Braving the Cave
By Marissa Minnick
Boone, NC, United States
Traveling in Belize from Belize City to Punta Gorda, our three-Jeep caravan pulled over at St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park. Having just arrived at the site of St. Herman’s Cave, we began furiously applying bug spray with the promise that it would ward off the jungle pests. Once we were fully prepared to meet these anticipated creatures, we began our hike to the cave.
Along the trail, I was fascinated with the canopy of green trees and vibrant yellow flowers stretching to meet the horizon. The jungle presented itself as calm and endearing, shading us from the sun’s rays with its overlapping leaves. Immediately, my misconception of swarms of jungle bugs began to melt and was replaced with the unfolding beauty of our surrounding scenery.
Soon our walk ended, and a small clearing in the forest greeted our group with a sign pointing towards the cave. We began the slight ascent up to the cave’s opening.
Visible from an overlook, St. Herman’s Cave awaited us down a length of stone carved steps and vines dangling from the cliff above. Although our group only paused along the outskirts of the cave, where daylight met the cave’s dark cavern, I could peer into its opening to see stalactites and stalagmites developing in the cave’s interior. The stalactites, hanging from the cave’s ceiling, and stalagmites, protruding from the cave’s earth, are said to grow at a rate of one inch per 800 years.
As we turned our backs to the cave to begin our trek back to the Jeeps, the cool cave air reached through the opening and brushed the backs of our legs. I cannot wait to return!
- How many years would it take for a stalactite to measure three feet from its base on the ceiling to its tip?
- How many years would it take for a stalagmite to measure 2.5 feet from its base on the earth to its tip?
Social Justice Questions
- The government of Belize has closed certain caves to tourists for conservation reasons. However, when this happened, the local tourism industry suffered. Does the government have any responsibility to compensate the people who have lost their jobs because of the lost tourist revenue? Do future generations have a right to see these caves in person?
- Very few safety protocols are in place to protect cave visitors in Belize. Who is responsible if someone is injured? What might the costs associated with such an injury be? Who should pay them?
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