Crystal Cave of Giants, Mexico
Episode #2 of the course “Natural Wonders of the World”
In 2000, two miners in Naica, Mexico drilling for lead and silver stumbled across a cave of giant crystals. In this remote area approximately an hour south of Chihuahua, one of the largest troves of natural wonders was discovered, and researchers haven’t been able to stay out since.
Gaining access to the cave is difficult—it is located nearly 1000 feet underground—and because of its proximity to active magma, it is unbelievably hot and humid. Temperatures are generally around 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57,2°C), and the cave’s humidity often averages about 95%. When people descend the 20 minute ride into the cave, they generally do not stay for longer than 20 minutes, and they are made to put on heavy protective gear to keep them cool.
The exact dimensions of the cave have not yet been measured because of visitors’ endurance limits, so the cave is largely unexplored.
The Cave of Crystal Giants features soft selenite crystals over half a million years old, more than 30 feet long, and several feet thick. Researchers are able to date the crystals based on air bubbles trapped inside samples. The selenite is so soft that it can be damaged by human hands, so visitors and researchers must be careful to preserve the environment. It is the natural high humidity and heat conditions underground that make this cave ideal for growing such extraordinary crystals. The environment is threatened by the drilling going on closer to the surface; as water is diverted or removed to discover new mining veins, the humidity in the Cave of Crystal Giants is changed.
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