NEW YORK – Caves are often musty, muddy, and damp. They can also be teeming with wildlife, as wide as a canyon, or flooded with icy water. They can be made of marble, crystal, or basalt. Caves are far more than just holes in the ground. Some of them are quite extraordinary.
The caves are located above Werfen Village in Salzburg. Lamps are handed out to tourists before the tour, and sometimes the ice formations are lit with magnesium lamps for dramatic effect. Only a portion of the cave’s length is open to the public.
Fingal’s Cave is 70 meters (227 ft) long and is made entirely of interlocking hexagonal pillars of basalt—similar to those found at the Giants’ Causeway—possibly formed by prehistoric lava flow and a tumultuous sea. In 1829, composer Felix Mendelssohn visited Fingal’s cave, and the sound of the waves inside became the inspiration for his Hebrides Overture. He didn’t enjoy the trip much though; Mendelssohn got seasick.
The blue light is caused by sunlight filtering through an opening near the water’s surface. Anything immersed in the water also appears silver, due to bubbles in the water. The best time to visit the Blue Grotto is early afternoon, when the sunlight shines directly outside the cave.
The Orda Cave is not a good place to get lost in. Smaller passages and caverns leading away from the main cavern are still being found. The water is a freezing -20° Celsius (-4° F) at the surface, and any cave surface you touch can easily break off. Cave diver Lamar Hires says that he has seen chunks of gypsum as large as cars and buses fall from the walls and ceiling.
The Waitomo Caves are home to a species of glowworm native to New Zealand: Arachnocampa luminosa. They glow in order to draw insects closer, luring them into the silky threads that the glowworms produce and their inevitable tangled doom. Thousands of these glowworms live in the Waitomo Caves, which have become one of the main attractions of New Zealand’s North Island. The Glowworm Grotto is navigable by boat—under the lights of the hundreds of glowworms on the ceiling. The upper chamber includes the Organ Loft and the Catacombs, while the lower level is home to the Cathedral Chamber, whose acoustics are acknowledged by international opera stars.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Only 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) of the river is accessible to tourists. A special permit is needed if one wants to travel the entire river’s length.
The Marble Cathedral
The cave was formed 6,000 years ago by waves crashing into calcium carbonate. The color of the water varies with the weather, water level, and the time of year.
Lubang Nasib Bagus
In 2001, the Krubera Cave, alternatively called the Voronja or Voronya Cave, was named the deepest cave in the world. In October 2004, scientists estimated its depth to be 2,080 meters (6,800 feet). The cave is located in Abkhazia, a republic that belongs to Georgia but claims to be an independent state.
In order to reach the lowest depths of the cave, spelunkers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem dove through water barely above freezing. They also experienced a flash flood that left them isolated for 30 hours. At depths of over 300 meters (1,000 ft), several life-forms have been found, such as cave pseudoscorpions, parasitic worms, and transparent fish—in near zero-degree water.