Lijah Hanley, a member of the 2009 Hands-On Explorer Challenge expedition to Peru, has won the grand prize in the National Geographic Student Expeditions Photo Contest! His love for photography began before he entered the 2009 contest, and he has continued to learn and grow as a photographer since the Peru expedition.
Lijah’s winning photo, called “No Boundaries,” can be seen above. “There is nothing more thrilling than taking the car out on the road and exploring new places. Unfortunately, being a new driver, my parents have set a lot of boundaries that limit how far I can go. I made it as far as the Columbia River Gorge, and it was a perfect crisp clear night for stargazing. So we removed the top of our car, sat on the roof, and gazed into the endless universe. Exploration is not bound by how far your car can take you, but by how far your imagination can take you into the stars,” Lijah says.
Hi HOEC fans,
We’re sorry to report that there won’t be a 2013 Hands-On Explorer Challenge.
2013 is National Geographic’s 125th anniversary, so we’ll have lots of other fun projects and programs coming your way.
If you’re in 9th – 12th grade, you still have time to enter the student photo contest to win a prize to National Geographic Student Expedition London Photography Workshop. Otherwise, keep us posted about all your adventures by posting your pictures on My Shot.
Keep an eye on this space for announcements, contests, records, and ways you can help save animals and explore our planet!
Welcome to the Hands-On Explorer Challenge Blog’s new look! If you already have a NG Kids blog account, click “Login” to the right, and then “Lost Password” to get your new account password.
In a few days, The Hands-On Explorer Trip Blog will be getting a whole new look! The commenting will be turned off for a few days while we move into the new design. Thanks for reading the Hands-On Explorer Trip Blog!
During this year’s expedition, the Hands-On Explorer Challenge team spent some time hanging out with the Zooniacs. We took an amazing hike together in Glacier National Park and also had a great time at the Whitefish Mountain Resort, where we met Jack Hanna!
Today we are all flying to our homes across the country. As we travel, we would like to share some thoughts about our experiences in Montana.
Amelia: Montana is great. But this is all I can say: Go to it!
Arabella: If it was up to me, I would stay right up until school started. I liked the water rafting the best!
Ben: It was really fun meeting everybody, and it was just amazing seeing everything and being with people that love exploring as much as I do.
Caitlin: Going on this Montana expedition was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My favorite part of the expedition was discovering dinosaur bones and seeing mountain goats.
Dillian: It was so beautiful words can’t describe it.
Edward: It was so awesome to come here and see the animals that I could not see where I live.
Ellie: Montana could very well be the most beautiful place on Earth. From the exotic wildlife to the dramatic landscapes, it gives me a good reason to see America first.
Emily: Throughout this trip, I’ve experienced many things, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I never want to leave.
Hannah: The trip was really amazing. We all got along so well because we all enjoyed every aspect of the trip.
Jackson: I really liked learning about the different edible plants that you can find in the wilderness.
Jordan: It was amazing. I learned so much about wildlife and different things I thought I would never learn about.
Lena: It was awesome! My favorite part was seeing the two different kinds of bears. I will miss everyone, but I’m looking forward to the D.C. reunion!
Katherine: Majestic mountains and powerful rivers made this a trip of a lifetime. I’ve loved every minute of it! Thanks, NG Kids!
Mariah: I’m gonna miss everybody!
Michael:The trip was amazing. It was the journey of a lifetime.
Emily: Hooray! Today we went to Whitefish Mountain. Not only is it a wonderful resort, it is also home to the absolutely amazing… ALPINE SLIDE!!! The Alpine Slide is a huge slide that goes down the mountain. To get up, you go on a ski lift, or you can hike up. (I normally went on the ski lift.) To get down, you could go the extremely boring way, (a.k.a. the ski lift) or you could ride down the Alpine Slide on a self-controlled sled. I loved going on the Alpine slide; I went on it four times.
After riding on the wondrous Alpine Slide, we went up higher on the mountain by riding in a gondola. (You could also ride a ski lift chair.) It was a somewhat long gondola ride. (It really didn’t matter to me because that I was in the “Party Gondola.”)
At the top, we decided to go on a hike to Flower Point. To get there, I would first have to hike on a very large hill, and luckily, we were at the top, so we got to go downhill for a lot of it. Along the way, we tried to identify many different flowers and trees. After walking for a while, we decided that unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for us to go all the way to Flower Point. So, we had to turn back. On the way back up, it was very hard for me to hike because it was so steep.
