Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cave Photography, Part 1

This past week my friend and I were able to get back to the Kaumana lava tube for some more exploring. Last time we had noticed a small tunnel branching off from the main tube on the uphill side that we wanted to explore, and of course the entirety of the downhill side was as yet unexplored. This time around, armed with a good flashlight and the knowledge I learned from writing my last post I took a lot more pictures. So many more that I'm going to break this post into two pieces. Today I'll post about our second trip into the uphill side, and Monday I'll try to finish detailing our trip downhill.

After making a circuit completely around the skylight to get a good view, we proceeded into the uphill side a second time to find the branching tunnel.
A picture of the lava flow of 1881 near the mouth of the cave. This is what 130-year-old lava looks like.
I actually got a shot of the entrance to the uphill side this time.

These are the steps going down into the tube. And my feet.

Nice picture from just inside the entrance to the uphill side.
Lava ball in the uphill side.
One neat thing I discovered while researching terminology for my last post was the concept of “lava balls”, basically chunks of rock that fall into the lava (perhaps collapsing off the ceiling) and get carried along like a leaf in rapids, picking up additional layers of lava as they go much as a snowball rolling down a hill accretes snow.

Also, from the various reading I've done, I think that the mineral coating the walls that makes the white color may be gypsum, as it seems to like to crystallize on the walls of lava tubes.

A better picture of the numerous lavacicles that cover the roof in place. Watch your head!

While traversing the cave this time, I noticed the opening seen in the picture on the left and was struck by a memory of my visits to Petra in Jordan. The picture on the right is from my visit in 2008, and shows the end of the wadi (or siq) by which one accesses the city nowadays. Through the gap is visible the famous “Treasury”, probably best known from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Now that I compare the pictures side by side I guess it's not a great similarity, but it struck me when I saw it.

Extruded lava on the cave wall.
Another cool feature I noticed (now that I knew to look for it) was extruded lava. Basically, this is where lava in the cave wall is forced out as it cools. Because it's cooling, however, it has a consistency roughly akin to syrup, so it just sort of dribbles out. Once I noticed this feature, I started seeing them all over.

Tubular lava helictite.
This particular structure here is another, rarer, example of the same phenomenon. It's known as a tubular helictite, and comes about as cooling lava is forming a stalactite, but the fact that it's cooling causes it to crystallize and bend in different directions. These structures are fairly rare to begin with, and are easily broken by humans, so I was quite excited to actually find one.

Yet another example of cooling, extruded lava. This bit looks like a plate of spaghetti or something.
Where the cave floor meets the "curb" at the wall.
Honestly, this picture is just to show off the amazingly vivid reddish-orange colors of the cave more than anything. Cave photography is similar to astrophotography in that these colors don't really appear to the eye, unless perhaps you have a very powerful light. A camera flash qualifies as such, so it's able to capture some of the beautiful colors found here underground.

Entrance to small side tunnel.
As we were walking up towards where we'd seen the entrance to the side tunnel, we noticed what looked like another such entrance. In our new “explore everything” mode we decided to see where it went, only to find that it connected back to the main tube after a mere 30 feet, and in fact turned out to be the opposite end of the side tunnel we were originally meaning to explore. It was cool, a smaller tube about 7-8 feet tall and maybe 5-6 feet wide.

On the main tube floor near the other end of the side tunnel, I found some neat pāhoehoe features frozen in the floor.

It looks like water ripples, doesn't it? And yet it's solid rock.
Sulfur deposits in Kaumana Caves.
Another source of color in the caves are the occasional sulfur deposits seen on the walls. I think the yellow color is quite pretty.

Tiny gutter along the wall.
Finally, as we were heading back to the entrance, I noticed this little formation along the wall. It's hard to see in this picture, but the red area is slightly depressed compared to the rest of the floor. It's the beginning of what's called a “gutter” – a small trough that forms along and parallel to the walls of the tube as the lava inside begins to cool on the outsides and forms a smaller tube-within-a-tube for itself. I was quite excited to see one after reading about them, but little did I know that compared to the ones I was about to see, this one would be so small as to hardly warrant a mention.

Anyway, that's it for this post! Tune in next week when I have pictures of (a section of) the downhill side of Kaumana Caves! Spoiler: there's a lot of even cooler stuff in it.

1 comment:

  1. I actually understand most of these! Extruded lava! Soda straws! Lava balls!


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