“A well-told and riveting story of underground exploration… the extraordinary tale of a man who rises above his imposed station in life to find his true calling.”

National Speleological Society News

“A fascinating story. Stephen Bishop deserves to be resurrected and remembered.”

LeVar Burton, actor and host of LeVar Burton Reads

Journey to the Bottomless Pit

If you toured Mammoth Cave in Kentucky in the year 1838, you would have been led by candlelight through dark, winding tunnels to the edge of a terrifying bottomless pit. Your guide would have been seventeen-year-old Stephen Bishop, an African American slave who became known around the world for his knowledge of Mammoth Cave.

Bishop needed bravery, intelligence, and curiosity to explore the vast cavern. Using only a lantern, rope, and other basic caving equipment, he found a way to cross the bottomless pit and discover many more miles of incredible grottoes and tunnels. For the rest of his life he guided visitors through the cave, showing them how to stoop, bend, and crawl through passageways that were sometimes far from the traditional tour route.

Based on the narratives of those who toured the cave with him, Journey to the Bottomless Pit is the first book for young readers ever written about Stephen Bishop. Betsy Mitchell’s fictionalized biography was named a New York Public Library Best Book for Kids.

Book Award Nominations:

  • Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Award
  • Young Hoosier Book Award
  • Volunteer State Book Award

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