When we got to the top again, we jumped into another gondola. This time however, it was about to rain. It was so foggy and cloudy, that it had a spooky touch to it. When we got to the end, we tried to go on the slide the rest of the way down the mountain, but it was closed because of the rain. So, without a rain jacket, I hopped onto a ski lift with two other people, and rode down. We started to sing songs. However, in the middle of the ski lift ride, the chairs stopped for a few seconds, and then eventually moved on. (That was scary!) When we got down to the bottom of the mountain, we got on the bus to go to the hotel.
As an added bonus to this wonderful day, in the morning, we got to meet Jack Hanna. I asked him this question: “If you could be a kid for one week, and go anywhere in the world, where would you go, and what would you explore?” He said that he would want to go to Rwanda, where the mountain gorillas live. Today was such a great day. (Too bad it’s our last day in Montana!)
Ben: Today was our first day waking up on the west side of the Rockies. We had lunch on the edge of a small cliff that had a great view of Hidden Lake. Since Hidden Lake’s water is glacial runoff, the water was a teal blue from the glacial “flour,” which forms as the glaciers crush the rocks to a fine powder. There was a chipmunk that would crawl on our boots looking for food.
After lunch, as we started hiking back down the mountain, we saw a female mountain goat with twins, which our guide said was very rare. (I named the goat Georgina the Jumping Goat! I like to name all the animals I see, so I named the grizzly bear that we saw earlier in the week Benny the Bounding Bear!) The mother was still losing her winter fur, so it looked like she had a ripped coat on. I wanted to go cuddle with the babies, but I doubt their mother would have appreciated that. As I was passing a grove of trees, I saw some snagged goat hair, which I stuffed into my pocket.
Arabella: I knew that one of these days I would be riding a Red Jammer bus. I didn’t think anything of it–just another cool part of our trip on a bus. What I didn’t expect were open-topped, jeep style buses from the 1930′s.
They were all originals, from the seats to the doors, painted a bright, bold red. The inside seated 18 people including the driver. I stepped up onto the bus and sat on handmade leather seats made with oak and plated in metal.
Within two minutes the bus started moving. Plenty of wind sent my
journals and other things flying. We headed onto the Going to the Sun
Road that used to be used as a game trail before the road was created.
Our first stop was Wild Goose Island where we had stopped two days ago
on a boat ride. We were extremely lucky today–there was no wind. Our
guide explained that the particular location we were standing was
usually very windy. We stood there for a while taking pictures and
listening to the guide. The lake surface was so smooth that it seemed
like we were staring at a mirror. The guide was explaining some of the
local animals. The one I remember most clearly was the pygmy shrew. It’s
a tiny creature about an inch long that can take down other animals
three to four times its size.
Back on the bus, we continued driving,
stopping several times to take pictures. A part of the road was an
840-foot tunnel that had been hand-dug, five-and-a-half feet per day.
“We love Glacier, yes we do. We love Glacier, how about you??!!!!!!”
echoed around the three buses as we all screamed our excitement. A sweet
scent, created by sage bushes, filled the air. We stopped at the Sun
Rift gorge, a massive canyon (at least to me) with swift, swirling
waters. A bridge arched over the gorge, sending shade over us.
way to the Logan’s Pass visitor center, we passed a curve in the road
called the Siyaeh Loop. The bend was named after an Indian whose mother
named him after a rabid dog that appeared on the day he was born. We
reached Logan’s Pass visitor center shortly and hiked up to a
snow-covered field. I have hosted and been through many snowball fights,
but never one in July. What was supposed to be a hike became a
full-blown snowball fight. Cameras got set aside as we battled in
shorts, sunglasses, and sneakers.
Our hands cold, we headed back to the
bus. On our way to West Glacier, we had many cascades splash us. They
lined the roadsides, rock-touching waterfalls. Gorgeous scenery hovered
on both sides of the road–mountains on the left, and rocks and greenery
on the right. After a long, enjoyable ride, we arrived in West Glacier
just in time for lunch.
Michael: Today we went on a 5-mile hike to Avalanche Lake. The
cedar trees looked majestic as they towered over me. The layers of moss
growing on the forest floor made me think of home, because of the deep
green of the forest floor. I saw small insects crawling around in the
dirt amongst the rocks and the trees. I thought of how small they were,
but how great their impact is on the life cycle of the forest. I
slipped inside of small cracks in trees and looked up at the sky through
the broken-off tops. Sweat stuck my shirt to my body because it was so
hot and we had been hiking all afternoon.
