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Campo Braca

The Neverending Story

Chapter five

The cover is from Larry Ray and Jeff Matthews

Translated Jeff Matthews


Chapter five

New friendships and contacts usher in...

The Age of Exploration! - Napoli Underground is born

There had been a pause for reflection due both to the loosening of bonds with the CSM as well as a temporary lack of companions in adventure. I started to think back to a project I had been forced to set aside: the creation of a website. Besides sharing the knowledge we had acquired, it might give us to chance to actually bring a new community to life.

I mentioned the idea to my son, the ideal person for the task (raised with computers and, at the moment, engaged in broadening his knowledge at the Department of Information Technology). He was enthusiastic about it and after a few weeks of figuring out just how to go about it, we came up with a first draft of what would turn into Napoli Underground.

The main idea was to use our information to generate a greater interest in urban speleology; given the enormous cultural heritage of underground sites in Naples, such a project would certainly meet with success. To tell the truth, I also thought that, given the special nature of the subject matter (urban speleology), our target audience might turn out to be very limited.

We prepared and put up the first draft of our website and, as I thought would be fitting, called a meeting with Clemente Esposito and his new group for the purpose of getting them involved in our project. Honestly, their enthusiasm was not overwhelming; there were a lot of “if's” and “but's”, but with the support of Clemente, they wound up in favor of joining in by furnishing data that they had (photos, videos, maps, etc.). As I've said, the goal was strictly cultural; nobody or nothing—except speleology, itself—was going to profit from it.

We built different sections into the site: news, data, and a forum that would build a new community of enthusiasts. The start-up was brutal; turning the mountain of information stored in the dusty CSM archives into something digestible on the web was going to be an encyclopedic undertaking—thousands of photos to scan, hundreds of drawings and plans to work out, videos to digitize and hundreds of stray notes to go over once again. But we weren't in a hurry; it wasn't our job and nobody was paying us—and there were no deadlines. So week after week and month after month the database got thicker and thicker; ideas for new projects sprouted, and caving news took hold in the pages of Nug.

After a muted start (almost no email from anyone), the forum started to come to life. Discussions grabbed the interests of some readers and that gave rise to the first questions and debates. The community was taking its first steps. That is what we had hoped for!

I don't want to bore you with this; I merely point out that it was the Nug forum that breathed life into the group that today dedicates itself passionately to our underground explorations. The first one to come to life (thanks to a visit organized with the “Monuments in May” commission) was Ipogeo. He had experience in Civil Defence, was curious and eager for adventure, which drove him to join all of our later projects. The second one, a few months later, was Zool (nature photographer, mountain and trekking enthusiast); he underwent his baptism of fire with us right at Campo Braca. Counting myself, NeandertalMan, there were three of us, the minimum number for a group. It was automatic. Our trips were equally divided between, one, artificial cavities (we led a great number of persons through the tunnels of the Carmignano aqueduct – Museum of the Subsoil) and, two, karst caving, when we restarted our trips into what by now we felt was our own personal grotto: Campo Braca. A few years had passed, but the experiences and mysteries born in that grotto were still there and still called to us. Maybe it was the enthusiasm among the newcomers, maybe we felt it was just time for a change, but our outings became more and more frequent. The lake was still there and still in our way, so we decided to aim higher in search of a route that would finally get around that obstacle.

The route we settled on was really a forced choice: the trail went up, right from the shore of the lake. It was a slippery climb. It looked like the right direction and our earlier hasty incursions in that particular sector had given us good reason to hope that even if we didn't get around the obstacle we'd certainly be greeted by some new sights.

(to be continued)...

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