National Geographic: Mysteries Underground

Synopsis:
Year:
1992
26 Views

It all begins with water and rock.

As water seeks its level,

it becomes acidic.

And when it flows over limestone,

it etches a path into the rock.

Given eons of time,

water will burrow and carve,

with incredible force,

the veins and arteries of planet Earth

So the underworld of caves is born.

And after torrents have done

their work,

patient drops do more wonders

in a million years or so.

Look now on a landscape no one dreamed

existed just a few years ago.

Here are bizarre and

fantastic treasures that stun the eye

and strain the imagination.

Here is discovery and danger.

Here is adventure.

In New Mexico, members of a

National Geographic Society expedition

explore the world's newest

and most exotic major cave.

They are following one of man's

most ancient imperatives

to see and understand the unknown.

Join us now as we embark on

an extraordinary journey

deep into the earth

to confront MYSTERIES UNDERGROUND.

In the Guadalupe Mountains

of southern New Mexico,

an awesome giant has lain hidden

for a million years.

Sometimes, in the desert silence,

the monster could be heard breathing.

The sound came from a yawning chasm

in the rocks.

In 1986 a trio of weekend explorers

broke through a layer of rubble

and discovered a new cave

only a few miles

from famous Carlsbad Cavern.

Although the cave entrance lay inside

Carlsbad Caverns National Park,

park officials allowed qualified

cavers to explore it.

One of them was Rick Bridges,

an oil and gas prospector.

Now Bridges leads

a hand-picked team of experts,

like rock climber Dave Jones,

on the 25th expedition to Lechuguilla.

You got the survey gear, Anne?

Research geologist Kiym Cunningham

will handle the science studies

for the expedition.

Nuclear test engineer Anne Strait

is an expert

in surveying and mapping caves.

And specialist cameraman from England,

Sid Perou,

will be the first to document

Lechuguilla on motion picture film.

The journey begins

with a deceptively ordinary hike.

The cave is named after a desert plant

that grows in this harsh,

dry environment-Lechuguilla-Spanish

for little lettuce.

Forty people will support the venture,

including two support teams

to pack in supplies

and batteries for photographic lights.

On high rope.

We tend to have this feeling that

the surface of the earth

is the life of the earth.

But we're just this small,

thin little shell that we choose

to call our world,

and beneath it there's an entire realm

that we know very little about.

And we can, if we choose,

enter that realm and

we can learn something from it.

I will never go to the moon,

but I can go to a cave

the nobody else has been to

and have the same elation

of exploration in the sense

that I have gone where

no one's gone before.

Bombs away.

I would like to think that

had I lived in another time

I would have been an explorer.

You know,

had I lived in the late 1700s,

I would have wanted to know what

was across the Appalachian Mountains.

If I'd been around when Lewis

and Clark went to the coast,

I'd liked to have gone with them,

you know.

And I think most people that cave

at this level and do this kind

of exploration feel that way.

Here, Bridges and his companions

excavated to break into Lechuguilla

for the first time.

Now the entrance is protected

by a lockable hatchway.

Through this tiny aperture

the cave breathes

blowing air out or sucking

it in to equalize with the

barometric pressure above ground.

Winds up to 60 miles

an hour howl out of here,

hinting at the vast underworld below.

Today, this is Lechuguilla's

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