The Mother Lode: Exploration of the World's Most Beautiful Cave

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I pulled off my boots, shaking ever-present grit from the toes, and stripped down until my only attire was a headlamp. “Now there’s one for the fashion runways,” I thought wryly. More aging adventurer than willowy Milan supermodel, I eased into the impossibly cool, aqua water and felt the floor quickly fall away. My buddy Neil followed behind. We stroked across the Olympic pool-sized lake, which at its center seemed to be 20 crystalline feet deep, maybe more. Ahead of us the water dove around a blind corner, reaching into who knows where. Or what. Then we saw it. Or rather, it chose to reveal itself to us. We were at the gates of an enchanted kingdom that no fairy tale could conjure. A broad avenue, splendidly decorated with pagoda towers and rich draperies, rose out of the lake in front of us. Exchanging wide-eyed glances, we stepped onto the promenade, passing lily pads and long ribbons rising from the lake on either side. The path terminated in a broad platform seemingly designed for royal audiences. We found ourselves in a magnificent ballroom, our shadows rippling distantly on its walls. We were in Lechuguilla cave, 800 steamy feet below the earth’s surface in New Mexico. And we weren’t turning back.

Called “the Jewel of the Underground” by its devotees, Lechuguilla is a wonderland of sublime vistas, its secrets unrolling in more than 135+ miles of passages – and that’s only what has been explored so far. It’s both the deepest limestone cave in the U.S. and, so far, the fifth longest in the world. No one, however, has chronicled in detail the secrecy, exploits, victories, accidents and inevitable politics surrounding the cave’s emergence into public consciousness. This book entitled The Mother Lode is the fthird and final installment of The Lechuguilla Cave Trilogy and chronicles the final years of this two decades long adventure. This is a landmark work aimed at a broad audience that enjoys armchair adventure, vividly told, regardless of whether they’ve ever set foot in an REI. Quick background: Two decades ago, Lechuguilla was considered an obscure pit near Carlsbad Cavern that could be thoroughly explored in less than an hour. Yet visitors repeatedly noticed a howling wind beneath the dirt floor, indisputable evidence of a great cavern beyond. A determined team of “cavers” dug intermittently for 18 months before breaking through to one of nature’s grandest mysteries – one that Indians had known of at its mouth, but that had lain anonymous for who knows how many generations. We’ve taken a dual approach to the book: high adventure and obsessive attention to factual accuracy. The former describes five of Lechuguilla’s most significant and colorful explorers, nearly all of whom participated for the entire 20 years. The collection of personalities and “real” professions is, to put it mildly, eclectic: a genius Mensa beekeeper, an exuberant emergency room physician, a Luddite hermit, a gung-ho rock climber and myself, an optometrist and onetime goldmine operator. The narrative includes our agreements, revelations, arguments, near-fatal accidents, partings and coming together of ways with an intensity that only a first-person experience can. Yet the real main character book is the cave itself – a splendorous, world-class natural treasure by virtually any definition. It’s hard to imagine anywhere as stunning, magnificent, ethereal and simultaneous alien as Lechuguilla. Knowing that words can’t possibly do it justice, Elusive Majesty has been lavishly endowed with photographs and maps from internationally recognized cave photographers and graphic artists. As one of the most important and interesting exploration stories of the last century, Lechuguilla Cave’s story deserves to told – and brilliantly illustrated photographically – in full. This is the book to do it. I am most pleased to present The Mother Lodethe final installment of The Lechuguilla Cave Trilogy for your consideration.

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Published on
Aug 12, 2015
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History / Modern / 20th Century
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Eligible for Family Library

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“The Firefall” is the second installment of three eBooks that chronicles the exploration and human history of Lechuguilla Cave, New Mexico from approximately 1985 to 2005. These two decades represent one of the most exciting and important chapters of original geographic exploration in our time as a vast realm of sublime beauty, which had lain hidden for countless centuries, was finally revealed. Universally acclaimed as the world’s most beautiful cave, the wonders and unique geological discoveries of Lechuguilla Cave provide a window into a part of our planet we know the least about.

The climactic conclusion of "Elusive Majesty" leaves Lyle Moss at the top of the Aragonitemare climb on the threshold of a vast new cavernous realm yet to be explored. "The Firefall" continues this story as our explorers discover regions of large somber caverns in the "Outback" and great halls of cascading flowstone including the crown jewel ,"Firefall Hall". Great accounts of daring climbs are recounted which result in the discovery of "Ghostbuster Hall" and a major extension of the cave called the "Northwest Passage".

Disaster strikes when cave explorer, Emily Mobley, broke her leg deep in the system resulting in one of the largest cave rescue efforts in history. Political battle also rage as tensions flare between Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the Lechuguilla Cave Project shaking the project to its core.

As the era of ePublishing dawns, this trilogy is also an unparalleled opportunity to showcase the power of the emerging medium of the eBook. How hard it is to truly appreciate the splendor of these great halls and sublime formations without the magic of the visual image. While dauntingly expensive to print in standard book form, images of this world can be presented to the reader with lavish generosity. Visit to view the full photo collection.

There are many ways to tell a story. The premise of this book was to tell the human side of this great adventure by following the exploration careers of five of the most important cave explorers active in this endeavor during this time. This is an original history that should be considered a primary historic source for this subject (except were noted). These writings are drawn from the direct experience of the authors as well as numerous other literary sources and interviews with the key parties. The beauty of this approach is that it allows for a grand narrative of these great discoveries as seen through the eyes of the original explorers in a well developed, coherent and dramatic way. And while this is a book of adventure, it is also a book about friendship as ordinary (if perhaps eccentric) people worked together to reveal a truly extraordinary realm previously unknown to humanity.

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Proud Tower, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Guns of August, and The Zimmerman Telegram comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War era

In this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world. Beginning with the funeral of Edward VII, Tuchman traces each step that led to the inevitable clash. And inevitable it was, with all sides plotting their war for a generation. Dizzyingly comprehensive and spectacularly portrayed with her famous talent for evoking the characters of the war’s key players, Tuchman’s magnum opus is a classic for the ages.
Praise for The Guns of August
“A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill’s statement that the first month of World War I was ‘a drama never surpassed.’”—Newsweek
“More dramatic than fiction . . . a magnificent narrative—beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained.”—Chicago Tribune
“A fine demonstration that with sufficient art rather specialized history can be raised to the level of literature.”—The New York Times
“[The Guns of August] has a vitality that transcends its narrative virtues, which are considerable, and its feel for characterizations, which is excellent.”—The Wall Street Journal

From the Trade Paperback edition.
#1 New York Times Bestseller

From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. 

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.
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