WATCH: Find The World's Largest Instrument In A Virginia Cave
While family vacations are often filled with unique traditions, some aspects of traveling on an annual summer trip are the same for every Southerner. If your childhood was anything like ours, you've likely endured a few Dad-initiated, educational outings alongside your yearly week-long trip to Grandma's house. Leland and Robert Sprinkle had a similar story.
In 1954, Leland W. Sprinkle took his son, Robert, to tour Luray Caverns in the Shenandoah Valley of Northern Virginia. The expansive underground caverns contain 3.5 acres of stalactites, a classic opportunity for a dad to teach his 5-year-old son about the natural world. However, on that day, the tour changed Mr. Sprinkle's life more than the young boy's. The Luray Cavern tour guides tapped some of the stalactites with small mallets, and the vibrating massive rock columns emitted long, sustained musical tones in the depths of the cave. The sound frequency of each stalactite depended on its size, and the tour guide indulged the group in an underground version of "Mary Had A Little Lamb." As a mathematician, scientist, and organist, Mr. Sprinkle was fascinated by the unique potential of the caverns. No one knew that this father-and-son excursion would develop into Mr. Sprinkle's lifelong passion.
After speaking with the cave's owner about his idea, Mr. Sprinkle spent 3 years identifying and sanding 37 stalactites so they emitted the necessary pitches for an organ's keyboard. He constructed a system linking a central organ to rubber mallets poised throughout the entire cave, ready to strike the stalactites matching the keys of the instrument. Years of dedicated upkeep and fine-tuning transformed the depths of a colossal Virginia cavern into a single musical instrument. If you visit the Great Stalacpipe Organ today, you can still stand in the world's largest instrument and be enveloped by the vibrating melodies of this Southern wonder.