32 Books in 32 Days – Day Fifteen: Opening Goliath

Minnesota Finalist,
Opening Goliath: Danger and Discovery in Caving
Cary J. Griffith


Excerpt from Opening Goliath: Danger and Discovery in Caving:

In the middle of the silted-out room, John Ackerman has time to consider his predicament. He tries not to move. He has pulled out enough nylon cord to have a free-floating web interfering with his movements and air intake. He has no visual cues so he cannot be certain his neutral buoyancy is actually keeping him stationary in the six-foot-by-four-foot, rough-hewn underwater chamber.

Chamber, he thinks. That’s what this is. A little chamber of horrors.

Stop it. Stay quiet. Don’t move.

Panic is the enemy of survival. If he does not want to stay down here for the rest of his short life, he will not let the rampant fire come out of the dragon’s mouth. He will not yield to panic, to the terror.

So, Ackerman forces himself to stay calm. He forces the beast back into its lair.

The only other sound is the steady exhale of his bubbles rising into dark oblivion, whichever way is up. And the inhale as he recovers his breath, waiting. The sound and feel of life-giving oxygen calms him in the underwater room. He blinks, trying to see in front of him. But the silt-out conditions haven’t improved. Not yet.

He waits.

The author recounts the amazing story of Goliath’s Cave in southeastern Minnesota, discovered by recreational cavers in the 1980s. With a mix of adventure, suspense, politics, science, discovery and wonder, Opening Goliath takes readers to a subterranean wilderness where exploration and preservation sometimes coexist – and sometimes collide.


Cary J. Griffith is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about the outdoors. He is also the author of the acclaimed Lost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North Woods.


“A suspenseful and adventuresome account of spelunking in metropolitan and southeastern Minnesota.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge

“In nonfiction that reads like a fast-paced thriller, Cary J. Griffith explores the incredible beauty and danger of Minnesota’s caves, along with the personalities of those driven to enter the unknown, whatever the risks. But beyond the drama of exploration, Griffith presents the very human conflict that results when a newfound cave system becomes a public trust—and a political football, bounced between bureaucracies, well-meaning experts, and the recreational cavers who discovered the labyrinthine passages, all of whom claim to know the ‘best’ way to protect fragile underground wilderness. A great read and an insightful look at the politics of conservation, Opening Goliath is destined to become a classic among cavers and noncavers alike.” – Michael Ray Taylor, author of Cave Passages: Roaming the Underground Wilderness and Caves: Exploring Hidden Realms

“For the great silent majority who prefer to cheat death by staying aboveground—in other words, for those who don’t suffer from that peculiar mental affliction called caving—Griffith provides a safe and sane way of exploring the underground realm.” – Natural History Magazine


Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.

Have you read Opening Goliath? What are your thoughts? Did you vote for the Readers’ Choice Award? We welcome your comments!

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