SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — A just-unearthed cave formed more than 1 million years ago could yield new insight into the geological history of the American West, according to scientists, who called the discovery a major find.
Four amateur cave explorers uncovered the vast caverns, stretching more than 1,000 feet into a remote mountainside, in August.
Visitors to the cave, dubbed Ursa Minor, described seeing millions of crystals that shimmered like diamonds lodged in its walls. Translucent mineral curtains hung from the ceiling, and a lake possibly 20 feet deep filled one of the cave's five known rooms.
Passages leading into darkness suggested there is much more to see.
Geologists and cave explorers said that although caves are discovered often, it is rare to find one so grand.
"There are things in this cave that could really open windows into our knowledge of geologic history and the formation of caves throughout the West," said Joel Despain, the park's cave manager.
"We're just beginning to understand the scientific ramifications of this."
Park officials will not pinpoint the cave's location, saying only that it is in the Kaweah River watershed and probably will never be opened to the public.
Explorer Scott McBride with the nonprofit Cave Research Foundation discovered the cave's entrance, no bigger than a softball, Aug. 19.