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Three Spelunkers Go Deep on ‘Fraggle Rock’

Just ahead of the new ‘Fraggle Rock’ reboot, I had some burning questions about Fraggles, Doozers and the acoustic quality of caves

Jim Henson was a man of lofty ambitions. With the Muppets he created for Sesame Street, he helped shape a new era of children’s programming specifically aimed at educating children in preparation for school. But he certainly didn’t stop there. “Jim Henson created Fraggle Rock to bring peace to the world,” explains Joe Hennes, the editor-in-chief of the Muppet fansite Tough Pigs

Premiering in 1983, Fraggle Rock was about a group of lovable, cave-dwelling Muppets named Fraggles, who would sing songs and go on adventures that taught lessons about kindness and friendship. In keeping with his larger goals though, Hennes says Henson created several other groups of characters — like the hard-working Doozers and the self-centered Gorgs — to “help illustrate interconnectedness and how one part of society relies upon and impacts another, sometimes without even knowing it.”

The show was a hit in its day, lasting five seasons on HBO, and it’s about to be rebooted on Apple TV+. As with all reboots, fans of the original have questions like, “Is it faithful to the original?” As for me, I have much weirder quandaries. For example, are caves really purple like that? And, given that the Fraggles were such a musical bunch, how good are caves for acoustics? 

There’s only one group of people, of course, who can answer these questions: spelunkers. And so, I dug around for a few. Let’s get to it.

What Do Cavers Think About Fraggle Rock?

Lanny Vogel, Cave Diving Instructor in Tulum, Mexico: I was a big fan of Fraggle Rock when I was a kid. I loved the dog and the Doozers and everything. 

Carl Tuttle Jr., Caving Hobbyist in Indiana: I grew up on Fraggle Rock. I love Mokey because she was always really moody.

George Linnane, Caving Hobbyist in the U.K.: I know Fraggle Rock, but I didn’t watch it much.

In Your Caving Experience, Have you Ever Seen a Fraggle?

Tuttle: No.

Linnane: Have I ever seen a Fraggle? Only on the telly.

Vogel: I haven’t seen a Fraggle, but I remain hopeful.

How About a Doozer?

Tuttle: No, no Doozers.

Vogel: No, but I feel like it’s more likely I’ll see one of those because you can spot all of their construction equipment.

Are Real Caves Purple?

Tuttle: You can get some variance in coloration, but not typically purple. There are lots of browns and reds. You can get some green where fungus is growing. There are lots of different colors.

Linnane: Purple? Not often, but occasionally. It depends on the type of rock, and while I haven’t seen lots of it, I have seen purple rock.

Vogel: When you’re cave diving [underwater] and you head below the salt-water layer, you do get some cool blue effects. Honestly, I think the real ones are far more beautiful than what Fraggle Rock had.

How Good Are Caves for Acoustics?

Tuttle: They’re really great. Years ago, I led a group of young men from a choir, and there was this big room at the back of the cave. They all sang Christmas carols, and it was great.

Linnane: The acoustics are pretty bad inside of a cave. With rock walls, the sound just reverberates all over the place. All their singing would sound like shit down there.

Are Caves a Good Place to Make Friends?

Vogel: Caving is a great way to form friendships. Some of my best friends are people I’ve been on dives with. The whole philosophy of cave diving is about the team. We all go out together, we all go in together. It’s a huge bonding experience.

Tuttle: Oh yes, these are people you have to trust your life with, especially when you’re on a rope. The person behind you is watching out for you, so you have to trust them, and the person in front of you has to trust you. 

Linnane: Definitely. The camaraderie in caving is second-to-none. I don’t know if you’ve heard of a guy named Mark Burkey, a cave photographer, but I’ve gotten to know him quite well over the past few years and we’ve become good friends. I was better at diving and he was better at caving, so we struck up a friendship where we each made the other better. 

Anyway, about two months ago, I was on the victim end of the longest cave rescue in U.K. history. I fell about eight meters or so and broke my right leg, three ribs, dislocated my collar bone, smashed my jaw to pieces, knocked a load of teeth out, broke my wrist — I really fucked myself up. It took them 54 to 57 hours to get me out; then I spent 16 days in the hospital after that. To bring it back to Burkey, I was with him and one other person when I fell. That other person, she stayed where she was, and Mark went out and sounded the alarm for cave rescue to come. So, yeah, you really rely on your friends when you’re caving.

Like the Theme Song Says, Are You One to Dance Your Cares Away, or Work Your Cares Away?

Vogel: I’d like to be dancing my cares away, but my dancing skills aren’t that good. So I’ll be stuck with working, unfortunately. 

Tuttle: Both. I work hard so I can dance hard on the weekends. Those are worries for another day. 

Linnane: There’s been periods in my life where I’ve worked them away. There’s been periods in my life where I’ve danced them away. Now I probably cave them away.