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Photographer's Note

This was taken in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a United States National Park in the Guadalupe Mountains in the state of New Mexico.

From Wikipedia: The primary attraction of the park is the show cave, Carlsbad Cavern, but here are miles of other passages in the system. Visitors to the cave can hike in on their own via the natural entrance.

The park has two entries on the National Register of Historic Places: The Caverns Historic District and the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District. Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.

Carlsbad Caverns includes a large cave chamber, the Big Room, a natural limestone chamber which is almost 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at the highest point. It is the third largest chamber in North America and the seventh largest in the world.

In 1985 a very distinctive method of exploration was invented. In a dome area 255 feet (78 m) above the Big Room floor not far from the Bottomless Pit, a stalagmite leaned out. Using a balsa wood loop with helium-filled balloons attached, the explorers—after several tries over several years—floated a lightweight cord that snagged the target stalagmite. Once the cord was in position up, over, and back to the ground, a climbing rope was pulled into position, and the explorers ascended into what they named The Spirit World. A similar, smaller room was found in the main entrance corridor, and was named Balloon Ballroom in honor of this technique.

In 1993, a series of small passages totaling nearly a mile in combined length was found in the ceiling of the New Mexico Room. Named "Chocolate High", it was the largest discovery in the cave since the Guadalupe Room was found in 1966.

The Bottomless Pit was originally said to have no bottom. Stones were tossed into it, but no sound of the stones striking the bottom was heard. Later exploration revealed the bottom was about 140 feet (40m) deep and covered with soft dirt. The stones made no sound when they struck the bottom because they were lodged in the soft soil.

The park contains over 117 caves. Three caves are open to public tours. Carlsbad Caverns is the most famous and is fully developed with electric lights, paved trails, and elevators. Slaughter Canyon Cave and Spider Cave are undeveloped, except for designated paths for the guided "adventure" caving tours.

Lechuguilla Cave is well known for its delicate speleothems and pristine underground environment. Guano mining occurred in the pit below the entrance in the 1910s. After gaining permission from the national park managers to dig into a rubble pile where wind whistled between the rocks when the weather changed, cavers broke through into a room in 1986. Over 120 miles of cave passage has been explored and mapped. It has been mapped to a depth of 1,600 feet (490 m), making it the deepest limestone cave in the U.S. To protect the fragile environment, access to Lechuguilla is limited to permitted scientific expeditions only.

The Photo: I shot this image using a tripod and thee separate braketed exposures. This was needed to bring out detail in the dark shadows, and capture the light from the cave's spotlights. No flash was used. he exposures lasted about 30 seconds, and you can see the ghost of a tourist who walked into shot (lower right). I kept this exposure to allow viwers to see the scale of the caves.

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Additional Photos by Peter Kennett (peterkennett) Silver Note Writer [C: 0 W: 0 N: 15] (118)
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