Monday, May 12, 2014

The Cave of 1,000 Eyes

May 5, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Prospectors have searched the Superstition Mountain region for pay dirt since the 1860s. Most of these efforts have proven futile.

Yes, a rich deposit of gold was found west of Superstition Mountain in the Gold Fields in 1893. The Mammoth Mine produced more than three million dollars in gold bullion. However, this has not always been the case. Many prospectors have found nothing and some have found only their tombstone while hunting for gold or treasure. The alleged discovery of a diamond mine in the area has added to the prospecting legacy of this mountainous region.

Tom Kollenborn on the trail to the “Cave Of A Thousand Eyes” in the Superstition Mountains.
The Mesa Journal-Tribune announced the discovery of a diamond mine in the Superstition Mountains of a “Kimberly” quality on March 22, 1935.

The article read as follows:

A Kimberly in the Superstitions! Joe Modock, a veteran prospector, came to Mesa this week with a sack of diamonds.  The mine, he said, is situated in a secret canyon deep in the Superstitions, where the geology is very different.

Modock cautiously displayed a handful of rough sparklers, the largest of which was the size of a thumbnail. Modock stated that he has had a hunch for years that the Superstitions contained diamonds – not gold. He said he once prospected for diamonds in Africa.
Skeptics withheld serious comment in the absences of an assayer’s report. Modock said he was going to Phoenix for fresh supplies and promised even more starling disclosures as the mine develops.
He refused to disclose the location of the mine.

Joe Modock’s attempt to scam the citizens of Mesa with his diamond mine story in 1935 was typical of such stories of the period.  Joe had discovered a large deposit of Calcite crystals and tried to pass them off as diamonds.  Also Joe Modock was not the first man to discover the “Cave of a Thousand Eyes” deep in the Superstition Wilderness Area.

Whether or not Joe Modock was perpetuating a scam is not known for sure. However, if he didn’t know diamonds from Calcite crystals he couldn’t have been much of a prospector. If he did know the difference, he was perpetuating a scam.

Joe had discovered a large limestone cavern. He used his pick to chip off several small calcite crystals (CaCO3) and placed them in a sack. It is not known whether or not Joe Modock knew his so-called diamonds were calcite crystals or was he just ignorant about minerals. The Mesa Journal-Tribune made claims he was a veteran prospector.

Modock’s cave was actually discovered by Jose Perez, a Phoenix prospector, in July of 1916. Perez was searching for the Lost Dutchman M
ine in the eastern portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area. This was twenty-three years before the region become a wilderness.

An example of calcite crystals in a cave in California.
Perez found a large limestone cavern filled with stalagmites and stalactites. He explored the cave’s depth to some four hundred feet before giving up. Perez didn’t have sufficient light to safely explore the cave any further.  He found one wall of the cave covered with travertine drapery embedded with small calcite crystals. Modock chipped his calcite diamonds from this travertine drapery in 1935, some nineteen years later.

I visited the cave some years ago and you could still see the spot where Joe Modock found his so-called “diamond treasure.” When I climbed through the entrance of the cavern it was almost closed with loose debris and concealed well from the streambed below. I sincerely believed the beauty of this cavern needed to be protected from vandals so I carefully completed the closure of the opening by piling broken pieces of limestone over the entrance allowing small portals for the cave’s bat residents to fly in and out.  Modock and Perez ventured only a few hundred feet into the limestone cavern. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s this cave was explored by amateur spelunkers. The explorers climbed through about 1200 feet of tunnels and chambers before giving up because of water.

This large cavern has had several names over the years and some of them were certainly misnomers. Some claim the Native Americans called it the “Cave of a Thousand Eyes.” The source for this name is not difficult to visualize if you could imagine someone walking into this cave with a lighted torch and seeing the calcite crystals on the Travertine drapery.

Some claim the cave was first called “Moraga Cave” after a local rancher named Peter Moraga. It is said Moraga discovered the cave or one like it in 1890.

It is believed Modock thought he had discovered the Lost Dutchman Mine. I am in agreement that the Moraga Cave and this cave are not the same caves.  There are several small caves in the area, but extremely difficult to find and enter.

The Cave of a Thousand Eyes is just another one of those mysteries that abound within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area. It is important that the location of this beautiful cavern remain secret because if rediscovered today it would certainly be damaged or destroyed by profiteers or vandals.