Monday, January 25, 2010

Group Stop Blog Entry: Rina Binder-Macleod

Rina Binder-Macleod

Waitomo Caves

On January 18th, we ventured to the world famous Waitomo Glow Worm Caves for some black water rafting. Before this day, I was unaware what both glow worms and black water rafting were. It turns out that glow worms are not actually worms but in reality are maggots. The arachnocampa luminosa is found exclusively in New Zealand. They attach to the ceilings of caves and create hanging thread that captures their prey. When you look up at the ceiling of the cave, it looks like a cloudless night sky filled with stars (the glow worms shining)- it is surreal and unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. The other fauna that was "experienced" was the eel. While crawling through a tight space, trying to reach the waterfall, Natalie was bit by an eel and blood was drawn. How is that for getting up close and personal with nature?

As for the geology of the location, the limestone caves we explored had been carved out by running water. The range of the tunnel size within these caves was drastic, there were sections that a larger than rooms and some spots so small that you had to army crawl through. The caves demonstrate the awesome weathering power of water. I often forget the subterranean processes occuring, and these caves are great examples of what can happen below the surface. Another interesting geologic procces was evident in the caves as well- there were many stalagmites and stalactites throughout the cave. We were warned not to touch them because the oils on our skin would stunt the growth of these slow growing geologic specimens composed of deposited calcium carbonate.

The caves are located in a little town that seems to exist because of the constant tourist flow that comes out to experience the caves. Some people in our group did the walking tour of the caves, but others opted for the black water rafting. I was in the latter group. It is called black water rafting because of the absence of light within the caves, making the water appear black. My group of fellow female adventurers and I had a great time exploring the caves, floating in inner tubes in the complete darkness (but guided by "gps"- glowing positioning system aka the glow worms), going down waterslides, singing Avril Lavinge during the "karaoke" portion, and trying something we never imagined we would ever do! This was a great morning activity and I would definitely recommend visiting the caves and going black water rafting to anyone visiting the region.

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