Giant Crystals’ Formation Revealed

20 04 2007

I previously blogged about Mexico’s Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals), called “the Sistine Chapel of crystals,” by Spanish geologist Juan Manuel García- Ruiz.

García- Ruiz and a Spanish-Mexican team of researchers have unlocked the mystery of just how the crystals achieved their monumental forms which include 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.
Richard D. Fisher at www.canyonworldwide.org

^ Photo : Richard D. Fisher at www.canyonworldwide.org

To learn how the crystals grew to such gigantic sizes, García-Ruiz studied tiny pockets of fluid trapped inside. The crystals, he said, thrived because they were submerged in mineral-rich water with a very narrow, stable temperature range—around 136 degrees Fahrenheit (58 degrees Celsius) for many hundreds of thousands of years.

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 in the Naica cave.

The new findings appear in the April issue of the journal Geology.

In 1910 miners discovered another spectacular cavern beneath Naica. Its walls studded with crystal “daggers,” the Cave of Swords is closer to the surface, at a depth of nearly 400 feet (120 meters). While there are more crystals in the upper cave, they are far smaller, typically about a yard (a meter) long.

In the Cave of Crystals, on the other hand, the floor is covered in crystalline, perfectly faceted blocks. The huge crystal beams jut out from both the blocks and the floor.

Read the entire article here.

By Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News
April 6, 2007
Read about the Naica film project and see the extraordinary gallery at Nacia.

EDIT: I just added a video of the Naica expedition to retrieve crystals for research. See below in the sidebar.

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