Yesterday I heard this story on NPR’s All Things Considered. The gist of it is some scientists descended into and explored a couple of supercaves, the depths of which the article compares to inverting Mount Everest.
A clip promoting the segment was enough to scare the bejesus out of me. I mean, let’s think about this for a second. These guys plumb the pits of the planet, seeking to see and explore things no human ever has. And do you know why the deepest interiors of these supercaves have remained untouched for all time? It’s only partly because, as the segment explains, there are at least 50 “normal” ways to die while exploring supercaves. But apparently I’m the only one who paid attention when television and film were busy teaching us that if you go poking around in deep, dark, dank mysterious holes, you are going to awaken some awful ancient evil—and there will be hell to pay.
Seriously. Do you know what lives in caves? Balrogs. You might not have heard, but one time a balrog fought the greatest wizard ever, and they both died. Now that is some serious shit. Also consider the Grootslang. The Grootslang might not look scary in that artist’s rendering, but think about this: it’s a serpent that lures elephants into its cave to devour them. Elephants, people.
Even a lot of non-cave dwelling creatures are pretty fearsome and favor subterranean lairs. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Turok-Han—which live in (that’s right: not on, but in) the Hellmouth. How could that end well? The best-case scenario is you lose an entire coastal city to a giant pit of nothingness. (But, mysteriously, that giant pit doesn’t fill with ocean water. I think that’s what they mean when they say “look at the bright side.”) Also, you always run the risk of rousing C.H.U.D.s, and everyone who grew up in the 1980s knows that can’t end well.