Notes From Underground

What can possibly compare to the joys, frustrations and, above all, costs of home renovation? How about the discovery of an ancient underground city after knocking down one of your home’s walls? Archaeologists think there may be hundreds of underground cities in Cappadocia (central Turkey), but only six excavated. Our lucky homeowner discovered Derinkuyu (which translates as “deep well”). It is both the deepest, and most recent discovery among these underground cities.

Note to Self: Choose the location of your next party, or even humble social hour, with care. The Odessa Catacombs (partial map) include 1,500 miles of subterranean tunnels in which people can easily become disoriented and lost. In 2005 some teenagers decided the catacombs was an ideal place to get drunk. One girl separated from her friends, spending the next several days wandering around in complete darkness. Her body was found two years later. (warning: graphic image)

Caves can be just as unsettling and disorienting, involving various risks, such as being electrocuted, drowning, inhaling poisonous gases, or developing “the rapture.” This state of being—an extreme reaction to the depth and darkness—is comparable to having an anxiety attack, on meth. For people like Bill Stone, the lure of exploring a supercave is irresistible. There is the potential to find places and things that are truly new.

Speleologist Michel Siffre lived two months completely isolated in a subterranean cave. He wanted to find out how living “beyond time” would impact the natural rhythms of human life. Siffre’s work has proved seminal in the foundation of the field of human chronobiology.

Though most caves are usually dark and dank, the Waitomo Glowworm Grotto is surreal and beautiful, lit up by the blue-green bioluminescence produced by a sizable population of glowworms.

And in NSFL news: in 2013 a new record was set when a 15-ton “fatberg” was discovered in a London sewer. On the plus side, the fat from fatbergs can be used to generate energy. Yay?