A project to map out the underworld cave systems of Bermuda is due to start within the next 12 months and it is likely cave divers will explore regions of the Island never before seen.
It is already known that 22 of the 80 cave-adapted animal species so far discovered beneath Bermudaï¿½s surface are critically endangered. Some are so rare they exist only in a single cave “room”.
Finding more of these highly adapted critters is a distinct possibility when the caves are explored by a team who will create a documentary film of their investigations.
And Bermudian schoolchildren will be invited to play their part assisting with the mapping of the cave system using magnetic technology that will allow them to follow the progress of divers from above ground by picking up the signals emitted by the cave explorers.
In previous use of the technology, the ground-based monitors have found themselves walking across golf courses, through bowling alleys and even into peopleÂ´s homes as they track the cave divers moving around directly below.
One of the worldï¿½s top cave diving experts, Jill Heinerth of US-based Karst Productions, has already produced a number of films following “the water paths of the world” including exploring caves created in the ice-shelf of Antarctica.
“This seemed like a natural for an episode of “Water s Journey”,”she said of the upcoming documentary on Bermuda.
“The caves here are magnificent and part of the reason is because they have been so protected. When you go swimming in the caves, it is like going through a church. The formations were formed when they were dry caves and later they became submerged.”
BermudaÂ´s limestone caves are thought to date back between one and two million years, however, some of the life forms that have found sanctuary in the undisturbed underworld stretch back even further into the mists of time and somehow made their way to Bermuda.
The well-known Crystal Caves in Hamilton Parish were only found in 1905, but opened a fascinating chapter in the knowledge of BermudaÂ´s natural wonders. Yet this popular visitor attraction is only a fraction of the extensive cave system on the Island, including a two-kilometre long Green Bay cave system.
A clearer knowledge of the true extent of the Island s cave systems will become known when a team of divers arrives with Mrs. Heinerth sometime during the next 12 months to map out what lies below .
She explained: “We have tracking devices that allow divers to swim through the caves and send a signal up through the rock to a person above to indicate where they are.
“WeÂ´ll have kids walking above and able to speak to the divers and ask them what they are seeing. It will be an interactive experience. Where we have done this in other locations it has created a buzz and eagerness for the information afterwards.” Once the project is completed the resulting documentary film ” to be entitled Bermuda High ” will be shown on TV stations around the world and there will also be a web-based documentation resources site for schools to access information gathered by the survey.
The project has been under consideration for the past year with discussions involving the Bermuda Aquarium, former natural history curator Wolfgang Sterrer and cave expert Dr. Tom Iliffe.
Explaining the fascinating world of Bermuda s caves, Mrs. Heinerth said: “There is a lot of variety. Some are connected to the sea and we have seen some mysterious geological patterns. For instance there is one ï¿½roomï¿½ that has a bath tub-like ring around it but it only occurs in this single location.”
Another benefit of the project will be increasing peopleÂ´s appreciation of the importance of the IslandÂ´s water system and how the ground water seeps into the caves and underwater fresh water “lenses” and can carry pollutants and pesticides.
Mrs. Heinerth believes BermudaÂ´s uniqueness will be a global archetype from which other countries can learn.
“Bermudians are very environmentally aware and want to protect their environment. Having to deal with its own trash and sewage has forced Bermuda to make good decisions to maintain its excellent quality of life, while other places with the luxury of a lot more space have squandered their resources and their environment,” said Mrs. Heinerth.
“Iï¿½m hoping with the film and education documentation and outreach, this project will go to schools here and to the rest of the world.”
source: The Royal Gazette