In the 21st century, among the fixed “adventure projects” of human beings to challenge themselves and conquer nature, such as going to the sky, entering the earth, sailing, and mountaineering, only the earth itself is still a little shadowy, and it does not show everything she has to human beings without reservation. As a kind of “going into the ground”, exploring the cave not only has to face the unknown fear of “unknown route, unknown danger, unknown destination”, but also has to deal with unique problems such as lighting and positioning. The cave is always “the deeper it is, the more difficult it is to enter, and the more strange it is to see”, but for the sake of safety, it is always “those who lack strength and have nothing to match will not be able to reach it.”
Mammoth Cave, the longest known cave on earth, is about 670 kilometers long (the numbers are still rising) in Kentucky, USA. This cave combines ancient religious literature legends, natural geographical strangeness and digital age. Weiqi, the history of human discovery, exploration and development of Mammoth Cave can almost gather all the meanings of the image of “cave” in human civilization, as well as the infinite value derived from it.
The “cave” metaphor has been deeply embedded in the human imagination since the time of Plato. Plato imagined that human beings live in a huge cave, and the incoming light can only show the shadows of various creations faintly in the wall of the cave. The “cave” metaphor represents the desire of human beings to transcend the limitations of audio-visual. The exploration of unknown caves is also mixed with religious and literary imagination and biological instincts of exploration, adventure and play. The history of the discovery of Mammoth Cave has once again confirmed this.
This cave has been discovered at least twice. According to oral literature and on-site archaeological remains, the Indians have known about its existence for 5,000 years, but lost its “inventory” due to a lack of written records. Historically documented discoverers of Mammoth Cave were 1 white man and 1 bear: In 1809, young hunter John Houchin stumbled across the entrance to the cave while chasing a wounded bear, and took the The Bear took away the glory of discovering the cave.
The mammoth cave, which appeared at the beginning, was only a place for hunters to explore. It only expanded its popularity through a series of opportunities and ushered in the opportunity to be explored in depth. The Anglo-American War from 1812 to 1815 gave Mammoth Cave its first life. , the bat dung accumulated at the entrance of the cave has become a strategic resource for making saltpeter, a raw material for bombs, and the legendary “Mummy Legend” has ushered in a second life in Mammoth Cave. In November 1815, businessman Naum Ward and two guides entered Mammoth Cave, searching for a mummy that resembled the silent queen in the story of “The City of Brass” in “One Thousand and One Nights”. In Ward’s writings, the “hall” of Mammoth Cave, covering an area of nearly 50 acres, is as moving as a legendary lost city in the classical era. Under heaven, there is no place more magnificent than this…”
After groping for 19 hours in the cave, Ward finally found the legendary mummified sarcophagus in a hidden place. According to his description, this is a female mummy about 1.8 meters high and weighing only about 18 pounds. She lay upright in the sarcophagus, which contained her clothing, tools, jewelry, feathers and amulets. Later scholars believe that the “mummy” discovered by Ward is more likely to be the remains of early Indians or earlier Native Americans. The mummy was originally named “Mammoth Cave Mummy” and was later named “Fawn Hoof”. Since the second year of seeing the light of day, the mummy has won the treatment of touring exhibitions across the United States. At a time when Egyptology and archaeology were in the ascendant, the new discoveries of the New World drew on the old history of the Old World to attract the attention of people in the age of the Industrial Revolution.
However, the titles “Columbus of the Underworld” and “Chief Ruler of Mammoth Cave” were unexpectedly given to the black slave Stephen Bishop (1820-1857). In the pioneering years when the westward movement began, every rare place on the western frontier would become a source of wealth for Americans. Lawyer Franklin Goering hired his slave Stephen Bishop as a guide in 1838 to take tourists on a tour of Mammoth Cave to develop a “tourism” resource here. In those days, tourism had not yet become an industry. But Bishop’s 20 years of hard work made Mammoth Cave a household name in the United States and even the West. Although he was a black slave, he miraculously mastered Latin and Greek in adulthood, serving tourists and explorers from all over the world, and won the reputation of “The Butler of Mammoth Cave”.
Bishop became an iconic black man at the end of American slavery and still holds a place in pop culture to this day. His main business is to make money as a tour guide for his hosts, but in his spare time he has also made great contributions to the exploration of Mammoth Cave, doubling the size of the known map of the cave. He also created a unique cave naming style, mixing the classical atmosphere of the Old World with the colonization imagination of the New World – “River Styx” (River Styx), “Little Bat Avenue” (Little Bat Avenue), “Big Egg”. “(Dome)… He also successfully redeemed his freedom in 1856, ready to emigrate to his new country, Liberia, with his wife and children. Unfortunately, Bishop died young in the second year, leaving behind an intricate map, countless markers inside the cave, and the saga of his life.
Mammoth Cave is not the first giant cave discovered in the world or even North America, but wars and legends have added a filter to it, and the live-action cave warriors at the end of American slavery have also attracted more people to explore this “public”. God’s Medium”, and it was finally “discovered” as one of the longest and most famous caves in the United States and the world.
The weirdness of the world’s longest cave
Mammoth Cave has experienced more than 100 years of private ownership and commercial development. The dispute over property rights and the increase of new caves have even led to various frauds and disputes in the name of “Kentucky Cave War”. Explorers from the Old Continent and the New World came in droves, their explorations deepened and maps became more accurate, constantly enriching the huge and complex map of Mammoth Cave, and also bringing more business and security issues. At the beginning of the 20th century, the explorer Floyd Collins spent 10 years exploring the cave and found the famous “Collins Crystal Cave”, which extends for 250 kilometers and is more than 10 meters high. Named after the translucent gypsum column, it is also the largest natural crystal in the world today. In 1925, Collins was in distress during a long-term expedition. After rescue by all parties, he was still unable to get out of the trap. Unfortunately, he finally starved to death in the cave, which aroused global attention and sympathy. The media hype and the spread of his heroic deeds sparked a new wave of attention to Mammoth Cave.
