New Geek Destination: Klingon Cave Tours

by Nancy Atkinson on July 28, 2010

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Klingon vanity license plate, via Charven.com

Since “Star Trek: The Experience” is no longer open, here’s the next best thing. A company is getting ready to provide self-guided tours of the Jenolan Caves west of Sydney, Australia, and one of the languages soon available for the tours is Klingon. Yes, it is a fictional, completely fabricated Star Trek language, but I’m guessing there will be some takers on this. Why Klingon?

Well, if you have watched Star Trek you may recognize the name Jenolan as one of the ships featured in the episode of The Next Generation where Scotty (from the original series) appeared. The only Klingon in that episode was Worf, and Scotty stayed pretty clear of him (still jumpy from that Tribble incident, no doubt). So there’s not a clear Klingon connection, but obviously there’s some fan love involved.

Australia’s ABC reports that earlier this month two Klingon scholars (yes, really!) from the United States flew to Australia to tour the caves and finalize the translation of a self-guided tour. They have recorded it at a Sydney studio and the commentary will be available sometime in August on a digital audio device.

Map showing the location of the Jenolan Caves in western Australia. Credit: ABC


The Jenolan Caves are the world’s oldest dated limestone cave system. And if you aren’t fluent in Klingon, the tours will also be available in 10 other more commonly-spoken languages.

And can anyone read the Klingon words in the top image?

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Salacious July 28, 2010 at 8:58 AM

Eh? REally. What the hell does this have to do with astronomy, astrophysics or the universe?

Jenolan Caves in Australia and an Klingon are clearly separated by a million degrees of separation, being frankly irrelevant!

Frankly, tlhIngan jIH !! (I’m not darn Klingon (tlhIngan pIqaD) !)

This guys trying to do this should be “taken out”.

Qapla’

Torbjorn Larsson OM July 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Is death threats (“taken out”) compatible with comment policy (“Be nice”)?

Tracy Canfield July 28, 2010 at 12:55 PM

Presumably he meant we should be “taken out” someplace nice, which Jenolan did for us when they flew us to Australia. (I’m the voice you’ll hear on the Klingon tour.)

Klingon may not have much to do with astronomy or astrophysics, but it does have something to do with linguistics; Marc Okrand, the linguist who created the language, drew on language elements from all over the world to create Klingon, which makes it an entertaining demonstration of real linguistic principles. (I wrote the qualifying paper for my PhD on Klingon, which started me on the path to getting involved with the Jenolan project this summer.)

Also, “tlhIngan jIH” means “I am a Klingon” – if you want to say “I’m not a darn Klingon!” you want “tlhIngan jIHbe’ jay’!”

Salacious July 28, 2010 at 1:44 PM

By “taken out”, whoops… I really meant to “die in glorious battle for the honour of the Empire!”

(Sorry for the rusty Klingon here. My issued Star Fleet translator isn’t working properly at the moment!)

Salacious July 28, 2010 at 1:46 PM

Torbjorn said; “Is death threats (“taken out”) compatible with comment policy (“Be nice”)?”

Is that really possible for a Klingon?

Nancy Atkinson July 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM

@Tracy Canfield — thanks for visiting UT and giving us more insight into this!

Torbjorn Larsson OM July 28, 2010 at 6:04 PM

Salacious, “die in glorious battle for the honour of the Empire!” is more like it! I wondered there for a minute, human serious or mock Klingon.

And Klingon being nice is as likely as them getting married to a Betazoid. … um, oops!

Olaf July 29, 2010 at 3:34 AM

Klingons do exist. Once we start finding life out there, some if the alien races we will name them Klingons.
Research tends to follow cool SF idea’s most probably because those engineers and scientists grew up with their favourite show and probably want to create stuff like in those shows.

Popisfizzy July 29, 2010 at 1:54 PM

@Tracy Canfield: He may’ve applied linguistic ideas from a number of real-world languages, but he still deliberately tried to make it a very bizarre language. The consonant inventory has lots of gaps and is “unbalanced” compared to a majority of natural languages, and it has OVS word order.

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