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Title: Hovey's Handbook of The Mammoth Cave of Kentucky - A Practical Guide to the Regulation Routes
Author: Hovey, Horace Carver
Language: English
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                           HOVEY’S HAND-BOOK
                            The Mammoth Cave
                              OF KENTUCKY

                        A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE
                           REGULATION ROUTES
                      With Maps and Illustrations

                       HORACE CARTER HOVEY, D.D.
                              F. G. S. A.

       Copyright, 1909, by John P. Morton & Company, Incorporated

                          Louisville, Kentucky
                        JOHN P. MORTON & COMPANY

                    [Illustration: GUIDE MAP OF THE
                              MAMMOTH CAVE
                        Drawn by Horace C. Hovey
              (From former surveys, with recent additions)
              _Copyright 1907 & 1909 by Horace C. Hovey_]

  To the    Kentucky Cliffs                 about     380   yds.
     ″      Standing Rocks                    ″       647     ″
     ″      Giant’s Coffin                    ″       875     ″
     ″      Star Chamber                      ″      1500     ″
     ″      Ultima Thule                      ″      4200     ″
     ″      Limitation Hill                   ″      1840     ″
     ″      Angelica’s Grotto                 ″      1957     ″
     ″      Mammoth Dome                      ″      1870     ″
     ″      Echo River (A)                    ″      2320     ″
     ″      End of Echo River (est.)          ″      3000     ″
     ″      Jessup Domes                      ″      4200     ″
     ″      Mary’s Vineyard                   ″      6000     ″
     ″      Hovey’s Cathedral (est.)          ″      9200     ″
     ″      Maelstrom                         ″      9600     ″

  NOTE:—No instrumental survey of the whole cave has ever been made, and
  no exact scale can be given.  The above are some of the distances as
  paced along the avenues. Domes, halls and pits are relatively
  enlarged; and rivers and pools are blackened.  The data for this new
  Guide map is from the earlier maps of Bogert (1814), Ward (1816), Lee
  (1835), Bishop (1845), Blackall (1817-pub. 1899), Forwood (1875),
  Hovey (1887) and Call (1897), and from written and oral information by
  managers and guides, modified and greatly added to by the author’s own
  observations during the past twenty-seven years.

  NOTE No. 2:—In the year 1905 Max Kaemper, a German Engineer, was
  employed to make a complete survey exclusively for the use of the
  owners.  Some of his suggestions are embodied in this map of 1909, and
  others in the separate charts for the several routes.

    1. The Iron Gate
    2. Hutchins’ Narrows
    3. Kentucky Cliffs and the Corkscrew
    4. The Church
    5. Booth’s Amphitheatre
    6. Standing Rocks
    7. Grand Arch
    8. Giant’s Coffin and Dante’s Gateway
    9. Acute Angle and Cottages
    10. Proctor’s Arcade
    11. Wright’s Rotunda
    12. The Cataracts
    13. Fairy Grotto
    14. St. Catherine City
    15. Symmes’ Pit
    16. Mummy’s Niche
    17. Register Hall
    18. The Bridal Altar
    19. The Arm Chair
    20. Lover’s Leap
    21. Elbow Crevice
    22. Napoleon’s Dome
    23. Wilson’s Way
    24. Lake Purity
    25. Annette Dome
    26. Lee’s Cisterns
    27. Wooden Bowl Room
    28. The Lost Way Found
    29. Way to Pits and Domes
    30. Side-Saddle Pit
    31. Bottomless Pit
    32. Covered Pit
    33. Scylla
    34. Charybdis
    35. Putnam’s Cabinet
    36. Darnall’s Way
    37. Ariadne’s Grotto
    38. Short Cut from Bottomless Pit to Gorin’s Dome
    39. Reveller’s Hall
    40. Grand Crossing
    41. Pineapple Bush
    42. Angelica’s Grotto
    43. Scotchman’s Trap
    44. Fat Man’s Misery
    45. Bandit Hall
    46. Brigg’s Avenue
    47. Charlet’s Dome
    48. Wyatt’s Domes
    49. Balanced Rock
    50. The Dead Sea
    51. Charon’s Cascade
    D. Janin’s Landing
    52. Cascade Hall
    53. Serpent Hall
    54. Valley-Way Side-Cut
    55. The Great Western
    56. Vale of Flowers
    57. The Jessup Domes
    58. Ole Bull’s Concert Hall
    59. Fly Chamber
    60. Sheep Shelter
    61. Corinne’s Dome
    62. Black Hole of Calcutta
    63. Parrish’s Path
    64. Crypt of Jewels
    65. Washington Hall
    66. Snow Ball Room
    67. Floral Cross
    68. Orpha’s Garden
    69. Wisdom’s Path
    70. Paradise
    71. Zoe’s Grotto
    72. Flora’s Garden
    73. Vale of Diamonds
    74. Helen’s Hall
    75. Charlotte’s Grotto
    76. Serena’s Arbor
    77. Dismal Hollow
    78. Clark’s Avenue
    79. Harlan’s Avenue
    80. Nicholson’s Avenue
    81. Boone Avenue
    82. Pinson’s Pass
    83. Hawkins’ Way
    84. Violet City

                      [Illustration: Fairy Grotto]


A Personal Word. I imbibed an early taste for the sciences from my
father, the late Professor Edmund Otis Hovey, D. D., one of the founders
of Wabash College, and a pioneer geologist in Indiana. My annual
vacations, during a busy professional career spanning over fifty years,
have largely been given to underground explorations.

When fifteen years old I began cave-hunting amid the charming grottoes
near Madison, Indiana. An enthusiastic comrade, six years my senior,
then proposed that we visit the Mammoth Cave. For certain reasons, while
he went on, I got no farther at that time than Louisville; where,
however, I bought, at the bookstore of Morton and Griswold, a copy of
“Rambles in the Mammoth Cave, by a Visitor.” It was just out. It fired
my boyish imagination, and it gave shape to much of my after life.

More than four hundred books, pamphlets, scientific reports, and
magazine articles have been published by different writers, besides
innumerable newspaper contributions, about Kentucky’s great cavern.
Copies of most of these are in the author’s library.

Yet there is a demand, and there seems to be room, for such a practical,
condensed, and up-to-date hand-book as is now offered. It does not claim
to tell all that might be told; and it omits much material that might
interest the historian or the scientist. Its design is to aid the
average visitor as he follows the four regulation routes by which the
Cave is ordinarily exhibited.

Those who covet more abundant information as to places not often
visited, or concerning the cavern fauna and flora, or as to details of
local history, or as to Mammoth Cave bibliography, are referred to the
larger Illustrated Manual of Mammoth Cave, by Hovey and Call, published
by John P. Morton and Company, and for sale at the Cave. My still more
comprehensive work on “Celebrated American Caverns,” now out of print,
may be found on the shelves of most public libraries.

The revised Guide Map (1907 and 1909) in this volume, and for sale (on a
larger scale) at the Cave hotel, was made by me from an original partial
survey, earlier charts being consulted, especially those by Stephen
Bishop and Dr. C. R. Blackall, with a few corrections and additions
suggested by Mr. Max Kaemper, to whom thanks are also due for important
facts concerning his discoveries in 1908. The route-sketches found in
this hand-book were redrawn from those made by him.

Acknowledgments are likewise due to my son, Dr. E. O. Hovey, of New York
City; to my former comrade in cave-hunting, Dr. R. Ellsworth Call; to
Benj. F. Einbigler, Norman A. Parrish, and others, for valuable
correspondence and memoranda; to the late Mr. Ben Hains and Mr. H. M.
Pinson, photographers; to Mr. H. C. Ganter for use of copyrighted cuts;
to the officials of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad for additional
illustrative material, as well as for other courtesies and favors; and
particularly to the trustees, managers, and guides of Mammoth Cave for
heartily and generously facilitating explorations in former and more
recent years, without which this work would have been impossible.

Finally, for information as to trains via the Louisville and Nashville
Railroad and connections at Glasgow Junction with the Mammoth Cave
Railroad; for the arrival and departure of steamboats on Green River;
for terms of Cave routes and guides, and for hotel rates by the day or
the week, and for other details not within the scope of this hand-book,
application may be made to the Mammoth Cave Manager, at Mammoth Cave,
Kentucky. Our simple aim is to aid and entertain the reader in his
subterranean rambles.

                                                        Horace C. Hovey.

Newburyport, Mass.

                            The Mammoth Cave
                              OF KENTUCKY

                A Short Lesson In Geology and Chemistry

Many hurry to and through and away from Mammoth Cave; but let us go in a
more leisurely manner. Suppose we begin by a stroll amid the rounded
hills that environ Cincinnati. We find their flanks full of corals,
shells, crinoids, and other marine objects by myriads. These are
fossils, yet perfect as if freshly cast up from the sea. But we observe
that the limestone lies in thin, level layers, with no signs of volcanic
or earthquake action. They were gently cut down by an undermining
process that left no caverns, because the strata are so thin that they
can not hold together. This is the same Lower Silurian formation that
elsewhere made the famous “bluegrass region,” causing Central Kentucky
to be the fairest bit of the globe’s surface known.

Go by steamboat down the Ohio to Madison, Indiana, and the scenery
changes with the geology. Near the river are still seen the thin blue
limestone strata that we saw at Cincinnati, but capped by the marble
heights of the Upper Silurian. Cascades from the cliffs wash out the
thinner, softer material, making wide, shallow grottoes, each being, as
a rule, at the head of a ravine, which is a cave in ruins.

