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The Crevicular Continuum

Caves, caverns, channels, and voids; the hidden world beneath our feet

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Back to Perspectives 1,801 AD-1,990s AD...

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This page offers an introduction to the possibilities of Earth's inner space. If you want more after you're finished here-- like some educated speculation regarding how intelligent life forms might now exist deep within our planet-- along with supporting scientific references-- CLICK HERE.
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[Caution: Extreme speculation ahead; this section mostly created for "What If?" entertainment value]

There is a vast subterranean world hidden deep in the Earth, much of which is apparently teeming with life of various sorts.

USAmerica alone possessed 40,000 known caves as of 1988. 360,000 others (which offer no openings to the surface for access by explorers) are also estimated to exist. Although most caves tend to extend horizontally rather than vertically [Cave, page 332, McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1989, 1984] some known caves of the world extend as far as 500 km underground. These numbers do not include the vastly greater number of channels and pockets too small for human beings to traverse, even if they could reach them. Many or perhaps most of these rocky voids in the Earth are filled and connected via flows of water or air, including various chemical gas and fluid mixtures. This continuum of gas and fluid flow may be virtually unbroken for enormous distances-- perhaps even globally in some cases.

-- LIVING STALACTITES! SUBTERRANEAN LIFE! From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #57, MAY-JUN 1988 by William R. Corliss, citing George Dupont; "Et Si les Stalactites Etaient Vivantes?" Science et Vie, p. 86, August 1987. Cr. C. Mauge and John R. Holsinger; "Troglogbites: The Evolution of Cave-Dwelling Organisms," American Scientist, 76:147, 1988

A significant portion of the crevicular continuum includes the underground analogs of surface rivers and streams, which may extend at minimum 30 feet below river bottoms and for miles to either side of the visible surface expression.

-- REALLY-DEEP RIVERS From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #67, JAN-FEB 1990 by William R. Corliss, citing "Life-Filled Subterranean World Found Flowing under Rivers," San Francisco Chronicle, November 24, 1989. Cr. J. Covey

(It should be noted here that wholly submerged caves also exist in the oceans and beneath some lakes)

Some underground passages are apparently created by the acid secretions of microbes over time. Florida offers a world class quantity of underwater caves for exploration, as well as many small but dry limestone caves.

-- Going to extremes by Maggie McDonald, From New Scientist magazine, 26 February 2000; article is an interview of Michael Ray Taylor, author of Dark Life, Bloomsbury

If the Earth's entire crust (150 km or so) is permeated with saltwater, this would explain much about its various measured seismic and electrical characteristics. Some believe the lower crust water is affiliated with a wide ranging layer of crystallized surfaces, while in the upper crust it is mostly found in isolated pockets. Subterranean liquid water has been verified via drill sampling to as deep as 12 km.

-- WATER, WATER: HOW FAR DOWN? From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #48, NOV-DEC 1986 by William R. Corliss, citing D. Ian Gough; "Seismic Reflectors, Conductivity, Water and Stress in the Continental Crust," Nature, 323:143, 1986, and Bruce W.D. Yardley; "Is There Water in the Deep Continental Crust?" Nature, 323:111, 1986

In a 7.5 km deep drill hole in Germany fluid-filled subterranean voids of various sizes were found along almost the entire length of the shaft.

-- THE KTB (Kontinentales Tiefbohrprogramm der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) HOLE From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #90, NOV-DEC 1993 by William R. Corliss, citing Richard A. Kerr; "Looking---Deeply--- into the Earth's Crust in Europe," Science, 261:295, 1993

An isolated living eco-system including land animals found on Earth which depends exclusively on chemical reactions for sustenance (not solar energy) has been found. The eco-system developed in only 5.5 million years of isolation, and requires only oxygen from the surface to continue. 48 animal species exist in the system-- including 33 never before seen. To the layman, the life forms might appear as simple bugs: millipedes, centipedes, mutant scorpions (including an aquatic variety), leeches, spiders, springtails, pillbugs, and bristletails. It appears that such eco-systems might define the very outer limits of probability regarding what might possibly be found on Mars someday.

