For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sterkfontein Caves - Part 2

Discovered by an Italian prospector Guigimo Martinaglia, who was searching for gold and lime in 1896, this labyrinth of interconnected caverns was formed over millions of years by underground waters slowly dissolving the dolomitic rock.

Now the water table has dropped and the spectacular eroded shapes of the dolomite can be seen as one walks through a vast chamber to an under ground lake which fills other extensive caves beneath its surface.
Its tranquil, crystal-clear waters extend some distance into unexplored chambers.

Several interesting dripstone formations are to be seen; although, sadly, many of the cave's more spectacular stalactites and stalagmites were removed or damaged by early limestone-mining activities.
In one part of the cave, visited by tourists, is a portion of an ancient consolidated infill that collapsed about 2 million years ago from an older and higher cave.
Above this infill is a long shaft which leads up to massive deposits which are currently being excavated by scientists.
Other deposits being worked in one part of the underground cave system date back to 3 million years.

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