At the charming city of Louisville we encounter another geological
change, and meet a striking proof that the region was once flooded by
the ocean, namely, the grand old coral reef over which tumble the Falls
of the Ohio. It used to bristle with branching corals like stag-horns
and was strewn with tens of thousands of more delicate varieties,
car-loads of which have since been carried away; but enough remain to
show that all this country was uplifted by continental forces from a
primeval sea. Probably its altitude was once above the present level, to
which it has been reduced by causes some of which are still at work.

Rambling through the valleys and examining their rocky beds, we find
fissures no doubt caused by that continental uplifting to which we have
referred. These cracks, or “joints,” are visible over large areas,
wherever the country rock is exposed. Usually they run at nearly right
angles with one another, north and south lines crossing those from east
to west. The joint-walls may closely fit, or have been parted to make
channels by which falling rain might be drained.

You have noticed that soda-water roughens and eats away the marble slab
on which the soda-fountain rests. On asking the reason you are told that
it is due to the carbonic acid gas (carbon dioxide) with which the water
is charged. In nature this same gas is formed by the decay of animal and
vegetable matter. Rainwater absorbs it from the atmosphere and while
sinking through the loam and soil. It also takes up humous acids, which
aid in the work of corrasion effected on reaching the limestone.
Mechanical energy assists chemical action in slowly dissolving and
removing the limestone particles.

All limestone caves, great and small, were carved by this slow yet
irresistible process. The downward flow follows the joints till a
lateral “bedding-plane,” or something else, turns the stream
horizontally, when there results a widening of the passageway. Should
the roof collapse there would be “a tumble-down” within and perhaps a
“sink-hole” without. Should the cave cut through from one bedding-plane
to another, a series of galleries would result; the upper ones dry as
tinder and the lower ones wet with water that finally reaches the
drainage level, whence it emerges into some open valley.

Occasionally the whirling water bores straight down through all
galleries, making what is termed a pit, or a dome, according to the
point of view. Standing pools deposit nitrous earth and various other
mineral substances. Water trickling through the roof evaporates, each
drop laying down its load of the bicarbonate of lime to create a
stalactite; or a stalagmite if it first falls on the floor. A general
and convenient term is “dripstone,” masses of which are found at almost
any crossing of the joint-planes. Should “fixed air” (carbon dioxide),
which is fifteen times as heavy as the atmosphere, settle into the lower
parts of any cave, it would make visiting dangerous or fatal. But air
currents and other causes make every part of Mammoth Cave free from any
except the sweetest, purest air ever inhaled.

                        Approaching Mammoth Cave

According to an authentic article in the Louisville Courier-Journal for
September 29, 1901, the managers of Mammoth Cave, having occasion to
examine the records at Bowling Green, found that cave designated as a
corner of a section of land in 1797; which antedates by some years the
threadbare legend of Houchins and the wounded bear.

During the saltpeter times, 1812-1816, elsewhere described, men came and
went in carts or on horseback. Seventy years ago Dr. Davidson told the
Transylvania University about visiting the “Green River country,” so
called in honor of General Nathaniel Green, the hero of Eutaw
Springs—not for its emerald tint. He hired a barouche at Henderson and
traversed a dozen counties to Mammoth Cave, which Dr. John Croghan had
just purchased for $10,000, intending to “clear out the avenues and make
them accessible for an omnibus to the distance of three or four miles,
and erect a sort of hotel in the Temple” (the old name of the Chief

Charmingly did Julius Benedict, sixty years ago, narrate the adventures
of Jenny Lind and her party, as they went “by the very worst road in the
United States, but amid most delightful forest scenery,” from Nashville
to Bowling Green, and thence to Bell’s Tavern, that famous old hostelry.
The rest of their journey lay along the edge of “jagged, abrupt glens,
along sweeping meadows and budding woodlands,” to the queer old building
where “Dr. Croghan did the honors of his subterranean dominions in the
most agreeable manner.”

As recently as my own early visits a line of stage coaches ran from Cave
City, owned by Andy McCoy and managed by Henry C. Ganter, who still
entertains willing listeners at the Cave hotel by his racy stories of
pioneer days. How grandly the bugle-flourish used to herald the coming
stage-coach, and how everybody used to rush to greet the passengers, and
how eagerly the negro servants cared for the luggage! Guests still come
by carriage, on horseback, or by automobile; and many avail themselves
of the steamboats plying on Green River, where a system of locks and
dams has made it practicable to land within half a mile of the Cave
entrance. No more delightful river-ride than this can be found in the
Middle West, or more diversified by frowning cliffs, wild forests,
opening amphitheatres that smile in summer with rustling fields of corn,
with here and there attractive villages and flourishing cities.

But the majority avail themselves of the Louisville and Nashville
Railroad, connecting with the Mammoth Cave Short-line, whose terminus is
near the Cave hotel. One enjoys the comforts of modern travel while
passing by a magnificent panorama of hill, valley, and undulating plain.
“Knobs” several hundred feet high, capped by the Chester sandstone,
above the solid St. Louis limestone, appear as cones or pyramids, whose
strata remain horizontal from base to apex. Amid the Knobs run
stream-swept valleys. In level regions are fertile farms, though
frequently the soil is iron-stained a fiery red. One could hardly find
anywhere a more charming trip by rail than from Louisville to Glasgow
Junction, or one more unique than from the latter station to Mammoth

                    [Illustration: In Cave Costume]

Oval depressions abound, styled “sink-holes,” because through them the
surface water sinks out of sight. So numerous are they that one might
traverse the cave-region on horseback all day long and not cross an open
stream; all the rainwater being drained through them to underground
gathering-beds, to re-appear in such cave-fed streams as Green River.
The Short-line Railway from Glasgow Junction to Mammoth Cave passes a
number of remarkably large sink-holes, one of the widest being “Eden
Valley,” covering two thousand acres, with no inlet or outlet except
through pits that are conjectured to lead to the Colossal and the
Mammoth caves.

On the authority of the late Professor Shaler it is said that there are
four thousand sink-holes and five hundred known caverns in Edmondson
County alone. In this little hand-book we can not be expected to give a
list of them. In the vicinity of Mammoth Cave are several that have
celebrity, and would amply reward the attention of a visitor. Among them
may be mentioned Ganter, Diamond, Procter, Salt, and White caves. The
last two belong to the Mammoth Cave estate, and are occasionally visited
by tourists. The Salt Cave is remarkable for prehistoric relics, and the
White Cave for its stalactites. Dixon Cave also is noteworthy as having
probably been the original mouth of Mammoth Cave. It is an immense
chamber, fifteen hundred feet long, from sixty to eighty feet wide, and
from eighty to one hundred and twenty-five feet high, and was once
worked for saltpeter. The Colossal Cavern, belonging to the Louisville
and Nashville Railroad, is but a mile and a half distant, and is noted
for its magnificence.

Thus far the woodman’s axe has spared the grand old forest trees on the
estate, except as needed for firewood, and many delightful rambles are
to be had among them. Game used to abound, and still rewards the
skillful hunter, and Green River abounds in fish.

                         Ownership of the Cave

Mr. McLean bought the Cave and two hundred acres around it, in 1811, for
forty dollars, and soon sold it to Mr. Gatewood, who in turn sold it to
Messrs. Gratz and Wilkins, who sent Mr. Archibald Miller from
Philadelphia to manage saltpeter works for them during the War of 1812,
at a time when an embargo cut off foreign sources of supply. The Cave
estate, with sixteen hundred acres of land, passed into the hands of Mr.
James Moore, a Philadelphia merchant, in 1816, and when he was ruined by
the Burr and Blennerhasset fiasco, Gatewood took it again and made it a
“show-cave.” Mr. Frank Gorin bought the property in 1837, and made
Miller and Moore his agents, with Stephen Bishop and Matt Bransford as
guides. Discoveries followed so fast as to draw public attention at home
and abroad.

The fame of this natural wonder reached a young physician of Louisville,
Dr. John Croghan, while traveling in Europe, and on his return he became
so charmed with the Cave that he bought it from Mr. Gorin for $10,000,
and also purchased two thousand acres about it, in order to control any
other possible entrances than the main one. To the original miner’s
cabin, Mr. James Miller, his agent, added in 1835 the long row of log
cabins still used by guests; since joined by wide porches and modernized
by frame additions and all conveniences. Among the agents who have
exhibited the Cave or run the hotel, or both, are Messrs. Archibald,
James, William, and W. Scott Miller, Larkin J. Procter, Mr. Owsley, D.
L. Graves, Francis Klett, W. C. Comstock, Henry C. Ganter, and L. F.

The will of Dr. Croghan, probated February 5, 1849, left the entire
Mammoth Cave estate in the hands of trustees for the benefit of his nine
nephews and nieces, namely, the sons and daughters of Colonel George
Croghan and General T. S. Jesup; with the proviso that when they should
all have died, the trustees should sell the estate at public auction.
Unless some of the heirs should buy it, a desirable purchaser might be
the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company; or the entire group of
caverns in the vicinity might be converted into a State or national
park. Meanwhile we are content that it should remain under the excellent
management of the present trustees.

