National Geographic : 1964 Jun
In 1924 geologist Willis T. Lee led the National Geographic Society exploration that first surveyed Carlsbad's inner reaches. Dr. Lee's explorations laid the groundwork for opening the caverns to the public.* "Pearls" Form in Pools In the winter of 1961-62, I was able to sign on briefly with naturalist James Kenneth Baker to study life in nonpublic areas of the country's most spectacular cave. A series of ladders took us down to a level Carlsbad pas sageway nearly 900 feet below ground. Here I saw bed after bed of cave pearls, or pisolites, some half an inch in diameter, but most the size of buckshot. These deco rative objects form in underground pools, 830 around grains of sand, like pearls in oysters. Limestone slowly encases each sand particle, but constant dripping keeps the pool water agitated enough to prevent the growing con cretions from cementing themselves to the bottom or each other (page 816). I noticed we were following a string. It was one Dr. Lee had used 38 years earlier; it led us to the spectacular New Mexico Room, con taining a forest of slim stalactites, green pools with encrusted yellow "lilypads," and pure white "Christmas tree" stalagmites. The ceiling of Carlsbad's Bat Cave, when *See, in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: "Visit to Carlsbad Caverns," January, 1924, and "New Discoveries in Carls bad Caverns," September, 1925, both by Willis T. Lee, and "Carlsbad Caverns in Color," by Mason Sutherland, October, 1953.