I’ve posted some “Scientific tourist” shots from Carlsbad Caverns in southern New Mexico. But thanks to BBC’s “Planet Earth” series, you can see video of a nearby (still in the boundaries of the National Park) and far larger / deeper (deepest in the U.S.) cave — Lechuguilla:
Soak it all in, because you’ll almost certainly never be allowed to visit Lechuguilla in person. Lechuguilla has such delicate and unique formations that it’s only open to a handful of scientists and explorers, still mapping all the nooks and crannies in the beast (well over 100 miles of passages have been mapped to date) of a cave system. Amazingly enough, the cave opening was known for years as a place to mine bat guano for fertilizer — but it wasn’t until 1986 that cavers digging through debris at the opening were able to make a way further in, breaking through to form the only known entrance to the cave system.
If this looks interesting to you, and you’re not on the list of lucky spelunkers that can get entry to Lechuguilla, at least you can console yourself with some of the online information on the cave:
- National Park Service page on Lechuguilla
- Wikipedia has a Lechuguilla page — brief, but with some good links
- Nova has a good writeup from a journalist’s experiences in the cave