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Underground

Every time we think of the word underground, we are


directly led to two concepts: the famous British means
of transport and a place that is dark and where usually
dead people end up.
However, the concept of underground implies much
more than that, and today we will talk about some
shapes it adopts in our world.
Caves: there are many different kinds of caves and their age
vary from millions to thousands years old. There are natural
and artificial caves. Their sizes also vary a lot from very small
to huge constructions that are hundreds of kilometers long.
They have been made by rain and limestone. Inside them you
can find some vegetation and wildlife, as well as some
minerals.
Caves of the world:
There are many famous caves in many different places,
for instance, Chile, USA, England, Russia or
Afghanistan. People who are fond of caves are called
cavers and they like to visit them all along their lives.
The deepest cave we know is Gouffre Jean Bernard in
France and this is 1535 meters and the longest is the
Mammoth Cave in the USA which has more than 474
kilometers of passages.
Now, if it is about beauty, many cavers agree that the
Big Room in the Carlsbad Caverns in the USA is both
big and beautiful because it contains wonderful
stalactites and stalagmites.
Important caves in our country include some which are not
technically underground because they are placed on and in

the water. But their construction fits the description of above,


for example Catedral and Capilla de Marmol in General
Carrera Lake in the south of Chile, or the many mines we have
along our country, or Cueva del Milodn in the extreme
southern part of Chile.
In Mexico we can find famous underground caves that receive
the name of Cenotes or sinkholes which are beautiful and they
were a place for developing the spiritual life of the Maya
people. Some famous cenotes are: Ik Kil and Zocatn.
Life Underground
Despite the lack of light, life underground occurs. Most
vegetation is called fungi and this is a type of plant
which does not need light to grow green.
In the case of fauna, two animals bring light into caves:
the man and glow-worms. Actually, some caves are
never dark thanks to this animal, for example:
Waitomo Cave in New Zealand.
Caves are usually cold, but they are warmer than
outside in winter because they serve as shelter for
those animals which have winter sleep. Millions of bats
live in caves because of its dark nature.
Some fish also live in caves. They lose their eyes when
they become adult due to the fact that they do not
need to see. Their skin helps them move around.
Finally, the most interesting cave animal is the white
underground salamander. Similar to the fish we
mentioned, it doesnt need eyes to move around and
can even live a whole year without food.

Cave people

Caves used to be peoples homes millions of years ago. They


were safe and dry and protected everyone from the strong
climate changes and wild animals.
Historians and archeologists have helped us get to know
better about the life style of the first men in those days.
Some of the traces we have studied are paintings that
describe animals or represent scenes from that time, for
example, Altamira in Spain. In the beginning, many people
believed they were modern paintings, but now we know they
are about 17 thousand years old.
However, these have also suffered the pressure of
entrepreneurs who have turned those caves into touristic
places which have been carelessly treated and consequently
have been closed to the public eye. These are called showcaves.
Authorities have decided not to turn some of them into show
caves, for instance Chauvet-Pont-dArc in France in order to
preserve the invaluable historical remain intact.

People have always felt a fascination for what seems


unknown, and that is why caves are so attractive. Long
ago, cavers went underground in their normal or
ordinary clothes, however now there are special
clothes that protect them from dangers they may face
in the dark world of caves. These suits include lamps
that light spaces for many hours, and they also carry
special radios and very strong ropes. Safety is
something to be maintained at all times.
Today, there are many show caves that have been
adapted to receive visitors and to prevent unnecessary
risks.

Mines
These are caves that can be natural or artificial and from
where people can extract different products such as coal,
metals or stones. Mining is an activity that has been present
in history for thousands of years.
Some of these caves have been accidentally found when
looking for something ordinary and finding something
extraordinary.
Many years ago, coal mines were terrible places with very
poor working conditions. In spite of all the time that has
passed, in many places machinery has replaced men;
nevertheless, in some others women, children and animals
still work underground.
In some mines, workers commute in boats through canals.
Many mines are museums now. For example, Lota coal mine in
Chile. To be part of an underground expedition, visitors need
to wear special clothing to do so, like helmet with lamps, onepiece suits and special shoes.

Under the City


Tunnels are artificial passages under the ground or
under the water. Many tunnels carry railways, canals
and roads under hills and fields, but many of them are
under the city streets.
The British Underground, for example, started to work
in 1863 and today has more than 270 stations that turn
it into the most complex and longest metro service in
the world.

We can also find pipes or sewers under every city


street that take waste into bigger containers or to the
sea. In major cities, those tunnels have cameras so
engineers control what happens down there.
As some of them are very big, some animals can be
found there, such as rats and many insects, but
irresponsible humans sometimes dispose their own
pets through these canals, so a huge variety of animals
have been found in sewers.
The worlds longest under the sea tunnel is the Seikan
Tunnel in Japan. It is 54 kilometers long. It opened at
the end of last century in 1988. However, the most
used one is the Channel tunnel between France and
England.

Living underground
Some people live underground because they like it or because
they do not know other way of living. An example of the latter
is the Tasaday people in the Philippine Islands who have
always lived in caves.
In Japan, land is extremely expensive and that is why in Tokyo
you can find 4 kilometers of underground streets with shops
and restaurants.
Cooker Pedy is a particular case. It is a very hot and dry part
of Australia. Its name comes from old Australian and means
White Mans Tunnel. This place is an actual town
underground and the main reason for having done so is
temperature. Living underground protects people from
extreme heat and cold.

As we have seen, there is a whole different world under our


feet. And who knows, maybe one day we will end up living
underground too.