Jewel Cave, South Dakota

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Jewl Cave, SD 
Jewl Cave, SD Visitor Center

Like most caves, the length of Jewel Cave is grossly exaggerated. Although it has a couple of hundred miles of passages on several levels, that's like saying I'm a mile tall if you count the total length of my blood vessels. The length of the cave is only a couple of miles.

Jewl Cave, SD For people contemplating one of the extreme spelunking tours, there is a rigorous entrance exam.
Jewl Cave, SD This cave is celebrated for the large calcite crystals that encrust the walls.

Below: waiting for the tour to start

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Jewl Cave, SD The elevator lets you out deep underground onto a platform over a deep chamber. Jewel Cave thereby offers visitors a rare chance to experience both claustrophobia and acrophobia simultaneously.

There's a lot of climbing, something like 800 steps. almost the entire length of the tour is on a raised walkway.

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Jewl Cave, SD Left and below are some soda straw stalactites. Calcite precipitates around the edges of water drops, leaving a hollow center. Some are bent and helictite-like. Helictites are growths with random orientations, possibly due to very thin water films that are ruled by surface tension.
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Jewl Cave, SD Left and below: Pancake-like mineral growths on the surface of a pool.
Jewl Cave, SD 
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One of the odder recent features of cave preservation is an awareness of lint. An amazing amount of lint falls of the clothing of tourists, and entire ecosystems develop around it. Light is also a problem, and most caves now turn lights on only as needed. I don't see the day coming when tours are once again conducted by flashlight, for safety reasons, but I can see lighting kept to an absolute minimum, maybe even a ban on flash photography.


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Created 7 April 2003, Last Update 01 July 2012

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