Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Skyline Caverns, Virginia--Part II

A continuation from yesterday's post...

Along our path in Skyline Caverns was a fallen stalactite that had been dragged several yards by Amos and his workers. They wanted to bring it to the surface to show visitors but the 1000-pound weight became too difficult for them to move all the way out. Our path also crossed the spot from which the stalactite fell.

Fallen stone

Stalactite from which it fell

Some of the stones are hollow and the guide smacked them. We heard the sound reverberate. We all took the opportunity to make the same music.

J and the tuning stone

J put his hood up because occasional drips would land on us. Our guide Jane said that being dripped on was good luck and they call it a "cave kiss." On the other hand, if visitors accidentally bonk their heads on low ceilings or formations, they call it a "cave kick."

Further on was a stone flow formation they call "the Eagle" which is fairly easy to see.

Eagle formation

We passed through an area reinforced with concrete and the guide pointed out another type of formation, the stalacpipe.

The stalacpipe

Yet another bogus cave formation

We passed one hollow that leads deeper into the caves. The deepest we went was about 260 feet below the surface. Occasionally I thought about how much rock was between us and the surface which gave me goosebumps. Happily, I never thought about The Descent.

Much further down than we were allowed to go

Next we came to Fantasy Lake, so called because the reflective surface creates the impression of a fantastic landscape.

Fantasy lake

More of the lake

Reflections or stalagmites?

More landscapes

As we walked along, the guide pointed out some shafts in the ceiling that lead up through the rock. Happily, no critters go up or down, so we were never dripped on by anything more than water.

Shaft in the ceiling

Behind a wooden door we saw one of the star attractions of the caves. When Amos was exploring, he often had to dig out clay and mud to access rooms in the cave. One set of chambers had rare formations which are called anthodites. They are needle-like crystal formations that cluster out from one spot and can grow up or down or to the sides or even sometimes curl. Normally they are white though some in the caverns were covered by mud and picked up the mud's color. Some other anthodites have moss growing on them and thus are green. The formations are protected by Virginia laws since they are so rare.

Mostly brown anthodites

A bit of white and green formations

Anthodites going every which way

A ceiling with formations

Another ceiling

On our way out we saw another underground river that leads off into darkness. When this river was discovered, some beetle bodies were found in the water. They were taken out by some Smithsonian workers who examined them and discovered the beetles had no eyes nor even eye sockets. They searched for more specimens in the water but found none, thus they discovered what they thought was an extinct species. Later on, geologists discovered that the beetles did not live in the water but burrowed into the rocks. Other examples were discovered alive.

Not really the home to the beetles

We came back to the surface and came home with happy memories of the caverns.

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