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Renfro Valley Bugle
History of Great Saltpetre Cave – Part III
(David Singleton's third article in a series of four- dealing with different phases of the Great Saltpetre Cave History, based on his own observations over a period of years and local tradition.)
The Pioneers in their Western advances found that the Indian had a name for most every place and object, such as "Allegheny," signifying tall mountains; "Appalachia,"; signifying the land of tall trees; "Ohio, " signifying beautiful river, etc.
South of the Ohio River on the western slopes of Appalachia was a hunters paradise which by common agreement or by custom among the various tribes was jointly their hunting ground. The Indians referred to this territory as The Breathing Land," signifying the name of this land in the language of the red men was Kain-took-ee, because the air moving in and out of the numerous caves which abound in this region the very earth seemed to breathe. Such caves were referred to by the, white man as "blow holes." This air movement is caused by a cave having two or more entrances or exits at various elevations, with the action of gravity on the change of volume of air caused by the change of temperature. The mean temperature within such caves vary only from forty-four to fifty degrees Fahrenheit, while the outside air temperature varies from one hundred above to twenty below zero. The maximum temperature causes the air to move from the higher entrance to the lower exit at approximately six miles per hour and at the same rate of speed when the movement is reversed from the lower entrance to the higher exit. When the outside temperature equals the mean temperature within the cave is calm. The periodical movement of air laden with nitrate to deposit over a long period of time causes part of the element of nature in the silt and clay beds found in most caves. The specifics of the air movement is related to gravity, air volume, and temperature, also the height of one entrance to another. Density of air moves with gravity, expansion of air moves against gravity. In the silt and clay of extended arms of caves that have but one entrance and no exit the nitrate, if any, is low grade. In case of very wet caves the nitrate is leached out and the deposit of nitre is very low.
So with myriads of caves and blow-holes, with hundreds of them situated in Rockcastle County. "Kain-took-ee" is indeed and truly "The Breathing Land."
Scanning and OCR work done by Andy Niekamp
Article Courtesy of Renfro Valley Entertainment Center
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