The Deadly and Beautiful Crystal Cave

[caption id="attachment_28704" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Photo: Carsten Peter, Speleoresearch & Films"][/caption]

A geological wonder of immense proportions and intense beauty can be found in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico... 1000+ feet below the surface.  Mentioned on Neatorama before for the photographic wowness, the Cueva de los Cristales - the Giant Crystal Cave - is also one of the most deadly environments on the planet.

For his BBC series How Earth Made Us, filmmaker Paul Williams discovered firsthand the scorching heat and toxic setting that has kept humans away from the crystal phenomenon.  "The coolest part of the caves is your lungs and so moist air starts to accumulate in them... leading to respiratory difficulties."
Cueva de los Cristales is the incarnation of our most awesome science fiction imaginations - Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Superman's Fortress of Solitude. At about the same time as humans first ventured out of Africa, these crystals began to slowly grow. For half a million years they remained protected and nurtured by a womb of hot hydrothermal fluids rich with minerals.

It wasn't until 2001 that miners, searching for lead, eventually penetrated the cave wall and brought it to light. [...]  My hope is that Gonzalo will prevail in his mission to secure funding and to preserve this site as a world heritage monument. To me they are a testament to the hidden forces of the planet, forces which operate on scales far beyond our own.

Link to Story.  Experience the caves in this Video.  (via Dark Roasted Blend)

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Johnny Cat. Nobody died in there. It was underwater until the mining company that discovered it drained it, and they knew it was pretty hot going in. They're only allowed to stay in there for about 30 minutes, even with their incredibly specialized suits and gear.
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