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National Geographic Special Mysteries Underground

Narrator: Richard Kiley.

Narrator: Richard Kiley.

Latest edition of the National Geographic spex visually misses compared to previous NGS outings, but for those interested in cave climbing and the extraordinary world beneath the earth’s skin, “Mysteries Underground” could be a big attraction. Cave exploration is a challenge, but for claustrophobics it’s not high on the list of things to do; the spec illustrates why.

Producer-writer Lionel Friedberg captures chilling vistas and tight corners abounding in New Mexico’s Lechuguilla Cave, which waited a million years–until 1986–beneath the Guadalupe Mountains to be discovered. The frozen crystals and stonework are an eyeful, but the cave, once opened, has been closed to the public because of its inaccessibility.

On the other hand, Mammoth Cave has been a cavers’ delight as they’ve explored and charted it over the years.

The discovery of how it is connected to the adjoining Flint Ridge Cave is part of the story.

There’s fearsome evidence of people who died alone years ago in caves, and the docu recalls the tough siege Floyd Collins underwent in the 1920s when he was trapped in a crevice for two months.

Happier story is that of slave Stephen Bishop who, 150 years ago, charted the unknown Mammoth all by himself.

There are 1,600 cavers who like seeking the lower depths and experiencing the adventures of solitude and peace, and for them this NGS chapter should prove valuable.

The camerawork and editing are first rate; seeking out new worlds has its own reward; so be it.

National Geographic Special Mysteries Underground

(Wed. (18), 8-9 p.m., PBS)

Production: Filmed by National Geographic Society. Exec producer, Nicolas Noxon, Tom Simon; supervising producer, Teresa Koenig; producer-writer, Lionel Friedberg.

Crew: Camera, Friedberg, Sid Perou; editor, Barry Nye; sound, Ken King, Michael Becker; music, Mark Adler.

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