No guides are employed but those who are trustworthy. Stephen Bishop and
Matt Bransford have passed away; so have Nicholas Bransford and William
Garvin. Tom Lee, my first guide, and John M. Nelson, with whom I have
made many an underground trip, are not now in service. Those whom one is
likely to meet at present are Edward Bishop, William Bransford, Robert
Lively, and Joshua Wilson, with several other capable guides at hand for
emergencies. All are heroes of many adventures, and their strong arms
have rescued many a visitor from disaster. Their word is law, and no one
is allowed to enter without a guide. Hence accidents are of rare

The fact so widely heralded that, in the spring of 1909, a party of
“Shriners” got lost in the Cave for eight hours, was wholly due to their
refusing to obey the guides, and breaking away from their comrades under
the voluntary and unauthorized leadership of one of their own number. As
soon as possible guides were dispatched to their rescue, who brought
them safely out to the open air.

For the convenience of visitors, as well as with reasonable
consideration for the guides themselves, certain hours and routes are
fixed, from which it is not customary to depart, unless by special
arrangement with the management. Four routes are mapped out, the uniform
charge for each being two dollars. For terms for the season, or for
large parties, etc., as well as for information as to hotel rates, and
indeed for anything special, visitors should apply to the Mammoth Cave
manager. Cave suits are to let, and proper methods of illumination are
provided by the guides. Even a few hours of wandering below ground will
be worth while; but those who can remain amid these wonderful scenes for
a longer period will be amply repaid by incessantly varying sights and

              [Illustration: “Martha Washington’s Statue”]

                            [Illustration:       COPYRIGHT 1908 BY H. C.
                                ROUTE I
                      ECHO RIVER, PITS and DOMES]


                                ROUTE I
                       Echo River, Pits and Domes

A pathway from the Hotel winds through the garden, down amid the forest,
crossing a wagon road to Green River, and then brings us to the only
known entrance to Mammoth Cave. Evidently it is where the roof broke
down long ago; for the lower valley was doubtless once part of the
cavern, and so was what is now known as Dixon Cave. The present Cave
mouth is seven hundred and thirty-five feet above sea level, one hundred
and ninety-four feet above the level of Green River, and one hundred and
eighteen feet below the crest of the overhanging bluff. The limestone
stratum is three hundred and twenty-eight feet thick, measuring from the
sandstone above to the drainage level below; and within these limits all
the vast labyrinth extends its ramifications.

One of the first things noticed by the visitor is the strong current of
cool air that flows from the Cave mouth, frequently too strong to allow
the carrying of lighted lamps until a point is reached many yards
within, where the gale dies away. As we descend the solid stone stairway
we observe with pleasure a waterfall that leaps from the ledge, gleams
in the sunlight, and vanishes amid the rocks on the floor. Around us
hang festoons of vines and ferns, and before us is the noble vestibule
to a temple of eternal night.

An iron gate is unlocked for us, put there to prevent unpaid intrusion
and vandal spoliation. Passing through, we bid farewell to daylight, and
depend on the simple iron lamps given to each of us by the guide. The
legend that a hunter named Houchins, in 1809, chased a wounded bear into
this throat of the cave, whether authentic or not, is perpetuated in the
name given it, Houchins’ Narrows, made still narrower by the blocks of
limestone piled in walls on either side, thus leaving a passage only a
few feet wide. To the left is the tomb of two Indians found in early
days and reburied here. No monument marks the grave of these nameless
aborigines. Considering the fact that the Cave was resorted to by many
generations of red men, it is remarkable that so few human remains have
rewarded diligent search.

What are these wooden pipes along the floor? They were laid there by the
saltpeter miners to convey the water from the cascade at the entrance
down to the leaching vats that are now pointed out to us in the Rotunda.
The ruts of old ox-carts are visible in which the “peter-dirt” was
carried to the vats from the open avenues, while sacks were used for
those more remote. The solution was pumped out to open-air boilers, run
through ash-hoppers, cooled in crystallization troughs, and packed for
transportation to the seaboard, mostly by mules. Thus did patriotic
Kentucky supply the government with one of the ingredients of gunpowder,
at a time when foreign sources were cut off. The yield of nitrate was
four pounds to the bushel of soil, and the vast heaps of lixiviated
earth seem to warrant the boast that Mammoth Cave alone “could supply
the whole population of the globe with saltpeter.”

The lofty arch of the Rotunda is directly under the Hotel; and it would
be possible, by means of a shaft, to supply every room with the sweetest
and purest air, transforming it into a “lime-air” sanitarium, as has
actually been done in some other localities. By a series of temperature
observations with verified thermometers, the writer has proved that the
uniform temperature of the Cave is 54° Fahr., winter and summer; and the
air is chemically and optically pure. Lighted by magnesium fire the
grandeur of this first of many halls is made visible, as are also the
openings of two broad avenues, one of them being the Main Cave and the
other the entrance to Audubon Avenue and Little Bat Avenue. Here in
winter assemble myriads of bats from all the region around, clustering
in nooks and crevices for their long sleep of hibernation.

                [Illustration: Entrance to Mammoth Cave]

Leaving Audubon Avenue to be described in Route II, we enter from it, at
a point some five hundred feet from the Rotunda, and by a low arch, the
winding way known as Little Bat Avenue, chiefly remarkable as leading to
the Crevice Pit, which is immediately over the Ruins of Karnak. The
story is told by the late Dr. R. M. Bird that a former owner, Mr.
Wilkins, let a lamp down the pit by a rope that caught fire, with the
loss of the lamp. A reward of two dollars was offered for its recovery.
A little darkey agreed to be let down, as a sort of living plummet, to
sound the depth of the chasm. He told such a tale as to the magnificent
temple underneath, with its tall columns and splendid adornments, that
nobody believed him. Thirty years later the lost lamp was found by old
Matt, the guide, who gave it to me.

The Main Cave, or Grand Gallery, or as we like to style it the
“Broadway” of this subterranean metropolis, extends from the Rotunda to
the Cataracts, and must be traversed to reach any other part of the
cavern. In this first route only about eight hundred yards of it are

High overhead springs an arch eighty feet wide and resting on vertical
walls. Presently the guide calls our attention to the exit of the
Corkscrew, on our left, an extraordinary passageway by which we are to
return after visiting the River Hall. If we happen here as another party
is returning, a curious effect is produced by their torches emerging one
at a time in a procession winding down the Kentucky Cliffs. But now we
advance along the worn cart-road made by the saltpeter miners, strewn by
their ancient log-conduits, which are strangely preserved during the
century that has elapsed since some of them were first brought hither.
Lift one and you will be astonished to find how light they are. At the
junction of the Main Cave and Archibald Avenue is the “Church,” where
the pious miners used to hear the message of salvation taught by
itinerant preachers, and where in more recent days many a sermon has
been preached and many a psalm been sung, awakening echoes from the
cavern walls.

                [Illustration: Leaving the “Corkscrew”]

Reserving the Gothic Avenue for another visit, we note, as we pass
along, the grotesque figures of animals and birds made by the deposits
of the black oxide of manganese overhead. Mark well the Standing Rocks,
which fell edge-downward ages ago, set free from the roof possibly by
some earthquake shock. Now we walk awe-struck under the Grand Arch,
where the guides effect a marvelous surprise by means of simple
illumination. They burn chemical fires at a point near the saltpeter
vats, some five hundred feet to the rear of us, and the contour of the
walls brings out a statuesque effect which is aptly styled “Martha
Washington’s Statue.” It requires but little play of the imagination to
fancy it a marble representation of that eminent lady of Colonial times.

An immense rock lies near the right-hand wall, forty-five feet long,
eighteen feet wide, and fifteen feet high, which used to be called the
Steamboat; but it is now known as the Giant’s Coffin. The
quasi-sarcophagus may have been torn from the adjacent wall by some
convulsion, or it may simply have fallen and lodged in its present
suggestive position. Its weight is estimated at two thousand tons. It is
one of the great landmarks, and though we should pass it many times it
is impossible to do so without being impressed by its solitary grandeur,
rivaling as it does the blocks of Baalbec in Syria.

The route now taken leads us behind the Giant’s Coffin, through a low
and narrow passage which would never have been discovered had not the
monster rock fallen. This is styled Dante’s Gateway, from which a rude
stairway leads us into the Wooden Bowl Room, so named either from its
peculiar shape or because an Indian wooden bowl was found there. To the
left is the opening to what has variously been styled Indian Avenue,
Blacksnake Avenue, and Welcome Avenue. Really it is a combination of
several avenues, running for the distance of eight thousand five hundred
feet, as measured by the writer, which have been made passable by the
skill and industry of Mr. H. C. Ganter when he was manager of the Cave,
and which for this reason is generally called Ganter Avenue. Its inner
end is at Serpent Hall, and it gives an exit for any one who may get
caught beyond the rivers by a sudden rise of water.

Our present path goes through the “Dog-Hole,” down a stairway fancifully
called “The Steeps of Time,” leading into the region of pits and domes.
We pause a while by Richardson’s Spring, which is a small pool filled by
a running stream that has worn for itself a narrow channel in the rock,
illustrating what has been done for the entire Cave on a grander scale.
Small crustaceans are found in this clear pool, and blind insects abound
under the flat rocks near by. Numberless blind crickets leap away from
us, and white eyeless spiders, brown beetles, thousand-legged worms, and
other abnormal forms of life are found by careful search. Nothing
harmful, however, appears, either here or elsewhere. As a rule cave-life
is timid.

Side-saddle Pit, fifty feet deep, was named from its imagined
resemblance to a lady’s saddle. Above it rises Minerva’s Dome, thirty
feet high. The spot used to be dangerous, but is now guarded by a stout
railing. Once a terrier leaped down the Chasm after a fire-ball flung by
a guide. The guide’s wife allowed herself to be lowered by a rope and
rescued the poor dog, which did not seem to be seriously hurt by his
perilous adventure. Calypso’s Avenue, to the left, leads to the Covered
Pit and Scylla and Charybdis, which are rarely visited.

