This isn't around Rio Dulce, but it has to be the most incredible find in recent history. I would give anything to see this first hand so I thought I'd share it. Oh how I love nature's wonders! The "Cueva de los Cristales" or Cave of Crystals, is located 1,000 feet below the surface of a mountain in the Chihuahua desert region of Northern Mexico and was discovered by accident when two miners were digging a new tunnel while removing the mineral rich water that filled the 30 foot by 90 foot cave. Here is the story from what I have found so far.
I have to admit a mix of feelings on this as I pray for responsibility in its preservation and this is an open pit mine that has been in existence for years. I even admit to having a piece of selenite I purchased while passing through Chihuahua that very possibly came from this magical place.
The Naica Mine of Chihuahua is an open pit mine that had been worked for centuries before two miners working for Industrias Peñoles', following a seam of silver, broke into a vast subterranean cavern. What they found there made them stop in their tracks while they contacted their boss. Within days, an iron door was installed to protect the entrance. They had uncovered a true wonder of Mexico.
The ghostly, transulent crystals have been measured up to 36 feet (11 meters) in height, weighing in at 55 tonnes. They make up the largest natural crystals ever discovered on Earth and therefore attract geologists and scientists in their hordes, as well as the tourists. However, no-one can stand to be in the cave for more than a few minutes, due to the crippling heat inside.
Cueva de los Cristales lies 1,200 feet (365.76 meters) below the surface. Beneath it is a pool of magma, rising up from the Earth's core. It is a very hot place. Temperatures of 150 F (65.6 C) have been recorded in the larger cave, while the smaller bakes in a mere 100 F (37.8 C).
The risks of entering are very real. Shortly after their discovery, an opportunist miner bypassed the protective iron door through a small tunnel. He took with him plastic bags filled with fresh air, in a bid to stay alive long enough to steal some of the precious crystals. He was found the next day, not only dead, but roasted too. This is the reason that visitors to the caves do so under strict supervision and with proper equipment.
Some of these crystals are up to 36 feet long. Until this discovery, the largest known crystals were found in the Cave of Swords, some of which are currently on display at the Smithsonian Institute, which is also part of the same tunnel system containing the Cave of Crystals.
It has been called the Crystal Cave of Giants and Cave of the Giant Crystals. The locals call it simply Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of the Crystals). There are actually three co-joined caves, one much larger than the others. This cathedral-sized cavern is home to vast fingers of selenite, rising in columns so tall that they dwarf the humans crawling amongst them.
When these magnificent caves were discovered, the mining company in charge of the operation re-routed their excavation project in order to preserve them.
These gigantic crystals have been slowly growing over the past 500,000 years. They sit over a fault line. Around 2-3 miles (3-5 km) beneath the caverns is a giant pool of magma. As groundwater seeped down, through the porous limestone bedrock, the caverns became flooded over time. The waters were rich in gypsum minerals, oxygen and . The magma's heat worked like a hob on a cooker, maintaining this water at a simmering, steady 122 F (50 C), for half a million years. The gypsum in the water solidified into selenite crystals. However, unless the cave is flooded again, the crystals will stop slowly increasing in size and quantity now.
The caves are kept free of water by the mining company that owns them. Their pumps extract 22,000 gallons of water per minute from the system. This is an expensive operation and is likely to cease later this year.
Mining first began, in the area, in 1794. The local Tarahumara people had long known that there was gold and silver in the Naica Hills. They had extracted some of it through small-scale surface digging. However, there was also zinc and lead in the ground and, in 1900, this was more valuable. That's when the first large scale mining company was formed, tunneling deep into the earth.
During the Mexican Revolution the mine was producing a great deal of wealth. Revolutionary troops entered the town and demanded money from the owners. One of them was assassinated when he refused to pay, causing the mine to shut down from 1911 to 1922. Just before the mine was closed, in 1912, an exploratory burrowing discovered a wonder at 400ft (120m). This was the fabulous Cave of Swords (Cueva de las Espadas).
Much smaller than what was to come, it's still an impressive cavern. Some of the crystals have grown to around 6.6ft (2 meters), while others cloister together, covering whole walls. Some of these crystals were taken away as geological wonders, to be exhibited in museums around the world.
In 1922, the mine opened again, extracting gold, silver, zinc and lead, yet still occasionally finding small selenite crystals lying around. The miners moved steadily deeper and deeper, their progress only pausing for new levels to be drained, before they could dig on.
In April 2000, two brothers were working for Industrias Peñoles' Naica Mine. Juan and Pedro Sanchez had been given orders to drill a new tunnel into the previously unexplored depths of 984ft (300 meters). They broke through and stood staring. They had found the first of the truly awe-inpsiring caverns, the Crystals' Cave. They called the engineer-in-charge, Roberto Gonzalez, who immediately contacted the mine's owners. It was now, within days of the discovery, that the protective door was added to the cavern's entrance.