-- Romanian cave contains novel ecosystem By ERIK SKINDRUD, June 29, 1996, Science News Online, http://www.sciencenews.org

Life is found nearly three kilometers deep in the Earth, thriving at 75 degrees C/167 degrees F (one organism is named Bacillus infernus). Some microbes appear to live on various organic compounds found in groundwater (including petroleum). Being trapped in the rock structure, and with their food sources so rare, some of the organisms tend to spend much of their time in a form of suspended animation, waiting for the next meal to reactivate and drive their metabolism.

Still other forms of the microbes eke out a living in igneous rocks by making their own food from inorganic materials (like water, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide) found in their environment.

Some scientists now suspect that microbes may exist up to 4 km deep on land, and 7 km deep undersea. It is widely expected that nothing lives much deeper than that, because of temperatures hotter than 113 degrees C.

The fact of such deep living microbes independent of sunlight in the Earth, protected from many surface threats as well, implies that Mars and other planets may possess such life too.

The USA Department of Energy suddenly ceased all official research into subterranean life around 1996.

-- Deep Dwellers BY RICHARD MONASTERSKY, Science News Online , http://www.sciencenews.org, March 29, 1997

Earth life may have been born underground rather than on the surface or in the sea. Subterranean conditions were by far the most hospitable in the early history of the planet, as it was constantly bombarded by asteroids and comets, possibly bathed in harsh solar radiation due to insufficent atmospheric and geomagnetic protections, and suffering the effects of much volcanic action as well.

-- IT CAME FROM WITHIN From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #84, NOV-DEC 1992 by William R. Corliss, citing John Horgan; "It Came from Within," Scientific American, 267:20, September 1992

Could it be that subterranean oil and gas are at least partially the products of NON-biological/inorganic processes going on inside the Earth? Processes concentrating and refining compounds collected by the Earth as it formed, at the beginnings of the solar system? There are some indications that this is a possibility. If true, then some so-called 'fossil fuels' may be more renewable than we expected.

-- OIL & GAS FROM THE EARTH'S CORE From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #47, SEP-OCT 1986 by William R. Corliss, citing Tom Gold; "Oil from the Centre of the Earth," New Scientist, p. 42, June 26, 1986

Those dry land caverns accessible to large animals (and later on primates) invited and realized habitation as far back as 350 million BC or so. Later, early human ancestors likely learned to use such shelters from witnessing them in use by bears, wolves, and other animals first.

The deeper and lengthier underground channels naturally claimed their share of victims due to injury, and also death by thirst, starvation, drowning, or suffocation after explorers lost their way in the black depths (Keep in mind the ever present danger of subterranean flash floods, pockets of 'bad air', pitfalls, head bangers, and other hazards characteristic of a maze of pitch black passageways).

Such losses in human numbers expanded greatly with the discovery of fire, which emboldened explorers to go much deeper than they ever did before...

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Cave explorers began having sporadic and fragile access to fire around 1,900,000 BC ["Light My Fire: Cooking As Key To Modern Human Evolution, ScienceDaily Magazine, http://www.sciencedaily.com//releases/1999/08/990810064914.htm, 8/10/99, Source: University Of Minnesota], scavenged from natural sources like brush fires created by lightning [fire; Encyclopędia Britannica]; eventually they learned to maintain perpetual fires since they could not start them themselves. Around 70,000 BC humanity learned how to construct lamps superior to torches and braziers for purposes of exploration lamp; Encyclopędia Britannica, 2-16-2000; around 7,000 BC they learned how to start fires from scratch (but maintaining perpetual fires remained the preferred method for thousands of years afterwards) [fire; Encyclopędia Britannica].


The mazes and geological traps contained in many lengthy caverns claimed hundreds or even thousands over the millennia-- of which only a handful of remains will have been found/recognized by 1999 AD.

Eventually explorers learned tricks to better navigate the depths, such as scratching or carving marks on the walls, ceilings, or floors of their subterranean mansions. Ultimately some of these markings gave way to sketches, signs, and paintings.

Many caves had offered good and protected sources of drinking water to humans for millennia, as well as welcome places of warmth during winters, and better protection against some of the predators of the wide open surface grounds. A few even offered sheltered places in which to fish, without competition from bears or other people.

But after a while humans found that some caves offered other valuable resources beyond these; such as special types of rocks better suited to tool making than others. And minerals applicable to a wide range of duties, from easing painful digestion to quickening a fire, to creating a wider range of colors for tasks like wall and body painting. A few caves also offered unusual acoustical or other properties, making them naturally enhanced locations for rituals or other special events.

