Over 120 caves make up what is now known as Carlsbad Caverns. Uniquely, these caves were formed not by the running water of streams, but rather limestone decomposition by means of sulfuric acid, leaving behind a world of caverns beneath the Earth’s surface. Limestone rock that encloses Carlsbad Caverns comprises of ocean fossil plants and animals from a reef complex created ages before the dinosaurs. At that time the southeastern corner of New Mexico paralleled that of Key West along the Florida coastline. Jim White is credited as the first explorer of the cave in 1898, utilizing a handmade wire ladder to descend 60-ft into the depths of the cave.