The cavenauts’ update on their progress:
We entered Sa Grutta last evening and spent a relatively comfortable night under a stalagmite known as “Witches Hat”. The resemblance was uncanny. Before turning in, we began our science programme by imaging some unusual structures on the ground (to later be rendered in 3D) as well as sampling some microbial growth near a local water source. Then it was more or less straight to bed. We slept fast as we knew that today would be a busy day.
We write from approximately a half-kilometre below the verdant Sardinian countryside and almost a kilometre from the nearest known entrance. To get here we took the via ferrata – a route along a canyon wall that involves steep descents and ascents as well as scrambling along the safety line anchored high above the dark canyon floor. You could look down into the canyon all that you want but rarely would your headlamp illuminate the bottom. Falling is something we rarely ponder on the International Space Station. Falling was foremost on our minds today. Gravity can be a bummer. We covered approximately 800 meters in a little over 3 hours. All of it while using technical caving gear. When we had a chance to look around (and catch our breath) – the geology of this unique place proved to be nothing short of stunning.
Camp is up and running. Dinner is cooking. As we type we hear our Italian colleagues laughing and joking around the “campfire” (an LED lamp will have to do). We are feeling very fortunate to see a part of this planet that is revealed to few. The exploration continues tomorrow. Sleep fast!