Saturday, 4 October 2008

Cueva de los Cristales

Mexico's Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) contains some of the world's largest known natural crystals—translucent beams of selenite, a variety of gypsum, as long as 36 feet (11 metres).

Found deep in a mine in southern Chihuahua, Mexico, these crystals were formed in a natural cave totally enclosed in bedrock. The Naica mine was first discovered by early prospectors in 1794 south of Chihuahua City. They struck a vein of silver at the base of a range of hills called Naica by the Tarahumara Indians.
From the discovery until about 1900, the primary interest was silver and gold. Around 1900 large-scale mining began as zinc and lead became more valuable.
The famous Cave of Swords was discovered at a depth of 400 feet. Due to the incredible crystals, it was decided to try to preserve this cave. While many of the crystals have been collected, this is still a fascinating cave to visit. In one part there are so many crystals on one of the walls, they appear to be like an underwater reef moving in a gentle undulating motion in an ocean current. Then, in April 2000, brothers Juan and Pedro Sanchez were drilling a new tunnel when they made a truly spectacular discovery - the Cave of Crystals. While Naica miners are accustomed to finding crystals, Juan and Pedro were absolutely amazed by the cavern that they found. The brothers immediately informed the engineer in charge, Roberto Gonzalez. Gonzalez realized that they had discovered a natural treasure and quickly rerouted the tunnel. During this phase some damage was done as several miners tried to remove pieces of the mega-crystals, so the mining company soon installed an iron door to protect the find. While there are more crystals in the Cave of Swords, they are far smaller, typically about a yard long. Their relative compactness is likely due to a rapid temperature decline, as opposed to the far more gradual change that is believed to have encouraged the megacrystals in the deeper cave.

Selenite, the gypsum crystal, named after the Greek goddess of the moon due to its soft white light, is said to have many metaphysical and healing benefits. Selenite powder has been used cosmetically for thousands of years to enhance one's natural beauty. It is believed that this crystal assists with mental focus, growth, luck, immunity, and soothes the emotions.

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