Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cave Formations

The formations (stalactites, stalagmites, etc) in the cave are stunning.  My on-camera flash could not do them justice, and for most of the wade/swim to the main chamber my camera was packed, so I don't have photos of many of the ones we saw on the way in.  

The main chamber in the cave is large - like a ball room.  It was hard to really get a sense of it, because we just had headlamps and the guide's battery powered spot, but the ceiling was probably 30-40 feet and the room was ~150 feet in diameter (I am sure there is an exact measure someplace on the net).  I think the ones in this photo were ~20 feet high.  Francisco said they form at a rate of 1/16 inch per year, so the cave has been around  awhile.

What Francisco kept emphasizing, and is worth thinking about, is the Maya only saw these formations by fire and torch light, probably during ceremonies when they were under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms or other substances...

Cath - The cave was creepy enough just with a headlamp.  And some of the pathways needed to reach this chamber were suck-in-your-stomach small. It is hard to fathom hauling in all those heavy pots and terrified sacrificial victims all that way using torches that may or may not remain lit.  The shadows from the fire would make the stone formations seem alive. I can see needing some sort of hallucinogen to have the guts to go in there in the first place, although I bet it made the overall experience seem even more supernatural.

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