeared in the Lancaster, PA Sunday News for April 3rd, 1955. Headlined "Longest Limestone Cave in Lancaster Discovered, Mapped By Spelunkers", it told the story of the reopening of Mammau Cave by Chuck Landis and Bernard. The article included a complete description and map.

The April, 1956 issue of Internal Affairs (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) contained a feature article entitled "Many New Caves Found in Southeastern Pennsylvania" by Bernard Smeltzer and Ralph Stone. This article contained new or updated information on 21 caves discovered since the publication of Bulletin 15.

In October of 1958, MAR Bulletin 4 was published, being devoted almost entirely to "Additional Data on Shippensburg Caves" by Bernard Smeltzer. This article included 11 caves and 10 new maps including Cleversburg Sink, Peipers Cave, and the Hershey and Huber Coys Caves before they were connected. In the MAR Bulletin 9 on Huntingdon County was published in June 1975, containing five maps and descriptions by him.

For MAR Bulletin 10 (December 1975) on Snyder County, two of his maps were re-drawn by others for publication.

In February 1979, MAR Bulletin 11 on Centre County was published, containing four additional maps.

MAR Bulletin 12 on Mifflin County was published in July 1981. He supplied maps and descriptions for 13 caves, or about one quarter of the total.

Bernard was a major contributor to MAR Bulletin 13 on Perry County. Of the 13 caves presented, he wrote 10 of the descriptions and all 6 maps, including Womers Cave, the largest cave he drew.

He contributed the map of Carpenter Cave which appeared in MAR Bulletin 16 on Northampton County, published in February 1989.

MAR Bulletin 17 on Northumberland County, issued December 1990 included 6 maps and 5 descriptions by him.

The MAR Bulletin 18 on Berks County, published December 1991, contains 12 maps and 9 descriptions by Bernard Smeltzer.

In all, he drew maps of about 145 caves in Pennsylvania and a few in Maryland. In addition, he assisted in surveys which others drew up. His latest project involved doing the artwork for the Guide to Chatum Geologic Park in New York state.

Bernard will be remembered most for his excellent cave maps and descriptions, his museum quality collections of fossils and native American artifacts, and his concern for the environment. He is also remembered for his friendly manner, his illustrated talks on caves and numerous other subjects, and his interest in conveying knowledge of the environment and natural history to our youth.

"Bernies" Cave List

One of the ways to truly appreciate the tremendous impact that the unique maps and descriptions of Bernie Smeltzer have made on the caving world is to look back on the list of caves he indelibly left his mark upon. Countless times has a caver reached into their pocket and pulled out a mud stained map with those timeless words "Drawn By Bernard Smeltzer". Many of us have come to affectionately refer to them as "Bernie Maps".

Over his lifetime, Bernard Smeltzer drew over 140 cave maps spanning a little over 40 years, from his first one published in 1949, to his last one before his death in 1992.

They are almost all instantly recognizable by his unique blend of passage and formation detail and vivid geological sections.

*Credit is given to Dale Ibberson, for providing excerpts from his obituary for Bernard L. Smeltzer which was originally published in the York Grotto Newsletter, Vol. 28, No. 4, July 1992. Credit is also given to J. Michael Spencer, editor of the Fall 2003 MAR Field Meet and MAR 50th Anniversary Field Guidebook, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, for re-printing the above information on Bernard L. Smeltzer.

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