The long, jagged crystals look like light blue icicles, hanging there from the roof of the cave as they reflect the watery depth of 55 feet. It is beautiful, delicate, and eerie at the same time – a subterranean palace of precious mineral nestled beneath the warm, pink sands of Bermuda. Though they were visited by Mark Twain, you won’t necessarily know the Crystal Caves exist unless you read about them, or somehow stumble upon a local conversation. If you take a deep breath you’ll smell the strange, dank mustiness of the salt and rock, zip-locked cool between the sharp points and smooth surface which occasionally reveals a slight ripple from the tiny movement of colorful fins.
As I flick on my flashlight I fancy pictures of tropical life hidden within the crystals — fashioning gulls and sandpipers, ghost and hermit crabs, yellow tang and angelfish, seahorses and sea cucumbers in the glowing shadows of the rock – perhaps seeing a simple line and pole; ancient, rustic boat; and some unusual human form with webbed hands and feet, to form a marine collage which will be preserved by the simple salt air and sea. Our guide explains the history of the cave – how, in 1884 Percy Wilkinson lowered his 14-year old son, Bernard, down with a strong rope and bicycle lamp — and he advises us to walk carefully to avoid damage to the ecosystem.
The Lascaux cave paintings were discovered more than half century earlier by a group of teenage boys in the French Dordogne, but I know about them and draw imaginative parallels from a distance of 3,000 miles. Upper Paleolithic animal drawings yield valuable information about human life, while stunning natural formations, 30 million years old, tell us about the earth on which we tread, and the water in which we swim. Art is fragile, treasured like crystal, and so is our human place in the sands of time – an opportunity to visit that crown jewel in the Atlantic – gentile Bermuda, with her pretty, pastel houses; trim, green lawns; and clusters of coconut trees. I can make an etching from the salt of the traveler’s experience.
Referencing our news display: Lascaux Cave Paintings Are Discovered, on Friday, 9/10 in the Everett Cafe