When we reached the lake, I
felt as if I had accomplished something very great. As I prepared to
slide into the water, I wondered if it was colder than I thought it
would be. In fact, it was so cold that the icy tang of the lake made my
adrenaline rush as fast as the rapids in a river. It is hard to put the
hike into words, but what I can put into words is that Montana is a
great place to explore!
Ellie: Oki napi! This morning, we traveled to the Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village in Browning, Montana. Today we learned about the heritage of the Blackfeet Nation, a Native American tribe that calls the area of Glacier National Park its home. Upon arrival at the Village, we walked down to a round, wooden shelter to witness and photograph some traditional Blackfeet dances. The Grass Dancer (whose job was to stomp down the grass for the other dancers) wore a dazzling otsskoinattsi (blue) leather costume adorned with luxurious colored beads. To top off the costume, he wore an impressive porcupine-hair headdress with eagle feathers. Another boy, called the Chicken Dancer, had the role to represent the sage grouse. He flapped his maohksinattsi (red) beaded wings and shook his tail feathers to the beat of the buffalo drums. Finally, the Fancy Dancer came jingling over. His costume, consisting of layered towers of lime saisskimokoinattsi (green) streamers and feathers, bounced as he twirled and whirled around. Finally, we kids were allowed in on a Circle Dance; a hand-holding dance where you slowly spiral around a central object while stepping in time to the music. We finally finished when we were as tightly curled as a nautilus shell. I thought it was marvelous to be able to see these colorful dances and feel the music vibrating inside of me.
Bees buzzed past me as I stared up at Cutthroat Boarding School buffalo jump. Although it was sad to hear about the Buffalo jump, the scenery made up for it. Even today you can find some remains of buffalo bones. According to one of the Blackfeet tribe members, one person would put on a wolf skin, and another person would pretend to be a buffalo calf to try to lure the buffalo toward the edge of the cliff.
When we got back to the Lodgepole Gallery Tipi Village we played some Native American games including “Scream and Run” (children played this game so they could warn their parents if someone invaded their
territory). We also played Double-ball. Double-ball was traditionally played by women. You had to fling a ball above a bar to score one point and if the ball wrapped itself around the bar you scored two points.
Some other games we played were “Salish Hoop and Dart,” “Blackfeet Hoop,” and “Long Arrow and Sticks in the Fist” (a guessing game).
After we played some games we made a “Scream and Run” stick. We all decorated them a different way, making each unique and interesting in our own way.
Today was really interesting and we all learned a lot, including some Blackfoot words like Oki Napi, which means “Hello, my friend.” And we learned that dogs used to pull up to 120 pounds (like tepees). Today was
really interesting and fun!
Hannah: There is a common misconception that all Native Americans, including the Blackfeet, still lead the lives of their ancestors, but they live a modern life with little contrast to the rest of the American population. The traditional way the Blackfeet would hunt buffalo was by using a Buffalo Jump to run the animals over the
edge. That resulted in the death of the large, aggressive animals. They were very resourceful in using the entire buffalo. The women used the stomach as a cooking pot. Although buffalo was the main source of
nutrition in the earlier times, having the chance to eat buffalo in this age is a special occasion. Tonight I was given the chance to eat native buffalo soup and buffalo cooked in the form of meatloaf. The meat highly resembles beef but is leaner and more compact. I favored the meatloaf over the soup, but both were delicious. Locally picked sarvice berries were served in cream as dessert. Along with this we ate everyday American food like spaghetti, rolls, and salad. This reinforces the fact that Native Americans are not the stereotypes often
depicted in our minds.
National Geographic Traveler photo editor Dan Westergren is traveling with us on our expedition to Montana. He is teaching all of the contest winners how to use their cameras and take good pictures with them. Here are some of Dan’s top tips for taking photos!
-Don’t always put your subject in the center of your picture. Divide your frame into thirds in your mind, horizontally and vertically, and place your subject at the intersection of the thirds.
-Take your camera with you whenever possible. Pay attention to your surroundings…always pay attention.
-Try different angles and positions. Don’t always shoot standing up, straight on…lie down, squat low, or climb up high. Try showing more sky and less landscape.
-Pay attention to the light. Your photos can be very dramatic at sunrise, at sunset, or with cloudy skies.
-Keep moving around and try different angles until you find just the right spot to take your picture so it includes every element. Focus on the subject, think about composition, and then take several photos till you get the one that feels great.
Thanks to everyone who is following our adventure! We love seeing your comments.
