Lost Worlds

The Bimini Islands lie just off the Atlantic coast of Florida, some 40 miles from Miami. This island paradise offers visitors the chance to fish, shop, boat, or just relax in the sun with a cool drink. Former residence of Ernest Hemingway, a man known for his ability to enjoy the good life, Bimini also claims to be 'the big game fishing capital of the world.'

As if that is not enough, promotional literature from the islands claims that it is believed that the island community was once part of the road system of the Lost Continent of Atlantis. It is the ideal place for me to pursue my research into the lost worlds of legend and, perhaps, to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation.

I, however, am not in Bimini.

I am deep underground and chin-deep in muddy water that hovers at 58 degrees Fahrenheit. Except for the small glow of my helmet lamp, it is dark, very dark. A spotted salamander looks at me in disgust. I return the gesture. My boots are, once again, full of water. My jeans and shirt are soaked. I have just dropped down from a large cavern into a tiny compartment, roughly the size of a shallow grave. My heart is racing and I am beginning to feel a little panicked. I hear the voices of my companions from above me, to my left and my right, but I cannot see them. It sounds as if I am listening in on a conversation in another room, or in another reality. Perhaps this is the way conversations sound to the deceased, just before the dirt is thrown on the grave. 'I heard a fly buzz when I died,' and all of that. I feel completely alone. The salamander blinks and I take a deep breath and begin sliding cautiously to my right. I have been told that I have to move about ten feet before I will see the opening, slightly above my head, that leads to another cavern and to the company of my friends. The ten feet seem like an eternity. I take one step at a time. Now I can see a light shining from above, the glow of friendly flashlights. For a moment I hesitate. The advice that I have always heard for handling this type of situation comes quickly to mind: 'Don't go into the light!'

I take another breath and press on.

My wife has never understood why I went searching for Bigfoot in the swamps of Texas and in a smelly Arkansas garage instead of in the majestic forests of the Pacific Northwest. She only looked at me with a bemused smile when I told her that my search for lost civilizations was taking me, not to some island paradise, but to a cave in Cushman, Arkansas and deep into the bowels of the earth.

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