Saturday, March 3, 2007

Sterkfontein Caves, Feb 27th

Went to the Sterkfontein Caves today… which is also called the cradle of human kind. It’s a natural cave with once a lot of stalactites and stalagmites is now cleaned out.. and opened up with dynamite to make it a tourist attraction for people like me and Øyvind. So what is left there when they have cleaned everything out?? Well, it’s most of all a juicy history about mankind.

The cave had no big nice entrance like today, only holes several meters up in the roof and totally impossible to reach to get back out. From the outside, the holes are well covered in bush and perfect traps for animals, hominids and homos and whatever. The missing link, also called Mrs Ples, was found in this cave, and it’s the oldest monkeyman found in the world and in a very good condition. Mrs Ples is believed to be one of many an evidens that the modern day man originated in this area. Mrs Ples was an earlier link than another more evolved monkeyman… that was found in all the worlds continents after pangea was split (The one supercontinent before they split into two, and then later five continents). Since 1997 they have been digging out another “link” called Littlefoot, and in another 3-4 years he might be free from the rocks. In addition to these two “links” they have found lots of human(like) bones in the same cave, as well as hyenas, cheetahs and other wild animals!

Common for all these creatures was that they fell in…. maybe (I’d estimate) a drop between 7 and 12 meters landing on rough rocks. Best case they were seriously injured down there… and had no chance to get out. Or maybe best case if they fell in and got properly pierced by a needle-sharp stalagmite… Stephen King could probably not have made a scarier nightmare-situation than what these creatures went through. But no use comforting them now…

As you are reading this now, you probably feel quite far removed in both time and situation. For me however, it was quite a lot easier to identify myself with the situation. Not just because I was in the cave… but because I was limping around in the cave like a crippled hominid looking up at the only ways out… up there in the roof… and so out of reach. You’ll find water in the cave, crystal clear and drinkable water. So they had all the water to drink in the world, but very little else to add to the diet. Just prolonging the pain and misery..

Actually the water inside the cave is the ground-water level as well… inside the caves in the area it is said to make out an underwater lake stretching 1km. In 1983 a group of 3 divers went in there to do a cavedive to explore. Two of the divers came back up as planned, whilst the last guy lost the rope, got disoriented about the directions and was left inside the cave. This I can also easily identify myself with, as I am myself a diver and had a “stuck in the cave” experience. Luckily I didn’t end up like a tourist attraction though. But this diver did actually not drown in the water as you would expect… No, he actually made it out of the water. But his chummies had left long time ago, probably with all the rock-climbing equipment to get out. So he was left there to wander around in the cave. 3 weeks later he was found… starved to death, estimating that he probably lived a bit longer than a week from drinking just water.

Littlefoot and Mrs Ples probably went through a similarly horrible experience… only a million years ago. Some time after they were long dead, the cave must have been flooded with mud rocks and water… that over time encapsulated and fossilized all the tragic destinies. Only for us to make this morbid gravechamber a museum and call them missing links… maybe they weren’t evolved enough to understand and be offended… for their case I hope so.

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