During the boat ride St. Mary’s Lake I learned a lot about Glacier National Park. Some of these things include that St. Mary’s lake is the 2nd biggest lake in Glacier National Park. Another is that there are 25 glaciers remaining Glacier NP. The boat was surrounded by tall mountains and the water was a really dark shade of blue.
All of a sudden, as we were cruising along, someone yelled “BEAR!” I dropped my notebook and rushed over. It was a male grizzly bear (called a boar) climbing down a funnel of big rocks toward the water. Then the captain slowed the boat while we all took pictures and looked through binoculars. Now everyone was on that side of the boat and it tilted. There was a lot of excitement. The grizzly looked so strong and his claws and teeth were enormous–it was simply amazing!!!
Those were the highlights of the boat ride.
Caitlin: Today the team went to Two Medicine Dinosaur Center. We had a tour with Timeline Adventures. Learning about identifying fossils, digging up fossils, and preserving them was probably the most enjoyable day, in my opinion. The fossils we uncovered were the lower leg bones of a Hadrosaurus, a T-rex tooth, and scattered Hadrosaurus bones. Getting to help dig up dinosaur bones was amazing. Carefully brushing and chipping off rock helped to expose more of the fossil. Once the fossil is all exposed, paper towels and water are “painted” on. The plaster is applied by hand and the fossil was pried out of the ground. It was a neat experience getting to preserve a real dinosaur fossil. I’ve been looking forward to this day ever since I won the expedition! I learned a lot about dinosaurs and fossils and the rest of the team did too.
Today we went to the First People’s Buffalo Jump. First thing when we got out of the bus we had to get back in because they wanted to drive us to another part of the park where the cliffs were. When we got to the cliff we hopped out of the bus and a park ranger told us a few safety things like “Watch out for rattlesnakes.” or “Don’t step in the prairie dog holes.” So about halfway through our walk the park ranger said, “Who’s the fastest male runner?” So I raised my hand and he said “Okay, what’s your name?” And I said “Jackson.” Then he said “Okay well you’re the young man chosen by the elders, you have to lead your group.” Then we had to assemble into three groups, a group in the back that wore wolf suits [not really], and two groups on either side that had to hide behind rock walls [again, not really]. And then there was me. I had to dress up in a buffalo calf suit [I know that the "not relays" are kind of getting predictable so let's say I pretended]. The idea behind this is since I’m dressed in a calf suit and I’m making noises like I’m hurt, the alpha female [the males are off partying], will come try to rescue me and when she goes all the other buffalo follow. So I have to gradually pick up speed and then the buffalo start running and they eventually run off the cliff. So that’s kind of the concept of the buffalo jump. Thanks for reading!
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The morning started off with a mutual feeling of excitement and grogginess–everyone was up by around 6 a.m. We had breakfast at the hotel restaurant and then all grouped in the lobby. After that we quickly boarded the bus and were on our way to do the first thing on the list-raft down the Missouri River!
At the river, four main groups were almost immediately established: the
girls, the boys, the moms and other women, and the dads and other men.
Later, the girls proved that we could successfully soak every other
group on the river with the water guns conveniently located aboard the
raft. Following a rundown of the safety measures and a distribution of
life jackets, we shoved off from shore and were on our way!
We’ve arrived in Great Falls, Montana! Fourteen of us want to share our first impressions of our trip. Dillian is on a late flight, so he will join us later tonight.
The 2012 Hands-On Explorer Team is getting ready to leave for Montana! We’re almost done packing, and we have all received our itineraries and passports, so we’re just about ready to go. We’ve been getting to know each other by email, but we’re all excited to finally meet in person. We will all fly from our homes to Great Falls this Friday–that’s only three days away!
Each team member received an expedition backpack, water bottle, journal, Montana guidebook, DVD, and map. We have been practicing with our new Canon cameras, and we’re really excited about the great pictures we’ll be taking with them.
We plan to post blog entries every day with photos illustrating our adventures. Follow the blog to live the adventure with us!
Photograph by William Joseph, My Shot
Hi, Michaela here, from the Cayman Islands HOEC trip. Just recently National Geographic hosted their 6th annual explorers symposium. I had been looking forward to this since the day I left the Caymans because all of the former winners of HOEC challenges are invited. This means that I could see all my friends. It was a blast! The Symposium was around 6:30, so in the afternoon, some of the Caymans kids, including me, got together and ate lunch. It was so fun to see people! We could not stop talking, catching others up on what had transpired in the last year. Unfortunately, not everyone could make it, and we missed those who were unable to come!
