Journey to the center of the earth…well, not quite

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Today’s photo was shot in Carlsbad Caverns. There were so many fascinating things to photograph that I was hard pressed to pick one for this post. Some of the formations are very sharp and pointy – unlike the ribbon-y looking shapes in this photo. Some hang from the ceiling while others appear to grow out of the ground. Some have angry looking faces you can make out with just a tiny bit of imagination. Some are smooth like a waterfall. There are varying colors of formations and those are accentuated by various lighting throughout the caverns. 

Carlsbad Caverns itself is massive. There are more than 119 caves in the park. Carlsbad Cavern itself includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet long, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point. The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world. Over 120 miles of cave has been mapped and explored but there are parts which have yet to be probed. 

If you get a chance…go. It’s unlike anything you’re likely to see elsewhere…and to think that this gem lay hidden in the earth for all intents and purposes until 1898 when teenager Jim White explored it with a limestone lantern and a ladder made out of wire. 

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: James Riddle Hoffa, one of the most influential American labor leaders of the 20th century, disappeared in Detroit, Michigan, never to be heard from again. Though he is popularly believed to have been the victim of a Mafia hit, conclusive evidence was never found, and Hoffa’s death remains shrouded in mystery to this day.

Born in 1913 to a poor coal miner in Brazil, Indiana, Jimmy Hoffa proved a natural leader in his youth. At the age of 20, he helped organize a labor strike in Detroit, and remained an advocate for downtrodden workers for the rest of his life. Hoffa’s charisma and talents as a local organizer quickly got him noticed by the Teamsters and carried him upward through its ranks. Then a small but rapidly growing union, the Teamsters organized truckers across the country, and through the use of strikes, boycotts and some more powerful though less legal methods of protest, won contract demands on behalf of workers.

Hoffa became president of the Teamsters in 1957, when its former leader was imprisoned for bribery. As chief, Hoffa was lauded for his tireless work to expand the union, and for his unflagging devotion to even the organization’s least powerful members. His caring and approachability were captured in one of the more well-known quotes attributed to him: “You got a problem? Call me. Just pick up the phone.”

Hoffa’s dedication to the worker and his electrifying public speeches made him wildly popular, both among his fellow workers and the politicians and businessmen with whom he negotiated. Yet, for all the battles he fought and won on behalf of American drivers, he also had a dark side. In Hoffa’s time, many Teamster leaders partnered with the Mafia in racketeering, extortion and embezzlement. Hoffa himself had relationships with high-ranking mobsters, and was the target of several government investigations throughout the 1960s. In 1967, he was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

While in jail, Hoffa never ceded his office, and when Richard Nixon commuted his sentence in 1971, he was poised to make a comeback. Released on condition of not participating in union activities for 10 years, Hoffa was planning to fight the restriction in court when he disappeared on July 31, 1975, from the parking lot of a restaurant in Detroit, not far from where he got his start as a labor organizer. Several conspiracy theories have been floated about Hoffa’s disappearance and the location of his remains, but the truth remains unknown. (Galen: I wonder if his body is somewhere deep in Carlsbad?)

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: above-ground nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s released between 100 and 1,000 times more radiation into the environment than Chernobyl did.

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