Soon those caves (or parts thereof) which offered unusual advantages to their inhabitants became prized pieces of real estate, handed down over generations from parents to children-- and sometimes fought over in bloody clashes, or traded peaceably for other places or knowledge deemed to be especially valuable.

Some caverns or sections of same ultimately became enshrined as ritual centers, housing permanently or seasonally shamans and their apprentices, and/or tribal chiefs and other elite, and sometimes being converted into tombs.

At least as far back as 31,000 BC, shamans were making active use of caves and caverns, painting and carving images into their surfaces, among other things. The artwork created often depicted visions beheld by the shamans during dreams, fevers, or trances induced by dancing to exhaustion, lengthy isolation in the dark, controlled breathing exercises, or the use of hallucinogenic plants. During these virtual journeys the shamans imagined they were encountering a multitude of entities, which included tribal dead, gods of various sorts, and monsters. The shaman would attempt to negotiate or persuade benefits or aid for the living from these entities, such as healing or rain-making.

-- Visions on the Rocks By BRUCE BOWER, October 5, 1996, Science News Online, http://www.sciencenews.org

Journey to the Center of the Earth

In 1,994 AD, not one but two possible aquatic Pellucidars were found

Pellucidar was a fictional exotic subterranean world created by Edgar Rice Burroughs (better known for his Tarzan character).

Now it appears two enormous ancient oceans were dragged deep towards the core of the Earth (hundreds of kilometers down) by the subduction of their floors under the continents. They may host quantities of seawater comparable to the surface oceans of 20th century Earth.

One of these bizzare realms may now exist some 900 km underneath Europe. The other looks to be almost 3,000 km below Indonesia.

These regions were revealed by seismic tomography.

-- TWO REALLY DEEP OCEANS from Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #96, NOV-DEC 1994 by William R. Corliss, citing Carl Zimmer; "The Ocean Within," Discover, 15:20, October 1994, and Martin Redfern; "Lost Ocean Found Deep in the Earth," New Scientist, p. 16, September 3, 1994

Over the past 750 million years the Earth's surface sea level has dropped some 1,968 feet due to loss of water to subterranean regions.

-- "The world's oceans seem to be draining away" by Peter Hadfield, Tokyo, New Scientist issue 11th September 99, http://www.newscientist.com, 8 SEPTEMBER 1999, EurekAlert!

Evidence of significant quantities of water has been found far deeper in the Earth (and under greater pressures) than many scientists expected. Earthquakes originating some 400 miles below the Earth's surface could be better explained by water's presence there.

It may be that water trapped deep in the Earth merges with rock to form minerals such as serpentine, which may often be 13% water in weight. These minerals might then at times be fortuitously insulated from the worst of the mantle's heat within layers of lithospheric material, allowing water to continue to exist even as it sank further into the Earth.

The depth limit for this configuration may be around 400 miles/644 km. At that point the mineral will begin to give up its water to its surroundings again (and unprotected water might flash to steam or even disassociate into hydrogen and oxygen molecules under these conditions(?)).

The quantity of water in the mantle could amount to more than several million trillion tons (maybe a tenth of one percent of the mass).

-- Water--400 miles below earth's surface; MAY 1998 Discover Magazine; Section: Break throughs IN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND MEDICINE GEOLOGY

The Earth's oceans have apparently been seeping into the planet's interior since the beginning-- perhaps at times even disappearing in enormous 'gulps' due to landshifts.

The rate of sea loss could leave the Earth as outwardly dry as Mars in another billion years beyond 2000 AD (the scientists postulate something similar took place on Mars in the distant past).

Much of the lost surface water may be trapped in the vicinity of the boundary between the upper and lower mantles, roughly 400 km deep.

Minerals like "lawsonite" may be absorbing much of the water at around 100 km in depth.

At greater depths most of the water may escape the minerals as hydrous dense silicates. This process of the water becoming more or less permanently trapped in the mantle may only have become feasible temperature gradient-wise around 750 million BC. Since that time world surface sea levels may have dropped by 600 m.

-- The world's oceans seem to be draining away Author: Peter Hadfield, Tokyo, New Scientist issue 11th September 99 New Scientist (http://www.newscientist.com) and EurekAlert!

Rare meteorites offer scientists a glimpse at what are likely some very common minerals in the Earth's interior (400+ km)-- but have never been found on or near the surface. Majorite and ringwoodite are their names. They may be common throughout the mantle (to 2,900 km deep).

