Monday, November 5, 2012

Caverna de las Brujas Part 1

Visually it was unimpressive.  A dark mouth in gray slate, thrice the width of a man but only slightly taller, flanked by a handful of green bushes.  The rocks and soil in the steep slope up to the cavern were held in place by the intermittent placement of short stubby brown plants.

The way in had been treacherous as there was no where a sensible pilot would land a plane.  But the Century Club rarely hired sensible people.  In truth of spirit it seemed as if their second rule of membership was to not be sensible.

And one could never say that he ever shirked from that description.  For he landed that plane on such a small straight patch of rocky land that it was immediately questionable whether he would be able to take off again.

His gut had told him to come to South America to explore and he always did what his gut told him.  The thought was he would end up exploring deep in the jungles of Brazil, the only worthwhile country in this white feather part of the world.  But word was left for him in Rio to head to the chapter-house in Buenos Aries   And so after a quick word with a few members there, all veterans which put his mind and soul at ease, the plane was outfitted and he headed to the steppes of Patagonia.

There was no indication on what it was he might find.  It could easily just be home to deep underground water galleries and vaulted spaces already reported by previous explorers, well the ones that came back at any rate.  But they all had not equipped themselves for a deep journey in and there is such a short time in the calendar to truly be able to spend much time in the region.

So now, here on the 3rd of February, 1924, stood Henry Arthur at the mouth of Caverna de las Brujas.  Two large sacks slung over his shoulders; one full of a fortnight's worth of rations, the other full of medical supplies and lamp fuel. His left hand holding his lamp while his right worked quickly to light it.  Once lit he stepped inside, the light banishing the darkness.

It was definitely a cave. The ceiling curved upwards as if it was an open gallery with long and thin stalactites that looked quite brittle hanging down.  The floor went steeply at an angle down, accentuating the room's height.  The path was narrow and covered with high stalagmites, but curiously there was always room for Henry to continue on without having to negotiate around rocky outcroppings.  The walls began to narrow in on him as he followed the path downwards, making him begin to feel claustrophobic yet it had the benefit of helping focus the light on his lamp letting him see further ahead of him.

Just in front of him the ceiling came down meeting the floor ahead of him.  Except for a thin passage that looked as if the wall had split apart to allow continued travel.  Given the propensity of dynamite usage by spelunkers that may very well be what had happened.  Henry squeezed himself through the rent and turned to face what he had entered.

Finding he stood upon a thin shelf, under which was a large pool of water, he pressed himself against the rock behind him.  Lifting his head to not stare at the twenty foot drop he noted just how large this area was.  The drop ahead of him was dwarfed by the size of this underground lake, for lake is what it was.  The water was placid  the light of his lantern bouncing off the surface.  Looking about the cavern he spotted a thin shelf that began a foot and a half below the one he stood upon and followed the contours of the wall.

Breathing a calming breath, Henry stepped onto that shelf and followed the shelf slowly whilst keeping his back pressed against the wall. It was a slow venture due to the caution exercised by the explorer.  Indeed was the care he was exhibiting so great that Henry felt great surprise when he took one more step, and the wall behind him vanished into another opening.  Perhaps had he looked at more than the shelf and lake he would not have fallen hard on his back and slammed the back of his head against the ground. The last thought that echoed in his head before unconsciousness claimed him was: "I better not lose my lantern."

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