CLOSE

This Stalactite Organ is the World's Largest Musical Instrument

Deep underground in Virginia’s Luray Caverns sits the world’s largest musical instrument: The Great Stalacpipe Organ. The massive subterranean lithophone is comprised of 37 stalactites covering 3.5 acres that produce gentle musical tones when tapped with rubber-tipped mallets. It’s the only instrument of its kind in the world.

Great Big Story met with organist Otto Pebworth inside the cave for a conversation and performance. The organ’s stalactites can be played manually or like a traditional piano—when a key is pressed, it sends an electrical pulse up to the striker, which then vibrates the natural formations.

In the video above, Pebworth says, “To play the instrument that is utilizing our gentle Earth—it’s like you are becoming one with the instrument in a very true way.”

According to Atlas Obscura, the instrument was built over a three-year period in the mid-1950s by inventor, mathematician, and scientist Leland Sprinkle.

You can tour the Luray Caverns, which were first discovered in 1878 by a local tinsmith, but if you can’t get to Virginia anytime soon, take a sonic journey by listening to the sweet sounds of The Great Stalacpipe organ here.

[h/t The Kids Should See This]

Images via YouTube.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Human Activity Has Permanently Altered Earth, for Better or Worse (Mostly Worse)
iStock
iStock

Modern humans have roamed Earth for just a few hundred thousand years. In the grand scheme of things, that's a very short period. But in that time, we’ve triggered mass extinctions of plants and animals, polluted the planet, and developed nuclear weapons—and our legacy will linger in both nature and the geologic record long after historical records have been lost, according to Ted-ED’s video below.

Modern humans have altered the Earth’s landscape and atmosphere so profoundly that some scientists say we’ve ushered in a new epoch called the Anthropocene, or "new age of humankind," from anthropo (human) and cene (new). Before this, we were living in the Holocene (meaning “entirely recent”), which began around 11,700 years ago and faded sometime around 1950.

The 1950s ushered in both the plastics revolution and the atomic age, both of which permanently introduced chemicals into Earth’s fossil record. Meanwhile, humans have also shaped long-term plant and animal evolution with agriculture, fishing, and hunting. In short, our actions have long-term consequences, even if the human species ends up being a blip on the geologic time scale. Remember that the next time you drink from a plastic bottle, or see a cloud of smoke billowing through the sky.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
This Just In
Spelunkers Discover New Caverns in Montréal's Ancient Cave Network
iStock
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]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios