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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
A cave in Edmondson county, Kentucky, U.S.A., 37Â° 14' N. lat. and 86Â° 12' W. long., by rail 85 m. S.S.W. of Louisville. Steamboats run from the mouth of the Green river, near Evansville, Indiana, to the Mammoth Cave landing. The cave is usually said to have been discovered, in 1809, by a hunter named Hutchins; but the county records, as early as 1797, fixed its entrance as the landmark for a piece of real estate. Its mouth is in a forest ravine, 194 ft. above Green river and boo ft. above the sea. This aperture is not the original mouth, the latter being a chasm a quarter of a mile north of it, and leading into what is known as Dixon's cave. The two portions are not now connected, though persons in one can make themselves heard by those in the other.
The cavernous limestone of Kentucky covers an area of 8000 sq. m., is massive and homogeneous, and belongs to the Subcarboniferous period. It shows few traces of dynamic disturbance, but has been carved, mainly by erosion since the Miocene epoch, into many caverns, of which the Mammoth Cave is the largest.
The natural arch that admits one to Mammoth Cave has a span of 70 ft., and from a ledge above it a cascade leaps 59 ft. to the rocks below, where it disappears. A flight of stone steps leads the way down to a narrow passage, through which the air rushes with violence, outward in summer and inward in winter. The temperature of the cave is uniformly 5 4 Â° F. throughout the year, and the atmosphere is both chemically and optically of singular purity. While the lower levels are moist from the large pools and rivers that have secret connexion with Green river, the upper galleries are extremely dry. These conditions led at one time to the erection of thirteen cottages at a point about 1 m. underground, for the use of invalids, especially consumptives. The experiment failed, and only two cottages now remain as curiosities.
The Main Cave, from 40 to 300 ft. wide and from 35 to 125 ft. high, has several vast rooms, e.g. the Rotunda, where are the ruins of the old saltpetre works; the Star Chamber, where the protrusion of white crystals through a coating of the black oxide of manganese creates an optical illusion of great beauty; the Chief City, where an area of 2 acres is covered by a vault 125 ft. high, and the floor is strewn with rocky fragments, among which are found numerous half-burnt torches made of canes, and other signs of prehistoric occupancy. Two skeletons were exhumed near the (From Tilesius.) FIG. 1. - Skeleton of Mammoth ( Elephas primigenius ), with portions of the skin.
been found in the greatest abundance and in exceptional preservation. For a long period there has been from that region an export of mammoth-ivory, fit for commercial purposes, to China and to Europe. In the middle of the 10th century trade was carried on at Khiva in fossil ivory. Middendorff estimated the number of tusks which have yearly come into the market during the last two centuries at at least a hundred pairs, but Nordenskiiild considers this estimate too low. Tusks are found along the whole shore-line between the mouth of the Obi and Bering Strait, and the farther north the more numerous they become, the islands of New Siberia -being one of the favourite collecting localities. The remains are found not only round the mouths of the great rivers, but embedded in the frozen soil in such circumstances as to indicate that the animals lived not far from the localities in which they are found; and they are exposed either by the melting of the ice in warm summers or the washing away of the sea-cliffs or river-banks. In this way the bodies of more or less nearly perfect animals, often standing in the Rotunda; but few other bones of any description have been found. The so-called Mammoth Cave "mummies" (i.e. bodies kept by being inhumed in nitrous earth), with accompanying utensils, ornaments, braided sandals and other relics, were found in Short and Salt Caves near by, and removed to Mammoth Cave for exhibition. The Main Cave, which abruptly ends 4 m. from the entrance, is joined by winding passages, with spacious galleries on different levels; and, although the diameter of the area of the whole cavern is less than io m., the conbined length of all accessible avenues is supposed to be about i m.
The chief points of interest are arranged along two lines of exploration, besides which there are certain side excursions.
and was formerly regarded as the finest room in the cavern. Others admire more the Mammoth Dome, at the termination of Spark's Avenue, where a cataract falls from a height of iso ft. amid walls wonderfully draped with stalactitic tapestry. The Egyptian Temple, which is a continuation of the Mammoth Dome, contains six massive columns, two of them quite perfect and 80 ft. high and 25 ft. in diameter. The combined length of these contiguous chambers is 400 ft. By a crevice above they are connected with an arm of Audubon's Avenue. Lucy's Dome, one of the group of Jessup Domes, is supposed to be the loftiest of all these vertical shafts. A pit called the "Maelstrom," in Croghan's Hall, is the spot most remote from the mouth of Gerta's Grotto Creighton's Dome Index Hovey's Cathedral 0' Martel Nelson's Domes p a e t a j-?l . ?Einbigler Dome Edna's Dome Galloway's Dome Chief City Violet. City lima Thule Table of approximate distances „ rtoo ., 4200 1957 .. End of Echo River 3000 ,.
4200 „ ,,, 6000 .. .., 9 _a m bfe 35 t River 38 y?? 7 m 2, he 4 .
S Call's? otunda C roghan's Hall a e lst r om' River Ha .