Great Cavern of Saint Thomas, princess of nature
CubaPLUS Photos by PUBLICITUR S.A.
In the municipality of Viñales, known for its famous valley in western Cuba, there is also the Great Cavern of Saint Thomas (Santo Tomás), the most important cave system in the Caribbean archipelago, considered the largest in Central America, the Antilles and South America.
When it was discovered in 1954 and the press reported its existence as one of the most beautiful caverns among all those known, it was far from assuming that it would be one of the most significant sites in the country due to its natural and historical conditions, the princess of spelunkers in Cuba.
Result of the work of the Speleological Society of Cuba, headed by Antonio Núñez Jiménez, the newly found cavity had so-called multiple blades, fully crystallized and bristling with helictites like fine crystal threads that in their nature and variety adopted diverse and capricious forms.
Already at that time the existence of the Scarlet Cave was also noticed, named after the reddish color that the mineral components transmitted to its formations, and the discovery of several fossil remains of fauna that existed during the Pleistocene was reported.
The tangled network of galleries originated by ancient rivers decided that it was the Santo Tomás stream, which crosses the region, which would qualify to give name to the largest cave system on the island.
The investigations aroused much interest and the Society planned and carried out other excursions that provided new knowledge, some conceived with the participation and collaboration of European scientific institutions.
The Great Cavern of Saint Thomas, extending more than 45 kilometers, is connected, as if they were strung together, to a series of cavities that are identified as the Underground Burning System.
The majestic cave contains petroglyphic manifestations produced by the scratching technique of the ancient inhabitants of the island.
Appropriate as an enclosure, it provided shelter to the aborigines in the pre-Columbian era, and it was also an important refuge for the maroon blacks who escaped from slavery. The locals of other times made use of its natural benefits to supply the water that was stored in its wells and bat guano to fertilize the best tobacco lands in the world.
Coinciding with the date that the world celebrates Environment Day, the Great Cavern was declared a National Monument of the Republic of Cuba on June 5, 1989.