Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Incredible: Largest Stalagmites and Stalactites on Earth

Stalactites and stalagmites in Gruta da Lapinha, near Belo Horizonte, MG Brazil

Stalactites and stalagmites in Gruta in Lapinha

Unless you are unfortunate enough to suffer from claustrophobia, you will be severely tempted by the idea of exploring cave systems, especially big ones, because they can contain some of the most spectacular rock formations you could ever wish to see. Stalactites and stalagmites are two types of such formations typically found in caves. Stalactites hang from the ceiling, much like icicles. Stalagmites, on the other hand, grow from the floor.

The Sword of Damocles, Ingleborough, UK, the largest stalactite in Britain

The Sword of Damocles, Ingleborough, UK

Stalactites and stalagmites are formed when minerals precipitate out of dripping water. The time frame for the formation of stalactites and stalagmites is a subject of dispute. Some believe they both take tens of thousands to millions of years to form. According to the creationist model, however, they are able to form much more quickly, and often do.

Hall of Giants, Carlsbad Caves, New Mexico

Hall of Giants, Carlsbad Caves, New Mexico

In Sequoia Caverns, stalactites protected from tourists from 1977-1987 grew 10 inches, or 1 inch per year. At this rate they could have grown 300 ft in just 3600 years.

Large Formation at the "Hall of Giants", 1942

Large Formation at the Hall of Giants, 1942

Many caves do have slow stalactite and stalagmite growth rates today. However there is evidence which suggests that caves were formed rapidly by sulfuric acid dissolution rather than weaker and slower carbonic acid. This process would not only have sped up cave formation but also the growth rates of stalactites and stalagmites.

The Crystal King, the largest Stalactite in the Ohio Caverns, a show cave located 30 miles from Dayton, Ohio near West Liberty, in the United States.

The Crystal King, the largest Stalactite in the Ohio Caverns

The hydrogen sulfide could come from several sources, including anaerobic decomposition of organic matter, oxidation of sulfide deposits, volcanic activity and others. There are disputes galore about how long these incredible formations take to form, but in some instances it hardly seems to matter because they are so stunning to look at.

The Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA

The Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA

Located five kilometers northwest of the downtown of Guilin, China, the Reed Flute Cave got its name from the verdant reeds growing outside it, with which people make flutes. Inside this water-eroded cave is a spectacular world of various stalactites, stone pillars and rock formations created by carbonate deposition.

Illuminated by colored lighting, the fantastic spectacle is found in many variations along this 240-meter-long cave. Walking through the serried stone pillars, tourists feast their eyes on changing spots, feeling they are in a paradise where the gods live.

The Reed Flute Cave, Gulin, China

The Reed Flute Cave, Gulin, China

There are so many wondrous cave systems in the world, with staggering examples of untold thousands of years of history hanging from the roof or standing on the floor. Even so, you are always certain of surprises, for no two formations will ever be the same, and the colours can be entirely dependent on what minerals are seeping from the surrounding rock.

The Hindangan cave, in the Phillipines

The Hindangan cave, in the Phillipines

There is a world of wonder to be explored, and you need never be bored. Take an interest in finding some caves near you. You will never regret it.

Sources: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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