Cave Updates from Portugal!

CATEGORIES: Field Blog/News, News

Thought we were done with fieldwork? Nope, not yet! Why go back to the States when you can swing through Portugal to help Diana’s cave project?

Al and Maddie departed Tromsø Monday morning for Lisbon, Portugal. From there, it was a short drive to Mira de Aire, home of Portugal’s largest tourist cave. Diana’s project focuses on a stalactite from a smaller cave nearby. For the past couple of years, Diana and her collaborator Rhawn Denniston from Cornell College, have been monitoring environmental data from the cave to better understand and interpret the stalactite proxy climate record.


Al entering the cave!

Al and Maddie were tasked with downloading data, replacing data loggers, drip counters, and calcite slides, estimating pCO2, and better measuring the dimensions of the cave. The cave is about a 20 minute hike from the “road,” battling through sometimes very angry plants but also lovely thyme, dill, and of course, olive trees. Getting into the cave is not easy. You have to shimmy in feet first on your stomach, then pivot around a big knob to descend another few meters – hardhats are a requirement! From there, the cave opens up and it is a rather comfortable hike/climb down to the study area. We didn’t see any bats but there were more insects than usual and the cave was rather dry (i.e., no pools of water).


Some cool flowstones in the cave.


A view up to the loft.

After the first trip in and out of the cave, we had a quick lunch of olives, crackers, cheese, and cucumber while we preparing gear to measure cave dimensions and pCO2. The pCO2 meter required a 24V power source, which we achieved by taping together 16 AA in series (1.5V each), an awkward yet effective alternative to lugging a larger 24V battery from the US through Norway to Portugal. The whole operation from when we arrived at the cave to heading back to the car took ~5 hours. We returned to town and had a lovely dinner at the tourist cave restaurant. Since it all went off without a hitch, we now have an extra day to bum around before departing Lisbon on Friday. See you soon!



Appetizers and dinner. The clams were amazing!