Americans realized the need to regulate the management of caves while continuing to explore them, in response to the needs of the emerging tourism industry. Beginning in 1924, Kentucky began the “National Park Movement.” After more than 10 years of fundraising, manpower organization, and site exploration, “Mammoth Cave National Park” was finally established in 1941, ending the cave’s grassy state for more than 100 years. By 1961, the National Park had also purchased all the sites, including Collins Crystal Cave.
It is thanks to the establishment of the national park that Mammoth Cave ushered in a new life in the 20th century. From the 1950s to the 1970s, the National Park invested a lot of money and recruited social forces to continuously improve the infrastructure in the cave, create new classic signs, draw better maps, and “connect” adjacent caves. In 1972, Mammoth Cave was connected to “Flint Ridge Cave”, making Mammoth Cave the longest cave in the world in one fell swoop (amazingly, Bishop’s map as early as 1842 revealed this aisle).
Today, Mammoth Cave is a mature tourist attraction and a model of biodiversity and geological complexity, welcoming hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. There are at least five species of bats living in the cave, as well as crickets, salamanders, shrimps, crinoids, sea buds and gastropods. Its official scientific name is “Mammoth Cave-Firestone Ridge Cave System”. It is recognized as the largest known cave system in the world. It can accommodate thousands of people to explore at the same time. There are 3 dark rivers, 7 waterfalls, and many underground places. lake. Mammoth Cave National Park is a rare national park attraction in the United States that must be visited by a guide, and there are also a series of strict restrictions on the number of people entering the park and preparations. The cave is dark and humid, and the temperature is only about 10 degrees Celsius. The tour guide must count the number of people from time to time to ensure the safety of tourists. Entering the Mammoth Cave, sometimes it is suddenly enlightened, sometimes it is overwhelming, sometimes it makes people feel “singing forward”, and sometimes it makes people exclaim “going astray”. Tourists experience the “birth, going, living, and extinction” of creatures here, and a series of very mysterious and realistic names – such as “Echo River”, “Chief City”, It makes people have to look back at their own individual life, feel the life experience of “in a cave” in Kafka’s writings, and ask how their individual life is related to literary mythology. The archaeological narrative of the Old World that is both true and illusory, the half-true Indian ghost legend, and the emerging literature mixed with elements such as crime and revenge have all made Mammoth Cave as a symbol and carrier in all kinds of novels, novels, Among memoirs, poems, travelogues and works of art.
The wonders of a prosperous derivative culture
The emerging game industry since the second half of the 20th century has added the latest impetus to the prosperity of Mammoth Cave. In the 1960s and 1970s, the popular board game “Dungeon & Dragons” was a favorite for young Americans to get together and socialize at that time. The booming computer digital technology in the Cold War era and this board game coincidentally, with the help of the “medium” of Mammoth Cave, a new story is generated.
William Crowther was one of the researchers on ARPAnet, the predecessor of the Internet, and his ex-wife Patricia Crowther was the one who discovered the connection between Flint Ridge and Mammoth Cave in 1972. After the unfortunate breakdown of this marriage, in order to console his two daughters, William Crowther wrote a text-based interactive game Adventure in his spare time in 1976.
Stephen Bishop, “The Butler of Mammoth Cave”.
Legendary game makers Ken and Roberta Williams, who have made games such as “The King’s Secret Service,” plan to release a 3D version of the ancestor of the adventure game “The Cave” in 2022. The picture shows a screenshot of the interface of “Giant Cave Adventure 3D”.
Stephen Bishop’s hand-painted map of Mammoth Cave in 1842 was an authoritative guide until the end of the 19th century.
Just like James Halliday, who wrote the Oasis game in the movie Ready Player One to make up for the shortcomings of his life, Crowther wrote the life story of himself and his ex-wife visiting Mammoth Cave into the game, combined with his favorite games. The Dungeons & Dragons board game eventually became a hit as Colossal Cave Adventure. The real elements of Mammoth Cave can be seen everywhere in the game: the cave area full of signatures and marks, the explorers who will turn back when they encounter the miner’s lamp… This game can be described as the beginning of “cave games”, and various exploration and treasure hunting games in the future. To some extent, it has brought the shadow of the first generation of “Giant Cave Adventure”. Bishop, the great guide in history, has become the first generation of “Dungeon Master” (Dungeon Master) that we are familiar with in board games and script killing today.
Video games have created new caves in the digital world, triggering countless curious players to seek adventure and become the masters of their own virtual worlds, creating a digital mammoth cave that is similar to the physical space, exploring infinite space and wonderful possibilities. The “strangeness” of literature and nature attached to the Mammoth Cave has created rich tourism income and geological fruits, and fed back the development and management of the cave itself; the vigorous development of the game industry is mutually promoted with military technology and digital technology. While the market has made a lot of money, it has also opened up the virtual space built by bits and bytes. Today’s clamorous “metaverse” is also a proof.
Since the discovery of Mammoth Cave, the factors that support its endless growth have successively included profits from industrial and mining resources, religious literary imagination, and a boom in exploration and discovery. Together, they have created the legend, strangeness and wonder of this natural wonder. Mammoth Cave also inspires human beings with its grandeur and twists and turns, “connecting” the underground labyrinth in the physical sense with the multi-level and multi-dimensional digital virtual world, helping human beings to march towards a higher dimension and level of civilization.