The islands of Bermuda do not have mountains, thus rivers or streams. However, fresh water is gathered naturally from rain and stored underground. Under the islands is a vast system of caves carved over eons into marine limestone. Only a few caves are known and there is much more to discover.
The Crystal Caves
were discovered in the early 20th century, when 2 boys lost their cricket ball down a hole. Climbing into the vast darkness, the boys realized the significance of the discovery. Over the next one hundred years the cave were open to scientists, locals and then visitors by adding stairs and ramps. Our tour guide Lenny explained while growing up, how he and his friends would sneak into the caves through the original entrance by rope. Now the hole is sealed and gates lock the entrances. The only way to gain access outside of tours is through the open ocean into a maze of underground tunnels. "Which does happen" explains Lenny, "because we find clues left on the formations." Once a pair of sunglasses was sitting atop a large formation jutting above the waters surface. The park checked the locks, cameras and found nothing. The only way inside could only be the underground, underwater tunnels. The water inside the caves ebb and flow with the tide.
The geology of Bermuda is as varied and complex as the formation of the Earth. Simplified, the islands were once apart of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Volcanic in origin and now dormant, the formation drifted westward as part of the North American plate. Over the past 1 million years, the various ice ages and warmer climates raised and lowered sea levels, causing surface erosion. The land features standing above the water's surface today are approximately 20,000 years old. Quite young in geological time. Although, the surface was repeatedly exposed during the various ice ages when the sea level dropped contributing to land and sea floor development. The formation of stalagmites under the waters surface are evidence, as they can only form out of water. The most exciting proof of early land exposure is in the Fantasy Cave and the highlight of the trip for botany nerds like myself- fossilized tree roots that are now hundreds of thousands of years old hanging stalactites.
If you go to Bermuda, there is so much to do from beaches, sunsets, diving, hiking, and exploring. Don't miss what is underneath your feet, deep in the Earth. The caves are a pleasant and cooling diversion from the island sunshine. Ask for Lenny, "he's yewr bye."
For fellow geology nerds,
* Next Wednesday- The Sargasso Sea