Sunday, November 23, 2008
Where Superman lives...
Mexico's Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) is buried a thousand feet (300 meters) below Naica Mountain in the Chihuahuan Desert. The cave was discovered by two miners excavating a new tunnel for the Industrias Peñoles company in 2000.
The cave contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found; translucent gypsum beams measuring up to 36 feet (11 meters) long and weighing up to 55 tons.
Reports stated that for millennia the crystals thrived in the cave's extremely rare and stable natural environment. Temperatures hovered consistently around a steamy 58 degrees Celsius, and the cave was filled with mineral-rich water that influenced the crystals' growth. At this temperature the mineral anhydrite, which was abundant in the water, dissolved into gypsum, a soft mineral that can take the form of the crystals.
Modern-day mining operations exposed the natural wonder by pumping water out of the 10-by-30-meter cave.
The mining companies is now advised to preserve the caves. Geological researchers go in prepared, wearing suits in order to protect themselves against the inhospitality of the caves. They plan to condition the caves and get them ready for public visitation. This has to be done without interfering with the natural conditions that keep the crystals in their best shape and help them grow.