The speakers were incredible! One, a pilot (Barrington Irving), flew around the world when he was 23. In doing so, he became the youngest person to fly solo around Earth and the first African American to do so. Not only that, but he is inspiring children all around the world to do something great. For instance, he challenged a group of kids to build an airplane from scratch. If they were able to do so, then he would fly it. The kids completed it in an extraordinarily small amount of time and he flew it. It really hit him that he was flying a plane made by children when he was taking off, but evidenced by the fact that he is here to tell the story, he survived. He is also building the world’s first flying classroom. He is remolding a plane into a classroom and flying it around the world, landing on all seven continents to teach kids. However, there are three other explorers.
Dr. Enric Sala conducts scientific expeditions in ocean areas around the world as part of his ongoing “Pristine Seas” project. He grew up on the coast of Spain and swam in the Mediterranean as a kid. He watched Nat Geo shows about the ocean and realized that something was wrong. You see, when he went swimming in the Mediterranean, he didn’t see nearly as many fish as the documentaries showed, so he figured that it must be only exotic places that had such a wide variety of life. Eventually, he realized that the Mediterranean should have many different types of life but didn’t, because of overfishing and habitat destruction. So, Enric set out to change that fact. He now travels around the world, crusading for the ocean. Only one percent of the ocean is protected right now, and the nations’ goal is 10% by 2020. To do so, a lot more ocean needs protection. Protected areas of the ocean benefit fisherman who live around the edges of the preserved areas. In about five years, fish in the protected area will have grown so numerous, that they will start to spill over into the surrounding areas. So fishermen get more fish than they would if there was no protected area. But sea life wasn’t the only topic at the Symposium.
Lucy Cooke loves ugly animals. She is the voice for endangered animals that never make it onto posters, like the polar bears, and so are not well known. One frog she told us lives exclusively on the bottom of one lake. Because it breathes through its skin, the skin is very wrinkled, increasing surface area. When it runs out of breath, it preforms push ups, so more water will flow around its skin. Unfortunately, it is endangered because the townspeople around that lake hunt, blend it up, and drink it, thinking pureed frog will make their life better. Lucy goes around, educating people about their wildlife so to protect all animals. Lucy has lots of fun during her travels, doing things like licking poisonous frogs (DON’T TRY THAT AT HOME!), playing with sloths, absorbing different cultures, and protecting animals, no matter how ugly or cute they are.
Dan Buettner was the last explorer. He discussed two of his books: Blue Zones and Thrive. Blue Zones is all about living the longest and secrets from those who have lived the longest. He traveled around the world, finding pockets of people who live a long time. Thrive is kinda like a sequel to Blue Zones; it is all about finding happiness the Blue Zone way. He completed the research in a very similar way to how he completed Blue Zones, he looked for pockets of happy people. One happy place he found was Singapore. In Singapore, there are very strict rules, such as no gum chewing. (Did I hear some gasps?) But every rule has a reason. The reason for this rule is that people were hawking loogies and spitting all over the place, and the government realized that they couldn’t attract business with this happening, thus the law. But even with strict confines, people are very happy. They have a sense of security, because they know that if their children go running down the street to play with neighbors, they will come back for dinner, and a woman can walk along the streets at any time of day and have no fear. If you ask me, I would rather have security and less freedom than loads of freedom and fear. Dan also works at trying to get people happy and living long. He founded a company and one of his clients is the state of Iowa. Dan makes rules that the client can chose to put into practice. At the end of the three year program, if there is significant change in the people, Dan and his company gets paid. One example of a rule is outlawing drive-thrus, so less people would go to fast food, there would be a decline in heart disease, less cars would idle, which would cut down on emissions put into the air.
All of the speakers were very good, and when you talked with them at the reception, they were very nice. Boyd Matson, another explorer and host of the National Geographic radio talk, moderated it. Boyd and his son, Taylor, went on the trip with us, so it was really cool seeing him there on stage. In fact, it was awesome to see all the National Geographic staff who I hadn’t seen in almost a year. Unfortunately, I was unable to talk with Dan (the photographer who came on the trip) and Boyd, so that was a real bummer. But, overall I had an awesome time seeing my friends, their parents, and the National Geographic staff. I envy you Montana winners! Hint of National Geographic: If you really want to be awesome, send all the winners back every year!
