There are few natural light shows quite so ethereal as those that occur in New Zealand's glowworm caves. The larval insects hang from silk nests everywhere and radiate with a soft illumination that seems otherworldly. Walking through this eerie underworld, you might mistake the milieu for the night sky, or perhaps even an alien planetarium.
Now thanks to photographer Jordan Poste, you can get a sense for what it's like to visit these caves from anywhere in the world, reports Wired. He has assembled a stunning 60-hour time-lapse video of the twinkling caverns, part of which can be viewed above.
In order to capture these images in undisturbed conditions, Poste hiked about 650 feet inside each cave before setting up his gear and worked mostly at night so tourists wouldn’t walk through his shots. He was alone with the glowworms in the darkness, the only noise being the click of his camera and the bugs' subtle scurrying.
“The whole vision for the video was to make it represent the experience of walking through a glowworm cave,” he said.
It's truly breathtaking. The film includes footage from several different locations, the Waipu and Abbey Caves in Whangaeri, and the Ruakokoputuna in Martinborough, all of which can be found on New Zealand's North Island.
Despite their name, New Zealand glowworms (Arachnocampa luminosa) are not actually worms, but rather the larval form of a fungus gnat. So they're insects. Their Māori name is titiwai, which means "projected over water." The glow is the result of a chemical reaction that involves luciferin, a light-emitting compound found in several organisms capable of bioluminescence.
“It’s similar to lying down outside under the stars and just looking at the sky and emptying your mind,” explained Poste. “It’s extra special, though, because you realize they aren’t stars, but worms with glowing bums.”