Cueva de los Cristales

Cueva de los Cristales(Click for larger image)

This is not a film set. This is a real cave situated 300 metres below the Chihuahuan desert in Naica, Mexico. And it is truly filled with giant crystals, such as should only really be found on alien planets.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) contains the world’s largest crystals — some over 10 metres in length. It was a lengthy process to form the crystals, but the cave had time. For 500,000 years it was filled with water which was heated to a stable temperature of over 50°C by a magma chamber beneath. This encouraged the water to become saturated with minerals, one of which — gypsum (selenite) — formed the collosal, translucent crystals.

The Cave of Crystals was only discovered in the year 2000 by miners who were excavating a new tunnel for a lead mine. Just another day at work for the miners, but not so for the few lucky geologists who have been able to visit the cave since its discovery: they must wear refrigerated vests to withstand the heat and get in and out quick before the 99% humidity causes too much water to condense in their lungs.

Sadly for those amazed by things like the Naica giant crystals, the cave doesn’t make any money for the mine owners so at some point they will remove their pumps and allow the cave to flood again. Still, it is said that we know less about the first kilometre of the Earth’s crust than we do about outer space, so there should be more amazing discoveries just around the corner… We’ll be sure to keep you informed.

Mexican cave crystals

Giant crystal

Naica crystals

Gypsum crystals

Crystal cave(Click for larger image)

Check out the Naica Project for lots more amazing pics of the caves (and get your 3D glasses out for some)
Thanks to Will Southern for the suggestion!

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