The Giant Crystal Cave often referred to as ” The Cave of the Crystals”, is a cave in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. Some of the largest crystals we have all ever seen are found in the crystal cave. The cave of the crystals appears as a cave inside the limestone rock of the Naica mine and is a rare, unexpected, and awesome sight for the world.
1. Naica Mine
Chihuahua, Mexico’s Naica Mine, is a lead, zinc, and silver mine. The Naica Mine, situated near Naica in the Saucillo municipality, is owned by Industrias Peñoles, the biggest silver producer in the world.
During mining, the mine consists of caverns filled with giant crystals. The highest temperature underground was recorded at 58° C (136° F), and the relative humidity was 100%, which quickly put the visitors at risk of overheating and made breathing difficult. Due to the heat, unprotected researchers could only spend up to 10 minutes inside the cave.
Using a custom-made suit with a cooling system (ice storage in a backpack with cooled water recirculating in polymer tubes installed over the entire body surface) and delivering fresh air for improved breathing was required for longer trips. This extended the visit time to 30 minutes.
Peñoles decided to halt operations permanently in 2015 as a result of unmanageable flooding at the Naica Mine.
2. Cave of Swords
Under the Naica Mine workings, the miners discovered a cavern called the Cave of Swords in 1910.
It is above the cave of the crystals at a depth of 120 meters (390 feet). The cave of swords is home to stunning, smaller crystals that are 1 meter (3 ft. 3 in) in length. The transition temperatures may have dropped there more quickly, resulting in the crystals’ growth halt.
3. Cave of the Crystals
The cave of the crystals is a horseshoe-shaped cave full of enormous crystals, which was discovered in April 2000. The giant cave was discovered by two miners excavating for a mining company named Peñoles, the second largest Mexican mining company.
The crystal cave is 300 meters (980 ft.) underground at the Naica mine, under a mountain rich in lead, zinc and silver deposits. Giant gypsum crystals, popularly termed Selenite crystals, are the special highlight of these caves of the crystals.
4. Discovery of the Crystal Cave
In 2000, miners looking for fresh ore deposits near a mountain near Naica, Mexico, came across a unique view.
They were surrounded by enormous, milky-white crystals that filled a horseshoe-shaped cave. In the Cave of the Crystals, giant gypsum beams peeked from the dark limestone walls, flooring, and ceiling in all directions and gleamed brightly in the miner’s lights.
5. Ice Palace
Excluding the horseshoe-shaped cavity crystal cave, two new smaller caverns, Queen’s Eye Cave and Candles Cave were discovered in 2000. Another new cave was uncovered during a drilling effort in 2009.
The new crystals cave that was discovered in 2009 was named Ice Palace. It is 150 meters (490 feet) deep and though not flooded, has significantly shorter gypsum crystals, with small “cauliflower” formations and fine, threadlike crystals.
6. Giant Crystals
The cave of the crystals in the Naica mine has some of the largest natural crystals known to human beings. The giant crystal cave contains giant gypsum crystals that are 36 feet (11 meters) long and 55 tonnes in weight.
The floor of the crystals cave is covered with perfectly faceted crystalline blocks. Huge crystal beams jut out from the floor of the gigantic cavern. The milky white crystals towered in the cave are a beautiful sight for all.
The giant crystals flourished in mineral-rich water with a relatively limited temperature range of roughly 58 °C (136 °F). Plenty of mineral anhydrite in the water, which at this temperature dissolved into gypsum, a soft mineral that took the form of the giant crystals in the Naica cave.
7. Formation of Crystals
The cave of the crystals is located above a Naica fault below an underground magma chamber around 2-3 miles (3-5 km) that heated the groundwater to the point at which it became mineral-rich.
According to studies, a magma mound emerged from the Earth’s surface about 26 million years ago. The rising magma created a mountain in Naica town.
All of the mineral-rich water poured into the cracks of the limestone mountain. As time passed, the oxygen-rich, cool surface water came into touch with the mineral-saturated, heated water. As a result, the oxygen slowly diffused into the heated water. Due to oxygen transfer, the calcium sulfate-rich water eventually filled the cavern. Instead of the mineral anhydrite, gypsum crystals formed due to the result of water temperature.
As per the researchers, anhydrite mineral was involved in the crystals that formed in the cave in the early stages, but as time went on, the water’s temperature dropped below 136.4 F. (58 C). The anhydrite crystals dissolved as the temperature fell below 136.4 F (58 C), resulting in the growth of enormous crystal beams of gypsum.
The reason that massive crystal beams emerge from the Cave of Crystals’ floor at present is mostly a result of the 500,000-year-long crystal formations that produced gypsum crystals of such enormous proportions.