Near the entrance to the Labyrinth is a window through which we behold
the wonderful and lofty chamber discovered by a former owner of the
Cave, Mr. Frank Gorin, in whose honor it is named Gorin’s Dome. Perhaps
the earliest account of it was that published by Dr. Davidson. Its
height, as measured by myself with the aid of a cluster of small
balloons, is one hundred and sixty feet, its width is thirty-five feet
and its length sixty feet. Its vertical walls sweep in an S-shaped curve
and spring from the river level to the apex of the dome, with projecting
bosses of coral and with cascades that awake the echoes as they fall.

Darnall’s Way was cut through the sandbank, in 1896, to the summit,
where a bridge cast directly across the abyss gives us the most complete
view to be had of the locality. One remarkable feature is a folded
alabaster curtain one hundred and nineteen feet high. By casting
fire-balls down the whole interior is grandly illuminated. Davidson
descended to the bottom, as others have occasionally done since, by
means of a well some thirty feet deep, down which one clambers like a
chimney-sweep. He found there “stretching away in midnight blackness a
horrid pool of water.” In 1863 Mr. F. J. Stevenson, of London, had a
boat made and lowered through the window, on which he floated away for
seven long hours on a perilous voyage that no man has since then
repeated. The water now setting back from Green River has closed the
entrance to what we term “Stevenson’s Lost River”; but his old boat
still lies where it was stranded at the bottom of Gorin’s Dome.

Another huge abyss, the Bottomless Pit, was long regarded as ending
further progress, till Stephen Bishop crossed it in 1840 by means of a
slender cedar sapling thrown over the yawning gulf; since when it has
been spanned by a substantial and safe bridge. Instead of being
“bottomless” it is exactly one hundred and five feet deep. Above it is
Shelby’s Dome, named for the first Governor of Kentucky. Balls of cotton
waste saturated with coal-oil are flung down by the guides, which
grandly display the wrinkled and corrugated walls of the pit. Looking
directly across, we see an opening through which the writer and William
Garvin emerged from their explorations around Scylla and Charybdis.
There are other ways of approach, one from Gorin’s Dome, another from
near the Scotchman’s Trap, and still another from River Hall to the very
bottom, from which the upward view almost equals that from the base of
Gorin’s Dome. All this great group of pits is connected below to form an
immense hall, about four hundred feet long, which at high water is
flooded by the overflow from River Hall. By Special permission, of
former President of the United States Benjamin Harrison, this vast room
was named Harrison Hall.

                    [Illustration: “Bottomless Pit”]

On crossing the Bridge of Sighs we find an enlargement of the Cave
formerly used as a dining place, and hence known as Reveller’s Hall.
Pensico Avenue, along which we go, is crossed underneath by an invisible
passageway, causing sounds to be reproduced in Echo Chamber with
marvelous reverberations. Wending our way amid the huge rocks that
encumber Wild Hall we next reach the Grand Crossing, and beyond it the
singular dry stalactite, the Pineapple Bush, and end our path in
Angelica’s Grotto, with its curious Hanging Grove.

Retracing our steps to Reveller’s Hall, we descend by an opening
overhung by an enormous slab so poised as to make it seem as if a
careless breath might make it fall. This is the Scotchman’s Trap, so
named for a canny Scot who refused to go farther lest he should be
entrapped. But we dive under and go on, coming presently to the Fat
Man’s Misery. This is a serpentine passage, its walls changing direction
eight times in two hundred and thirty-six feet, its width but eighteen
inches and its height in places only five feet. It is indeed enough to
try a fat man’s soul and body. The sides are marked by ripples and
waves, and are polished by the friction of many vexed visitors.

The fattest man that ever went through weighed two hundred and
eighty-two pounds at the start, but avers that he lost twenty pounds in
the process. Another, a jovial son of Erin, stuck fast and was left to
his fate. Later he turned up all right and explained matters in his own
way. He said that he remembered every sin he had ever committed; and
when he called to mind how, at a certain recent hotly contested
election, he voted the wrong ticket by mistake, it made him feel so
small that he got free from the Fat Man’s Misery quite easily.

The room into which we emerge is fitly styled “Great Relief”; and from
it we enter the Bacon Chamber, where Nature in a frolicsome mood has
carved the limestone into masses resembling rows of hams and shoulders
in a packing-house. Near by is the Dining Hall, where, on occasion,
well-filled tables are spread.

A special trip can be made through Spark’s Avenue, entered from Bandit
Hall, and leading on to the Mammoth Dome. We first visited it in 1878,
and were assured that no one had been there for seven years. A
treacherous old ladder was then the only means of descending to the
floor, which sloped away to a pool whose waters received a cascade
falling from the lofty apex. The ladder has been replaced by a
substantial stairway, by crossing which we reach the Egyptian Temple, or
the Ruins of Karnak. Six columns eighty feet high and twenty-five feet
in diameter stand in a semicircle, each deeply fluted, veneered by
yellow stalagmite and covered by mimic tracery. Overhead is the black
opening already mentioned as the Crevice Pit; and underneath are
extensive catacombs rarely visited. Dr. Call’s measurement of the
extreme height, from the cascade pool to the summit of the dome above
the Crevice Pit, was one hundred and fifty feet; which was later
confirmed by my balloon system of measurement. The total length of the
room is not far from four hundred feet.

River Hall, to which we now return, might be said to extend for miles,
were we to include all the known branches of subterranean waters. So
unlike is it to the Main Cave that we might almost be said to have
entered another cavern—which would really be true. What is called in a
general way Mammoth Cave is a congeries of different caves, whose walls
and floors were first thinned and then broken through by the agency of
water, until was formed the immense and greatly diversified labyrinth
whose mazes we are exploring. Here is the gathering-bed of hundreds of
sink-holes opening from the surface. The exit is in deep, bubbling pools
along Green River, of which the Upper and Lower Big Springs are
examples. And when Green River is flooded by freshets its waters back
through such secret channels and also flood River Hall by a body of
water from thirty to one hundred feet in depth and fully two miles long,
with capricious currents and perilous whirlpools. Navigation at such
times is forbidden; but at low water it is entirely safe, under the care
of our skillful guides.

Sullen waters reposing at the foot of a cliff sixty feet high are called
the Dead Sea, though not bitter but sweet, as those may find who venture
down to the margin. An iron railing guards the way as we descend to a
lower terrace. Presently, on the right, we see a cascade, that falls
into a funnel-shaped hollow and vanishes. Near by, in 1881, the writer
found a natural mushroom bed, that suggested the idea of a mushroom
farm, but with meager results because located in Audubon Avenue, where
irrigation is impracticable.

The black waters of the River Styx wind between steep walls for some
four hundred feet, and with an average breadth of forty feet. Formerly
it was passed over by boat, but now by a natural bridge protected by a
guard-rail. Lake Lethe is next in order, along whose border we go
cautiously, in hope of seeing specimens of the famous eyeless fish
(_Amblyopsis speleus_) that abound in these waters. They seldom exceed
three or four inches in length, are colorless, have cartilage instead of
bones, are viviparous, and are so sensitive to approach that they dart
away if a grain of sand falls on the water. The blind white crawfish
(_Cambarus pellucidus_) is often seen. These creatures were first
described by Dr. Davidson, two years previous to their being mentioned
by DeKay, who was credited by Agassiz as their discoverer.

              [Illustration: Banquet Hall in Mammoth Cave]

The Great Walk for four hundred yards used to be admired, but now its
beautiful yellow sand is covered by the back-water from the rivers. The
roof here is mottled like snow-clouds. Midway the mask of Shakespeare is
pointed out, and other objects of interest are visible. Stephen Bishop,
John Craig, and Brice Patton first crossed these rivers, over which
thousands have since safely voyaged. A fleet of flat-boats awaits us,
the material for which was brought in by way of the Crevice Pit. Each
boat has seats for some twenty persons, while the guide propels the
primitive craft by his paddle.

Four arches open to the Echo River, only the fourth being ordinarily
available. To reach this we cross the Sandy Sahara and flounder through
the Slough of Purgatory. The voyage abounds in most enjoyable
adventures, though care must be taken not to upset amid waters that have
no shores except at the landing-places. A few years ago a party, mainly
of journalists, managed to swamp their boat, but were rescued by the
presence of mind of all concerned, particularly the strong-armed and
faithful guide, John M. Nelson, whose orders they obeyed.

Echo River varies in width from twenty to two hundred feet, under an
archway averaging thirty feet in height, the depth varying from five to
twenty-five feet, and its level being only about twenty feet above that
of Green River. The portion over which visitors are taken is perhaps
half a mile or more long. All along its margin, where the rock abruptly
meets the water, are countless cavities that have been washed out by the
stream. These gave a wag in our party on first crossing the river his
chance, and he cried, “Oh, see these little bits of caves, three for
five cents!” Then awoke the echoes and carried the sound away and away
till he was ashamed of himself. Then a lady in black velvet Cave
costume, with tiny bells along the fringe to keep her from getting lost,
sang the “Sweet Bye and Bye.” A revolver was fired, answered by a “Rebel
Yell.” Flute and cornet were played with magical effect.

