The province of Pinar del Rio, in the westernmost part of Cuba, is renowned for its caves.
According to Hilario Carmenati, a man who has devoted almost 50 years of his life to explore the caves, only in Pinar del Rio there are thousands of caves which have not been explored yet.
“For instance, so far only 41 cave painting sites have been discovered, but the total number could be twice that,” he said.
Miguel Boligan agrees with Carmenati. Boligan is a meteorologist who has taken part in countless expeditions over the last 20 years with multidisciplinary teams doing research about underground caves, aboriginal sites, places that may have served as shelters for runaway slaves, extinct species, among others.
“Speleology is not a typical science,” he said. “Normally the people who practice it don’t get any kind of compensation.”
They even have to pay for their own climbing equipment, flashlights, and everything else they may need.
But their passion for this activity has led them to make discoveries and has given them access to a world most humans have not seen. That only, they said, is very rewarding, and makes up for the dangers and the funding problems.
At first sight, what they do could be perceived as a hobby with too much risk and little benefits. However, those who have penetrated the depths of the Great Santo Tomas Cave, or crossed the threshold of the Geda Cave or the Panal Cave will probably disagree.
Boligan said it is a unique way to begin to understand how the Earth was thousands and even millions of years ago, or to understand how our ancestors lived.
Additionally, it’s also an opportunity to admire the most incredible landscapes that water currents have created on the rocks throughout the centuries.
Formations that resemble crystals or huge deposits of frost descend from the cave tops, or ascend from the bottom up, or spread sideward. These structures are either still developing, or starting to die, and they would disintegrate if they were taken out of their natural environment.
Some people believe that there’s no artist on Earth able to combine colors with such perfection, or model such original shapes.
That is the reason why, although there’s always the risk of an accident or collapse, many people gladly run the risk of exploring the guts of the Earth, to dig into the origins of life or shapes.