Geomorphologists’ Delight: Limestone caves in Baratang

Geomorphologists' Delight: Limestone caves in Baratang
Way to the caves
Andamans is a traveler’s delight. From vast oceans to historical monuments to mud volcanoes, it has something to offer to every visitor. Even for geomorphologists.

People who enjoy digging into the past and natural formations would love limestone caves at Baratang. We have similar caves in Diglipur infact the caves in Diglipur are inaccessible when compared to these.
Passing through the creek

Baratang is 90 kms away from Port Blair. One has to travel by road and cross a creek on a ferry at Middle Strait. Upon reaching Baratang jetty, you can hire a boat to reach the caves. The boat crosses through the creek and then you have to walk for about two kilometers to finally see the caves.

 We traversed the walking path through a short cut and that was a brilliant experience. We passed through a village called Nayadera that has about 8 families from Jharkhand area. There is no electricity in the village. I stopped there for a while to interact with the villagers. I actually wanted to stay there for some more time.
Women peeling off betelnuts in Nayadera

The village is located near the creek with huge trees around and I could see why there never felt the need of a fan or electric equipment. People sleep by 7 pm and wake up at 4:30 am. They grow and sell betelnuts and catch fish.

Process for cave formation

When we reached the caves, we saw few boards that explained the process of formation of these caves. This is what one of the boards reads –

Limestone is a sedentary rock that was originally formed at the bottom of the sea. Limestone is formed by compression over millions of year of the gradual deposits of many ingredients such as marine life, shells, skeletons and coral. These limestone deposits have many different hues, textures and degrees of purity. These formations were pushed above sea level in many regions of the sea level in many regions of the world. A common characteristic of this rock is that it is easily dissolved by rain water.
You can see such interesting patterns on the caves rocks
When it rains the rain drops pick up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It hits the earth’s surface and flows downwards into small cracks. As it flows, it passes through Air pockets in the soil. These air pockets contain more carbon dioxide which is given off by rotting plants and soluble lime from the limestone rocks. When the atmospheric carbon dioxide gets dissolved into the rain water, then this water becomes slightly acidic.
CO2 + H2O —àHCO + H
CaCO3 + H2CO3 —àCa2 + 2HCO3
This acidic water seeks split in the rock formations. It gradually seeps into these weakened rocks enlarging them and dissolving calcium carbonate.
Entrance to the caves

The caves in Baratang lie in a plane area with limestone rocks.  As one moves forward, they can see the caves that look ordinary sized caves but are very deep and high inside.

Two limestone rocks waiting to meet sideways

The caves are constantly evolving in shape and size. As you go inside the caves, you can actually see different patterns that are made by limestone.

Here it is important to learn about stalagmites and stalactites. Stalagmites are the formations found on the floor of the caves, reaching upward to touch the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. In this picture you can see the stalagmites and the stalactites, both! When these two meet, they form a pillar.Like in this picture, the stalagmites and the stalactites are together going to form a pillar.
Stalagmite and Stalactite on its way to become a pillar
Similarly, when two rocks meet sideway, they close the way as seen in the picture below because of which many caves have become inaccessible as the rocks have closed the way.
Two rocks that if joined, will block the entrance to this cave

Some caves are so dense, deep and dark inside that you need to light a torch to be able to see anything. That is the reason photos are clicked with a flash. Also it may get slippery inside the caves so it is advisable to come in floaters or shoes.

Narrow, dense caves
The small jetty for the caves

The boat ride that connects the location of these caves with Baratang jetty is magnificent. It passes through a narrow mangrove creek and that is an experience in itself.

The creek passage that makes the journey exciting and memorable

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