8. Why Is the Cave of Crystals Unique?
Some of the largest crystals ever discovered were found in the Cave of Crystal. Two miners accidentally discovered the cave itself. Geologists and scientists discovered that the cave and crystals are home to microbes that are believed to be between 10,000 and 50,000 years old. Some of the microbes didn’t match any life forms on the planet. These microbes were named extremophiles since they thrived in such a hostile environment.
9. Why Is The Cave Of The Crystals So Hot?
The Cave of Crystals in the Naica Mine is situated atop a magma intrusion, which causes the cave to be extremely hot and humid.
The air inside the cave is 90 to 99 per cent humid and reaches 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius).
10. Why is the Cave of Crystals Famous?
The Cave of the Crystals, known for its spectacular selenite crystals, is located deep within the Earth, in the Naica Cave. Gypsum, a sort of mineral used as a filler in the paper and textile industries and used in cement, is actually the material that makes up these crystals.
Some of the largest crystals ever seen by humans have been discovered in this enormous cavern. The crystals continued to grow since they were buried beneath the dirt for years. The crystal pillars are older than 5,000 years, many so large that they are easy to walk on.
Since its discovery, the subterranean chamber has attracted scientists from around the world, luring them with both unique beauty and scientific curiosity.
11. 23 Fun Facts About Giant Crystal Caves
The Cave of Crystals is, without a doubt, a rare beauty. The cave holds several amazing things, ranging from giant crystals to unknown lifeforms. This cave is a beautiful dream for researchers. Here are a few more fascinating facts about the cavern beneath the Naica Mine.
1. The 3 Co-Joined Chambers
The “Cave of the Crystals”, called Cueva de Los Cristales in Spanish, is made up of three connected caves, one significantly larger than the others.
2. Surrounded by Similar Caves
Neighbouring caverns include Candles Cave, Cave of the Swords, Queen’s Eye, and Ice Palace. Compared to the crystals discovered in the crystal cave, the crystals found there are smaller in size.
3. The Discovery of the Cave of the Swords
The crystal cave is located beneath a smaller crystal cave discovered in 1910.
4. Discovery of Ice Palace
At a depth of 490 feet (150 meters) below the surface of the Earth, what We now know as the Ice Palace cavern was found in 2009 while drilling inside the Naica cave itself.
5. 50000 Years Into Making
According to geologists, the crystal grew over 50000 years in an optimal growth environment to reach their enormous size.
6. Discovered by Local Miners
The crystal cave was a discovery made by the local miners excavating a tunnel.
7. Huge Crystal Beams Jut Out in Cave
The entire floor of the cave is covered with enormous crystal beams.
8. Home to Large Crystals
This gigantic cavern is home to towers of selenite, which rise so high that humans appear insignificant in contrast. The tallest crystals found in the cavern have been recorded at 11m (36 ft.) in height and 55 tonnes in weight. Furthermore, climbing the crystals is tough, so specialists with the proper equipment can only access the cave.
9. The Huge Pool of Magma
A massive pool of magma exists about 2-3 miles (3-5 km) beneath the surface. Groundwater seeping into the caverns caused them to flood over time. This water was rich in gypsum minerals, and the magma’s heat kept a constant temperature for 500,000 years. The translucent selenite crystals we see the result today from gypsum dissolving in the water. Until now, the crystals have grown consistently and gently, but they will not develop any more unless the cave floods again.
10. Extreme Temperature
A pool of magma emerging from the Earth’s core lies beneath the cave. The heat from the magma makes the cave unpleasant. In fact, staying within the cave for more than a few minutes is impossible. Temperatures in the crystal cave have been measured at 150°F (65.6°C), while the smaller caverns are recorded at 100°F (37.8°C). Conditions are close to 100% relative humidity, adding an extra hazard element.
11. Unsafe to Visit
Despite being aware of the dangers, a miner entered the chamber carrying plastic bags packed with air. He believed this would give him enough time to enter and grab some of the valuable crystals contained therein. Unfortunately, the man was discovered dead the next day, roasted as if he were food in an oven.
12. Not as Strong as They Look
The crystals are large, yet they are fragile, and even a minor scrape can cause damage to them.
13. Privately Owned
The Cave of the Crystals is a privately owned Mexican mining company known as Peñoles that primarily harvests zinc, silver, and lead from the Naica Mine. Peñoles is the second largest Mexican mining company.
14. Discovery of the Giant Crystal Cave
The cave was discovered due to the construction of a tunnel to pump out water from the Naica Mine, which was rich in silver, zinc, and lead.
