Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ulsan Amethyst Cave

Cavern of amethysts, 자수정동굴, is a cavern of birthstones for February. Internationally there are about 100 mines being approved as having the best quality of gemstones. This is one among the 100. However, the majority of the amethyst caverns are currently closed and only this one has been devised for tourism. In the cavern each passage has been made to excite tourism and so the various passages reference different popular culture sites around the world: exhibits on primitive life in Papua, relics from Egypt, a miniature of Dokdo Island, and a passage leading to a miniature Seokguram, as well as a reproduction of the local National Treasure No. 285, the Bangudae petroglyphs, to name a few. Because of the chill I really welcomed the single passage that contained a mock amethyst sauna room. People could flop on the bamboo mat in front of the warming wall and warm up from the damp coolness of the cavern complex. Events like acrobatic shows are also held. Personally I thought all the referencing to famous sites and the acrobatic show really cheapened the beauty of the extensive man-made cave, but tourism is tourism and somehow this cheap stuff is "appreciated" and the natural environment gets little to no regard.

Throughout the 2.5 kilometers of the man-made cave, the passages are wide enough for a truck to pass through. The space is an intricate web of passages, much like those of an ants. Inside, the year round temperature ranges from 12 - 16 degrees Celsius.

The two aspects that I most appreciated in the cave were, when I took the brief boat ride, I got a sense of how extensive the passages were, and during the 5 minute ride, I got to see the single remaining amethyst geode in the ceiling above one of the central waterways. Somehow I was under the impression before visiting the cave that more amethysts would be embedded in the walls but evidently they were harvested as quickly as they were found.

Taking the very short boat ride with the sides of the cavern draped in glitzy lights.
This picture turned out better than the reality.
The single obvious geode in the ceiliing, left to show visitors a naturally occurring geode.

This amethyst geode was discovered August 20, 1987 by the foreman and the mayor of the team. It took 20 miners about seven hours to remove about 10 tonnes of stone and collect the uncut stone. The then appraised value was calculated at about 500,000,000 won. For demonstrating a geode to visitors it was been restored to its near original state. The size of the geode is 1.8 meters in diameter and 4.5 meters in height. There is also a display hall of many different sizes and shapes of amethysts. They would have been very interesting to see, however, moisture had gotten into most of the plastic casings  so viewing the amethysts geodes inside was next to impossible. A bit sad about that.

The Egyptian site was positively the worst. This one is better laid out and decorated than most.
The imitation Seokguram.
The imitation Seokguram.
A paper dragon stuck on the wall. I think building a myth around the dragon would give the cave
and the cheapness of the dragon a little more appeal.
This part is historically interesting as it shows how geodes were mined and extracted from the rock.
More historical record depicted through lifelike imagery models the mining process. Evidently this part of the exhibit is showing a resting moment, a lunch break. Not much color in the cave, which gives an authentic reproduction of the mining process.
For instructions how to get to the Amethyst Cave from Ulsan, go to the site Ulsan Tour of Ancient History: Munmu Tombs, Petroglyphs, Whaling.

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