-- Meteorites reveal deep secrets By Damian Carrington, 8 February, 2000, BBC News | SCI/TECH, http://www.bbc.co.uk

The estimated temperatures for these Pellucidar regions? 17,100 degrees Celsius (30,812 degrees F) for E-Pellucidar and 57,000 degrees Celsius (102,632 degrees F) for I-Pellucidar (temperature rises about 19 degrees Celsius for every kilometer in depth; surface temps baseline at 15 degrees, while at six km down temperatures of 120 degrees Celsius or more are expected).

Conversion formulas from Pocket Ref by Thomas J. Glover, Sequoia Publishing, 1989, and Cyclopedia by the Diagram Group, Running Press, 1993/1995

For comparison, the surface of the Sun is around 6,000 degrees Kelvin (roughly 5,727 degrees Celsius, and 10,340 degrees F), and the center about 15,000,000 K or 27,000,000 degrees F, while the melting points for iron and nickel (the major elements at Earth's core) respectively are 1,540 degrees C and 1,455 degrees C/2,651 degrees F.

-- page 97, The Sun, The Natural History of the Universe by Colin Ronan, 1991, Macmillan Publishing Company, and The McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, second edition, 1984, 1989

Note that the temperature suggested for the surroundings of I-Pellucidar is some ten times the temperature of the surface of the Sun, while those for E-Pellucidar are virtually three times(!)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Here I found a seeming contradiction in my sources. For page 1810, the Sun, The McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, second edition, 1984, 1989, states that solids and liquids may not exist at temperatures of 6000 degrees K/10,000 degrees F: only gas. Yet other sources state emphatically that the Earth's core and mantle exist as something other than a gas-- and supposedly at temperatures approaching three to ten times the critical temperature boundary between liquids/solids and gases.

Perhaps the enormous pressures forcing the liquid and solid states on matter in these regions also help limit how high the temperatures may go? Perhaps a study of the gas laws might help us resolve this issue...I'll try to look into the matter as I get the opportunity. END NOTE.

The great depths involved appear to mostly preclude the existence of typical surface life in these astonishing regions; for instance, the only light in these volumes might be from liquid or semi-liquid rock glowing due to extreme heat.

But could 'extremophiles' survive here? As of 1999 AD scientific opinion would likely be negative.

Life at the edge. Extremophiles. Just how deep in the Earth might they exist? Temperatures seem to be the main limiting factor. Pressure, flowing water, and chemical nutrients availability follow.

These constraints place the theoretical limits on extremophiles at around five to six kilometers down (below dry land). Pressures there are around 600 times atmospheric; sustainable by microbes. The temperature however runs 120 degrees Celsius or more-- an important barrier to life as we know it. Such temperatures may only be survived for brief periods by the hardiest micro-organisms known, circa 1999 AD.

Extremophiles can include very slow metabolisms as one technique for survival.

-- Life in the Inferno: Researchers Identify Factors that Determine Where Microorganisms Can Survive in the Hellish World Deep Underground, 16 DECEMBER 1999, EurekAlert!, Contact: Mary Beckman beckmt@inel.gov 208-526-0061 Idaho National E & E Laboratory, http://www.inel.gov

But since living 'extremophiles' abound under many other harsh conditions-- and any life which survived the initial subduction has now had possibly hundreds of millions of years to adapt to its plight-- there may well be organisms of some sort to be found there. They would likely all be very small in size (microbes) due to the tremendous heat and pressures, but perhaps very numerous.

Note too that there may be enormous contiguous bodies of water involved-- superheated bodies, with only terrible pressures preventing them from spontaneously and explosively transforming to steam-- or even disassociating into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. The water might be distributed among hundreds or thousands of immense pockets, some the size of USAmerica's Great Lakes (if not larger, even to the size of surface continents like Australia).

If water exists in a liquid state here, that could enhance the chances of life; if it exists in enormous continuous bodies as theorized, that would increase the chances as well; for such a body would surely undergo convective thermal changes, or circulate in currents (possibly very strong ones). Such currents could help moderate temperatures at least slightly, while also generating chemical nutrients from wall surfaces and transporting them throughout the enclosure.

Is it possible that superheated water constrained to liquid form by enormous pressures might also prevent such temperatures from exceeding a certain level for much of a region's interior volume?

