Realizing he’d been accidentally left behind by his buddies in a damp Indiana cave, college freshman Lukas Cavar did not remain calm.
“In that sort of situation, if you let your mind wander, it’ll go to some pretty bad places,” Cavar told the Washington Post. “I guess that’s where I went … that I’d die alone in this cave.”
The spelunking enthusiast found himself trapped, alone and out of cell phone range after he became separated from his group in Sullivan Cave, about 16 kilometers south of the University of Indiana’s Bloomington campus. The school’s Caving Club had locked the gate that covers the small entry of the cave, which they typically do at the end of a hike. Except Cavar hadn’t emerged with them.
It wasn’t until the physics major missed class and work that friends became concerned and ignited the search for the missing student.
During three days in the cave, Lucas survived on two protein bars and a bit of water he had left from his hike. When the protein bars ran out, he licked the inside wrappers for any residue. When his water ran out, he used the wrappers to siphon pooled water from the cave floor.
Finally, he resorted to licking the cave walls for moisture. He thought about finding and eating crickets, but passed on that idea.
“The first day I was in very, very bad shape. I was panicking. I was very confused. I really didn’t take any time to sit down and think of my situation,” Cavar said. “I was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it out of that cave at that point.”
He typed notes on his phone, still active, but still out of service.
“Right now I need some rest and thinking. Battery around 56 percent of phone, and headlamp seems fine so far. Should try to conserve. Good luck me,” he wrote. “Many salamanders all around. Possible food source? Spiders too, disconcerting. Killed as many as I could find in vicinity."
"Thinking of family,” he wrote later. “Night two is about to begin. Let’s hope the temperature change isn’t too drastic. Bats and snakes coming out. Feels like Halloween coming early.”
By the afternoon of the third day, Cavar fretted that help had not arrived yet. “3:45- missed all classes today. Surely somebody will have noticed by now.”
They had. Sam Norell, Lucas’ friend, said he noticed Cavar missed class Monday and that he never went to work Tuesday.
“Lukas is not one to miss class. I don’t think he’s missed a single class since college has started at all, and we were a little bit worried about that,” Norell told the Post. “Lukas would never miss work without calling in. He’d have to be very sick not to call work. That was the tipping point.”
After searching the Indiana University campus, they realized Cavar could still be in the cave.Cavar said he remembers little of the rescue itself but did remember the Big Mac and pasta they brought for him.
Cavar posted an update on Facebook.
“Just wanted to let everyone know that I’m safe and sound! Just got rescued about 30 minutes ago. Boy, it’s good to be back on the surface!”
The Caving Club released a statement saying safety protocols were being reviewed and improved. His parents, who teach at the university, were "really mad that I got lost, but happy that I was alive."
Cavar says he doesn't plan on spelunking again.