Monday, April 09, 2007

A Heap of Philippine Cave Pictures

Here are some more pictures from the Philippines coming from Lumiang/Sumaging Caves, near Sagada. With my guide, we entered Lumiang and came out of the Sumaging cave enterance. These pictures accurately depict the second half of the journey, through Sumaging. The first half was difficult to photograph due to constant fourth and fifth class bouldering.

The immense size of the caverns at Lumiang also made photography difficult. There was one section where I tried to shoot my guide from about 100 meters away. Between my pitifully inadequate camera flash and a jaw droppingly huge cavern, my camera barely managed to illuminate a bit of ground before me. 100 meters away, the guide's lantern was a distant speck. Blackness smothered everything in the enormous chasm.

Once we entered Sumaging and reached the pools and river, features became far more interesting. The deeper you descended the cave, the more fascinating and exciting it became.

Being an avid outdoorsman, I always recall being fascinated by caves and tunnels. My childhood friend Jonathan Dilbeck and I often crawled through every drainage tunnel beneath Wadsworth Avenue in Littleton. Like most 10 year olds, we would hide out and "build forts."

On a road trip with my family, I remember descending into Jewel Cave in South Dakota, the world's second largest cave. I remember taking the rubber-necker, camera snapping, follow the park ranger with his silly hat 30 minute interpretive tour. Despite this, I recall some spectacular stalactites and unique geological formations. I also remember a strict National Park Ranger who kept hassling me to keep my feet off the metal railings. I don't remember him too fondly, or the elevator packed with tourists.

I recall watching a PBS documentary about Mammoth Cave in Kentucky as a child. It was previously the world's largest cave, and the documentary chronicled how some spelunkers entered a nearby cave (I don't recall the name, but it was also ranked as one of the world's largest) and discovered it connected to Mammoth Cave, making the largest cave that much larger! With over 365 miles (587 km) of mapped cave passage, it dwarfs Jewel Cave in South Dakota at only 135 miles. Finishing third, Optymistychna Cave in the Ukraine tops out at 133 miles. This makes Mammoth almost twice the size of the next two caves combined.

I fondly remember wandering through Flagstaff's famed "Lava Tubes" as a young scholar at Northern Arizona University on many occasions. My Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Men's Bible study group even once held a Bible study there. What could possibly warrant this you ask? Following the young King David as he hid from Saul in a cave provided the excuse. It was kind of corny, but a good idea, and a nice change of scenery anyways.

I've explored a few caves outside Ashfork AZ, Chino Valley, and other parts of Northern Arizona. Before the Philippines, my most recent spelunking foray was at a limestone cave here in Fukushima, which I detailed in this post. Some day, I wish to take up some serious spelunking, and perhaps descend Kentuky's Mammoth Cave for three weeks or more and discover a new passage. Or perhaps I could develop the skills to dive some underwater caves in Florida and Mexico. But I don't have the time or the money right now, so these things will have to wait.

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