(TMU) – An incredible network of “virgin” cave passages has been discovered underneath Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.
It is believed that the wondrous pool, which lies 700 ft. below the park, has never before been seen by human eyes.
In a post to their official Facebook page, Carlsbad Caverns called the site “completely pristine” and noted that they believe the bacteria living in the water had “evolved entirely without human presence.”
The immaculate pool discovered in the cave network appears almost unearthly and is surrounded by white frosted rock. The pool itself appears to be filled with a milky aquamarine liquid described as resembling thick lime yogurt, reports Miami Herald.
“This pool has been isolated for hundreds of thousands of years and had never seen light before that day,” said Carlsbad Caverns natural and cultural resources chief Rodney Horrocks.
Exploration in caves sometimes yields small, yet wondrous sights. This cave pool, found in Lechuguilla Cave, appears to…
The passage was discovered in 1993 lying 700 feet below the entrance to Lechuguilla Cave, one of the 10 longest caves in the world. However, the network was not entered until this past October.
Wisshak and his team mapped out 1.3 miles of passages and went on multiple “rope drops” in the course of the expedition. In a Facebook post, Wisshak said:
“Exploration in caves sometimes yields wondrous sights.”
“This cave pool, found in Lechuguilla Cave, appears to be completely pristine.
“The edges beneath this pool appear to be ‘pool fingers’, which could be bacterial colonies that have evolved entirely without human presence.”
While the discovery of the alien-like cave may seem unsettling to some, geoscientist and expedition leader Max Wisshak said that the water in the pool is actually “crystal clear,” with the creamy appearance actually being the result of an optical illusion.
The pool is roughly a foot wide, 2 feet long, and “several inches deep,” Horrocks said. The water is believed to have come from ancient rainwater that seeped through the limestone lying overhead and dropped or slid along the cave walls into the pool.
Microbiologists have already found new microbe species in Lechuguilla Cave’s pools – such as the “Lake of Liquid Sky” discovered in 1993 – and this latest discovery could yield further results.
It is not known when the cave network was actually formed, but the expedition also stumbled across a number of bat skeletons, including those believed to be thousands of years old.
“Such untouched pools are scientifically important because water samples are relatively free of contaminants and the microbial organisms that may live in those pools are only those that belong there.”
“Contamination can occur from the surface above the cave, but in case of Lechuguilla Cave, that’s not a big issue, since it is situated in a well-protected wilderness area. Contamination can also occur via aerosols in the air. However, a newly discovered pool in Lechuguilla Cave is about as pristine as it gets.”
The team took a number of special precautions to ensure that it introduced no contaminants into the pools. Wisshak is now applying for grants in order to continue studying his discoveries at Lechuguilla Cave, including the cave’s unique barite crystals. It is generally quite rare to find the mineral barite in caves.
No signs of life “visible to the naked eye” were found in the passages, Wisshak said – besides the huge number of skeletal bat remains.
So far, there are 118 known caves at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, with many more likely undiscovered.
Typos, corrections and/or news tips? Email us at [email protected]