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glow worms light up the inside of a dark watery cave

Wondrous crossings: the galaxy caves of New Zealand


Inside these caves a striking phenomenon that emulates a starry sky takes place, while standing hundreds of feet underground.

Often, the most extraordinary phenomena are “jealous of themselves” ––and they happen where the human eye cannot enjoy them. However, they can be discovered, and when we do find them we experience a new type of awe. When it comes to this particular phenomenon, unlike that which occurs in Plato’s cave, entering the cave is what astounds us. This cave is found in the Waitomo region of New Zealand, in a labyrinth made of winding tunnels that has been taking shape for over 30 million years, and as impressive as this might seem, the most astonishing part lies deep within.

phosphorescent cave

The ceilings of these tunnels are a galaxy of blue stars emitted by the so-called “glow worms” (Arachnocampa luminosa), which after breaking free of their eggs use a complex and exquisite strategy to feed themselves. They create silk nets on the roof of the cave and then let dozens of sticky strings fall around their nest. Then, they lay waiting on the roof, glowing, which draws their pray into a radiant death entangled in silk webs. When their prey has been caught, the worms draw the strings and eat them. Afterwards the larvae become mosquitos and are at risk of being eaten by their larvae. The phenomenon is a complete cycle in itself, cruel and awe inspiring at once.

The larvae are sensible to any sound and they will stop glowing if they become scared, so visitors must be completely silent while inside the caves. The tourist ride offers the possibility of exploring the tunnel while floating on a boat.

phosphorescent cave


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