Friday, September 09, 2011

PRp (Pt. III): The caves of Camuy

Puerto Rico promise: In 2002, I was reunited with my cousin Danny after several years.  Danny and I share a wealth of memories from our childhood.  At that time, I promised him that I would visit him and his family at their home.  (They were then living on Guam.)  Nine years later, I made good on that promise when Maty and I went to visit Danny and family at their new home in Humacao, Puerto Rico.

Read Part I, Delayed in Dallas, here 
Read Part II, Borinquen, gateway to the Americas, here.

Deep hole
The island that the Taíno named Borinquen rose up out of the sea 190 million years ago.  Geologists say that the island is the result of clashing tectonic plates, which pushed it up from under the water and which continue to shape it with earthquakes and tsunamis.  (The last big earthquake struck in 1918 which, in geological terms, was just this morning.)

Sunlight peeks into a timeless world
In northwestern Puerto Rico, a vast labyrinth of limestone caves and caverns lies beneath the earth, hollowed out by water seeping through the porous stone over millions of years.  So far, 10 miles of caverns and over 200 individual caves are known and mapped, but geologists speculate that this is only a fraction of the entire complex, which is still largely unexplored. 

Stalagmite formations, thousand of years in the making
This region of Puerto Rico averages over 170 inches of rain per year and much of that water finds its way through the earth to join the Camuy River, which is one of the world's largest underground rivers.  The water continues to carve and shape; the caves of Camuy worm in and out of the stone, twisting like a serpent.

Río Camuy surfaces briefly before delving back into his underworld home
The caves were discovered by Europeans in 1958, but there is archeological evidence to suggest that indigenous people knew about them long before.  Regardless, human beings are a brand new phenomenon so far as the caves are concerned.  When the temporal scale is measured in eons, 5000 years is an insignificant blink of the eye.

La Bruja cackles in the darkness
Maty, Cousins Danny and Taylor, and I descended into the caves on a sweltering summer day, where we saw the ageless stone gardens and walked through the eerie labyrinth of eternal night.  It is difficult to comprehend the lifetimes of stone and earth.  But one can at least look on and grasp at the enormity of the forces that govern this Universe; can perhaps recognize that our infinitesimal part within it, while absolutely essential, is after all so very, very tiny.

If one is inclined toward such thoughts, humility is essential.

Back at the surface
To be continued...


Jcarnini said...

So awing if only by picture thanks Dade. J

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