Note too that this would likely not be pure water, but some combination of water and dissolved minerals, in perhaps a supersaturated form. Could the chemical composition help make the body more life-friendly? We know the water here began as seawater/saltwater.

And what of the life itself? With hundreds of millions of years of a gradual decent into ever more hellish conditions, could any life in the fluid have managed to evolve new defenses for itself-- or else evolved novel processes by which to protect its environment from the extreme heat surrounding it?

What if natural processes created insulating layers either about the entire regions, or the microbes developed such armor? Would sodium silicates help such a process? Could a natural form of aerogel somehow come to be in such an environment? If so, could it make the difference between life and death here? Note that some possible coatings, such as something like volcanic glass or diamond would not help life forms directly-- they conduct heat rather than insulate it. However, if such coatings formed all about the walls of the enclosure itself, they might serve to efficiently transfer the terrible heat from the liquid core to the mantle-- perhaps protecting the watery region itself from the worst of the hellish temperatures.

Diamonds are often formed in the deep mantle, 150 km or deeper in the Earth, and at temperatures over 2550 degrees F or 1400 degrees C. Diamonds are the best conductors of heat known (and so might make a terrific 'heat sink' shield for a Pellucidar).

-- Diamond, p.572, MacGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Second Edition, 1989

It might be that even with a thick solid diamond shield coating, a Pellucidar region might also maintain a thin layer of superheated steam in-between its liquid water and the diamond shell. And, of course, there is little information available at the time of this writing regarding how or even if a Pellicudar void might form a protective heat shield about itself.

These are terribly inhospitable places; it would likely be easier for human beings to survive in space than explore such regions as these.

If just one of these regions support life of some sort, E-Pellucidar (the shallower of the two) would seem to be the prime candidate.

The Indonesian Pellucidar seems to be located very near the boundary between the mantle and the core. This means I-Pellucidar may itself be 'floating' upon a molten liquid sea of nickel-iron.

-- Earth, page 632, McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1989, 1984

The composition of I-Pellucidar in combination with the incredible pressures somehow maintains a significant temperature differential from the molten nickel-iron sea upon which it rests.

I-Pellucidar may be accompanied in its hellish existence by subducted fragments of the Earth's surface continents from eons past, as well.

-- CONTINENTAL GRAVEYARD? From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #47, SEP-OCT 1986 by William R. Corliss, citing Stefi Weisburd; "Seismic Journey to the Center of the Earth," Science News, 130:10, 1986, and Richard A. Kerr; "Continents at the Core-Mantle Boundary?" Science, 233:523, 1986

A temperature anomaly indicates a colder than normal spiraling stream of molten iron jetting downwards from beneath the mid-Pacific, through the liquid outer core of the Earth to the solid iron core. Its starting point also seems interestingly near to the strange region of I-Pellucidar. Plus, the scientists theorize a significant cooling of the core's liquid surface is the source of the jet-- and I-Pellucidar would most certainly cool the molten iron, consisting as it does of an ocean's worth of superheated liquid saltwater which is prevented by pressure from vaporizing to steam. Thus, I-Pellucidar may be acting as a heat transfer region between the outer core and the inner mantle. Whatever the cause, it may have been in place for millions of years.

-- Earth's Solid Iron Core May Have A Cold Front By Michael Purdy, UniSci Daily, http://www.unisci.com, 19-Nov-1999

A body of concentrated mass 380 miles tall and 80 miles thick is slowly descending towards the Earth's core 500 miles beneath the western Caribbean. It may be a piece of subducted seafloor from millennia past.

-- SMU Geophysicists Discover Large Blob Deep In The Earth, ScienceDaily Magazine, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991020081357.htm, Source: Southern Methodist University (http://www.smu.edu), 10/20/99, The original news release can be found at http://www.smu.edu/~newsinfo/releases/99063.html

Although most caves tend to extend horizontally rather than vertically [Cave, page 332, McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1989, 1984] some known caves of the world extend as far as 500 km underground (note that such a cavern extending straight down for 500 km or more could get tantalyzingly near to the European Pellucidar at 900 km, in a real life scenario suggestive of the science fiction classic Journey to the Center of the Earth).

Urban Spelunking may be another relevant link to the Crevicular Continuum.

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The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to jmooneyham.com or jrmooneyham.com are included.

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