National Speleological Society
FormationBill Stephenson, January 1, 1941; 83 years ago (1941-01-01)
Kristine Ebrey
Main organ
Board of Governors
AffiliationsAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science, International Union of Speleology

The National Speleological Society (NSS) is an organization formed in 1941 to advance the exploration, conservation, study, and understanding of caves in the United States. Originally headquartered in Washington D.C., its current offices are in Huntsville, Alabama. The organization engages in the research and scientific study, restoration, exploration, and protection of caves. It has more than 10,000 members in more than 250 grottos.[2]

Since 1974 there has been a cave diving section of the society.[3][4]


The Speleological Society of the District of Columbia (SSDC) was formed on May 6, 1939 by Bill Stephenson. In the fall of 1940, the officers of the SSDC drafted a proposed constitution that would transform the SSDC into the National Speleological Society. On January 24, 1941, Stephenson sent a letter to all members of the SSDC announcing that "on January 1 the Society was reorganized as a national organization."[5] The New England Grotto was the first NSS Grotto. It was chartered in 1941 with Clay Perry as president and Ned Anderson as vice president.[6]

On February 6, 1974, a pioneering cave diver named Sheck Exley became the first chairman of the Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society.[4][3] The new section began with 21 members in 10 different states.[4]


The NSS produces a number of publications, including:

The NSS's list of long and deep caves was kept until 2022 by surveyor and cartographer Robert Gulden.


The organization is currently divided into 11 regions:

Within these regions are local chapters known as grottos. The grottos carry out the local-level recreational and conservation-related business of the NSS. They generally function as the local NSS chapter/club. Many Grottos however operate in areas outside of their local area, with many operating in several states.[7] Most Grottos also participate in Regions that are loose associations of Grottos.[7] Regions are also an internal organization of the National Speleological Society.[7]

Grottos are required to meet certain organizational requirements as outlined by the National Speleological Society. These include:[8]


The NSS hosts a yearly convention, which is generally held in June. Grottos take turns hosting the convention.

Convention Year Location
1967 Black Hills, SD
1968 Springfield, MO
1969 Lovell, WY
1970 State College, PA
1971 Blacksburg, VA
1972 White Salmon, WA
1973 Bloomington, IN
1974 Decorah, IA
1975 Angels Camp, CA
1976 Morgantown, WV
1977 Alpena, MI
1978 New Braunfels, TX
1979 Pittsfield, MA
1980 White Bear Lake, MN
1981 Bowling Green, KY
1982 Bend, OR
1983 Elkins, WV
1984 Sheridan, WY
1985 Frankfort, KY
1986 Tularosa, NM
1987 Sault Ste. Marie, MI
1988 Hot Springs, SD
1989 Sewanee, TN
1990 Yreka, CA
1991 Cobleskill, NY
1992 Salem, IN
1993 Pendleton, OR
1994 Brackettville, TX
1995 Blacksburg, VA
1996 Salida, CO
1997 Sullivan, MO
1998 Sewanee, TN
1999 Twin Falls, ID
2000 Dailey, WV
2001 Rock Castle County, KY
2002 Camden, ME
2003 Porterville, CA
2004 Marquette, MI
2005 Huntsville, AL
2006 Bellingham, WA
2007 Marengo, IN
2008 Lake City, FL
2009 Kerrville, TX
2010 Essex Junction, VT
2011 Glenwood Springs, CO
2012 Lewisburg, WV
2013 Shippensburg, PA
2014 Huntsville, AL
2015 Waynesville, MO
2016 Ely, NV
2017 Rio Rancho, NM
2018 Helena, MT
2019 Cookeville, TN[9]
2020 Virtual[10]
2021 Virtual[11]
2022 Rapid City, SD
2023 Elkins, WV[12]


The Society makes a series of awards, presented during its annual convention:[13]


See also


  1. ^ "National Speleological Society : Organization". National Speleological Society. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  2. ^ "The National Speleological Society".
  3. ^ a b Kendrick, DF. Pollock, NW (ed.). "Science of the National Association for Cave Diving (NACD): Water Quality, Hydrogeology, Biology and Psychology". Diving for Science 2009. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) 28th Symposium. Dauphin Island, AL. Archived from the original on July 5, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-20.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  4. ^ a b c Staff. "Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society was founded". Archived from the original on 2013-12-02. Retrieved 2013-04-20.
  5. ^ Caving in America, National Speleological Society, Huntsville, AL. 1991. ISBN 0-9615093-7-6
  6. ^ Caving in America. Huntsville, AL: National Speleological Society. 1991. ISBN 0-9615093-7-6.
  7. ^ a b c Weberg, Meredith Hall (2010). NSS News Members Manual. National Speleological Society. pp. 2, 53–65.
  8. ^ "Policy for Internal Organizations" (PDF). National Speleological Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-27.
  9. ^ "NSS Convention 2019". National Speleological Society. Retrieved 2020-01-31.
  10. ^ "NSS Conventions". Retrieved 1 May 2023.
  11. ^ "NSS Conventions". Retrieved 1 May 2023.
  12. ^ "Join us for the 2023 NSS Convention in Elkins, WV!". Retrieved 1 May 2023.
  13. ^ "Welcome to the NSS Awards Committee". National Speleological Society. Retrieved 11 July 2021.