Most people are familiar with the Mexican State of Chihuahua, thanks to its namesake dog - However very few know that it is home to one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world - The Cueva de los Cristales or Cave of the Crystals.
Discovered accidently in 2000, by miners drilling a tunnel, the cave lies about 1000ft. below the surface of the Naica Mountains, two hours south of Chihuahua. It is home to over 170 of the largest natural crystals ever found - With the tallest one measuring about 37 feet and weighing in excess of 55 tons. The shiny-ice like beams emerge from all sides of the cave - even the floor!
The unusual crystal formations are being attributed to volcanic activity that occurred 26 million years ago. Researchers believe that when the magma, which gave birth to the Naica Mountain Range cooled, it was saturated with a mineral known as anhydrite, which when mixed in with the gypsum, formed tiny crystals. Over the centuries, helped by the extreme heat, these tiny crystals have grown into these giant structures.
However, don't be fooled by the deceptively cool ice-like look of the crystals - Thanks to the depth and a hot spring located nearby, the temperature inside the caves is a sweltering 112°F with 80-90% humidity. It is so hot, that visitors have to wear protective suits and carry backpacks of ice-cooled air in order to survive for just a few minutes.
But that, and the fact that it takes about twenty minutes to get to underground, has not deterred would-be thieves from trying to steal some of the crystal. In order to preserve them, the authorities had to construct a thick iron gate outside the caves. While the Cave of the Crystals also dubbed Sistine Chapel of Crystals is the most famous, the Naica Mountains are also home to three other equally stunning caves.
Sword's Cave, which was discovered over 100 years ago, lies just 400 ft. below the surface of the ground. It gets its name from the sword-like crystals that jut out from the walls.
Queen's Eye Cave - Found in 2000 by two brothers - Eloy and Francisco Javier Delgado, the cave gets its name from it's eye-like appearance due to way the light shines from its narrow aperture.
Candles Mine Cave - The latest mine cave to be found is also the largest and contains the most amazing crystals - delicate speleotherms or candle-like structures that have formed on top of the gypsum crystals that lie on the roof of the cave. What's even more amazing is that scientists believe the candles have developed over just the last twenty years.
Researchers are sure there are plenty more fascinating caves to be found - We for one cannot wait to see what other natural 'wonders' are waiting to be discovered, under Chihuahua's Naica Mountains To read more about the underground treasures click on http://www.naica.com.