Friday, February 8, 2013

LECHUGUILLA CAVE, NEW MEXICO, USA


Lechuguilla Cave is the seventh longest explored cave in the world at 216.6 km (134.6 miles) and is found in Carlsbad Caverns National Park. It is the deepest cave in the continental United States at 489 metres (1,604 feet). Since 1986, explorers have mapped over 210 km (130 miles) of passages. It is named for a plant found near its entrance, Agave lechuguilla.

It contains rare formations with large amounts of gypsum and lemon-yellow sulphur deposits. The rare speleothems within the cave include 6.1 m gypsum chandeliers, 6.1 m gypsum hairs and beards, 4.6 m soda straws, hydromagnesite balloons, cave pearls, subaqueous helictites, rusticles, U-loops and J-loops. The large amount of gypsum and sulphur supports speleogenesis by sulphuric acid dissolution.

Chemolithoautotrophic (rock-eating) bacteria are believed to exist in the cave, feeding on the sulfur, iron, and manganese minerals present. These bacteria may assist in enlarging the cave and shaping the speleothems into interesting shapes.

The photo shows stalagmites, stalactites, and draperies by a pool in Lechuguilla Cave. Access to the cave is limited only to the approved scientific researchers, survey and exploration teams.


http://www.nps.gov/cave/naturescience/lechuguilla_cave.htm
Photo: Dave Bunnell http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/02/Lechuguilla_Cave_Pearlsian_Gulf.jpg

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