12 October 2007

That Ole Copper Kettle

07 October 2007 -- Cedar Still Cave, El Malpais NM, New Mexico

This is an image of a partially frozen pool with a pipe and ladder protruding the surface. Jeff Alford, a good friend of mine, and manager of Bandera Volcano Ice Caves told me this cave was used, for many years, as a whiskey still.

Well, today was much better than yesterday. All day yesterday was spent looking for caves we were unable to locate. I’m not certain if we wrote down incorrect GPS coordinates, or if the projection systems were not the same, but we did not find two of the caves we were to survey.

It was still eventful nonetheless. We walked across a massive pahoehoe flow interspersed with ahah flows, and the landscape was absolutely stunning. I also was able to watch as a grey fox climbed straight up a rock face to exit a collapse trench. We also had to cross the lava in complete darkness at the end of the day. This made for a great journey back to the truck.

Today, we deployed traps in Cedar Still Cave. We called this cave Cedar Still because rumor suggests this was once home to a whisky still. The cave floor was covered with a thick deposition or ash, charcoal and wood. There was also a lot of metal workings within the back of the cave, suggestive of this type of use as well.

Interestingly, this is an ice cave and contains the most significant amounts of year round ice. This cave has two ice pools and several large ice walls. When we pull traps on Wednesday, we will also be sampling the pools for tardigrades (water bears).

We conducted our time-constrained searches at all sampling stations and found no evidence of invertebrate life. This doesn’t mean there isn’t arthropods in this cave. It simply means, we did not find any evidence of arthropod activity. We will have to wait and see what we find in our traps on Wednesday.

Also, the front portion of the cave was littered with moth (Order Lepidopteran) wings. This suggests bats (probably Townsend's Big-eared Bat Corynorhinus townsendii) are using this cave as a night roost.

Upon our return to camp, we drove past a flock of 11 wild turkeys watering at a tank. Pete and I watched as the turkeys cross the road. This was an excellent way to end the evening. Unfortunately, the batteries in both Pete and my cameras were dead. So, we didn’t get to photograph them as they crossed in front of us.

No comments: