A cave diver exploring a spring, blinded by a cloud of silt and trussed like a bug in a web of his own dive line, must find a way out before his tank empties. A group of young people exploring a manmade cave underneath a St. Paul neighborhood discover a dangerous cache from the 1950s. Five teenagers enter another of St. Paul’s caves after a fire has robbed the air of oxygen, and only two emerge alive. With these compelling incidents, author Cary J. Griffith introduces readers to the challenges and dangers of caving.

Griffith then recounts the amazing story of Goliath’s Cave in southeastern Minnesota’s karst region. Discovered by recreational cavers in the 1980s, this extensive complex remained largely and tantalizingly unexplored: it could be entered only through a sump that was rarely open. When a proposal to start a quarry threatened the cave’s existence, state officials purchased the entryway, designated it as a scientific preserve, and closed off public access. The cavers, furious, found their own highly effective and deeply controversial way into the cave. Squeezing through tiny openings, scuba diving through silt-filled waters, scaling walls, and traversing crevasses, they painstakingly investigated Goliath’s ever-further reaches in an exploration that continues to this day.

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.

Michael Ray Taylor's full review comments:

“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