Making the pieces fit - Putting together the 'world's longest jigsaw' at Meramec State Park

Posted on 10/10/2012 9:16:58 AM By Tom Uhlenbrock, Missouri State Parks

Stalactites are cave formations that accrete when mineral-rich water drips from the top of a cave. Meanwhile, below the stalactite a stalagmite grows up from the floor of the cave. Growing at about one cubic inch in 100 years the two may one day meet and merge into a column. However, at Fisher Cave in Meramec State Park stalactite growth is often interrupted by vandalism and damage. Jonathan Beard is a 3M employee and dedicated cave restorer working on Fisher Cave. Through his work at 3M, Beard has had the opportunity to test out many adhesives for cave restoration. His first project was Breakdown Cave in Christian County, which became a testing ground and classroom for restoration techniques. Today, Jonathan Beard and up to 100 volunteers work on Fisher Cave. The project is like a gigantic 3-dimensional puzzle. Small or smashed pieces can be put together with clear, non-corrosive adhesives. Hopefully minerals will collect to cover the repair but Beard notes, "Five hundred years from now, someone doing a core sample of that stalactite might find a little bit of adhesive."