National Geographic : 1925 Sep
NEW DISCOVERIES IN CARLSBAD CAVERN Vast Subterranean Chambers with Spectacular Decorations Are Explored, Surveyed, and Photographed By WILLIS T. LEE LEADER OF TIE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY'S EXPLORATION OF CARLSBAD CAVERN, NEW MEXICO CARLSBAD CAVERN, New Mex ico, is the most spectacular of un derground wonders in America. Ior spacious chambers, for variety and beauty of multitudinous natural decora tions, and for general scenic quality, it is king of its kind. Long known locally, this underground marvel was first disclosed to the readers of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE in January, 1924.* Following this publi cation, the National Geographic Society sent an expedition to explore further the cavern and the mountains near it. The results of the explorations have proved that the early estimates of size were not excessive, and that the state ments relating to the unusual nature of the cavern were in no sense exaggerations. The cavern, which has been set aside as a national monument by President Coolidge, is situated in southeastern New Mexico, 26 miles southwest of the town of Carlsbad. It is the best known of many caves in a region of unusual beauty in the Guadalupe Mountains, a range which rises abruptly from the desert plain to altitudes of more than 9,ooo feet (see map, page 232). Among those who visited the National Geographic Society's camp at the cavern during our six-months' work were the governors of New Mexico and Texas, the Director of National Parks, and many other officials of both national and State organizations. CAMP LIFE AT CARLSBAD CAVERN One of the results of The Society's activity in holding up to the inspection of the world the glories of Carlsbad Cavern has been the creation of a State park in Texas, at the southern end of the high * See "A Visit to Carlsbad Cavern," by Willis T. Lee, in the NATIONAl, GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for January, 1924. part of Guadalupe range (see illustra tions, pages 316 and 317). Our camp was established at the mouth of the cavern, in the rough board shacks used by a fertilizer company years ago, when guano was being taken from the cave.t Water was carried by burro from the nearest spring, nearly a mile away, and wood was "rustled" from the moun tain side, where a few stunted shrubs are found. Supplies were carted from Carlsbad, 26 miles away. The first load was brought by a native team consisting of 4 mules, 4 burros, and I horse; it took the com bined efforts of the 9 animals and 16 men to get a ton of provisions up the mountain side. After this experience supplies were brought by motor truck. There was no refrigerator in camp, and there were no shade trees. Most of the time there were no clouds in the sky, and, while the nights were always cool, during the day the sun beat upon us mercilessly, the temperature hovering between Too 0 and 115° F. in the shade-and no shade to be found. There was, however, always the cool cavern, into which we could de scend, where the temperature is uniformly about 56° F., and the small opening at the side of the elevator shaft served in place of a refrigerator. Perishable provisions were lowered 50 to 75 feet into this open ing, where they remained cool and fresh. The darkness of the cavern, its un broken silence, and its unearthly aspect affected the workers in different ways. Some feared the dark and frankly con fessed it; others feared and were ashamed of their weakness. Some were attracted by the mysteries of the unknown and were ever peering into dark corners; others clung tenaciously to the beaten path and were persuaded with difficulty t See "Bats of the Carlsbad Cavern," by Ver non Bailey, page 321.