Inside a cave below the Naica Mountain in Mexico, sits a world that looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Roughly 984 feet underground sits a growing home for crystals, enough to give any holistic expert wanderlust. These gypsum pillars are growing out of every wall, ceiling, and floor space within this cave, successfully turning it into a holographic maze. When it comes to the world's most amazing, this cave is number one on the list.
With perfect (and also dangerous) conditions for these crystals to continuously grow, there's no saying when or how they might stop. For those who have been lucky enough to get a peek inside of this crystallized wonderland, though, it's nothing short of an underground masterpiece by Mother Nature.
How Was It First Discovered?
It's estimated that the growth of these tremendous crystals began roughly 500,000 years ago, but experts say it could even have been as long as 900,000 years prior. Although the cave began its work so many thousands of years prior, it wasn't until 2000 that a group of miners stumbled upon the cave while pumping water out of the cavern.
However, these were not the first crystals discovered in the area. Another, slightly smaller crystal cave was also discovered in 1910 by the same company - Peñoles Mining Company - bu these crystals were minor in comparison to the giant towers that would eventually be found nearly a century later. This cave was also found at a much more shallow distance from the surface - only 394 feet of drilling led them to this discovery. The largest crystal in this smaller cave measured just over eight feet, compared to the largest measured in the Giant Crystal Cave, which came out to 36 feet.
Why Do These Crystals Grow Here?
Heat is a big part of why these crystals were able to grow to monstrous proportions. The cave's temperature remained at roughly 136 degrees Fahrenheit before its temperature eventually dropped, which allowed anhydrate to break down, sending minerals such as calcium and sulfate into the water below. These minerals then reformed as selenite, which is a form of gypsum.
The key to maintaining the crystal growth here was the presence of water, in which they were perfectly preserved and held a steady growth rate. The water was also regulated at a very high temperature which kept the entire process going.
Now, the cave has been proven to provide somewhat of a danger to any humans wanting to get a peek at the staggering crystal formations - the lowest temperature is around 113 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level of nearly 100%, making for extraordinarily uncomfortable conditions within the cave.
The Future Of The Cave
While the cave is kept off-limits, there was a time when visitors had the (brief) chance to explore this otherworldly scene. Tours were kept to ten minutes maximum until the introduction of cooling suits, which also doubled as a way to get fresh air through respirators without having to leave the cave after short periods of time.
In 2017, Peñoles Mining Company stopped draining the cave completely, which brought to the table two issues: The fact that crystals had been left in the open air for so long, and what would happen now that the cave was, once again, flooded. While the integrity of the crystals might be compromised with new environmental conditions introduced, they also might exhibit some new growth with mineral-rich water filling the cave once again. Only time will tell and, judging by the age of these crystals, it will take a lot of years before any answers are finally found.