Geologists Explore Giant Crystals in Fated Cave

Giant crystals dwarf researchers in the Crystal Cave. Photo via veoverde

It seems like a Hollywood movie set; perhaps a place for Superman to get a little alone time--but Mexico's Cave of Crystals is no artificial wonder. Discovered in 2000 when silver miners broke through a wall in a mineshaft, the cave features crystals measuring 30 feet, the largest in the world. Only a handful of geologists have ever had the chance to visit this natural wonder, and it seems likely that few ever will; not only are the conditions inside the cave quite inhospitable, soon it will be filled with water.It's Hot and Humid
Recently, Iain Stewart, a professor from the University of Plymouth, Great Britain, led a team from the BBC into the Crystal Cave in to show them the amazing formations attached to the mines of Naica in northern Mexico. The conditions in the cave, however, make extended exploration difficult. According to the BBC, the temperature reaches 50 degrees centigrade (122°F) with humidity at 100 percent.

Prof. Stewart:

The combination means that when you inhale air, the surface of your lungs is actually the surface cooler than the air is. This means that the fluids begin to condense into the lungs - and this is not good news

To tolerate the challenging conditions in the cave, explorers wear special refrigerant suites which contain a breathing system.

Soon it Will be Inaccessible
Stewart considers himself lucky that he has had the chance to visit the Crystal Cave, reminded that it may one day be lost to the world. It seems that those who own the silver mine have no intention of preserving their accidental discovery to share with future generations.

Prof. Stewart:

They do not earn any money (from the cave), and sooner or later, when the financial situation of the mines change, will be closed. The water pumps will be removed and the cave will be flooded, and the crystals, again, will be out of our reach.

Are Other Crystal Caves Out There?
Still, Stewart and other geologists are hopeful that similar caves will one day be discovered like the one stumbled upon in northern Mexico:
To begin with, the geology around the cave suggests that there may be more crystal caves in the region around Naica. But, more broadly, the crust of the Earth must have more wonders like this.

It will be a bitter-sweet end for geologists to lose access to such an amazing place as the Crystal Cave, but the earth proves yet again to be in no shortage of natural wonders. The cave was discovered, after all, in the act of stripping the earth of silver ore, making it almost reassuring to know that still some of the planet's most magnificent treasures will remain her own yet.

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Tags: Latin America | Mexico | Preservation

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