YOUR ARTICLE "Spelunking Made Easy" [Nov. 14] correctly highlighted the effort put forth by the Arizona State Parks to preserve Kartchner Caverns. I designed the lighting for the cave, working with the park staff for nearly two years to determine that each piece of equipment used was "cave friendly." A few points:
All the lights in the cave are incandescent-halogen lights, chosen to approximate the look (and timbre) of spelunkers' helmet lights. All the color in the cave emanates from the rocks. No Vegas glitz, just the pure beauty of Mother Nature.
All of the scenes, once initiated by the tour guide, are controlled by a computerized dimming system. There are no motion sensors.
The cave is only 500,000 years old.
The long, thin "soda straw" is 21 feet 2 inches long, growing one-tenth of an inch every century.
The stewardship of lighting the cave while preserving its beauty still brings tears to my eyes. I hope the legacy of Kartchner Caverns State Park will be that man came, he saw and he preserved.
Frank A. Florentine
SORRY TO burst the bubble of Lubec, Maine (67 degrees longitude), but it is not the easternmost point of land in the United States [Coming and Going, Nov. 14]. That distinction belongs to East Point, on the island of St. Croix (64 degrees longitude) in the Virgin Islands. I am aware that they are preparing a celebration at the point in St. Croix for New Year's Eve, which will be the definitive celebration for the United States, and should be so noted.
Lawrence C. Williams
We should have emphasized that we were talking about the "continental" United States when we mentioned Lubec's claim to fame. In addition to the Virgin Islands contingent, we heard from an equal number of readers who insist that the United States' easternmost point is in Alaska. And the winner is . . . Semisopochnoi Island in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, at a longitude of 179 degrees east.
YOUR HEADLINE "Uninsured at Sea" [Coming and Going, Nov. 14] was misleading, a public disservice and obviously derived from the travel insurance industry press campaign against Renaissance Cruise Line. Perhaps tough cancellation policies are one of the reasons it can offer a Mediterranean cruise for $1,295.
Today I purchased medical evacuation insurance from Travel Insurance Services (1-800-937-1387) in Walnut Creek, Calif. The agent said that, in essence, the four big insurance companies were "red-lining" the cruise line, similar to mortgage and insurance companies that have certain ethnic neighborhoods they will not cover.
As your story mentioned, Renaissance requires almost or full payment with your reservations, as opposed to other cruise lines that require 25 percent or so. When you cancel and have cancellation insurance coverage, it costs these companies more.
Travel Insurance Services covers Renaissance Cruises and is a big fan of the company, which has developed a strong affiliation with American Express Travel. The agent felt Renaissance is a strong, safe, competent cruise line. I plan to travel with them in 2000.
HAD PAMELA Gerhardt ["Yes, but Is It Crafts?," Nov. 14] dropped off the Blue Ridge Parkway between Boone and Asheville, N.C., and gone two miles west to the village of Crossnore, she would have found the authentic crafts she was looking for at Crossnore School, a children's home nearing its 90th year, with a weaving tradition almost that old.
Master weavers from area families, some in their eighties, have been turning out such classic patterns as Log Cabin, Lee's Surrender and Chariot Wheel, using materials donated by the Carolina textile industry.
Richard C. Thompson
IN THE picture accompanying his article on renting an RV, Steve Hendrix hides beneath a paper bag ["RV? Me?," Oct. 31]. RVs are the epitome of short-sighted personal comfort at the expense of our parks.
He's only hiding because it's not cool? What about the air pollution, the serious traffic congestion in park areas, the degradation of fragile ecosystems as he plows around the back areas to grab a pristine piece for his own? Is this the lesson you want to teach your kids? If he had stopped at the visitors center at the Grand Canyon, he would have discovered that the largest displays there are concerned with the heavy use of the park.
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