NatGeo Piece On "Dark Star" Cave Contains Uncanny, Unintentional Grateful Dead References

No matter how you slice it, Michael Synnott's National Geographic piece on a system of high altitude caves is a fascinating read.  But the cave also happens to be named "Dark Star", which itself should bring a smile to a Deadhead's face.

Let's be clear, the name was inspired not by The Dead's psychedelic opus, but a 70's era science fiction film spoof (whose makers were likely oblvious to the song as well).

But as a name for a cave, especially this type of system-- something mysterious, other-worldly, drawing adventurous explorers into its depths -- Dark Star couldn't be more accurate.  As the reader goes deeper into the story, and views the stunning and informative accompanying images, there's plenty to remind them of the "real" Dark Star, Robert Hunter's lyrics and (*ahem*) its hidden depths.

Let's take a look.

You've got to love the references in this visual summary alone:  "an enduring lure for explorers", "unexplored branchs could plunge much deeper".   If you didn't know better, the text could be describing either Dark Star.

This quote from the piece could describe a Deadhead:

Dark Star is his true life’s work, and no one understands the cave’s complex networks better than he does. “He knows where new passages will lead before they are explored,”

If you've ever had a visual in your head listening to a particularly heavy version of "Dark Star", it may have produced bizarre shapes, fantastic colors and pyschedelic patterns.  Maybe something like this shot from deep inside the cave?

Do you know what this passage reminds me of?

...a few team members are huddled around a map of Dark Star. Passages discovered during each expedition are rendered in different colors, and the map looks like a multicolored schematic of the human circulatory system.

I pictured Mike Hamad's gloriously detailed Setlist Schematics, which attempt to do the same for several great performances of the tune.  Take a look...

And as you keep reading, so many of the words that Synnott uses to describe what he sees in the cave just evoke the lyrics to the song itself.

Photons of light travel billions of miles through the universe in straight, unobstructed lines, but they cannot bend.

"Dark star crashes pouring its light into ashes / Reason tatters, the forces tear loose from the axis
Searchlight casting  for faults in the  clouds of delusion"

I pan across the room. The walls are covered with delicate feathers of hoarfrost that blink in the light like millions of tiny mirrors, illuminating the hall like galaxies of stars in a crystal clear night sky.

"Mirror shatters in formless reflections of matter"

I duck under an archway of translucent blue ice and enter a massive chamber some 820 feet long and a hundred feet tall—the Full Moon Hall.

"Glass hand dissolving to ice petal flowers revolving"

Dark Star.  May we never stop exloring it.

H/T @bourgwick




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