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The Bargish Cave

September 27, 2008

A few years ago, people became interested in a cave in the Koora district south of Irbid. It is natural for local communities to try and encourage tourism to their areas, as tourism can help the local economy. So, in order to characterize this cave, I had a graduate student do her masters thesis on it. It helped that she lived nearby.

We later published the results of her research. Coincidentally, Stefen Kempe, Ahmad Malabeh and others published a paper on the same cave around the same time. Our descriptions of the cave were similar, but interpretations on how it was formed differed.

It turns out that the cave is relatively small, but it is rich in nice cave deposits. Also, there are plenty of bats.

Caves form as the result of water dissolving limestone. This can be a gradual process, or it could by helped along by acidic subsurface waters. Here, there was a discrepancy between the Kempe paper and ours. Whereas we considered the cave to be a result of simple dissolution under normal atmospheric conditions (rainfall is relatively high in that area), Kempe and his colleagues postulated that rising hydrogen sulfide or methane may have caused the formation of the cave. This is based on observations of other, supposedly similar caves, but is inconsistent with the isotopic data presented in our paper.

Kempe and his colleagues place a much older date on the initiation of the cave, with an estimate that it is Miocene in age (5 million years old). Our geochemical modeling suggests that it is probably only 30,000 years old.

My colleague, Rasheed Jaradat did some geophysical surveys of the site. His data shows that there are additional extensions of the cave, but they have suffered from roof collapse. The safety issue is a significant one if the cave is to be developed for tourism. In the meantime, the site also needs to be protected from vandalism.

There are a lot of pretty deposits though. I hope you enjoy these pictures.

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