Smoke Hole Cavern – November 13, 2019
For the past few days, I’ve been on the east coast of the US, doing the state highpoints of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia for the Summits, Songs and Science project. As Ricardo has already completed these (and is currently guiding in Mexico), I was joined by friends from college and grad school. While in West Virginia, we visited Spruce Knob (4,863 ft.), the state’s highpoint. We also visited one of its low points: Smoke Hole Caverns (-362 ft.).
For a bit of history: it is believed that Native Americans used these caves for smoking meat, giving meaning to the name “Smoke Hole.” Soldiers during the American Civil War also used the caverns to smoke meat, and local folklore says that moonshine was run through the caverns during Prohibition times.
How the Smoke Hole Caverns formed and explanations of all the different cave features will be covered in an upcoming “Science Short,” available to donors of this project. But here’s a teaser: 600 million years ago, continental drift began separating the Americas from the western coasts of Europe and Africa. This helped to form a broad depression stretching from Alabama to Newfoundland, Canada. For the next 400 million years, the area that is now the Appalachian Mountains was flooded and sediments including limestone, fossilized marine animals and shells, accumulated on the seafloor…