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Explorers Discover Lake In Jewel Cave

ChrisPelczarski-HourglassLake-JewelCave.jpg
National Park Service

Explorers in the deepest sections of Jewel Cave landed a major new find on their most recent trip.

Cavers mapped about 8,000 feet of new cave, pushing Jewel to a new deepest point, explorers also found a passageway full of water.

It’s possible that the newly found pool of water filling a passageway near the deepest part of Jewel Cave is connected to the Madison Aquifer.  If this is confirmed it is one of a few points where a known cave intersects the Madison.   Mike Wiles is the Chief of Resource Management at Jewel Cave.   He says more exploration is needed to confirm if this lake is connected to the aquifer. He says research will also take place on possible life forms in the lake.

"We’re going to have some initial studies to verify what kind of microbial life might be there that would be unique from what you would find anywhere else on the surface or anywhere else in the cave,” says Wiles.

Studies on the lakes in nearby Wind Cave show the water there is about 1000 times cleaner than tap water.  But the few bacteria that do live in the total darkness are extremely unique.  Many researchers believe the microbial life in extreme environments can provide a window into the formation of life on other planets.   Beyond the possibilities for new research on the cave lake – Wiles says this generation of cave explorers are making major advances with these new finds.   

“They are exploring beyond areas I helped to discover years and years ago.  Through a little hole that I had missed when I was exploring back there.  And so, this is very exciting,” says Wiles.

 Jewel Cave is now approaching the 179 mile marker.  It remains the third longest cave in the world.  Cave explorers have not yet scheduled the next trip but Wiles says it may occur in November.

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