It’s been nearly thirty years since scientists have been to Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming. And, there about to go back. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is getting ready to reopen a metal grate over the cave’s opening.
Why the precautionary metal grate? The cave is nearly impossible to see until you’re standing right next to it. That’s why scientists want to explore it again. Many animals over hundreds and thousands of years fatally fell into the cave. The bones of thousands of animals are piled up at the bottom of the sinkhole esque cave.
Julie Meachen is a Des Moines University paleontologist who will lead a team of researchers on the expedition. Before she embarks, Meachen has been active at a local climbing gym.
“I’m pretty terrified,” Meachen told the AP yesterday.
She’s not an avid climber and reaching the cave will require rappelling down 80 feet. Getting out will be even trickier with a single-rope climb the only way back out.
Natural Trap Cave is incredibly well-preserved. Temperatures hover around the mid-40s and humidity sits at 98%. Perfect conditions for preserving fossils.
“It’s so cold all year-long, that it has got just the perfect conditions for preserving DNA, in multiple species, in large numbers of individuals,” Meachen said. “Which is not really found anywhere except Siberia and the Arctic.”
Some of the bones are thought to be over 100,000 years old. That’s a lot of digging as the pile of bones is said to be at least 30 feet deep.
Can you imagine how creepy it would be to go down there?
One of the team’s primary goals is to learn more about the Pleistocene extinction. This event wiped out dozens of species. Some theories center around climate change or hunting as the causes.