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EarthCache

The Saratoga of the South - Bladon Springs

A cache by hzoi Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 5/9/2012
Difficulty:
2 out of 5
Terrain:
2 out of 5

Size: Size: other (other)

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Geocache Description:

For this earthcache, we'll take a look at the "curative waters" of Bladon Springs.  The park is open daily from 7 AM to sundown. There is a day use fee of $0.50 for adults, $0.25 for children. There is no physical cache container to find; to log this earthcache, you will need to email us the answers to the questions below. The logging requirements are in the unencrypted hint as well as the cache description.

In the 19th Century, mineral springs were highly valued for their supposed "curative" properties, and a good mineral spring would draw visitors from far and wide. In its heyday, Bladon Springs was the most popular spring resort in Alabama.  It was once known as the "Saratoga of the South," comparing it to the mineral springs in Saratoga, New York.

The springs here, named after the original property owner, James Bladon, were first opened to the public as a therapeutic spa in 1838. Seven years later, state geologist and University of Alabama professor Richard T. Brumby and two colleagues from the University of Louisiana traveled to the springs to conduct a comprehensive analysis. Brumby reported his findings in a 27-page book, "An Analysis of the Bladon Springs," published in 1845. Following the report, the tourist trade increased so much that a resort was built, including a bowling alley, cabins, skating rink, and last but not least, a Georgian Revival hotel that could house 200. The resort is gone, but four springs remain, one of which is still covered by the gazebo from the resort days.

Spa visitors included socialite Madame Octavia Walton La Vert, who wrote of the springs, "I found it a perfect 'Balm of Gilead'. The waters are wonderful, for their health giving qualities. They resemble greatly the far famed waters of Germany. The Seltzer and the Spa. The country around is highly romantic. Tall pines, with their mysterious whisperings encircle a spot, like an oasis, filled with verdant Elms, Walnut, and Hickory. The sparkling Fountain bubbles up! neath the soft shadow of its guardian trees, and it needed but one wave of the wand of Imagination to people the green sward with Fairies."

As you can see, the springs have changed somewhat from Madame La Vert's day. Today you'll find no bubbling fountains, but you will see three hand pumps around the cache coordinates and one more slightly to the north (see additional waypoint).

According to Brumby et al., the water at Bladon Springs contained "sulphur, carbonic acid, crenic and hypocrenic acids, muriate of soda, carbonate of soda, carbonate of lime, carbonate of magnesia, and carbonate protoxide of iron." While some of these terms have the same meaning now as they did in Brumby's day, others are very different (and most are no longer used at all in modern science).

"Sulphur"

Pure sulfur is a solid, yellow, nonmetallic element and is insoluble in water. The "sulphur" to which Bromby refers is actually hydrogen sulfide, a gas which is a byproduct of bacteria breaking down organic material through anaerobic digestion -- that is, in the absence of oxygen. Hydrogen sulfide is characterized by the odor of rotten eggs. It's detectable at levels as low as two parts per billion in water -- so if it's in water, it's easy to tell. Higher concentrations of hydrogen sulfide can cause nausea or illness in humans.

"Carbonic acid"

This term is still used today and refers to carbon dioxide dissolved in water -- it's what puts the fizz in soft drinks. Carbon dioxide is more soluble in water at low temperatures and/or high pressures. But as the water temperature increases or pressure decreases, the water can hold less carbon dioxide, so the gas starts to bubble out. That's why, when you open a soft drink can or bottle, it bubbles a lot at first, but the longer it's open and/or the warmer it gets, the "flatter" it becomes.

"Crenic and hypocrenic acids"

This is an obsolete term that refers to the presence of organic materials in water, basically, organic acids that are given off by the decomposition of plants or animals.

"Muriate of soda"

This is an obsolete term for sodium chloride -- ordinary table salt.

"Carbonate of soda"

This is an obsolete term for sodium carbonate, which today is cost commonly used in detergent as a water softener. It can be difficult to use dish or laundry detergent with "hard water," water that has a high content of dissolved minerals. Sodium carbonate competes with magnesium and calcium ions in hard water and keeps them from bonding with the detergent. Without sodium carbonate, it would take more soap to get things clean.

