Words by Mark Synnott - Surface Hoar is the winter equivalent of morning dew; water vapor in the air condenses and freezes when it comes in contact with the cold walls of the cave. I’ve seen tiny feathers of surface hoar on top of snow on cold mornings in the mountains, but I’ve never seen anything like this—some of these ice crystals are two feet long, their surfaces etched with striated geometric patterns. Why this hoar forms inside of Dark Star is one of the cave’s many mysteries. The Russians still don’t understand Dark Star’s ventilation system, but they do know that some entrances inhale and other’s exhale, and that this respiration reverses during high and low pressure. More evidence of what the Russians told me back in camp—that Dark Star is a living, breathing creature.