Mexico's Giant Crystal Cave Is Beautiful But Deadly, Discovered by chance, the secret Mexican crystal caves big enough to drive a car through
The Cave of Crystals, also known as the Giant Crystal Cave, is a cave connected to the Naica Mine at a depth of 300 meters (980 ft) in Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. It takes the form of a chamber within the limestone host rock of the mine, and is about 109 meters (358 ft) long with a volume of 5,000 to 6,000 cubic meters (180,000 to 210,000 cu ft).
The chamber contains giant selenite crystals (gypsum, CaSO₄·2H₂O.), some of the largest natural crystals ever found. The largest is 11.40 meters (37.4 ft), with a volume of about 5 cubic meters (180 cu ft), and an estimated mass of 12 tonnes.
Formation of the crystals
Naica lies on an ancient fault and there is an underground magma chamber below the cave. The magma heated the ground water and it became saturated with minerals, including large quantities of gypsum. The hollow space of the cave was filled with this mineral-rich hot water and remained filled for about 500,000 years. During this time, the temperature of the water remained very stable at over 50 °C (122 °F). This allowed crystals to form and grow to immense sizes.
The formation of the crystals is due to a combination of factors, including:
- The presence of a hot water source. The water in the cave is heated by an underground magma chamber, and has a temperature of up to 58 degrees Celsius (136 degrees Fahrenheit).
- The presence of calcium sulfate. The water in the cave contains calcium sulfate, which is the mineral that forms selenite crystals.
- The absence of oxygen. The water in the cave is oxygen-poor, which prevents the formation of other minerals, such as carbonates.
Giant Crystal Cave
- The cave is located in the Naica Mine, which is a silver, zinc, and lead mine. The mine is located in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is a semi-arid region in Mexico.
- The cave is made of limestone, which is a type of rock that is formed from the remains of marine organisms. The limestone in the Naica Mine is about 260 million years old.
- The crystals in the cave are made of gypsum, which is a mineral that is formed when water evaporates from a solution that contains calcium sulfate. The gypsum crystals in the Naica Mine are the largest natural crystals ever found. They can grow up to 36 feet (11 meters) long and weigh up to 55 tons.
- The cave is located at a depth of 2,300 feet (700 meters) below the surface. The temperature in the cave is a constant 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius). The high temperature and humidity make it impossible for humans to stay in the cave for more than a few minutes at a time without special protective gear.
The Naica Mine is home to a variety of different minerals, including: