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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.

The Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Transcribed By Land ~ Sea Discovery Group Staff


Subterranean 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.


The Entrance

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.

Mammoth 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.

The 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.

Passing 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 Church

feet, 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

Returning 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. Returning from 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

The "River 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 the imagination.

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.

Guides are 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.


 

 

 

 

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