Little Bits of History

Man Cave?

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 27, 2012
The Cave of Swallows interior

The Cave of Swallows interior

December 27, 1966: The Cave of Swallows is discovered. It is an open air pit cave located in the Minicipality of Aquismón, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The Spanish name for the cave is Sótano de las Golondrinas which translates into English as Basement of the Swallows. Although this date is given for the discovery of the cave, it was known to the local Haustec people since prehistoric time. On this date, it was first documented by T.R. Evans, Charles Borland, and Randy Sterns. The name of the cave is predicated on the many different birds who make it their home, mostly white-collared swifts and green parakeets.

The elliptical mouth of the cave is on a slope of karst. Karst terrain is formed by the dissolution of layers of soluble bedrock, usually carbonate rock suck as limestone or dolomite. The mouth is 160 feet by 200 feet and is undercut around the entire perimeter. The cave widens into a room about 995 feet by 440 feet and is a freefall drop from the mouth of 1,215 feet at the highest point. All these numbers make it the largest known cave shaft in the world. It is also the second deepest pit in Mexico and the 11th deepest in the world. To get an idea of the size of this cave, the Chrysler Building in New York City could easily fit inside the cave.

The birds exit the cave by flying in circles until they reach the mouth of the cave and then can take off up into the sky. Each evening, a spectacle takes place when the swifts (especially) return to roost. A large flock of the birds returns to the cave and about every minute or so, about fifty of them break off and head toward the cave. They head straight down into the cave and as they pass the surface, they pull their wings in and freefall , extending their wings and pulling out of their dive as they reach the level of their nests. This spectacle has become a popular tourist attraction.

The cave itself is quite cool with low temperatures. The rim of the cave is thickly covered with vegetation and during rains, there will be waterfalls cascading from the rim into the cave. The floor is covered, logically enough, with a thick layer of guano and lots of insects, snakes, and spiders feed there. There is a narrow sinkhole in the fault line of the limestone floor where the bottom lies another 1,680 feet lower. The cave is now a vertical caving destination with many rappelling down from the lower side where bolts have been affixed to the outside edge. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the floor, unless one freefalls to his or her death, which would take only about ten seconds. It takes 40 to 120 minutes to climb back out.

If there hadn’t been women we’d still be squatting in a cave eating raw meat, because we made civilization in order to impress our girlfriends. – Orson Welles

One just principle from the depths of a cave is more powerful than an army. – Jose Marti

Houses mean a creation, something new, a shelter freed from the idea of a cave. – Stephen Gardiner

Every few thousand years some shepherd inhales smoke from a burning bush and has a vision or eats moldy rye bread in a cave and sees God. – Kerry Thornley

Also on this day:

Hagia Sophia – In 537, the Hagia Sophia was officially dedicated.
Coming into Port – In 1703, the Methuen Treaty was signed by Portugal and England.
Play Nice – In 1512, the Laws of Burgos were issued.

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One Response

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on December 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

    In the late 1950s then-President of Mexico Cortines send me pictures that he had taken himself of this cave- a point of pride for him of being able to spend a whole day without being followed and interferred with by his multitude of bodyguards. When he visited my home one time the local Santa Maria(California) newspaper called it The Cortines Army.


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