Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Holy Bat Cave

After an hour on the bus and a 2 hour hike, we finally arrived at a bat cave, still in the general region of the Las Cruces biological station. Arranged by our course coordinators well in advance, we were well prepared with helmets, headlamps, and schooling on life in the dark. What followed was a four hour venture into the blackest black I’ve ever experienced. The bats were too many to count but all were benign to our presence. As we walked into the cave, the level of vegetation dropped dramatically. Miraculously, 20 meters into the cave, seedings emerged but in vain for lack of light. About 300 meters into the cave, we came to an underground river. This was no stream but a serious river. At this point, several members of our group decided that was enough black dank slimy cave for them and headed back. Yours truly, albeit with some trepidation, went forward with the majority of the group … into the river. It was relatively shallow most of the time, but a few times we actually had to swim (say 10 meters). I’ve never explored a cave in any serious way in my life so this was the farthest I’d ever been from light and fresh air. I admit some nervousness at various points, but it was also exhilarating. At times we walked in water up to our hips with no more than 3 feet of clearance above our heads then crawled through tiny spaces where you might have to wiggle a bit to make it through. I felt were in excellent hands between our coordinators and the cave guides (always near by and quite “buff”). The full group made it out of the caves exhausted but completely in tact. All in all not much in the way of ecology, but it was exciting and a welcome diversion from the daily grind of independant research, faculty field projects and lectures. Alas, I have no pictures from within the cave as I didn't want to risk loosing my camera to the moisture, the river, or the guano. This shot of one of our guides ("Batmen") was taken by a coursemate just inside the cave.



At 5:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...