"Carbonate of lime"

This is an obsolete term for calcium carbonate, the main component of shells of marine organisms, snails, pearls, and eggshells (and, eventually, limestone, which is a sedimentary rock made of the above substances). Keep in mind that the area around the springs used to be at the bottom of the ocean, and the calcium carbonate from this ancient marine life has since become a layer of limestone about 30 feet below the topsoil in this area. This layer of "lime" would certainly explain the presence of this mineral. There is a high content of calcium carbonate in Bladon Springs water.

"Carbonate of magnesia"

This is an obsolete term for magnesium carbonate. It's unusual to see this listed as a component of Bladon Springs water, as magnesium carbonate is chalky and almost insoluble in water. In fact, its most famous use was in Morton Salt as an anti-caking agent -- it's the reason that "When it rains, it pours," as the slogan goes. Brumby may have been referring to either magnesium carbonate or to magnesium hydroxide, or "milk of magnesia," commonly used as an antacid and laxative. (When magesium hydroxide interacts with carbon dioxide, it can produce magnesium carbonate.) In drier times, the spring water can turn milky due to the magnesium content, and residents used the water for its laxative effects.

"Carbonate protoxide of iron"

This now obsolete term may refer to iron oxide, or rust, which can be found in small quantities in water. There is a layer of red clay under the sandy topsoil, which gets its color from iron oxide.

"Logging this earthcache"

To log this earthcache, email us or send us a message (visit link) and copy and paste these questions, along with your answers. Please do not post the answers in your log, even if encrypted. There's no need to wait for confirmation from us before you log, but we will email you back if you include your email address in the message. Group answers are fine; just let us know who was with you.

Go to one of the springs, preferably the one covered by the gazebo. Please specify which spring you visited to answer these questions.

1. The name of this earthcache: The Saratoga of the South - Bladon Springs.

2. Visually examine the pool and the small hole at the base of the pump. What if any evidence of the mineral or bacterial content of the water can you detect?

3. Without pumping the handle, describe the water flow (if any) you see from the hole at the base of the pump.

4. Pump the water a few times and examine the water and the pool; dip your hand in it (go ahead, it won't kill you!) and smell it. Is the water fizzy? Is the water clear, or colored, or cloudy? How does it smell?

Pictures of your visit are always appreciated, especially if you happen to see any Fairies.

Logs that do not comply with these requirements will be deleted.

Sources:

Thomas McAdory Owen, Marie Bankhead Owen, "History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 1" (1921). (visit link)

James Frederick Sulzby, "Historic Alabama Hotels and Resorts" (1960). (visit link)

Wikipedia
Wiktionary
RoadRoach58

Published with permission of Bladon Springs State Park staff; Alabama State Parks geocache permit submitted and approved.

Many thanks to RoadRoach58 for filling in some of the blanks in our research! Since he grew up fetching water from these springs for family, he is VERY familiar with these waters.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

[To log this earthcache, use the "send message" link in our profile and copy and paste these questions, along with your answers. Please do not post the answers in your log, even if encrypted. There's no need to wait for confirmation from us before you log, but we will email you back if you include your email address in the message. Group answers are fine; just let us know who was with you.

Go to one of the springs, preferably the one covered by the gazebo. Please specify which spring you visited to answer these questions.

1. The name of this earthcache: The Saratoga of the South - Bladon Springs.

2. Visually examine the pool and the small hole at the base of the pump. What if any evidence of the mineral or bacterial content of the water can you detect?

3. Without pumping the handle, describe the water flow (if any) you see from the hole at the base of the pump.

4. Pump the water a few times and examine the water and the pool; dip your hand in it (go ahead, it won't kill you!) and smell it. Is the water fizzy? Is the water clear, or colored, or cloudy? How does it smell?

Pictures of your visit are always appreciated, especially if you happen to see any Fairies.]

Decryption Key

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M
-------------------------
N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



 

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Current Time:
Last Updated: on 2/5/2018 8:37:20 AM (UTC-08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada) (4:37 PM GMT)
Rendered From:Unknown
Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum

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