Those orange things in the picture above? They’re people.
Naica Mine, located in Mexico, is home to one of the world’s largest deposits of silver, lead, and zinc, which makes it an active ground for exploration. In 2000, when a pair of miners were excavating inside the mine, hoping to build a new tunnel, they instead stumbled upon the incredible — the Cave of the Crystals, a chamber of enormous crystals, some measuring 36 feet long and weighing over 50 tons.
The cave is located nearly 1,000 feet underground. By comparison, Mexico’s tallest completed building, the Torre Mayor, ascends “only” 750 feet above ground. (Four other proposed or in-progress buildings in the country will, as planned, be taller.) Geologists theorize that the chamber’s crystals formed out of a perfect coincidence: the presence of mineral rich water in an area so close to the Earth’s core (and shielded from the Sun and the elements we are subjected to on land) that the temperature was both sufficiently hot and stable as to help crystal growth.
For now, the crystals have stopped growing. Mining operations have required that the Cave be pumped dry, and without the raw materials to form even larger (!) crystals, the awe-inspiring relics are frozen in time. But if at some point the pumps stop, there is no reason to believe that the crystal growth won’t return. In short: as immense as these crystals are, they may end up even larger.
More photos are available at Planet Oddity.
Bonus fact: The city of Santa Rosa, California has an ordinance which requires any large-scale new construction project to set aside 1% of its expenditures to fund the arts. A new Nissan dealership is being erected in the town, and at $3.7 million to build, that leaves enough money for a 65 foot tall, 10,000 pound monolith of over 300 discarded bicycles (click for pictures). That’s twice the length of the bigger Naica crystals — but only one-tenth the weight!
Related: A solar-powered moving bicycle sculpture. It only has 2.5 stars, though.