▲ This closeup views of the new cave discovered the Dangcheomuldonggul cave, show some of the features that make it worthy of UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site status. Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Govt.
Despite being formed almost two million years ago, Jeju Island still holds many mysteries yet to be revealed. Nearly 300,000 years ago, lava from an active Hallasan pushed through the rock creating a unique system of tubes or caves, now commonly referred to as the Geomun Oreum Lava Tube System.
Just recently, a new cave has been discovered in the vicinity of Woljeong-ri, some 27 kilometers away from Jeju City. It is only a mere 40 meters away from the World Natural Heritage Site of Dangcheomul-donggul, a renowned pseudo-limestone cave, unlike any other found in the world.
Technology aided in discovery While most of the other caves were discovered accidentally, "Woljeong Namjimi-donggul" as it is now being referred to as, was found through probing or ground penetrating radar. Similar to Dangcheomul-donggul in appearance, the cave has many stalagmites, stalactites and soda straws, which all retain a golden yellowish natural color to them, having been created by carbonates and remaining untouched for hundreds of thousands of years.
The cave also boasts impressive calcite speleothems such as stone pillars and cave corals, also formed by calcium carbonates uncommonly seen in lava tubes or caves, which leads to further speculation that rainwater from plant roots working with the sand dunes above the cave are behind the mysterious formations.
The calcite speleothems, or secondary features of the unique limestone cave, appear in numerous shapes and sizes, covering the walls of the cave in a densely compacted display, unlike typical lava caves which are comprised mostly of black basalt rock. When exposed to light, the fantastic display of yellows is more than enough to make you pause.
Photo courtesy Jeju Provincial Govt.
Tests show signs of more caves nearby After an initial survey, the cave is estimated to be just over 100 meters in length, and five meters in width. It is between one and two meters in height, located roughly 3.5 meters below ground. Upon drilling in Dangcheomul-donggul, cave surveyors discovered that Yongcheon-donggul, the cave with the underground lake, was only 3 to 10 meters away instead of the earlier assumptions of an estimated 50 meters. They also discovered that the new cave runs parallel with Yongcheon-donggul, suggesting that there are possibly more caves hiding in the nearby rock.
This is yet another cave to be found with the last decade, with Yongcheon-donggul being the last cave discovered on May 11, 2005. Dangcheomul-donggul was accidentally discovered by a farmer back in 1995, and Manjanggul, the most well known and only one accessible to the public, was discovered back in 1958. With more surveying and probing to be done, it is likely that Jeju still has many more natural mysteries yet to be revealed beneath its surface.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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