The number was written in small letters, black ink, right next to the words, “Diamond Room” on the cave map carried by the naturalist walking with us.
Whether Sandy, the geologist leading our tour, needed that reminder or not, I wasn’t sure. It was at that moment, though, in what is called the Diamond Room, that she told us we had 250 feet of limestone above our heads. For me, standing over six feet tall, that rock started just inches above my upturned face.
And, apparently, went upwards for the better part of a hundred yards.
Lisa and I were at, er, under, Rickwood Caverns State Park some 75 miles south of our home near Huntsville, Alabama. We were attending a teacher workshop which, I’m sorry to say, wasn’t very well attended. On the bright side, though, the small group allowed us to ask as many questions as we wanted, and I had a lot, though most of them were related to the surface geology, now well above us.
Alabama is an incredible state regarding its biodiversity. While we’re in the overall top five nation-wide, we’ve got more species of just about anything related to water, and that’s largely because of our geology.
Different geology equals different water chemistry equals different aquatic life. I’d love to say it’s as easy as that, but that would mean I could actually wrap my head around all of it. The ground here – now below my feet as I’m writing this – is believed to have been formed some 300 million years ago when the continents were a totally different shape, and the land that is now Alabama was some 10 degrees south of the equator instead of 35 degrees north of it.
North Alabama’s bedrock is primarily limestone, and it’s chock-full of aquatic fossils from its time as a shallow sea floor. To see the same fossils I’ve collected on the surface as part of the ceiling above me was incredible.
Nature – this creation – is amazing, and I can’t wait to learn something new every time I experience it.
Coda: To be fair, it was the first weekend after school started here in the state. If I was a classroom teacher, I wouldn’t have been there either.