Page images


ing the bottom, with fainter and fainter reverberations from the rocky cliffs below. Near this is “ the Dead Sea,” at the side of which you descend by a ladder several feet.

You leave this branch and ascend again till you enter the 6 winding way,” which is one hundred and five yards long, and one of the most crooked, zigzag paths that can be conceived. The roof is not more than four and a half feet high, and the path which at some day seems to have been a water-channel, is about fifteen or twenty inches wide, the sides rising about two and a half feet perpendicularly, but hollowed out sufficiently above that to admit the free use of the arms. A man of ordinary size can thread this labyrinth easily.

Hurrying past a clear, beautiful cascade, descending some thirty feet from the roof, we reach the river Styx, where a skiff is waiting. After crossing the first branch of the river, one hundred and fifty yards, you reach two little streams which are usually crossed by a skiff.

Crossing another branch of the river two hundred yards in length, we came to the river" Jordan,” which is three-fourths of a mile long, about twenty-five feet broad, at least three hundred feet beneath the surface of the earth, and not far from five miles from the mouth of the cave.

The river is of uniform width, and of considerable depth. The roof is of solid rock, forming a regular arch from the water; now rising to a height of twenty or thirty feet, and then falling so low that all must stoop or have broken heads.

It is in this river that the eyeless fish are found, one of which I saw. They are about six inches long, of the form of the cat-fish, or “bull head," of New Eng

land, but nearly white and translucent. They are without eyes, or even sockets for them.

Safely across the “ Jordan,” let us hasten on to the points of exciting interest beyond. Passing through “Silliman's Avenue," you enter and climb up the rugged sides of “the Vineyard,” by a ladder. Here you are surrounded by “surges of rocks," as some one called them, mostly of a spherical form, and completely encrusted with a formation resembling clusters of grapes of a purple color. For a hundred feet or more around, the walls are covered in this way.

A few steps to the right of the vineyard, is "the Holy Sepulchre.” You climb up the almost perpendicular side of the cave, at considerable risk, to a beautiful gateway of stalactites,* just large enough to admit the

person; and one of the most unique and enchanting sights greets you that eyes ever beheld. It is a room about thirty-five feet long and fifteen wide, with a low arched roof, which at the end you enter is hung with the most beautiful, coral-like stalactites. In the centre of the room is a cavity, perfectly regular, about fifteen feet long by five wide and six deep; having every appearance of a newly formed grave, and all of solid rock. It is a perfect gem among all the curiosities of this most curious caye. It is suited to awaken associations of solemn interest to the stricken heart. You feel amply repaid for the difficult scramble up, and the more difficult task of getting down.

The most imaginative poets never conceived or painted a place of such exquisite beauty and loveliness ás - Cleveland's Cabinet,” into which you now pass. Were the wealth of princes bestowed on the most

skillful lapidaries, with the view of rivaling the splendors of this single chamber, the attempt would be vain. How, then, can I hope to give you a conception of it? You must see it; and you will then feel that all attempt at description is futile. It is a perfect arch, of about fifty feet span, of an average height of about ten feet in the centre—just high enough to be viewed with ease in all its parts. It is encrusted from end to end with the most beautiful formations, in every variety of form. The base of the whole is carbonate of lime, in part of dazzling whiteness, and perfectly smooth, and in other places crystalized so as to glitter like diamonds in the light.

Growing from this, in endlessly diversified forms, is a substance resembling selenite,t translucent, and imperfectly laminated. Some of the crystals bear a striking resemblance to branches of celery, and are of about the same length ; while others, a foot or more in length, have the appearance and color of vanilla cream candy; others are set in the carbonate of lime in the form of a rose ; and others still roll out from the base in forms resembling the ornamants on the capital of a Corinthian column. Some of the incrustations are massive and splendid; others are as delicate as the lily, or as fancy work of shell or wax.

Think of traversing an arched way like this for a mile and a half, and all the wonders of the tales of youth-Arabian Nights” and all — seem tame, compared with the living, growing reality. Yes, growing reality; for the process is going on before your eyes. Successive coats of these incrustations have been perfected and crowded off by others : so that hundreds of tons of these gems lie at your feet and are crushed as you pass, while the work of restoring the ornaments is proceeding around you. Here and there, through the whole extent, you will find openings in the sides, into which you may thrust the person, and often stand erect in little grottoes, perfectly encrusted with a delicate white substance, reflecting the light from a thousand glittering points. All the way, you might have heard us exclaiming, “Wonderful !” “Wonderful !”

Stalactite-A sub-variety of carbonate of lime. † Selenite-Crystalized sulphate of lime.

[ocr errors][merged small]

MAMMOTH CAVE IN KENTUCKY.-[CONCLUDED.] With general unity of form and appearance, there is considerable variety in the Cabinet.” The “snowball room," for example, is a section of the cave de, scribed above, some two hundred feet in length, entire ly different from the adjacent parts; its appearance being aptly indicated by its name. If a hundred rude school-boys had but an hour before completed their day's sport by throwing a thousand snow-balls against the roof, while an equal number were scattered about the floor, and all petrified, it would have presented precisely such a scene as you witness in this room of nature's frolics. So far as I know, these “ snow-balls” are a perfect anomaly among all the strange forms of crystalization.

Leaving the quiet and beautiful “Cabinet,” you come suddenly upon the “ Rocky Mountains,” furnishing a contrast so bold and striking as almost to startle you. Clambering up the rough side, some thirty feet, you pass close under the roof of the cavern you have left, and find before you an immense transverse cave, one hundred feet or more from the ceiling to the floor, with a huge pile of rocks half filling the hither side.

Taking the left hand branch, you are soon brought to Crogan's Hall,” which is nine miles from the mouth and is the farthest point explored in that direction. The “Hall” is fifty or sixty feet in diameter, and perhaps thirty-five feet high, of a semi-circular form. Fronting you, as you enter, are massive stalactites, ten or fifteen feet in length, attached to the rock, like sheets of ice, and of a brilliant color.

The rock projects near the floor and then recedes, with a regular and graceful curve or swell, leaving a cavity of several feet in width, between it and the floor. At intervals around this swell, stalactites of various forms are suspended, and behind the sheet of stalactites first described are numerous stalagmites, * in fanciful forms.

In the centre of this hall, a very large stalactite hangs from the roof; and a corresponding stalagmite rises from the floor about three feet in height and a foot in diameter, of an amber color, perfectly smooth and translucent, like the other formations. right is a deep pit, down which the water dashes from a cascade that pours from the roof. Other avenues could most likely be found by descending the sides of the pit, if any one has the courage to attempt the descent. We hastened back to the “rocky mountains,"

On your

« PreviousContinue »