However, this wasn't the end of the story. Shortly afterwards, two more employees of the mining company, also brothers, were sent to explore further into the cavern. Eloy and Francisco Javier Delgado worked in sweltering temperatures to bore a small passageway into the cavern beyond. The gap was tiny, but Francisco decided to squeeze through anyway. His Davy Lamp torch lit up the interior and Francisco cried out. He had become the first human being to behold a sight that has caused grown men to weep with the sheer majestic beauty. Eloy quickly inched his way through the difficult passage to join him.
Both were in awe, it appeared that an eye was looking at them. They experienced something fantastic; a totally dark bubble inside the cave, which at first contact with the light shone like a diamond. They had found the Queen's Eye Cave.
Yet there was still something even more breath-taking beyond. This is the cavern that geologist, Juan Manuel García-Ruiz (University of Granada), in an interview with 'National Geographic', called 'the Sistine Chapel of crystals'. Photographer and author, Richard D Fisher, describes his feelings there:
Momentarily, the penetrating heat is forgotten as the crystals pop into view on the other side of the newly named "Eye of the Queen". The entire panorama is now lighted and the cavern has a depth and impressive cathedral-like appearance that was not visible on earlier trips with just our headlamps.
When inside the great cathedral of crystals, the pressure of intense heat makes my feelings run up and down the emotional scale from sheer religious awe to outright panic... When I'm done working after three trips into the great cavern, my friends almost have to carry me out. We want to see more, but physically cannot. When the experience is over there is a great relief, but all we can think about is when can we go back in.
Currently, geologists are analyzing the cave and its crystals and are studying core samples taken from the crystals. These core samples contain an organism that may or may not be a contributing factor to the growth of these amazing crystals.
How The Cave of Crystals Formed
As was mentioned earlier, the cave was filled with water that was rich in the mineral anhydrite.This water was essential in nurturing the growth of the monumental crystals as well as keeping the temperature within a small range around 136 degrees Fahrenheit. You may remember as a kid sugar on a string which was basically made by the same principle of boiling water and melting sugar into it, when it cooled, the sugar crysatlized and attached to the string only this is far more incredible.
This happens to be an ideal temperature for anhydrite to dissolve into gypsum which ultimately causes the crystals to grow.
Geologist Juan Manuel Garcia-Ruiz, who has done extensive research and exploration of the cave, reports that for approximately 500,000 years these crystals have been growing in the extremely rare and stable natural environment of the water filled cave.
The Cave of Crystals is situated on a fault that helps to create the environment necessary to promote their growth by forming hydrothermal fluids from the magma chambers below.
What happens is that the intensely heated mineral rich fluids are driven up and into voids in the bedrock. The water in the caves then vaporize and form these giant crystal caves that defy scientific understanding.
Crystals and Their Energy
Selenite is named after the Greek Moon Goddess, Selene. The crystals' apparent magical properties, in seeming to glow from the inside, are reminiscent of moonlight. Selenite is used by some to calm the emotions and provide clarity of reflective thought. It has also been crushed and used in cosmetics.
We have known for some time that crystals give off energy. The old quartz radios relied on the piezo electricity they emitted. In fact, researchers have found that crystals give off more energy when being held than when they are sitting on a surface. Now if you think this sounds a little "New Age" you may be interested in knowing that Piezoelectricity is found in useful applications such as the production and detection of sound, generation of high voltages, electronic frequency generation, microbalances, and ultra fine focusing of optical assemblies. It is also the basis of a number of scientific instrumental techniques with atomic resolution, the scanning probe microscopies such as STM, AFM, MTA, SNOM, etc., and everyday uses such as acting as the ignition source for cigarette lighters and push-start propane barbecues. Still a doubter?
This fact leads me to marvel at the energy fields that are transmitted by these giant crystals. It has been discovered that Earth has magnetic and energy fields that previously could not be explained. For instance, certain monolithic structures in Europe were tested and found to have spiraling magnetic fields surrounding the individual stones.
It is also known that Earth emits waves. Known as the Schuman Resonance, they were previously recorded at about 7.8 Hz and varies according to geographical location. Now without getting you too sidetracked, it is even more interesting to know that our systems in a meditative state also resonate at this frequency, but that's another story that I get in more detail on my "The Bigger Picture" page.
Alarmingly, these waves have been rising dramatically. This is causing a great deal of concern since these waves are basically our planet's heartbeat. Our planet is constantly changing by means of shifting tectonic plates, continents and even volcanoes that form new ground.
There are abundant mysteries about our planet that we are yet to understand. The Maya considered caverns sacred and a chance to enter the "Underworld" which although was a dark place, it was by no means a bad place. Perhaps by studying the Cave of Crystals and other similar caves, we will be able to learn more about this living organism we call Earth and even learn to nurture it in order to promote a healthier global environment.
National Geographic has done a documentary about this new wonder. As I understand it, new lighting and camera equipment was created just to withstand the heat and humidity. I pray that a copy of this documentary somehow makes it to Guatemala and into my hands one day.