                     [Illustration: On Echo River]

The term “echo” misleads; for what is given is really a wonderful
prolongation of sound, lasting five, ten, or even twenty minutes. The
tunnel’s own key-note when struck excites harmonics of depth and
sweetness, along with a profound undertone. When the guide agitates the
water a myriad tiny silver bells tinkle, followed by heavier ones as the
waves strike the cavities along the walls. This tempest of harmony dies
away with strange mutterings, as if of an angry mob. Mr. Ganter tells of
a time when the writer fooled him by causing unearthly shrieks, as of
wretches in mortal agony, at an hour when none were on the river but

Here ends the First Route. We retrace our steps as far as Bandit Hall,
where some one raises the question if there is no way out but by Fat
Man’s Misery. The guide answers, “Yes, by the Corkscrew,” adding the
warning, “Those who come in by the Fat Man’s Misery go out by the
Corkscrew, and those who come in by the Corkscrew go out by the Fat
Man’s Misery: and whichever way they take, they wish they had taken the
other.” So, up we scramble like so many rats, under or over great
ledges, leaping from rock to rock, or climbing ladders, through what
seems like an enormous pit that had been filled in with gigantic rocks,
till at last, breathless, we emerge upon the Kentucky Cliffs in the Main
Cave. A few steps carry us past the saltpeter vats, through the Rotunda,
and the iron gate is unlocked to let us into the vestibule, whence we
climb the stone stairs to daylight.

                     [Illustration: “Bridal Altar”]

                            [Illustration:       COPYRIGHT 1908 BY H. C.
                                ROUTE II
                   STAR CHAMBER, GOTHIC AVENUE etc.]


                                ROUTE II
             Olive’s Bower, Star Chamber, and Gothic Avenue

After a suitable period of rest and refreshment at the Hotel we resume
our way along the same path taken for the first route, but presently
deviate to explore Audubon Avenue, of which we had only seen the
beginning. It is related that when the great ornithologist visited
Rafinesque, the former smashed a fine violin in his eagerness to capture
a unique specimen of the bat family. As a kind of amicable revenge the
latter affixed Audubon’s name to this avenue, where so many myriads of
bats annually hibernate. It is fitting that the great branch to the
left, sweeping for three hundred and fifty feet and suddenly ending in a
tumble-down, should be named Rafinesque Hall. Unless our visit is in
late fall or winter, we find but few clusters of bats; but in cold
weather they gather here from near and far and hang head-downward till
somehow, by a sense not explained, they know it is warm weather
out-of-doors, and then fly forth to the forests. Dr. Call boasts of a
single catch that gave him six hundred and seventy bats, of many
varieties, most of which were sent to the National Museum.

Advancing through Audubon Avenue, we soon find the roof and floor
approaching to form what is called Bunker Hill, around which we pass by
a narrow defile. The Mushroom Beds attract our attention, to which we
have already referred as having cost far more than they ever returned by
way of profit, although the idea itself is feasible.

Above a floor encumbered by debris hang formations needing an
explanation. Limpid drops trickle through the roof, saturated with
bicarbonate of lime. The supply of water is constant, but so meager as
to drip instead of flow; and as the dripping goes on each drop lays down
its load as a ring slight enough for a fairy’s finger. Ring follows ring
till a pendant is formed like a pipestem. The pipestems thicken to the
size of candles, and often grow as large as tree-trunks. Occasionally
they broaden into elegant drapery, or are twisted into fantastic shapes.
All these stone icicles are called “stalactites.”

Such lime-laden drops as fall splash about and on evaporation deposit,
not rings, but films thin as tissue-paper, building up stalagmites that
are solid from their base upwards. Often these downward and upward
growths meet as stately shafts, like the pillar named the Sentinel,
which guards Olive’s Bower a few steps beyond it.

The general term “dripstone” is conveniently applied to all these
deposits, and their finer varieties are known to the mineralogist as
“oriental alabaster.” A central stalactite in Olive’s Bower is very
large and cone-shaped, amid many smaller ones. Below is a rampart,
looking over which we see, some twenty feet below, a limpid pool that
reflects the overhanging formations. Before leaving the subject of
dripstone it should be remarked that, chemically regarded, it is simply
the hard carbonate, not the bicarbonate, as is often alleged; the latter
being an unstable compound, readily changing on any change of its

The pit which arrests our progress beyond Olive’s Bower might, if
explored, prove this locality to be connected with White’s Cave, whose
features it resembles. On returning to the Rotunda we again inspect the
historic relics of the War of 1812, and mark the grooves cut in the
limestone walls by the hubs of the primitive cart-wheels that were
slowly drawn along by oxen to collect the nitrous earth for the
saltpeter vats. We notice that the bottoms of these vats were made of
small logs halved and grooved and laid in layers on supports; the lower
layer with its grooved surface up, to receive the second layer in
reversed position, making a method for conveying the lye into
reservoirs, whence it was pumped out to the crystallization troughs. Dr.
Call was the first to direct attention to this ingenious device.

Again we forsake the Main Cave for a ramble through Gothic Avenue, which
is reached by a stairway just beyond the vats. At the entrance to it is
Booth’s Amphitheatre, where Edwin Booth is said to have recited a part
of the play of Hamlet. In early times a mummy was found in an adjoining
cave, and brought hither for exhibition. The alcove where it reposed
still bears the name of the Mummy’s Niche. It was afterward carried
about through the West on exhibition, and it was the writer’s privilege
to see it at that time. It was naturally dessicated, and with its
ornaments and garments was regarded as a great curiosity. It remained in
a museum at Worcester, Mass., for many years, and is now in the National
Museum at Washington, D. C.

Hundreds of visitors have recorded their names in Register Hall, either
by scratching them on the wall with the knife or smoking them there by
their candles, or else by the less conspicuous way of depositing their
cards on the ledge set apart for that purpose. Here, and also in parts
of the Main Cave, so-called “monuments” are built by piling up flat
fragments of stone in honor of individuals, States, or benevolent
organizations; a practice which incidentally has helped to clear
obstructions from the pathway in which we walk. The largest of them all
is quite properly the Kentucky Monument. The effect in general, however,
is to divert attention from the natural attractions.

The hoary old stalactites, great and small, in Gothic Avenue got their
growth ages ago. The signs show that long ago the Cave stream was
diverted to lower channels, leaving the place as dry as a tinder-box.
The Post-Oak Pillar, the Pillars of Hercules, Pompey and Cæsar, and the
Altar in Gothic Chapel, are interesting and picturesque, and give the
guides occasion for many legends and jokes; but do not warrant the
conclusions drawn by Dr. Binkerd and others as to the age of the Mammoth
Cave, judging by the alleged slow growth of dripstone in a locality
where there is now no growth at all. There is no doubt as to the vast
antiquity of the great cavern, whose remote origin is by many referred
to the Tertiary Period; but it must be remembered that geological
changes are by no means uniform, and that catastrophe has evidently
played a conspicuous part in cave-making.

There is not enough moisture now in Gothic Avenue to make the atoms
float in the air. Toss a handful of dust up, and it falls back like so
much shot. I saw a party of young people who came here directly from the
ballroom, and not a particle of dust spotted the trailing robes or clung
to the polished boots. Wood here undergoes tardy decay, and fresh beef
and other meats keep sweet for a long time, and then dry up like the old
mummy which was mentioned as having once been placed here.

Pompey Pillar is named for a negro miner, a raw hand, who in old times
trudged in here alone for “peter-dirt” and lost his way. He stumbled,
put out his lamp, and was in a frenzy. When at last he saw his
half-naked negro comrades approach, swinging their torches and shouting,
he took them for demons, and shouted lustily for mercy. It took no
little shaking and punching to convince him that he was yet alive and in
Mammoth Cave, instead of elsewhere.

It may tax the imagination to find the resemblance to an Elephant’s Head
in the stalactite so called; but once found the grotesque likeness is

A curious legend told of the Gothic Chapel and its Bridal Altar is
verified. A Kentucky belle gave her heart to a gallant Southron. But her
mother, who opposed the match, made her swear never to marry any man on
the face of the earth. Shortly the lovers eloped and were hotly pursued;
but before they were caught they were married in this novel Gretna
Green. Taxed with her broken pledge, the bride replied: “Mother, dear,
it was not marrying any man ‘on the face of the earth’ to wed my own
true love in this underground chapel.”

              [Illustration: Marriage in “Gothic Chapel”]

Few ladies fail to rest awhile in the Old Arm Chair, a stalagmite
naturally fitted as a seat. Jenny Lind sat here and sang one of her
sweet songs; and many a song has been sung here since. A slender
projection beyond it is called the Lover’s Leap, from whose point an
illumination shows a wild mass of rocks amid which runs a narrow path
styled the Elbow Crevice, whose walls are fantastically folded. We
escape from the ragged edge of what is known as Joseph’s Pit, and note
in passing the Devil’s Cooling Tub. Gatewood’s Dining-Table is a huge
flat rock directly under Napoleon’s Dome, from whose apex it fell.

Gratz Avenue, into which we enter, is not on the same Cave level as the
Gothic Avenue. Unless we take care we may walk directly into the
exquisitely clear waters of Lake Purity, a small mirror-like pool.
Beyond it we go, winding to and fro, till at the foot of a small cliff
we find the entrance to Annette’s Dome, one of the prettiest in all the
Cave. Shaler’s Brook spouts from the wall and runs merrily and musically
into a smaller room, whence it vanishes, falling by a leap of seventy
feet into Lee’s Cistern. In Gratz Avenue are found blind crustaceans,
crickets, and other forms of life described by Dr. Call.

