Monday, December 14, 2009

Book #44

Book #44 Lechuguilla: jewel of the underground

Hidden in the depths of New Mexico's Guadalupe Mountains lie some of the US's greatest caves. The first known views of Carlsbad Cavern were in 1901, the discovery went public in the 1920s.

Over the years many curious visitors have explored other sections of the Guadalupes in hopes of finding another cave system of the majesty of Carlsbad. Beginning in 1984 explorers began to open the way into a new system known as Lechuguilla Cave.

This book is written by various members of the Lechuguilla Cave Project, a group organized by the National Park Service to explore the caves, and is filled with photographs of some of the most astounding cave views I've ever seen.

Expeditions to date have revealed a cave that is over 90 km long and 475 m deep, as compared with Carlsbad Cavern's 32 km length and 316 m depth. Concerns for both the safety of the expedition members and for the physical integrity of the cave itself have led the National Park Service onto new ground in developing a management plan for the site. Exploration is limited to certain "expedition periods" and result in a steady flow of cavers in and out, in a style now known as "tag-team caving."

The photographs are stunning and the text is fascinating. It is hard to believe that there are still places of this magnitude that have yet to be discovered!

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