Land Sea Discovery group is happy to share with you the following
as transcribed from America Illustrated, edited by J. David Williams.
Published by DeWolfe, Fiske & Co. Boston. 1883.
Mammoth Cave, Kentucky
Transcribed By Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff
chambers played an important part in the religious rites of the
ancients, having been devoted to priestly ceremonies not only
among the barbarous nations who then inhabited Northern Europe,
and among various sects in India, but also among the classic Greeks.
Often of unknown or unexplored depths, they were well calculated
to support the superstitions upon which the religions of those
days were founded.
In our day,
caverns are interesting only for their natural features- their
extent, location, and arrangement, and sometimes for the fantastic
formations which they contain. Kentucky has more of these natural
chambers than any other State in the Union. Many of them are but
a few yards in depth, while others extend under the surface many
hundreds of feet. During the late war, most of the nitre that
was used was obtained from the caves of Kentucky, being found
in abundance incrusted on their walls, from which it is easily
detached with a pick.
Cave is the largest yet discovered. It is in Edmonson County,
near Green River, about 130 miles from Lexington in a southwesterly
direction on the road to Nashville, Tennessee. It is private property,
and extends, it is supposed, ten miles underneath the earth, although
owing to the numerous windings no accurate estimate can be made.
It contains a great number of stalactites of large size and fantastic
form, although neither so brilliant nor so beautiful as some,
which are found elsewhere. Two hundred and twenty-six avenues
run through it, forty-seven domes adorn it, and there are twenty-three
pits in it and many streams. The aggregate length of the various
corridors is estimated at several hundred miles; but this is,
probably, and exaggeration.
scenery in the neighborhood of the cave presents no particular
attractions. It lies amid ordinary woodland, its entrance being
at the further end of a ravine known as Cave Hollow. The declivity
leading to it is thirty or forty feet wide, and is formed of abrupt
and broken steps. At the bottom rises an arch of rudely piled
rocks, overgrown with a mass of tangled vegetation, through which
there is a perpetual dropping of water. The cave itself is not,
as might be imagined, one spacious hollow, but consists of a multitude
of passages, none of which extend more than three miles in any
one direction. About one hundred feet from the entrance the progress
of the explorer is arrested by a door set in a rough stonewall,
which crosses and completely blocks the entrance to the cave.
through this door, you enter a narrow passage, on the left of
which is a wall, built by miners to prevent the loose stones thrown
up during their work from falling, and gradually descending a
short distance along this passage, you arrive at the great vestibule
of the cave. This is an oval-shaped hall, two hundred feet in
length by one hundred and fifty feet in width, and fifty-five
feet high, with a roof as flat and finished as if it were the
work of skilled masons. Two passages open into it at its opposite
extremities; that on the right being known as Audubon Avenue,
while the other is the beginning of the main gallery of the cave.
The roof of this great chamber consists of a single rock on hundred
feet thick, in which the eye can detect no break or interruption.
Leaving the Rotunda, and passing down Audubon Avenue, the visitor
arrives at a narrow passage winding among loose rocks, which gradually
slopes to a descent of seventy or eighty
Oval Gallery Called The
and leads into a spacious oval gallery called the "Church."
This apartment is sixty-three feet high, and about one hundred
feet in diameter. Eight or ten feet above a peculiar formation,
which is called the "Pulpit," is what is known as the
"Organ Loft" and "Choir." Religious services
have frequently been performed in this temple of nature.
Near the "Church"
are the ruins of the old nitre works, and some thirty feet higher
up is a large cave, connected with which there is a narrow gallery,
crossing the main cavern, and losing itself in an opening on the
right known as "Gothic Avenue." In this chamber there
are to be seen a number of stalagmite pillar. The "Devil's
Armchair" is a large stalagmite column, in the centre of
which is a capacious comfortable seat.
The Dead Sea
from "Gothic Avenue" into the main cave the interest
of the visitor increases at every step. At a small distance from
the stairs by which he descends is an apartment called the "Ball-Room,"
owing to its singular adaptation for such assemblages. It contains
an orchestra fifteen feet high, and equal to the accommodation
of a hundred musicians, with a gallery extending back to the level
of the high embankment near
"Gothic Avenue," while the floor is level and smooth
for several hundred feet. Further on is the "Giant's Coffin,"
a large rock on the right. At this point the incrustations on
the wall begin; they are of the most fantastic and varied shapes.
One hundred yards beyond the "Coffin" the cave makes
a long curve. Here, by means of Bengal light, a vast amphitheatre
may be illuminated, and a scene of weird beauty exposed to view.
Opposite to this point is "Sick-Room Cave," in which
are row of cabins for the use of invalids, it being supposed that
the pure and temperate air of the cave, combined with good accommodations,
might afford a cure for pulmonary consumption.
Next in order
is the "Star Chamber," which presents a most singular
optical illusion. Looking up to the high ceiling the spectator
seems to see the firmament itself, studded with stars: and far
off, a comet, with a long, bright tail. In going into the "Solitary
Chambers," the visitor must crawl upon his hands and knees
for fifteen or twenty feet. The "Fairy Grotto," is distinguished
for its great number of stalactites of various sizes. Lighted
up by lamps this cave has the appearance of a grove of coral.
the Grotto, you re-enter the main cavern, and come next to the
"Temple." This is an immense vault, covering an area
of two acres, roofed by a solid dome of rock on hundred and twenty
feet high. In the middle of this chamber there is a large mound
of rocks rising on one side nearly to the top, and known as the
mountain. This dome, however, is eclipsed by the "Mammoth
Dome," which is four hundred feet high, and is considered
one of the most sublime spectacles in the cave.
The Bottomless Pit
Hall" is a chamber situated at the termination of "Relief
Hall," through which the visitor must pass on approaching
the "Dead Sea" and the "Rivers." The Bottomless
Pit," which is situated hereabouts, is one of the most interesting
portions of the cave. It is a deep, dark pool in the rocky floor
whose depth is unknown. Attempts have been made to sound it, but
probably owing to the lack of suitable apparatus, they have been
unsuccessful. When the "Pit" is illuminated, its weird
surroundings are strikingly brought out. The glare, driving back
the shadows a short distance, the walls of rock, on which the
flickering light battles with the darkness, and the mouth of the
pit below so densely black as to apparently justify its name-all
these are the constituents of a scene which strongly impresses
On the left
of the cave is a steep precipice, over which you can look down
upon the black waters of the Dead Sea eighty feet below. At the
foot of the slope flows the river "Styx," and in that
stream and the "Echo River" are found the eyeless fish.
Beyond the "Echo River" there is a walk of four miles
to Cleveland Avenue, a passage three miles long, seventy feet
wide, and ten or fifteen feet high, beyond whose termination no
explorers have passed.
furnished at the cave, and the visitor dons a peculiar costume,
that renders the walking and climbing more comfortable, than otherwise
they might be. The Mammoth Cave is owned by Dr. John Crogan, who
purchased it for ten thousand dollars.