Caves and Natural Formations
Strange Forms Found in the Depths of the Earth
Deep underground, cave explorers often find spectacular sites containing incredible natural formations. These distinct formations have developed over millions of years due to water filtering down into the earth's depths, carrying calcium carbonate and producing permanent dripping.
Some of these formations are:
Stalactites are formed when mineral-rich water drips through the cave and part of the water evaporates, leaving behind calcium carbonate, or calcite mineral, which slowly accumulates until it forms a hollow icicle-like shape that hangs from a cave's ceiling. Stalactites generally are cone-shaped and pointy.
Stalagmites are formed when water fails to evaporate and drips to the floor. In the same way that a stalactite is formed, calcium carbonate is slowly deposited on the floor of the cave, causing the formation to grow upwards. Unlike stalactites, stalagmites are more rounded, lacking a pointy shape.
With the passage of time and when stalactites and stalagmites have grown to a sufficient size, they often meet and join, creating another natural formation called columns. Once these columns have united, instead of growing upwards or downwards, they gradually begin to broaden.
There are other surprising mineral formations inside caves, such as helectites. These are formed when there is an obstruction of a stalactite's hollow, tube-like passageway where the water filters through. When the slender water channels become clogged, the sides of the stalactite open up and eventually form helectites, which jet out of the stalactites into extraordinary displays.
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