Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Soreq Cave is packed with stunning natural sculptures

SOREQ CAVE, Israel — This prehistoric cave on the slopes of Israel's Judean Mountains has always felt a little otherworldly.

Like other dripstone caverns, Soreq Cave is packed with stunning natural sculptures formed by hundreds of thousands of years of mineral-rich water drops slowly leaving behind a rock residue.

On the roof is a hanging forest of different-sized rods, resembling icicles, giant carrots, elephant trunks and twisting octopus tentacles. Rising up to meet them from the limestone floor are 30-foot sand castles, spiraling rock towers and billowy hills that resemble coral reefs or heads of cauliflower.

As if it wasn't strange enough, a recent ecological makeover has added a lighting system as spectacular as it is eerie.

Glowing amber spotlights fade into midnight blue mixed with circles of emerald, bathing the 50,000-square-foot cave and its formations in almost hallucinogenic color. Programmed to change every few minutes, the lighting turns a bright sunrise orange before slowly transforming into a deep purple.
"It's like the cave is breathing," said guide Boris Kripak, a Russian-born archaeologist who works at the cave, which was discovered in 1968 during rock-blasting for a nearby quarry.

The Hollywood-style lighting wasn't installed for artistic or aesthetic reasons. Instead, the colors were selected as part of a decades-long ecological battle to keep the cave's stalactites and stalagmites as pristine as possible.

By using only a limited part of the color spectrum of light and focusing on certain shades of orange, blue and green, scientists are betting the new system will eradicate one of the cave's biggest threats: algae.,0,2076541.story

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