Monday, April 15, 2013

Spelunking Emesine Cave, Part 2

So, when I left off in the last post, we had just made it to the single skylight in this section of Emesine Cave. Unlike the entrance, the collapsed rock in this one didn't afford an easy way of entrance or exit. We passed on back into the murky gloom of the cave, our night vision acquired over the previous 30 minutes gone once again.

Once we'd readjusted our eyes to the darkness, we started to see some amazing speleothems (a word referring to just about any kind of secondary mineral formation in a cave). Probably due in part to the lower flux of tourists in Emesine Cave, there are a lot of very fragile lavacicles still clinging to the roof of the cave along its length. Take a look at these beauties:

Lavacicles (I had to add that word to my browser's dictionary just now) form when the roof of the tube cools enough to form a sort of skin over still semi-molten material. As the temperature of this material drops, dissolved gases inside begin to precipitate out of solution, displacing molten material and forcing it out through the skin like toothpaste out of a tube. After they solidify they make excellent channels for water precipitating on the ceilings to run down, as you can see by the drops of water hanging from their tips.

If this sort of thing happens lower down on the walls rather than the ceiling, you get structures like those seen below:

Here's a close-up picture of a bit of lavacicle that I found broken-off on the ground for scale: they all tend to be about this thick. This one is solid on the inside (though you can't see it), but you'll see some later on that are hollow.

We found some really long lavacicles in places. This one was probably nearly a foot and a half long (it was on the ceiling some ten feet up, so I couldn't get a close look).

Some of the lavacicles were quite interesting. As I mentioned, lavacicles form from gasses bubbling out of molten material. The gasses apparently can flow out through the forming lavacicles, leaving them hollow. This leads to a sort of formation that appears very similar to a soda straw (a type of formation in karst caves that are formed differently, but look strikingly similar). You can tell that the lavacicles in the picture below were hollow because of the way they collapsed. I find these structure quite remarkable (as you can tell by how much I'm remarking on them).

This picture doesn't have anything specific I want to point out, I just loved the contrast between the various textures in the picture.

In places there were dozens of lavacicles hanging down from the ceiling. There were also roots, as there typically are in these lava tubes.

I found this little lump of anomalously-colored material at one point along the way. Dunno what's causing the orange color, though my guess is that it's iron.

Some more of those amazing flattened soda-straws, most of them flattened in two or more different directions:

There wasn't much in the way of tube-in-tube formations, but I did find some:

This picture is pretty neat. It's the cast of a tree that fell over into lava and subsequently burned up or rotted away after the lava had cooled. You can clearly see where the branches forked in this picture (looking towards where the fork splits from the direction the roots would have been). Interestingly, this cast is on the ceiling, so I don't know what specific sequence of events led to its creation.

Anyway, I think that's all for the pictures I took on our way into the cave. I still have some more to go through that I took on our way back out, but I think I'll save those for a third post as this one's already getting a bit long.

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