Pure Darkness

I was surrounded by cool damp air and as I glanced around all I saw was black, the definition of pure darkness. I waved my hand in front of my eyes and I still could not see it. I turned my head to the right and then to the left, still I saw nothing, how could I not see something right in front of me? Aillwee Cave, is one of the oldest caves in Ireland and it consists of an underground river, a waterfall and stalactites.This cave which is located in County Clare, in is home to a wide range of different species such as horseshoe bats, bears (now extinct), moss and algae. The horseshoe bat is one of the smallest mammals in Ireland and gets its name from a horseshoe shaped flap of skin by its nostrils. The bat makes a very distinctive echolocation call that helps them navigate. I searched and searched to find these bats however, they were nowhere in sight, where were they? I kept walking down the dark and narrow path, still no bats. I was told by our tour guide that the horseshoe bats live deeper in the cave and typically only reside in the cave during the winter climate. I continued exploring the gloomy and tight cave and realized that the cold, damp limestone cave is also home to moss and algae; which grows in the twilight zones of the cave. Moss and algae grow in cool, moist environments and prefer the constant mild temperature of the cave. The moss and algae were both bright slime colored green and looked like felt. I noticed that the moss and algae form in the crevices around the cave near the lamps which are used during tours. It is actually amazing that plants are even able to grow in the deep depths of the cave. As I continued walking down the lengthy, dark, narrow path I looked around, I saw these beautiful ginger colored icicle shape formations coming down from the cave. These can’t actually be icicles can they? The majestic icicle shapes are known as stalactite, a formation that hangs from the ceilings of caves. Stalactites are formed by groundwater trickling through cracks in the top of the cave with deposits of calcite. Stalagmites are very similar to stalactite except for the fact that stalagmites grow on the ground. When stalactites and stalagmites grow long enough, they connect together to form a pillar. On average stalactites and stalagmites grow .13 mm each year. While looking around in the cave I was amazed by how beautiful it was, the bright artificial light hitting the limestone. It reminded me of a blazing candle. It was relaxing and soothing but as I took a step out and exited the cave I was blinded by the brightness of the incandescent lights and loud noises from the gift shop.

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