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….From A Hole In the Ground January 3, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in science fiction, sense of wonder, westerns, writing.

Entrance to Karchner Caverns

National Geographic has a fabulous photo spread on a cave found in Vietnam. Exploration of what’s under our feet continues and seems to be a relatively recent pursuit. Part of the problem, of course, is how do you light the way if you don’t have electric torches or other non-smoking illumination? The easy into-the-cave probably wasn’t exploited much since bears, bats and other critters found them first. Why fight over real estate that’s not likely to be too near running water?

The West has a long string of cave discoveries (some of which are still being explored such as Carlsbad Caverns). Jim White, a cowboy, explored some of the caves but couldn’t get anyone to believe him about the grandeur. Those were, after all, the days of tall tales. But seeing is believing and b&w pictures taken in 1915 stirred up interest. First trips into the caverns were done in bucket used to pull out guano–from a 170 ft shaft.

Another fascinating cavern in the SW is the Karchner Caverns. A couple years back I went through these caves and was amazed (not only about how hot it is inside–humidity is close to 100% and stifling) at the delicate rock formations called speleothems.

From the surface you’d never know these caves existed, but I put them into a western anyway. Hey, it’s western *fiction*, right?

While we don’t really have a good idea what underground earth looks like, I’m still more interested in what caves might look like on Titan or the Moon or Mars. Has anyone done a book about caving on other planets? (I really liked Tom Swift in the Underlands of Mars)

I know Kevin Anderson did one on Climbing Olympus but most space opera is aimed at confronting aliens rather than the equally good plot of man vs nature.



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