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Michael McCollough via Flickr via // CC BY 2.0
Michael McCollough via Flickr via // CC BY 2.0

The Exclusive Caves of Lava Beds National Monument

Michael McCollough via Flickr via // CC BY 2.0
Michael McCollough via Flickr via // CC BY 2.0

Lava Beds National Monument in northern California is home to more than 700 underground caves, but some are more exclusive than others. The monument’s magnificent Crystal Ice Cave is adorned with stalagmites and stalactites of glassy ice that extend up from the floor or hang like thick curtains from the ceiling. Because of the sensitive nature of these formations, tours are limited to just a few dozen visitors each year.

Michael McCollough via Flickr via // CC BY 2.0

Michael McCollough via Flickr via // CC BY 2.0





Every Saturday from January to March, the cave becomes accessible to one lucky tour group of six spelunkers. Tours can be booked three weeks in advance by calling the visitor center the morning reservations become available. Even then, the chances of snagging a ticket are slim. Candidates must be able-bodied enough squeeze through tight holes, ascend a 50-foot slope, and navigate across icy ground. They also ask that spelunkers bring all their own caving gear—provided it hasn’t been used east of the Rockies, because then it could be carrying a fungus that’s deadly to bats

If that sounds like more trouble than it’s worth, Lava Beds is also home to the unique Fern Cave. Tours are just as restricted and only given from June through September, but this cave is much more accessible and hospitable to life. The lush, green biome is made possible by an 8-by-10-foot hole in the roof which allows fresh air and sunlight to flow in. It was also home to members of the native Modoc tribe from 1872 to ’73 during their war with the U.S. Army. They used the lava caves as their stronghold, and mortars, pestles, and precious rock art can still be found in the Fern Cave from their time there. These artifacts, along with the cave's delicate ecosystem, make it one of the most exclusive tickets out there for cave-loving adventurers.

[h/t: Indefinitely Wild

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Spelunkers Discover New Caverns in Montréal's Ancient Cave Network
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iStock

An ancient cave system beneath a Montréal park is much more vast than experts believed, the National Post reports.

In 1812, a farmer discovered a cave underneath his property in Montréal’s present-day Saint-Léonard borough. Once used to stockpile ammunition and conceal soldiers during the Rebellions of 1837, the Saint-Léonard cave system in Parc Pie XII is today a tourist attraction and historical landmark. But some speleologists (cave experts) suspected there was more to the natural wonder than met the eye.

Beginning in 2014, two amateur explorers named Daniel Caron and Luc Le Blanc began searching for undiscovered passages in the Saint-Léonard caverns, according to National Geographic. By 2015 they had some leads; in October 2017, they used drills and hammers to break down a cave’s wall to reveal a new cavern.

The stalactite-filled chamber has soaring 20-foot ceilings, and it's connected to a serpentine network of underground tunnels. These passages formed during the Ice Age around 15,000 years ago, when glacier pressure splintered underground rock.

So far, Caron and Le Blanc have explored between 820 to 1640 feet of virgin cave passage, and expect to find even more. They believe the vast network sits atop an aquifer, and ultimately leads to the Montréal water table.

Spelunking the Saint-Léonard cave system is challenging—some passages are filled with water or require special climbing or rock-breaking equipment. The explorers hope that the caves will be easier to investigate during the dry season, and that the receding waters will allow them to reach new depths below Montréal’s surface.

[h/t National Post]

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Watch: Inside the Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia (TAG) Caves
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Getty Images

In the southern United States, a tri-state region is home to an incredible density of caves. Known as "TAG" (for Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia), this is a hidden world explored by secretive cavers, for good reason—the more traffic these caves receive, the faster they're destroyed.

In the short film below entitled Sharing the Secrets, director/cinematographer Drew Perlmutter brings us inside these caves, with perspectives from cavers on why these landscapes are so significant and fragile.

If you're interesting in getting started with caving, check out this FAQ.

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