Nature’s art gallery

Thien Cung Grotto in Halong Bay, Vietnam. Photograph by Erik A. Drabløs.

It is a wonder that one cannot impart to others.”
– Ho Chi Minh

“To form this wonder, nature only uses stone and water to write, draw, sculpt, to create everything.”
– Writer Nguyen Ngoc Ngan

Deep in the interior of a monolith cone-shaped karst ascending from the salty waters of Halong (Descending Dragon) Bay in Vietnam is Wooden Stakes Cave, embracing  the oldest geological museum on our planet.

This amazing “art gallery” has been naturally evolving and forming for some 500 million years.

Karst topography is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks of limestone, dolomite and gypsum, once mountains under the sea that have risen from the depths due to tectonic activity  for millions of years. This Unesco World Heritage site consists of 1,600 limestone karsts in various shapes and sizes topped by jungle vegetation that is home to rare monkeys and lizards. The interiors are characterized by sinkholes and enormous grottoes filled with weirdly shaped stalactites and stalagmites formed by steady erosion that has created abstract artwork.

Local legend relates the gods sent a family of dragons to protect the peaceful bay. The dragons spit out rubies, pearls and jade to form a wall of rock mountains called “fenglin towers,” which caused the invaders’ ships to crash and sink. Some of the dragons, similar to the Loch Ness Monster, have occasionally been sighted. A headline in the Hai Phong News recently reported “Dragon Appears in Halong Bay.” I have seen this dragon in the rocks myself so I know it is true. Perhaps you can see it, too.

The entrance and center of Wooden Stakes Cave is flooded with light, but the walls remained gray and dark until my camera flashed. Then for a magical moment they exploded with color. It wasn’t until I put the shots in my computer and enhanced the natural colors that I realized I had photographed some startling abstract artwork created by nature.

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