World's Longest Cave is Still Growing Even Longer (PICS)

longest-cave-still-growing1.jpg
Photo via NM

Researchers were recently surprised to find that the world's longest cave formation--the Fort Stanton Cave in New Mexico--is growing even longer. They discovered that calcite is still accumulating in the trough of the cave, which cuts through miles and miles of rock. More photos of the stunning, tunnel-like cave after the jump.fort-stanton-cave.jpg

A report from Science News reveals that the cave, already 4.6 miles long, is still expanding: scientists "found that some bits of plastic tape used during previous expeditions to mark off areas of the cave carried a thin dusting of calcite material -- a sign the deposit is still growing. Radiometric dating of small samples drilled from the formation bolster that notion."

worlds-longest-cave.jpg
Photo via Science News

The oldest layers of the cave are less than 850 years old--practically babies in geologic terms.

fort-stanton-cave-ceiling.jpg

More pics of the calcite formations . . .

long-cave-stuff.jpg
snowyriver-new-mexico.jpg
As for the strange white material that lines the floor, Science News explains:

The formation's brilliant white color, as well as its sinuous path through Fort Stanton Cave, near the town of Capitan, has led cavers to dub the feature Snowy River . . . Land and his colleagues haven't fully mapped the cave, but known portions of the Snowy River -- whose undiscovered reaches extend into yet-unexplored passageways -- now extend 7.5 kilometers.
Finally--a cave that lives up to the mysteriousness that every good cave aspires to.

More on Caves
Thousands of Bat Caves Closed Due to Fungus Infestations
Annals of Great Ideas: Snow Caves in Texas

Tags: Conservation

WHAT'S HOT ON FACEBOOK

treehugger slideshows