Why caves? Some people think caves are just holes in the ground, which is true to some degree. But holes create space that can be filled with many things and used in many ways. In the following pages, you’ll learn not just how caves form, but that they hold major supplies of water that quench a thirsty world. Caves provide homes to rare and fabulously unusual animals and microbes that often benefit us who live above the Earth’s surface. Caves hold treasures—not Hollywood fantasy chests of gold but scientific riches that teach us about the history of our planet.
Since prehistoric times, people have used caves as homes. Today, many caves are used as tourist destinations, creating a multi-billion dollar global industry. These show caves fire imaginations, inspiring some to go beyond the paved trails and explore caves, map their extents, study their contents, and manage them sustainably for the benefit of all people. We invite you to read on for a virtual exploration of caves, a fascinating world hidden beneath your feet.