The Crystal Caves are located in Mexico and are considered a wonder all across the globe. They have naturally formed huge crystals, which is why they are popularly known as crystal caves.
Let us see how the crystals are formed, what these crystals are made up of, and everything important that you need to know about the crystal cave in the following article.
1. The Naica Mine and the Giant Crystal Cave in Mexico
The Crystal Cave is connected to the Naica Mine, where they dig for silver, zinc, and lead. The mine is in the Chihuahuan Desert, a kind of dry place in Mexico.
The caves are very deep, approximately 2400 ft below the ground level, which is close to 700 meters. It is perpetually extremely hot there, and the temperature is around 136 degrees Fahrenheit.
Due to the extreme heat and humidity, it is difficult for people to stay in the cave for more than 4/5 minutes. If they have to, then they need specific paraphernalia.
The cave is made of limestone, a rock formed from old sea creatures that lived about 260 million years ago. In the Naica Mine, you can find different minerals like gypsum, selenite, barite, celestite, and halite.
2. The Cave of Crystals
The Naica Cave of Crystal has big crystals weighing around 40-50 tons, about 12 meters long and 1 meter wide. The cave isn’t comfortable, but it’s just right for these huge crystals to grow, and te gypsum crystals in Naica Mine are the biggest natural crystals ever found.
The Crystal Cave is underground, about 290 meters down, below a mountain with lots of minerals. This mountain formed around 26 million years ago when hot liquid rock, called magma, came up from below.
As the magma came up, it got heated due to the high temperatures, and this heating led to the formation of crystals, which are present in the caves.
As the magma moved up, there were few spaces in the mountains, which were then filled with mineral-rich water.
The perfect mineral is selenite, which led to the formation of these gigantic gypsum crystals that can be as long as 11 meters and weigh more than 50 tons. (Selenite is a type of gypsum).
3. Naica Giant Gypsum Crystals
In simple terms, when the hot liquid rock (magma) created the mountain, it also filled the caves below with hot water full of minerals, mainly anhydrite.
Anhydrite stays stable above 58 degrees celsius, while gypsum/selenite is stable below that temperature. As the temperature slowly dropped below 58 degrees, the anhydrite started dissolving into calcium and sulfate ions, creating a solution with these ions because of the difference between Anhydrite and Gypsum.
Anhydrite is a mineral that has calcium and sulfate but no water. Gypsum or Selenite is formed when water is mixed with calcium sulfate.
These ions combined with mineral-rich hot water molecules and began making small selenite crystals. The conditions in the crystal cave, with just the right amount of ions, were perfect for a few but giant crystals to grow.
The temperature, just below 58 degrees, was ideal for the change from anhydrite to selenite, which helped the selenite crystals grow. Overall, the cave environment made sure the crystals grew larger and larger over time, forming the giant selenite crystals we see in the Giant Crystal Cave.
4. How are the Crystals Formed?
The gypsum crystals in the crystal cave form because of a mix of things, basically three activities which have been explained in a short manner below –
- Hot water comes from an underground magma chamber, heating the cave water up to 58 degrees Celsius (136 degrees Fahrenheit).
- The cave water has calcium sulfate, and that’s the stuff that makes selenite crystals.
- The cave water’s lack of oxygen prevents other minerals, like carbonates, from forming.
5. Can you Survive among the Largest Natural Crystals?
The Crystal caves are obviously perfect for crystals, no matter how enormous they are, but it is not a suitable place for humans. Surviving there for more than a few minutes can be very dangerous.
A person who does not have the required gear and proper precautions will not be able to breathe properly and feel like drowning in your own breath due to the fact that the cave’s temperature is way higher than the body temperature.
Let us understand this further: Due to the temperature difference, the human body is around 36 degrees, and caves are at least 20 degrees hotter when you breathe in the cave; hot air turns into liquid once inside your lungs. This is moisture, which turns into liquid form inside your lungs, making the working of your lungs less effective.
The moisture hampers the working and can even be fatal if you do not get adequate medical help. This does not, however, mean that you can stay for more than 15/20 minutes in the caves, even with proper gear and protection.
6. The Cave of Swords
The Cave of Swords, which is not as deep as the crystal cave, about 120 meters down in the mine, is different. Just like its name suggests, the walls are covered in shorter gypsum crystals that look like medieval weapons, about 2 meters long.
In the deeper Crystal Cave which we read about above, the water cooled more slowly than in the Cave of Swords. This slow cooling over thousands of years meant that only a few gypsum crystals started growing, and they had more time to become larger. The temperature dropped faster in the Cave of Swords, making more but smaller crystals.
A true wonder on earth and a very rare phenomenon of nature, the Crystal Cave is located in Mexico. It has been looked at and researched by many scientists and even by big-nature companies like National Geographic.
There has been a lot of discussion about when the process of their formation began, but there has been no clear or definitive reply to the same. Some people even believe that it has been about a million years because such a phenomenon takes a long time to happen and complete.