Planet Earth – Caves

Today join us Discovery Enterprise as we present the fourth episode of the landmark BBC documentary series Planet Earth presented by David Attenborough and continue our exploration of the most exotic and awe inspiring planet in the known universe, our own planet Earth.

For those of us who grew up reading Jules Verne this episode of Planet Earth will bring back some fond memories of his 1864 classic “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. In today’s instalment host David Attenborough introduces us to some of the extraordinary organisms that make their home deep with some of the most remarkable cave systems of the world.
This episode explores “Planet Earth’s final frontier”: the world of caves. At a depth of 400 metres (1,300 ft), Mexico’s Cave of Swallows is Earth’s deepest pit cave freefall drop, allowing entry by BASE jumpers. Its volume could contain New York City’s Empire State Building. Equally as impressive, we explore the otherworldly cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula. Divers appeared to be flying in water as clear as an air, as they give us a glimpse of the hundreds of kilometres of these caves which have already been mapped. Also featured is Borneo’s Deer Cave and Gomantong Cave. Inhabitants of the former include three million wrinkle-lipped bats, which have deposited guano on to an enormous mound. In Gomantong Cave, guano is many metres high and is blanketed with hundreds of thousands of cockroaches and other invertebrates. Also depicted are eyeless, subterranean creatures, such as the Texas blind salamander and (“bizarrely”) a species of crab. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is featured with its calcite formations. Mexico’s Cueva de Villa Luz is also featured, with its flowing stream of sulphuric acid and snottite formations made of living bacteria. A fish species, the shortfin molly, has adapted to this habitat. The programme ends in New Mexico’s Lechuguilla Cave (discovered in 1986) where sulphuric acid has produced unusually ornate, gypsum crystal formations. Planet Earth Diaries reveals how a camera team spent a month among the cockroaches on the guano mound in Gomantong Cave and describes the logistics required to photograph Lechuguilla. Permission for the latter took two years and local authorities are unlikely to allow another visit.

Planet Earth – Caves


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