Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cave Kisses

When our children were small we went to most of the caves within an easy driving distance in Indiana and Kentucky. The kids loved playing "Stump the Cave Guide", and since they were experienced cavers they sometimes knew more than a part-time summer guide. Today my grown daughter and soon to be son-in-law recaptured this Dennis tradition, and we went to Diamond Caverns, near Mammoth Cave. In addition to a terrific wet and growing cave system, Diamond Caverns has one of the best butterfly gardens I've ever seen, so I plan several posts from today's trip.

Caves can be wet or dry. A dry cave, such as Mammoth Cave, has no water flowing to make new formations. The water has changed course and flows at another level. Diamond Caverns, however, is a wet cave, and we got lots of "cave kisses" dropping from the ceiling on our heads! Cave formations are created by this dripping flowing water over thousands of years. First, slight acidity in the water eats away at the limestone to create a basic cave. Then the water leaves mineral deposits that can grow to be stalagmites reaching up from the floor, or stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Cave bacon hangs in slabs and looks translucent when a light shines behind it. This cave also had a honeycomb formation I had never seen before. Cave formations are fragile even though made of rock, and can easily be broken off. At one point, the cave owners cut through a stalactite and polished it to show the growth. Stalactites grow in rings like a tree, adding to the diameter as time passes.

Cave photography has a unique set of challenges. Unlike birds, the target doesn't move, but the light is really tricky. The caves have lights strategically placed for both dramatic effect and safety of the tourists. I set the ISO as high as it would go (only 400, unfortunately), but didn't have anything white to adjust the white balance, so everything looks really red. Due to the lack of light, I couldn't get good shots of the dripping water. They didn't mind flash photography, but it took much of the color from the scene.

Part of the fun in a cave is recognizing shapes and faces in the rock. Do you see T-Rex and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean in these photos?
Our guide even found a few cave crickets, which we never saw in any of the other caves we visited in all those years. I guess he just knows where they hang out, like we would know where to look for a certain kind of bird. How nice to spend time with your grown children!

1 comment:

denmaryb said...

i enjoyed our caving trip down memory lane as well mom. Thanks to you and Dad for spending a day with Brian and I before we are officially married. Even if the tour guide did marry us.