James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.


Imagine, crawling on your hands and knees in the pitch-black confines of a tunnel, 80 feet below ground. Hours have passed since you last saw the sun and the sky, mud and rock surrounds you. You have no particular objective, other than exploration. You have no aim other than that age old wonder of ‘what’s over the next hill’, or in this case, can I squeeze through one more unnecessarily small gap and see what’s on the other side.

Imagine doing all that. Imagine doing all that, and discovering that deep below ground, this tiny tunnel opens out into a huge natural subterranean cavern. Imagine doing all that and as your lamp pierces the gloom, a stalactite nearly 30 feet long peers back at you.

I imagine you would remember that moment for life…

Now take a moment and imagine descending in an elevator. The doors open 45 seconds later, and the regimented rows of lamps guides you like a runway as you walk down the neatly mined tunnel.  A layer of concrete has thoughtfully been laid to bring uniformity to the rock under foot. Moments later, you reach the cavern and it’s just like the photos, incredible, breath-taking and inspiring.

Ten minutes later you are back in the car, driving away…

A year later, you remember Doolin cave and decide to write an article on it. By now the lift will have been finished, the final stage in taming this subterranean marvel complete.

Progress? A price worth paying to bring Doolin Cave to the masses?

Or perhaps with each obstacle removed a wonder becomes less impressive.

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