Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals is a Natural Wonder

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Deep beneath the Sierra de Naica mountain in Mexico lies a truly astonishing natural wonder – Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals. This cave contains some of the largest crystals ever found, with some selenite crystals reaching up to 36 feet long and 3 feet wide. These monumental crystals have formed over hundreds of thousands of years in the hot, humid cave environment and create a mesmerizing scene.

Mexico's Cave of the Crystals

The cave was discovered in 2000 when water was pumped out of it by the Peñoles mining company. Two miners named Pedro and Juan Sanchez entered the emptied cave and became the first people to lay eyes on Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals. The cave immediately presented challenges for human exploration due to its extreme environment.

Braving the Inhospitable Conditions

Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals presents an inhospitable environment for humans. Temperatures in the cave reach up to 113 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity stays near 100% most of the time. This hot, humid environment makes it difficult to breathe and requires specialized suits and gear to enter safely.

Even with protective gear, time inside the cave is limited. Early explorers could only stay 10 minutes due to the heat and humidity. Later, scientists designed cooling suits that allowed stays between 15-60 minutes to study the crystals and geology. These brief visits revealed that microbial life may have lived inside the crystals for up to 50,000 years.

The Future of Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals

After being pumped dry for almost 20 years, Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals was allowed to refill with water in 2017. This restored the natural environment, but may have compromised the integrity of the crystals. Now that water has returned, scientists hope the crystals can start growing again.

Mexico’s Cave of the Crystals remains largely off-limits for visitors and tours. However, brief scientific visits continue to reveal more about this astonishing natural wonder and how these mammoth crystals formed over geological ages deep underground. This cave is sure to draw wonder and inspire research for many years to come.

Photo by Alexander Van Driessche – Gaianauta received this from Alexander Van Driessche via Email., CC BY 3.0