Cave of the Crystals, Mexico

Introduction

Cave of the Crystals is named perfectly as this is a cave filled with gypsum crystals of unusual sizes.

Why Is It Famous?

The cave stands out in the geological world for the giant size and abundance of selenite crystals. The largest crystal is 12 meters long with a diameter of 4 meters.

What’s Nearby?

The Cave of the Crystals sits in the Naica Mine within Chihuahua, a Mexican state. It sits 300 meters underground.

Geological Description

The large crystals within the cave likely formed due to groundwater saturated with gypsum flowing through the caves before hot magma below heated it and then cooled. Geologists estimate that some of the crystals are more than 500,000 years old. The smaller crystals found in the Cave of the Swords is likely due to quicker cooling.

Geologists are unsure whether human activities in the Cave of the Crystals have caused problems. It had been filled with water before being first discovered, and pumping did not stop until 2017. Samples suggest that the 17 years with air exposure damaged the structure of the crystals. However, geologists hope that the presence of water will encourage the crystals to grow back.

Events in Time

Penoles Mining Company first discovered the Cave of Swords, a smaller cave filled with crystals in the location, in 1910. In 2000, the mining company pumped water out of the Cave of the Crystals without knowing what it held. Brothers, Juan and Pedro Sanchez, were the first to spot the giant crystals.

Research into the cave is challenging due to the incredibly high temperatures and humidity levels. The high humidity means that fluids can condense in the lungs of any visitor, which restricted visits to 10 minutes before the geologists exploring the site were able to create cooling suits. In 2008 and 2009, the NASA Astrobiology Institute director entered the cave and found microbial life forms in the crystals.

In Conclusion

The Cave of the Crystals was discovered by accident. It features truly massive selenite crystals that had been surrounded by water until their discovery. Entry is no longer possible as the mining company who found the cave no longer pumps out the water.