Tuesday, July 10, 2007

And speaking of caves ...

Photo copyright Javier Trueba (Madrid Scientific Films)/Geology

It's been a while since we've seen a post on these pages. Apologies ... but the "day job" has been calling loudly as of late.
Anyway, the last post on Dr. Jean Lowry got me thinking about caves. In particular the Cueva de Cristales (Crystal Cave) located in Chihuahua, Mexico. Take a look at the photo above. Yes, that is a full-grown human man standing atop a selenite crystal. No photoshop. I had the priveledge of visiting the Cueva de Cristales myself last year. I'm usually not one to pick favorites, but I think I can safely say that this was the most impressive, fantastic, breathtaking, awe-inspiring natural wonders I've ever seen in my life.
The Cueva de Cristales is located 1200 feet underground, near the town of Naica, in Chihuahua state, Mexico. In April 2000, Javier and Eloy Delgado discovered the adjacent Cave of Swords during mining of Industrias PeƱoles Naica lead-zinc-silver mine. One month later, another group of miners broke into the Cueva de Cristales. Crystals in both caves have been designated as the largest ever encountered anywhere in the world. Individual crystals are up to 4 feet in diameter and 50 feet long.
After traveling from the surface down through the blackness to the level of the Cueva de Cristales, we came to a locked steel door guarding the entrance. The temperature in the mine was warm, but fairly comfortable. The door was unlocked and we climbed a short flight of steps; immediately in front were plexiglas panels sealing the cave from the ambient environment of the mine. The panels were fogged but it was apparent that something hugely spectacular lay behind. The plexiglas door was then opened and we stepped inside to an air temperature of 150 degrees farenheit and 100% humidity. The experience defined "shock and awe" as one's mind did somersaults trying to make sense of the scale, and the body's alarms went to full red alert due to the heat and humidity. You only get about 5 or 6 minutes inside ... any longer and they'd be dragging you out unconscious. Photography was next to impossible for us "tourists" as water vapor would condense instantly on any glass surface. The photograph above was made by a team of professional photographers using preheated cameras and wearing water-cooled suits that allowed them extra time inside the cave.

1 comment:

scotth said...

Wow. I guess that is the shortest field trip ever. Five or six minutes, then time for a few brews to cool off. Great idea.