Thursday, January 7, 2010

Crystal Cave

Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals), Chihuahua Desert, Mexico

Among the largest crystals known to man, the beams of selentite found deep below Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert are breathtaking. Nearly a thousand feet below the Earth’s surface and in one of the country’s most productive silver and lead mines, Cueva de los Cristales was discovered by a pair of brothers working for the Naica mine.

The glistening beams are the product of calcium sulfate saturated groundwater filtering through the numerous limestone caves of Naica for hundreds of thousands of years, warmed by the resonating heat of the magma below. Preliminary research suggests the crystals to be at least 600,000 years old and the process of accretion was only halted in 1985 when, unbeknownst to cave workers who lowered the water table with industrial pumps, drained the cavernous cathedral of crystals.

Over 140 of the expansive crystals have been documented with estimations of their numbers around 170. Along with the cave of crystals, the mine is also home to others caves named for their peculiar formations: Eye of the Queen, Cave of Candles, and Cave of Swords. The largest crystal discovered to this point was a massive 37.4 feet. Good luck finding a museum to fit any of these examples in. Efforts are being made to preserve the cave to prevent looters and such from ruining its pristine formations.

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