We all know and revere the beauty of Mexico, it surrounds us in every corner of the country. But what you can't see of Mexico (without alot of effort) may even astound you more. Mexico, is home to some of the most fascinating underground caves in the world.
There are places here that look as though they belong in an alien world. The Cave of Crystals found below the Chihuhuan Desert for example. You could swear you were looking at the set of Supermans home world, Krypton....but this is no film set it is the real deal.
Discovered in 2000 by two miners excavating a new tunnel for an industrial company it is considered the "Sistine Chapel of crystals," with the largest crystal formations on Earth reaching over 20 feet in length. The largest previously known crystals were found in the nearby "Cave of the Swords", part of the same mine system. Some of these are now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
While a short time after the discovery of the caves there was talk of developing it as a tourist attraction problems have arisen that may make that an impossible business venture for the mining company that owns it. Due to the extremely hot nature of the crystalline environment in the caves people could only stay in the cave for less than an hour. There were a number of people on tours who collapsed and had to be evacuated almost immediately after entering the caves and this became too much of a liability burden for the mining company. Perhaps in the future they will be able to stabilize the environment without damaging it.
For now the cave is continuing to be explored by an Italian group of cave explorers, and a Méxican company named Speleoresearch & Films. They have an agreement with the mining company, Industrias Peñoles, about the protection of the cave. The technical difficulties of the exploration are immense, and so far the total size of the cave is still unknown, as it is impossible to explore more than a few tens of meters at a time. Special breathing and protection systems must be developed with the goal to stay inside the cave for at least one hour.
It was just in April of 2007 that scientists finally determined the origin of the great crystal formations. They grew in gypsum rich water at about 58°C, heated by the volcanic activities below, creating these beautiful other worldly crystal formations. While the majority of us can not yet go and visit the cave it is just one more natural wonder to admire in Mexico.
For more detailed information on the project and some really great photos go to the official Naica Penoles Project website.