It’s been nearly a year since I first stepped off the airplane and onto the island of Grand Cayman. I still remember the way the airport smelled. The air was thick and fragrant. The pungent scents of fish, salt spray, and fruit swirled around me, hinting at the richness of the culture I was about to enter. The week I spent on that tiny Caribbean island was one of the best experiences of my life. With new friends, a camera, and a whole new world to explore, I was, quite literally, in paradise.
Winning the Hands-On Explorer Challenge has opened my eyes to the greater world. My perspective of everything has changed. With help from my camera, I now see everything as a work of art. To me, nothing is unworthy of attention. Beauty can be found in the most unlikely of places. Because I am aware of the seemingly insignificant things in life, I am able to see the whole world as a wondrous place.
I was fortunate enough to go to the 2012 National Geographic Explorers Symposium this summer. There I met several remarkable people who have followed their passion for exploring into adulthood. Seeing the enthusiasm of these men and women was incredibly inspiring. Because of my experiences, I understand that exploring isn’t just a kid’s adventure in the backyard; people actually make it their career. The opportunity to travel and discover seems like such an amazing job. For me, the Symposium was a chance to learn about what it really means to be an explorer. It is up to people like them–like us–to discover and share the beauty of the Earth, so that we will be able to preserve it.
When I first glimpsed Grand Cayman from the air, a spark was ignited in me. It was late at night, and the flickering lights of the island sparkled like jewels against the velvet black of the sea. I thought about all the lives down there; sleeping people in their beds, colorful fish concealed within coral crevices, lizards hidden beneath stones. It was then that I began to appreciate the full extent of the world, and of all the places yet to be explored.
The 2012 Hands-On Explorer Contest is now closed. No new entries will
be accepted by the judges. It’s time to wait to find out who won!
The 2012 Hands-On Explorer Challenge is about to begin! If you’re a
legal resident of the United States or Canada (excluding residents of Quebec), and you will be
between the ages of 9 and 14 by July 1, 2011, you could win a trip to
Montana. The contest begins on September 20, 2011. Enter before January 7, 2012.
Looking for inspiration? Read excerpts from the 2010 Hands-On Explorer Challenge winning essays.
On August 23, a 40-year-old woman named Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner from Austria climbed to the top of K2 (Earth’s second-tallest mountain). With this ascent, Kaltenbrunner has become the first woman to climb all of the world’s 8,000-meter (26,246-foot) peaks without using extra oxygen. That’s 14 climbs in all!
Photograph by Ralf Dujmovits, National Geographic
Today was our last day in the Cayman Islands. We visited the Pedro St. James Castle this morning, where we learned a lot about the history of Grand Cayman. The weather was beautiful, as it has been all week. We had a delicious lunch at the Lighthouse Restaurant and then had free time until our farewell dinner on the beach. There were drummers and story-tellers, and great food. Our hosts built a big bonfire and we had fun making s’mores!
Jonathan: We had a very early start this morning because we were off on another adventure to a new island. We took a Cayman Airways plane to Cayman Brac, a sister island to Grand Cayman. Fifteen minutes and 90 miles later we landed in Cayman Brac. “Brac” is Gaelic for bluff and the island got its name because of the 140-foot bluff standing on the island’s coast.
Our first stop was to the Cayman Brac Museum. The museum holds many unique artifacts that shows the history, culture, and heritage of the island that date all the way back to the early 1900s. One of the artifacts we saw was a mattress made by stuffing it with dried plantain and banana leaves. Another thing we learned about in the museum was the history of caymanite. Caymanite is a semiprecious stone, which is layered in different shades of brown, and is only found on Cayman Brac. It was discovered by a tourist visiting Cayman Brac from Alabama in 1978.
After the museum, we headed to the Brac’s caves. My favorite cave we saw was called Peter’s Cave. Peter’s Cave is located inside of the bluff so we had to drive all the way to the top. The cave was made out of limestone and was used by the first settlers of the island to provide shelter from the hurricanes.
Because of its sturdiness and high elevation, Peter’s Cave is the perfect place to hide out during a bad storm. Inside the cave, we had to really duck down so we wouldn’t hit our heads on the low ceiling. It was very dark and cramped in the cave so we needed to watch out where we were going so we wouldn’t crash into any stalagmites or stalactites that were scattered all over. I can’t imagine having to stay in there to ride out a storm because of how humid and tight it was, but obviously people still do because we found a lounge chair, mattress, and jugs of water in the cave. It was interesting to explore Peter’s cave but I was happy to see the sunshine and amazing view of the Cayman Brac when we exited.