Sixty Five Million Years, Two Hundred Years, Hundred Feet discussed on Fresh Air


We had just been inside of cracking and dissolving in breaking up into just slush ice on the surface of the ocean as far as the eye could see so the cave we had just been inside was now gone had you been there what what would have been your fate all my gosh if we'd been in there we would have been killed there's no doubt how dangerous is cave diving boy well some people call it one of the most dangerous occupations or or even recreational activities I've I've lost you know more than a hundred friends and colleagues throughout my career in underwater caves in technical diving you know when I heard the term cave diving I picture people going out into the ocean and a vote and then you know going over the side and finding caves near the shore or along the ocean floor but what you do often involves guys that are you know miles sometimes hundreds of miles from the ocean to to really serious Depp's inside the you're a couple hundred feet or more what kinds of bodies of water are you exploring in these times well underwater caves are really abstract it's it's hard for people to grasp that the earth is like a giant sponge and so far in land far away from the ocean I can climb down into a sink hole and and go into a cave passage that's filled with water that branches out like a tree fingering through the planet right and up and down hills and cliffs right through regulations yeah yes sometimes inside mountains where you're climbing down a cave traveling through a waterfall and then reaching a body of water within the earth right and when you're down there does this water have movements currents yes sometimes the currents are so hard that we can't even make headway against them it's kind of like trying to walk against a hurricane strength winds and you're pulling yourself along the rocks against the flow and what's propelling the water well water moves through the planet from higher elevations to lower you know just like you have a water fall on the surface the same thing can happen underground making the water move with great velocity Joe hunter this book is into the planet my life as a cave diver we'll talk more after a short break this is fresh AIR deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has soared since Brazil's far right president took office in January hello this was still doing my just said that every time you look at a satellite image of the forest you see another little pieces missing that's bad news for the planet's climate the forest stores vast amounts of carbon trip into the Amazon this afternoon on All Things Considered from NPR news starting at four on W. NYC this is fresh air and we're speaking with Jill Heiner she is a veteran cave diver exploring underground bodies of water he's also a writer photographer and filmmaker her new memoir about cave diving is called into the planet one of the things that you write about is that this mud and silt when you're driving in various underground bodies can really create a hazard right you can't see sure yeah when you swim into a cave especially when you're the first person to go into place nobody's ever explored there's still on not just the floor but on the walls and ceiling and your very passage through that space and the bubbles that you make from your scuba equipment can knock that sold off the walls the floors ceiling and obscure your visibility so that you can't even see when you're coming out you you talk about diving into Florida spring called devils hi where you go down to a certain death and there is an underwater sign featuring an image of the grim reaper one was this doing under the water well we put signs in springs especially at popular locations like the ones in north Florida worn on trains scuba divers from going into these environments because when they get into these environments the doorway can be very lowering the water may look clear and the the roommate looks spacious but when they go in if they haven't been trained properly they make kick up the silt and be suddenly blind and unable to find their way out they could get lost in the maze like passages so there's a lot of things that can go wrong they also don't have a sense of how much of their gas supply they need to reserve to get out and so it's very very dangerous without proper training to go into a cave and we hope that these signs will scare people off so this is difficult and dangerous what's the appeal of it to you wow you know since I was the smallest child I always wanted to be an explorer to have an opportunity to go some place were nobody has ever been before and as an artist with my camera it's an incredible opportunity to document these places and bring back images to share with others have you seen some pretty strange life forms down there caves are filled with remarkable life forms that we barely understand we're barely even beginning to document these new species there were animals living inside the earth that they don't live by photosynthesis and many of these animals have no eyes no pigment but they have remarkable sensory capabilities and all of these animals with these unique characteristics may be able to teach us an awful lot about evolution about survival maybe even about new chemical and drug compounds that are used to humanity could you expand on that a bit are there particular insights that we've gotten from some of what's been discovered in kitchens yeah the the longevity of some of these animals within the cave diving environment is remarkable I mean we can look at the blind albino crayfish that can live for two hundred years inside a cave when its closest relative in the river outside only lives two to three years another crayfish is living in an incredibly foods scarce environment where he has to conserve energy so that's kind of an interesting strategy to look at what's he feeding on and how often and why does that make him live longer and then these animals that could have been sort of stock in evolution and haven't evolved in over sixty five million years here did they reach some sort of a a perfection in the environment or does that represent something about the environment that hasn't changed we don't even know yet so those animals are are really special and an interesting in and since we're only beginning to identify them and and record them as a new species there's a lot of work left to do was to run if he'd I run a P. is a cool little animal it's it's you know less than two inches long kind of a centipede like white blind animal again but it has venomous fangs and cancers and it can attack something forty times its size immobilize it and then turn the insides of that pre into Jello so that it can suck the life out of it over time and if this animal was the size of a cat it would be the deadliest thing on the earth and it's also been unchanged for over sixty five million years so it's like a living swimming dinosaur Jill hi nurse new memoir is into the planet my life as a cave diver after a break she'll talk more about the dangers involved in cave exploration about how her thinking about fear and wrists were shaped by a terrifying experience above ground and about being a woman in the male dominated world of cave diving also Maureen Corrigan recommends to mystery novels by women whose.

Coming up next