Mexico’s Crystal Caves

I’ve seen a fair bit of Mexico over the years. I first came here in 2003 and spent a couple of months backpacking all over the country, north, south, east, west and middle. And since I returned in 2005 I’ve added a few more Mexican destinations over from the ‘to do’ list onto the ‘done, and got the T-Shirt’ list. And whilst there are always a few more places that I want to see, every time I do one, another, new and mysterious place is found. I’ll never see it all, I guess. The latest ‘new find’? I came across these Crystal Caves on the National Geographic site.

Hidden deep beneath the surface of the Earth is one of the greatest natural marvels on the planet: a giant crystal cave with crystals up to 36 feet long and weighing 55 tons. But this scorching cavern could kill humans after just 15 minutes of exposure.

-The giant crystals found in the caves at Naica are softer than a human fingernail.
-The largest crystal found at Naica is 500,000 years old.
-The stunning crystal pillars are made from the same common mineral as drywall – it’s called gypsum.
-The Naica cave’s deadly heat comes from the depths of the Earth. Naica sits on a set of fault lines. A magma chamber a mile and a half down warms the water that flows throughout the mountain.
-The Naica principle cave “Cueva de Los Cristales” is 45°C and 100% humidity.
-The Naica facility pumps 16,000 gallons of water per minute out of the mine and runs 24-7.
-The water pumped from the Naica mine formed a lake in the arid Chihuahua desert and is also used to irrigate a golf course.
-Naica is one of the most productive lead mines in the world, and a huge supplier of the world’s silver as well.
-The Naica cave actuality footage was shot on solid-state memory HD video cameras (tape-less) wrapped in plastic bags and pre-heated for three hours prior to entering the cave.
-The Naica Project team created a stop-motion robot and fitted it with a Nikon digital still camera powered by a custom software to capture beauty-shot sequences of the cave with 10-megapixel resolution.

This place may, however, be one that I never do get to see. Not only is it in the far north of the country, but I believe access is somewhat restricted. Shame. I’ll just have to go back to climbing mountain. Click here to see the National Geographic site which also contains a cool video. There’s also a good article you can read (the beginning is below) by clicking here.

In a nearly empty cantina in a dark desert town, the short, drunk man makes his pitch. Beside him on the billiards table sits a chunk of rock the size of home plate. Dozens of purple and white crystals push up from it like shards of glass. “Yours for $300,” he says. “No? One hundred. A steal!” The three or four other patrons glance past their beers, thinking it over: Should they offer their crystals too? Rock dust on the green felt, cowboy ballads on the jukebox. Above the bar, a sign reads, “Happy Hour: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.”

This remote part of northern Mexico, an hour or so south of Chihuahua, is famous for crystals, and paychecks at the local lead and silver mine, where almost everyone works, are meager enough to inspire a black market. “Thirty dollars.” He leans in. “Ten.” It’s hard to take him seriously. Earlier in the day, in a cave deep below the bar, I crawled among the world’s largest crystals, a forest of them, broad and thick, some more than 30 feet long and half a million years old. So clear, so luminous, they seemed extraterrestrial. They make the chunk on the pool table seem dull as a paperweight.


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