We now retrace our way to the Main Cave, passing various objects noticed
in the first route. Shortly beyond the Giant’s Coffin the Main Cave
turns suddenly to the left at the Acute Angle, where the burning
magnesium makes visible the vast dimensions of the cavern by
illuminating it in two directions at once. A village in the vicinity
formerly sheltered a colony of consumptives who, in 1843, and by medical
advice, took up their abode here, hopeful for relief or cure because of
the uniform temperature and the naturally oxygenated air. The sunless
days passed slowly by till the pitiful experiment was abandoned as a
failure, as was also the experiment by the invalids to make trees and
shrubbery grow around their dismal huts. Some of the victims of the
“white plague” lie buried in the grove back of the Hotel garden, while
others died soon after returning to their homes. There were originally
thirteen cottages and tents, the only ones now remaining being two
roofless stone structures beyond the Acute Angle.

                    [Illustration: “Old Arm Chair”]

A strangely beautiful transformation scene is wrought for us in the Star
Chamber, a hall seventy feet wide, sixty feet high, and several hundred
feet long. The ceiling is coated with manganese dioxide, and through
this black background emerge hundreds of brilliant white stars, made by
the efflorescence of the sulphate of magnesia. These are invisible at
first, and the magnificent archway sweeps above us in midnight
blackness. Long benches are ranged against the right-hand wall, on which
the guide seats us, while he collects our lamps and vanishes with them
behind a jutting rock. Then comes the marvelous illusion. The roof seems
lifted to an immense height. Indeed, we seem to gaze from a cañon
directly up to the starry sky. Cloud-shadows are thrown athwart it by
adroit manipulation. A meteor shoots across the vault. We behold the
mild glory of the Milky Way. Suddenly the guide breaks in upon our
exclamations of delight by saying, “Good night. I will see you again in
the morning!” He plunges into a gorge. We are in utter darkness. The
silence is so perfect that we can hear our hearts beat. Presently a
glimmer comes from another direction, like a faint streak of dawn. The
aurora tinges the tips of the rocks; the horizon is bathed in a rosy
glow; a concert of cock-crowing, the lowing of cattle and other barnyard
sounds, answered by the barking of the house-dog, seem to herald the
rising sun; when the ventriloquial guide appears, swinging his cluster
of lamps and asking how we liked the performance. Our response is a
hearty encore; after granting which the guide tells us that the second
route ends here, and he must pilot us back to the mouth of the Cave and
to the Hotel. Those who have witnessed the wonders of the Star Chamber
many times testify that the charm never wanes.

                   [Illustration: “The Acute Angle”]

                            [Illustration:       COPYRIGHT 1908 BY H. C.
                               ROUTE III
                      MAIN CAVE and NEW DISCOVERY]

                               ROUTE III
                  From the Star Chamber to Violet City

Familiar now with the features of the first part of the Main Cave, we
trudge along rapidly, till the guide cries “Halt!” We seem to hear the
measured ticking of an old-fashioned clock. We find the natural
timepiece to be but the dripping of water into a small basin hidden
behind some rocks. The drops fall only a few inches, one by one, as they
may have fallen for a thousand years; but such are the acoustic
properties of the place that the musical ticking is heard for a long
distance. The guide shows us also another pretty pool, made by a tiny
rill gushing from the solid wall; and he tells us the story of a
rambling blind boy, who won a living by his violin, and who said that he
“wanted to _see_ the Cave” for himself. Somehow he got apart from his
companions, and when they found the little boy he was sound asleep
beside this tiny basin, which has ever since been known as “Wandering
Willie’s Spring.”

Hastening on to the Star Chamber, we resume our exploration of the Main
Cave. Beyond that hall of constellations, the Grand Gallery—as it used
to be called—sweeps to the right, and the starry canopy changes to a
“mackerel-sky,” caused by the scaling-off of the black deposit on the
ceiling, thus exposing the white limestone. This is the Floating Cloud
Room. As we look aloft at the fleecy masses that seem to float along, we
notice a stout oak pole jutting from an inaccessible crevice. When, why,
how, and by whom was it put there? In Lee’s “Notes of the Mammoth Cave,”
in 1835, ancient fireplaces are mentioned, which were also shown to
myself by old Matt, in 1881, and which were hidden by broad slabs along
the margin of the Cave.

Curious objects are pointed out as we walk through Procter’s Arcade and
Kinney’s Arena, lofty and symmetrical enlargements of the passageway.
One of them is another stout pole in a rift in the roof. The Keel-Boat
(or the Whale) is an enormous rock seventy feet long, and a tilted slab
of limestone is the Devil’s Looking-Glass. Presently it begins to snow;
and our shouts make the flakes fall faster. Waving lamps and lighted
fire-balls augment the storm. Seeking an explanation, we find that the
ceiling is crusted with native Epsom salts, whose crystals are thus
dislodged, as well as more silently by the growth of new crystals,
falling, as saline snow till the brown ledges are whitened by mimic

No stooping or crawling has to be done in the Main Cave, and the floor
is everywhere dry. Formerly the tilting slabs of limestone made walking
difficult, but now these are removed so as to give us a fairly smooth
road throughout. The serpentine winding known as the S-bend expands to a
width of one hundred and seventy-five feet and keeps that width for five
hundred and fifty feet; but midway it meets a grand crossing, that
increases the width to about four hundred feet. Fox Avenue, near by,
encloses a large cave-island.

Dr. Nahum Ward and other early explorers fancied the Main Cave as
formerly an underground Nile, and its rocky masses ruined cities; and on
the first maps they were numbered First, Second, Third, Fourth, and
Fifth City. The first in order was called the Chief City, while the
fourth, now familiar to us by that name, was the Temple. This fact
explains some conflicting accounts by early and more recent authors.
Robert M. Bird was responsible for these changes, giving the name of
Wright’s Rotunda to the First City in honor of his friend, Prof. C. A.
Wright, M. D.

This is one of the most spacious rooms in the Cave, being shaped like
the letter T, its length about five hundred feet and its width at the
transept about three hundred and fifty feet. The ceiling is quite level
throughout, but the floor is irregular, causing the space between roof
and floor to vary from ten to forty-five feet. When several chemical
fires are ignited at distant points simultaneously the effect is superb.
Ragged cliffs divide this prodigious area, making a sort of great
island, beyond which by climbing through the so-called Chimneys those
who wish can reach the Black Chambers above, extending for several
hundred feet. The walls and domes of these chambers are coated with the
black oxide of manganese, and the enormous rocks lie scattered in the
wildest disorder.

Returning to Wright’s Rotunda and taking the other arm of the T, we
presently find ourselves looking directly into a steep hollow, or pit,
into which the Cataracts tumble from orifices in the roof, and with
resounding force after a rainfall. Those who risk a descent part way
down the pit and climb over a wall may find their way into the Solitary
Chambers and the Fairy Grotto, though the difficulty of access prevents
these places from being ordinarily exhibited. A “tumble-down” to the
left of the Cataract chasm might correctly be regarded as the
termination of the Main Cave.

A passage to the left opens from Cataract Hall to a lofty avenue
commonly spoken of as a continuation of the Main Cave, but really on
another level. The limestone slabs that used to clatter under our feet
and endanger our equilibrium have been made firm or else removed, and we
easily proceed through the Gorge and across the portal of what once was
styled the Temple, but has long been known as the Chief City.

By my measurement the room is four hundred and fifty feet long, with an
average width of one hundred and seventy-five feet; but others have made
the dimensions larger. The utmost height does not exceed one hundred and
twenty-five feet. The maximum width, as measured by Dr. Call, is two
hundred and eighty-seven feet. The area covers about two acres. And over
this vast space springs a solid and seamless canopy of gray limestone,
that has thus lifted its majestic arch for thousands of years. Dr. Bird
found here, in 1837, aboriginal relics “in astonishing, unaccountable
quantities.” Formerly these were heaped as bonfires to illuminate the
chamber; but even yet cartloads remain of half-burnt cane-torches,
fragments of woven moccasins, and other objects of interest, to reward
search amid crevices and crannies. The theory is that the Indians made
this place their council chamber, or else their stronghold of refuge
from enemies.

Fascinated with the local attractions and possibly too forgetful of the
weariness of my guide, I lingered once till midnight, prowling amid the
fastnesses of the Chief City. Noticing presently the utter silence that
prevailed, I returned to where my guide had been left on guard, only to
find a couple of lamps and a strip of brown paper on which he had
scrawled the words, “It is midnight and I got tired and went out.” The
guide had really deserted me, and the only thing to do was to await the
coming of comrades, who would surely hunt me up, as they did after the
lapse of an hour or so. Extinguishing the lamps meanwhile, fancy was
given full play to people the mysterious council chamber with ghosts of
dusky warriors, till there seemed to be a rush of whispers and other
imaginary sounds that were really caused, I suppose, by the coursing of
the blood through my veins. It was easy to realize that a person
actually lost in Mammoth Cave might soon be so bewildered as to lose his
reason. Even in my own case it was a relief to break the spell, as I
did, by simply striking a match and trimming anew the flickering flame
of my lamps. Every observant visitor has seen with pleasure the
assemblage of rocks and the overarching canopy aglow with Bengal lights
or burning magnesium, and has commented on the singular fact that the
lofty dome seems to follow him as he retires from its protection.

