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Monteagle Miner Cave, a Fluorescent Chamber of Icicles

Over the 2018 holidays my daughters were in town. One left after Christmas but was replaced by my BFF Howie Green and his wife. Always looking for something to do besides explore the many fluorescent rocks down at my barn, this year we got lucky. My local glowhound buddy - John Smith - suggested we visit a cave about an hour and a half from my house. Since I have a cave in my backyard I wasn't too excited until he sent me a couple of pictures.

Closeup of some of the stalactites and a UV photo of the ceiling in the main room (photographer unknown)

A fluorescent cave! Here in TN that's unusual. My cave has some wonderful formations: columns, stalactites, stalagmites, flowstone, and cave popcorn everywhere. But it really doesn't glow very well - a dim white, but the mix of clay makes them all pretty opaque and kills any chance of real fluorescence.

(One of the flowstone formations inside my cave, 100' outside my back door).

But this cave promised something unique for us here in middle TN - transparent calcite and selenite which was very fluorescent and very phosphorescent. We were not disappointed.

The cave is located just south of Monteagle off I-24. It is known as Monteagle Miner's Cave, but also has another name which escapes me right now. On state owned land (discovered when they built the local interstate) it is protected by the Middle TN Caving Society - seriously protected with a metal door. Luckily John knew a fellow who had the key (and is also a member of our FMS Fluorescent Mineral Group on FB). He picked up the key and off we went. Little did I know that not only was the metal gate a barrier to entry, so was the size of the opening. Once we got the gate open everyone started piling in. The laughter in the background as I tried to fit my fat butt in the tiny hole is still echoing in my head!

My daughter at the entrance to the cave

Howie, my daughter and her fiance, John, and myself proceeded to make the agonizing crawl towards the main room. It was a short crawl but a big reminder that I am no longer young. Once we emerged from the birthing canal, we were greeted with a room full of snow-white icicles, many delicate soda-straw types with what appears to be selenite growths on them.

I brought my large camera, ready to take a bunch of "professional" UV pics. I quickly learned that I ain't no pro. My camera setup here at home is controlled by the computer and I never take any pics without the computer (tethered shooting). Trying to figure out how to set the camera up on its own, iso, time exposure, etc. proved beyond my capability in the tight confines of a cave with limited lighting. I quickly gave up; luckily John and Brian (daughter's ball/chain) had some excellent telephones and took some great pics.

Start photo tour:

Luckily a real cave photographer provided me with two very nice photos showing the beauty of this cave. The UV photo was taken using a Convoy 365nm flashlight to "paint" the ceiling during a long exposure. Photos by Steve Capp

Wish we had a person in this photo to give an idea of scale. The main room was probably 10' high

I did bring several of my high-power 365nm LED lights. Everyone shined them on the ceiling and we got some great UV photos.


Another shot of the ceiling with a human for scale (photographer unknown).

Sadly, we forgot to take a phosphorescent pic (might not have been able to), but turn the lights out and the afterglow is amazing in the pitch black of the cave

Above a gallery of pics - next time I go in there I'm gonna learn how to use my DSLR "off-computer"! All taken by Brian or John

Daughter and fiance Brian - he's from Montana but wanted to "fit in" down here

I'm not sure if this is setting up my camera or tearing it down in disgust

Outside the cave, after exploring inside, we scoured the various pockets and cracks in the roadcut, also filled with travertine and cave formations. I was lucky enough to find a relatively whole stalactite that had been broken off somehow and was just lying there. Below are shortwave, phosphorescent, and white light pics. Really neat with "rind" around the exterior and the intergrown crystals within.

Shortwave (longwave pretty much the same)

Phosphorescent (afterglow)


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