15. Study of the Sample
Scientists and geologists have gathered crystal fragments from the crystals cave to study the sample and look for any living organisms that may have formed in the crystals.
16. Discovery of Extremophiles
In 2017, the researchers disclosed that they discovered dormant microbes in the cave’s crystal sample and that some of them did not match any existing form of life on the planet. These microbes are thought to be between 10,000 and 50,000 years old. These microbes have survived in harsh circumstances and were named Extremophiles.
17. Stopping of the Mining Operations
The crystal growth was a worry when mineral-rich water was pumped away. To save the crystal forming process and aid in preserving the crystals, the Naica Mine’s mining operations were stopped in 2017, and the cave was reflooded with groundwater.
18. Featured in Shows
The Discovery Channel ran a show named “Naica: Beyond The Crystal Cave” in 2011 that featured the Cave of the Crystals.
The Cave of the Crystals had previously been highlighted on the show “Life After People.”
19. Age of the Crystals
The age of these enormous crystals in the Cave of the Crystals was determined using the uranium-thorium dating technique.
20. Famous for Silver
Silver was found in the Naica mountain in 1794. The Naica mountain is famous for silver, and this precious metal was found in abundance in this mountain, which is also home to the Cave of the Crystals.
21. Possibility of More Caves
During studies on the Cave of the Crystals, scientists and other experts discovered a good likelihood of further chambers below. However, this was never confirmed as a significant portion of these gypsum crystals would need to be removed to continue exploring.
22. Customized Suits
To be able to endure the heat within the Cave of the Crystals, the team that went to research the cave had to create specialized suits.
They designed cold-breathing systems into the suits. The scientific team was carrying a backpack that weighed a whopping 44 lb. (20 kg). It has an ice-filled reservoir with cold water inside.
The scientific team was well able to work within the Cave of the Crystals for 30 minutes, thanks to all these preparations.
23. Beautiful Yet Dangerous
The Cave of the Crystals in Mexico is one of the few locations discovered where the phrases “the most beautiful place on earth” and “one step from Hell” are used in the same sentence to describe it.
12. Is the Crystal Cave Open to Visitors?
The Cave of Crystals is off-limits to tourists. The Cave sits at the top of a massive magma pool, making it extremely hot to tolerate. Even scientists and geologists need a special permit to enter this specific cave due to the hot and unfavourable circumstances that make it dangerous to visit.
13. The Giant Crystals at Risk
The cave’s environment has enabled the crystals to flourish. The mineral-rich water was the primary factor in the crystal’s genesis and development. The crystals didn’t stop growing until the mining company’s pumping operations caused the groundwater level to drop.
The selenite crystals of the giant crystal cave have slowly degraded since their discovery, as per the recent investigations on samples that have been gathered. Exposure to air conditions may have caused mineral surfaces to change and dissolve.
The researchers discovered that the gypsum surface could lose hydration, turning into the less hydrated calcium sulphate mineral bassanite, especially in atmospheres of air and carbon dioxide, despite the high humidity of the surroundings.
Such circumstances may result in a breakdown and weakening of the crystals, which can cause cracking. The giant crystal cave is at risk of decaying.
14. Preserving the Crystals
The caves are currently off-limits to visitors. The severe circumstances in the cave are just one of the many considerations that went into this choice. People who enter the mine risk dying from heat exhaustion in minutes if they don’t have cooling suits.
To save the crystal, the Naica Mine’s mining operations were stopped in 2017, and the cave was reflooded with groundwater, making it inaccessible for all.
15. Selenite on Display
To protect the crystals and the cave, the “Cave of Crystals” has been re-flooded and is no longer open for exploration. However, a 32 – inch Selenite formation, one of the crystals removed from the cave, is kept at the Astro Gallery in New York City and can be seen there.
The huge Selenite pillar of the “Cave of Crystals” features the mineral properties of this specimen.
Juan Manuel García Ruiz referred to the Cave of the Crystals as “the Sistine Chapel of crystals.” The Cave of the Crystals, which contained selenite crystals of a size never previously seen, is one of the most amazing geographical discoveries in history. The cave is a natural marvel.
The cave, buried 300 meters beneath the earth’s surface, is a remarkable discovery because it is filled with stunning huge crystals and scientific puzzles.
The horseshoe-shaped cavity is one of the most stunning sights we have ever seen, but it’s also one of the riskiest. It is impossible to get there and stay for an extended period of time due to the excessively high temperatures. However, the gorgeous site will never be open to the general public due to its unique characteristics and precise placement. Its closeness to a nearby magma chamber is the reason for that.
The cave has been re-flooded with water to preserve the cave and the crystals and the crystal formations. Though it is now inaccessible, it can be preserved for future generations.
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