St. Catherine City, which lies beyond, is at the intersection of the
Blue Spring Branch and Blackall Avenue with the main passageway. The
latter, recently named in honor of the veteran cave-hunter, Dr. C. R.
Blackall, of Philadelphia, ends in a funnel-shaped pit bearing the name
of Symmes’ Pit, probably in memory of Captain John Cleves Symmes, of
Newport, Kentucky, whose theory gained much attention formerly—that our
globe was a hollow sphere with an opening at the poles, and that within
were races of men and animals different from those on the surface. At a
public meeting held at Frankfort, a resolution was adopted to the effect
that the United States Congress should fit out an expedition to the
Arctic Circle under his command, in order to find, if possible, the
mysterious Polar pit for which this Cave pit was named.

Our course, however, leads us to Waldach’s Dome (in memory of Charles
Waldach, the pioneer in cave-photography) and Hains’ Dome (in honor of
his successor, Ben Hains), both of them symmetrical and noble domes,
rising to oval ceilings above smooth floors of sand. In the Garret we
find flakes of Epsom salts like those found in the Snow Room. Bending
low through Mayme’s Stoopway, we reach what to Dr. Call and myself
seemed to be an impenetrable wall, to which we gave what we thought the
fitting name of “Ultima Thule.”

In the year 1908 Mr. Max Kaemper, of Germany, undertook a complete
exploration of Mammoth Cave, assisted by Edward Bishop, guide, the
results of which are exclusively for the owners of the Cave. Their
observations led them to suspect that a certain tumble-down in the
Sandstone Avenue might be identical with the tumble-down known as Ultima
Thule. Hence they attacked a crawl-way near the latter, and by patiently
removing many limestone fragments they wormed their way through to an
oval hall, one hundred and sixty feet long by one hundred and twenty
feet wide and sixty feet high, now named, for its discoverer, Kaemper
Hall. An unseen waterfall, by whose music they had been led onward, was
now seen to dash down an abyss they named, for the guide, Bishop’s Pit.
Another is the “Parrish Pit,” so called for Norman A. Parrish, of
Buffalo, New York. These are the first of a series of eleven pits, the
others not yet being named.

Fifty steps to the right is a short passage where an iron gate is now
fixed, opening into a symmetrical chamber seventy-five feet in diameter
and of about the same height, rising by vaulted arches and closing above
in a beautiful circle. This is Elizabeth’s Dome, named for a sister of
Mr. Kaemper. The exit is by the Grand Portal, an arch sixty feet wide
and fifty feet high, commanding one of the most magnificent views in all
the underground world.

On visiting the locality soon after its discovery, I seated myself on
Albert’s Stairway, while one of my companions ignited Bengal lights here
and there, and the other used an automobile searchlight brought in for
the purpose; and thus they gave me my first view of the wonderful
region, to which the general name of Violet City is given, in honor of
Mrs. Violet Blair Janin, the wife of Trustee Albert C. Janin, and the
fair owner of one third of the Mammoth Cave estate. Special features are
Blair Castle and the Marble Temple, whose environs are styled
“Walhalla,” for the fabled realm above the clouds where dwell the heroes
and demigods of old German mythology.

Picking up our torches again, and carrying my acetylene bicycle lamp, to
which I had fixed a convenient handle, we followed a natural pathway
near the wall on the left, that led us from place to place. We found
that Violet City is two hundred and fifty feet long by one hundred and
twenty-five wide, rivaled only in size by Wright’s Rotunda and the Chief
City, and greatly exceeding them in beauty. A sandstone cave-in at the
end seems to lend color to the idea that Sandstone Avenue, or some
similar place, is near. These fallen blocks are cemented together by a
profusion of onyx. Stalactites and stalagmites abound everywhere,
varying in color from the purest white alabaster through every
imaginable shade. The upper central part of the hall is crowned by three
masses of fluted white onyx, glistening with exquisite crystals, while
from the roof hang in fine array stalactites eight or ten feet long. The
right wall is decorated with pure white formations, and the left wall is
coated with rich brown onyx. A row of stalactites of varying length emit
musical tones when struck by the knuckles, and by skillful percussion
simple airs can be played on them. These are the Chimes.

                       [Illustration: The Chimes]

Other attractions excite surprise. The Beer Mug, like a mug of foaming
ale, the Ripe Tomato, a rare bit of red onyx, and other odd specimens of
natural mimicry are here. One familiar with the brilliant creations
found in the wonderful caverns of Luray might easily imagine himself in
that Virginian fairyland instead of in Mammoth Cave. Thus far these
marvelous treasures have been kept untouched by vandal fingers, such as
have robbed or destroyed elsewhere what should have been most jealously
guarded in the greatest cavern known.

In his zeal to open a passage from Violet City to Sandstone Avenue Mr.
Kaemper obtained permission to use explosives. Thus he made considerable
progress. However, the indications were that he was likely to burst
through to the surface somewhere, instead of into Sandstone Avenue, and
accordingly he desisted. In either case the result might have been
advantageous. An opening into Sandstone Avenue would enable visitors to
make the circuit through the Main Cave and Violet City, and return by
the Long Route, without having to retrace their steps. On the other
hand, an exit to the surface from near Violet City would enable them to
return by coach to the Cave Hotel without a wearisome tramp over ground
already trodden.

                   [Illustration: The Marble Temple]

To convince those who, like the writer, are skeptical as to the
proximity of Violet City and Sandstone Avenue, Kaemper and Bishop
repaired, one to the first place and the other to the second, agreeing
on a fixed moment by the watch when they would fire revolvers and
likewise hammer on the rocks. The pistol shots were inaudible, but the
blows on the walls were faintly heard. By similar sound-tests it was
determined that Wright’s Rotunda is directly above the Serpent Hall
(beyond Echo River), so that it might be possible to connect them by a
stairway through an artificial shaft. Incidentally I may state, however,
as showing how far sound may travel through the rocks and their
mysterious crevices, that, while in the Chief City, we heard the
steam-cars running over the Mammoth Cave Railroad.

But now no short cut is provided for us, and we return as we came,
carrying with us delightful memories of the New Discovery.

               [Illustration: William Garvin, the Guide]

                    [Illustration: In “Violet City”]

                            [Illustration:      DRAWN AND COPYRIGHTED BY
                                                        H.C. HOVEY 1909.
                                            WALKER LITH & PUB CO, BOSTON
                                ROUTE IV
                            TO THE MAELSTROM
                                 AND TO
                           HOVEY’S CATHEDRAL]

                                ROUTE IV
                 To the Maelström and Hovey’s Cathedral

Let no one in ordinary vigor forego the remarkable scenes of what is
frequently known as “The Long Route,” simply because longer than either
of the other three. The trip is varied by the boat-ride, the midday
lunch, and the occasional stops at points of interest. The spirits are
also sustained by the exhilarating Cave atmosphere.

We may imagine ourselves, therefore, as having landed at Rocky Inlet, on
the farther shore of the wonderful Echo River. Soon we are greeted by
the music of the waterfall in Cascade Hall. To our right are
Stephenson’s Avenue, whose principal attraction is Neptune’s Cups, and
the Aquarius Avenue, leading to Roaring River; both of which offer
matters of interest to the scientist, but are never visited by ordinary
tourists, who hasten on to other scenes more accessible. Wellington’s
Galleries are peculiar shelf-like projections. At Dripping Spring we
find a few stalactites. We pass in safety what the guides irreverently
name the Infernal Regions, Pluto’s Dome, and Old Scratch Hall—the latter
being surprisingly scratched all over, while the only trails of serpents
in Serpent Hall are the freaks of nature observed as winding channels
overhead. The fact should be noted that this is high-water mark for Echo
River in time of flood. Hence we take particular interest in the opening
from Serpent Hall to Ganter Avenue as our only exit at such times,
running as it does for eight thousand five hundred feet to the Wooden
Bowl Room, near the Giant’s Coffin in the Main Cave. We are assured,
however, that visitors are seldom so unlucky as to get caught by such a
sudden rise of the waters. We have now entered Silliman’s Avenue, named
for the late Professor Silliman of Yale University. In the Valley-Way
Side-Cut are singular crystals of gypsum that grow in the ground, whence
they are dug up, like so many potatoes. Beyond the Hill of Fatigue
stands the Great Western, resembling an ocean steamer, her helm
hard-a-port. By mounting a ledge between the Vale of Flowers and Rabbit
Rock, and following Rhoda Arcade for about five hundred yards amid
interesting incrustations, we find three domes, named for different
members of the Jesup family, the highest and most symmetrical being
Lucy’s Dome, connected by a lofty archway with the other two. Immense
alabaster curtains hang on the walls, and the effect when illuminated
from the archway is grand.

On the left of Silliman’s Avenue is a hall with fine acoustic
properties, thirty feet wide, forty long, and twenty high, where the
famous Norwegian violinist Ole Bull is said to have once given a special
performance; and hence it bears his name, Ole Bull’s Concert Hall. The
wild and rugged pass which, on the map, seems to be a continuance of
Silliman’s Avenue, is really on a lower level, and is well named “El
Ghor” (The Gorge). It winds about like a forsaken river bed, which it
undoubtedly is, and offers many surprising sights. One such is the Fly
Chamber, in which swarms of house-flies seem to have settled on the
walls and ceiling. Examination proves them to be so many crystals of
black oxide of manganese. The Hanging Rocks, the Sheep-shelter, and the
Victoria Crown are formations whose names suggest their shape.
Immediately over El Ghor is Corinne’s Dome, nine feet wide and about
forty feet high. The guide points out what he styles Suicide Rock, and
when you innocently ask him “Why?” his ready reply is, “Because it hung
itself.” The Black Hole of Calcutta is an ugly black pit on the left of
the pass. El Ghor continues on for some distance, but we leave it after
refreshing ourselves at Hebe’s Spring, a clear pool four feet in
diameter by a foot and a half deep, and said to be impregnated with
sulphur; a fact of interest—it might easily come from the reduction of
gypsum or Epsom salt.

