By JOEL WILSON and LEONARD KELSAY
Leon “Bottle” Turner, for over 30 years a spelunker around Caveland, U.S.A., has found a new, beautiful cavern just a short distance from heavily-traveled U,S, 31-W near Cave City.
“I dig for “sites” and “mites” around here and was up on Pruitt’s Knob looking for some pretty rocks and decided to try a big sinkhole for some,” he explained.
“We dug down for a while (four or five feet) and knew we had found a big hole. We dynamited a big rock hiding our view to the cavern and there she was,” he said.
She, as he calls this wonder, is seen by descending 80 feet down eight ladders tied together with rope. After starting down “Bottle” says to not “freeze” on the ladder or that there; k be troubles. He claims some of the uninitiated petrify on ladders going down from a high point and they al most have to be knocked senseless to regain muscular control.
Well, we didn’t freeze but oftentimes would have felt better by being either at the top r bottom, preferably the top.
All fo this was exciting, to say the least. But the best was yet to come because these writers, not even rating as amateur spelunkers before the start, came away convinced that this cave should be seen by millions as others in this area have been.
The cave has three parts, known now, after only four trips to its beautiful setting.
To reach the absolute bottom and the most beautiful sight, you go completely down the 80-foot ladder and look up. This huge cavern is a cistern-like how about 100 feet in diameter and about 120 feet deep.
To reach the lower level the cave and see yet ore beautiful scenery we had to descend as far ad the ladders went. After a bit more wandering we were shown a fantastically high code which was at least 100 feet high.
Although a standard flashlight there no more than a dim flicker on the ceiling of the dome, a beautiful crystal-like ceiling was visible.
Reaching another room through a tin crevice, a huge waterfall-like formation was seen which matched many of the other wonders in the cave. Although the room was not accessible since it had no visible floor, by leaning over a huge rock even more mites and times could be seen.
To see the horizontal portion of the cave, you change from the descent ladder at about 60 feet, stepping about a yard off to another ladder that goes up about 20 feet and you are on the level. Here’s where spelunking begins to be more interesting and less frightening.
The passageways are high enough to permit walking erect most of the time, but you must keep track of hanging stalactites, lest you know one off or yourself out.
The shortest route is about a fourth of a mile long, Many obstacles to overcome – small passageways, knee-deep crystal clear water – during the trip made an accurate time – distance estimate difficult.
Five of us, Leslie Lewis, who found the cave with Turner, and Houston Rigdon, along to see the sight, too, were in the dark depths for about three hour4s.
The descent last 30 or 40 minutes and the ascent a little longer. Going down and up the ladders you have a strong rope around your chest, in case a step should be missed or the ropes holding the ladders together should break. The rope is controlled by looping over a log at the top.
The formations are intricate workings of nature. Everywhere you see ‘mites’ and ‘tites’ and cases where they have come together forming columns. Some have hairlike surfaces, others like the cones on pine trees. Water drips from many of the formations and in these centers where the water comes through they look like diamonds placed in the end when a light is thrown on them. At on e place the roots of a tree are petrified.
The longest route, estimated between a fourth and a half mile, is the easiest to travelers and has the most abundant color and beauty.
“Turner is continuing exploration of his discovery and reports he has found an open that apparently leads into another large cavern area. He has not had time yet to enlarge the opening to go through into the new area but plans to do so soon. Meantime, since our first trip down, he has greatly improved the ladder installation and made access much less difficult.
Opening Friday May 25 at 11:00 am.
Crystal Onyx Cave * 425 Prewitt’s Knob Road, Cave City, KY 42127 * (270)773-3377