Lechuguilla Cave is a limestone cave. Since it was not discovered until 1984, the cave is mostly pristine. And it will remain pristine because almost no one is allowed in to explore.
Amazing But True!
Spelunkers are adventurers who explore caves. Every once in a while, spelunkers find a new cave that no one ever knew about before. How do they find it? In 1974, two spelunkers followed warm, moist air emanating from a crack to discover Kartchner Caverns in Arizona. Wind roaring through rubble on the floor of a small cave caused a group of cavers to dig a hole and discover Lechuguilla Cave in 1984. Besides a large cavern, these caves usually have distinctive and beautiful features called speleothems. Speleothems are secondary mineral deposits like stalactites or stalagmites.
With the links below, learn more about how caves form. Apply what you learn to understand more about the speleothems at Lechugiuilla Cave. Then answer the following questions.
- PBS, How Caves Form: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/how-caves-form.html
- PBS, Jewel of the Underground: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/jewel-of-the-underground.html
- What are the four ways that cave form?
- Describe the six stages that lead to the formation of a limestone cave, like Lechuguilla Cave.
- Calcite and gypsum are the main minerals that make up speleothems. In Lechuguilla Cave, which types of speleothems are made of which mineral?
- Image #11 is a miniature tree of aragonite. Under what conditions does a feature like this form? Why don’t you see features like that above ground?
- Lechuguilla Cave is closed to the public. Do you agree that this cave should be preserved? Who should have access to this cave?