Stevenson, who was here in 1861, says, “There is a short avenue, or
rather a hole, leading from El Ghor to a sheet of water called Mystic
River, which has not been explored, as they have never been able to get
a boat in there.” Other early writers mention Mystic River, but Dr. Call
and myself were unable to find it. Possibly it is identical with the
stream in Martel Avenue; but no one would ever think of a “boat” in
connection with the latter.

Boone Avenue, diverging from El Ghor to our left at a point five
thousand eight hundred and twenty yards from the mouth of the Cave, was
for many years blocked by a stone stairway, recently removed. Important
discoveries were made in this direction in 1907, to which we shall
presently give attention.

Now, however, we climb up through an uninviting hole at our right that
admits us to an upper tier of caverns. When the last man is through we
burn blue fire, and are surprised to find ourselves in a stone vineyard.
Nodules and globules simulate clusters on clusters of luscious grapes,
gleaming with parti-colored tints through dripping dew. No covetous hand
is allowed to pluck the marvelous vintage of Mary’s Vineyard; which,
after all, the mineralogist explains as simply calcium carbonate coated
with the black oxide of iron.

Washington Hall, smoke-stained and its floor strewn with relics of
hundreds of lunch-parties in former days, is mainly interesting as the
place whence two grand avenues diverge, namely, Marion Avenue, not
included in our route, and Cleaveland Avenue, so named for the late
mineralogist of that name. This avenue is one of the great “lions” of
Mammoth Cave, and many think more of it than of all the other Cave lions
put together. It has indeed a marvelous beauty peculiarly its own. Walls
and ceiling everywhere are decorated by mimic leaves and flowers, in an
infinite variety of form. There is hardly a plant known to botany that
does not find its counterpart here; but roses, camellias, and
chrysanthemums are the most common varieties. In many parts of this
treasury of crystals there is not a space as large as your hand that is
not decorated by dazzling blossoms; and even the floor sparkles with
bright fragments of flowers demolished by vandal visitors. Dr. John
Locke, of Cincinnati, gave these Cave rosettes the name of
“oulopholites,” meaning literally “curled-leaf-stones.” Among
descriptive names assigned to different parts of this enchanted realm
are Snowball Room, Flora’s Garden, Orpha’s Garden, the Cross of Flowers,
the Last Rose of Summer, Crypt of Jewels, and Charlotte’s Grotto. These
are not all of them in Cleaveland Avenue, but some are in its vicinity.
It is a vast crystalline region, through which one may wander for fully
two miles and occasionally find, in some secluded nook, the trailing
vines, stalks of celery, and stag’s antlers described by early tourists.

Surfeited at length by such floral splendors, we suddenly emerge into
Call’s Rotunda and clamber up the loosely piled blocks of limestone
called the Rocky Mountains, from whose summit we look down into the
Dismal Hollow, whose gloom our red fires hardly succeed in dispelling.
Three avenues branch from Call’s Rotunda; one to Sandstone Avenue, which
Kaemper considers to be in proximity to Violet City; another, Franklin
Avenue, ends in Serena’s Arbor; and the third leads directly to a large
room named, for the former owner of the Cave, Croghan’s Hall. It is
sixty feet in diameter and thirty feet high. Here we find, the yawning
chasm known as the Maelström, which by my measurement is eighty-eight
feet deep, though often described as far deeper than that. It is claimed
that W. C. Prentice was the first to descend to the bottom of this
abyss. According to Mr. Procter the same feat was afterward accomplished
by Mr. Richard Babbitt. Mr. F. J. Stevenson, of London, in his letters
to his mother, tells the story at great length of his own descent into
the Maelström in the presence of thirty witnesses and with the help of
two guides, Nicholas Branford and Frank de Monbrun. On the 15th of May,
1905, Mr. Benjamin F. Einbigler and John M. Nelson, guide, were lowered
by ropes held by Edward Hawkins and Levi Woodson, guides, the
rope-length being exactly ninety-seven feet eight inches. Their account
differs materially from the former descriptions, but we will not try to
adjust their statements in this manual. The most that the visitor will
be apt to do will be to peer over the brink and wonder that anybody
should venture down such an awful abyss. This is estimated to be
ninety-six hundred yards from the entrance to the Cave, and is often
spoken of as “the end of Mammoth Cave.” But who can tell where the real
“end” of so vast a labyrinth may be? At any rate here we turn and
retrace our steps through the paradise of Cave flowers until we reach
Mary’s Vineyard and descend to the level of El Ghor.

Here, if we have the time, strength, and inclination, we may enter Boone
Avenue, which has been known for many years, and visit what is
practically a new part, of the Cave, though there are signs of its
having been explored long ago by unknown visitors.

A well-worn path leads us to a chasm, down whose slope we pick our way
to a lower level known on Stephen Bishop’s old map as Miriam Avenue. A
narrow and winding way, called Pinson’s Pass, leads into a long and
noble avenue which is named Martel Avenue, in honor of the famous
cave-hunter of France, Edward A. Martel. The point where we enter it is
called, from its peculiar shape, Bottle Hall. Were we to go to the left
in Martel Avenue we should find the path rugged and difficult, but would
be rewarded by seeing Helictite Hall, where abound those curious twisted
and distorted stalactites known as helictites. Several small passages
branch off from the avenue, which finally terminates in Galloway’s Dome.

The right-hand portion of Martel Avenue brings us soon to the bed of a
brook that must at times be deeply covered by flowing water. Ripple
marks of sand alternate with flat masses of jet-black polished flint.
Knots of wood, roots of corn-stalks, and other objects indicate that
they were recently swept down hither from the surface. Two adjacent
domes are named for the intrepid guide, John M. Nelson, but beyond them
some hardy pioneer had inscribed on a rock the date 1848. Mr. Norman A.
Parrish came as far as this in 1904, but the distinction of availing
himself of footholds over a risky limestone slip and crossing where
others had turned back belongs to Mr. B. F. Einbigler, already mentioned
as having descended the Maelström. For him the great overhanging dome is
named, while a still grander one about a hundred yards beyond was named
by him “Edna Dome” for his sister, who subsequently visited it. Instead
of narrowing to an apex, as most domes do, Edna Dome broadens at the
top, seeming to open into a cross-cavern. This conjecture remains to be
verified by some climber.

Edward Hawkins scaled the wall of the pit underneath Einbigler’s Dome,
May 15, 1907, being followed by Einbigler, Bransford, and at another
visit by Mr. H. M. Pinson, who took along the head-light of an
automobile for illumination. This searchlight was still there on the
occasion of my own visit, on the 18th of June, 1907, a month afterward,
in company with William Bransford and Frank Barry, guides. Passing
through Hawkins’ Way and scaling a wall at its end, we were on the level
floor of a dome sixty feet in diameter and from one hundred and fifty to
two hundred feet high. A tall arched gateway opened from this into a
second dome of equal size; and through similar gateways we entered in
succession five vast domes arranged as a sigmoidal group. From the fifth
a window opens into an irregular room, where a downfall of rocks blocks
further progress. In this fifth dome also a waterfall leaps from the
apex to the floor, where it vanishes into a chasm. The majestic walls
rise in horizontal tiers, each tier about ten feet in thickness and
fringed by beautiful stalactites. The mighty masonry ascends in
narrowing circles till the powerful searchlight barely enables us to
discern the oval white tablet forming the apex, girt by onyx pendants.
Vertically the walls are richly corrugated from top to bottom. The
entire series of five united domes is four times the magnitude of
Gorin’s Dome. Ages on ages were needed for the chemical and mechanical
action whereby this surprising cathedral was carved in silence broken
only by the wild, pattering waterfall or the heavier cataract. Let me
anew express my obligation to the Mammoth Cave management for having
marked their appreciation of my long-continued and enthusiastic interest
in their wonderful cavern by naming, with the approval of the discoverer
and the guides, this remarkable group of domes “Hovey’s Cathedral.”

A glance at the map will show, that Kaemper and Bishop went beyond what
has just been described, and found two domes, to one of which Mr.
Kaemper gave the name of a German lady, calling it “Gerta’s Grotto,” and
the other he named “Creighton’s Dome,” for an early and otherwise
unknown explorer, whose footprints were found there, and who left his
name carved on the rocks.

In conclusion, let it again be stated that the aim of this hand-book is
mainly to help the visitor to understand those routes over which guides
ordinarily conduct parties. The known avenues and minor passageways, if
placed end to end, would exceed one hundred and fifty miles by a
conservative estimate. Sixty-nine pits and thirty-nine domes, counting
only those of great magnitude, are known and located on the surveys of
1908, besides many lateral enlargements, after the style of Wright’s
Rotunda and the Chief City. Yet we dare not say that this immense cavern
has been completely explored. Those most familiar with its surprising
dimensions think it possible that resolute men, beginning where others
have left off, might find as much more new territory as has already been
described in the vast subterranean realm known as the Mammoth Cave of

                            [Illustration: ]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

—Silently corrected a few typos.

—Retained the original, inconsistent spellings “Jesup” and “Jessup”.

—Retained copyright notices, although this eBook is public-domain in the
  country of publication.

—In the text versions only, text in italics is delimited by

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