Sep
28
2006

Cave Exploration: Timpanogos Cave photo by Art Oglesby
Cave Exploration: Timpanogos Cave photo by Art Oglesby

Beautiful cave found in California

Four amateur cave explorers from the nonprofit Cave Research Foundation discovered a "jaw dropping...beautiful" cave in the Sequoia National Park, California. The cave, named Ursa Minor, has been called one of the most significant finds in a generation.
Scott McBride, an explorer from San Andreas (Calaveras County) who has discovered 50 caves since 1994, first spotted an opening about the size of a baseball.

The four explorers have joined Joel Despain (the parks' cave manager) and other geologists in mapping the cave, but they haven't found the end. The cave features five rooms -- the biggest is about 200 feet wide and 50 feet tall -- and at least five leads, or passages, leading farther underground. San Francisco Chronicle

I found their account of entering this new cave particularly interesting because I just toured three caves during my recent road trip to California. My wife, Ann, and I toured Wind Cave in South Dakota, Timpanogos Cave in Utah (where my wife was a tour guide 30 years ago), and Lehman Cave in Nevada.

Caves need to be protected

These caves are national treasures and are now protected. I was shocked to learn that early visitors were allowed to break off pieces of the cave as a souvenir. In the early 1900's groups could even rent out the cave for overnight parties and lit campfires for heat and light.
This newest cave named Ursa Minor for its thousands of star like sparkles and a bear skeleton within may never be opened to the public.

The cave is littered with animal skeletons and teems with spiders, centipedes, millipedes and other invertebrates. Experts believe Ursa Minor will feature unique species found nowhere else, adding to the 27 never-before-seen species discovered during a recent study of invertebrates in the park's 239 other caves.

For now, the top priority is thoroughly mapping the cave and installing a gate at its mouth to keep sightseers and vandals at bay. No more than a few dozen people will ever see Ursa Minor, and those who have said they'll never forget it.

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