Thursday, 7 March 2019

Lechuguilla Cave – Jewel of Branched Underground Cave

Lechuguilla Cave is 8th longest explored cave in the world. The 222.6 km, is the second deepest cave 1,604 ft in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. Lechuguilla Cave is famous for its strange geology, rare formation, and pristine condition. The cave is named for the canyon Agave lechuguilla, a rare species found here. Before 1986, this cave was known as a small insignificant historic site.
Access to Lechuguilla Cave is not for everyone. Only researchers, scientific, exploration team and National Park service management allow entering it. Bat guano was mined under a mining claim field. This historical cave has big 90-foot entrance named Misery Hole, mainly led to 400 feet of dry, dead-end passages. The cave was visited intermittently after mining activities stopped. In the 1950s, cavers heard the mysterious wind roaring up from the rubble-choked cave floor. However, no route was obvious; people concluded that cave passages lay below the rubble.
A large walking passage occurred in 1986, after the digging of a group of cavers. The explorers mapped a 222 km of passages, making it 4th longest in the United States. The cave's pristine condition and rare beauty covers come from around the world to explore and map its passages and geology. An explorer team climbed over 410 feet into a dome and unearthed many new unexplored passages, pits, and large rooms.
Lechuguilla Cave holds a variety of rare speleothems, lemon yellow sulfur deposits, gypsum chandeliers, gypsum hairs and beards, soda straws, cave pearls, hydromagnesite ballons, rusticles, helictites, U-loops and J-Loops. The cave surpasses nearby Carlsbad Caverns in size, depth, and variety of speleothems, though no room has been discovered yet in Lechuguilla Cave that is larger than Carlsbad's Big Room. The abundance of gypsum and sulfur lends sustenance to speleogenesis by sulfuric acid dissolution. The sulfuric acid is thought to be derived from hydrogen sulfide that migrated from nearby oil deposits. As a result, this cavern formed from the bottom up, in contrast to the normal top-down carbonic acid dissolution mechanism of cave formation.
A beautiful wilderness area lies beneath a park adjacent Bureau of Land Management Land. The oil drilling and proposed gas is a major threat to this cave. In case of any leaked in gas could kill cave life or disastrous explosions. Further, a rare type of chemolithoautotrophic bacteria is believed to take place in the cave. These bacteria normally feed on the sulfur, iron, and manganese minerals. Few microbes may have medicinal qualities that are beneficial to humans. Moreover, a four-million-year-old strain of Paenibacillus isolated from soil samples was found to be naturally resistant to numerous modern antibiotics, including daptomycin.

A BBC documentary featuring Lechuguilla Cave in his Planet Earth series, exploring Chandeliers Ballroom, high-quality crystals. In 1992 A National Geographic Society program Mysteries Underground was also filmed extensively in Lechuguilla Cave. So this jewel of underground Cave is the ultimate destination for any caver. Source - CP

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