ambience: crowd ambience
We’re on a tour of a cave that’s been recently opened to the public. And unlike some caves you may have visited, this one is very much alive. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
“O.K. now, I’ve showed you dripping water, and I’ve showed you seeping water. This right here is caused by condensing water.”
Kartchner Caverns, in southeastern Arizona, was opened for visitors in November 1999. It was discovered 25 years earlier by two students who were amateur cavers. They had heard about a sinkhole near the town of Benson, Arizona, and went to investigate.
“And they went down in the sinkhole and it just so happened that the cave was what they call ‘breathing’. The cave pressure changes with the barometric pressure and the barometric pressure had changed and so the cave was exhaling, and they smelled the dampness, the humidity and the smell of bats or bat guano.”
That’s Dick Ferdon, Park Manager at Kartchner Caverns, which have a total area of about five football fields — much smaller than, say, Carlsbad Caverns. But unlike many caves that you can tour, Kartchner is 95% alive, meaning that the cave is wet and its formations are still growing.
“Many caves are what you call dry caves, and those are caves that have completely dried out and the formations that you see don’t have the glisten. These caves look like if you take a glass and put water on the outside of the glass it glistens. And this is what the formations look like within Kartchner Caverns, and that is a living cave.”
The colorful formations are not the only thing that distinguishes this cave — it’s also the site of an unprecedented scientific experiment. We’ll hear about that in our next program.
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