Crystal Cave of the Giants – Discovery of the Largest Crystals on Earth

Richard D. Fisher – Photographer/Explorer

Cave of the Giants

In what has proved to be the discovery of the largest known crystals on earth, work is underway to document and preserve this historic find. While some minor damage has already occurred in the primary cave and a secondary cavern, called Cave of Dreams, iron doors have been installed by the Peñoles company to prevent damage to the giant, magnificent crystals. While investigations are underway the mine is closed, but with the newly installed lighting system, it is expected to open in the fall 2001.

Found deep in a mine in southern Chihuahua Mexico, these crystals were formed in a natural cave totally enclosed in bedrock. When I first stepped into the cavern it was like walking into the Land of the Giants. I have often admired crystal geodes held in my hand, but when photographing these unique natural structures it was almost impossible to get any sense of scale. This is a geode full of spectacular crystals as tall as pine trees, and in some cases greater in circumference. They have formed beautiful crystals that are a translucent gold and silver in color, and come in many incredible forms and shapes. Some of the largest are essentially columnar in shape and stand thirty to fifty feet high and three to four feet in diameter. Many of the smaller examples are four to six feet in circumference, have many incredible geometrical shapes, and probably weigh in excess of ten tons. The columnar pillars are at first the most striking shape, but later I noticed there were thousands of “sharks teeth” up to three feet high placed row upon row and dispersed at odd angles throughout the caverns. While some of the crystals are attached to the ceiling walls and floors of the cave as might be expected, some exist in great masses of spikes and almost float in air. These crystals seem to defy gravity, as they must weigh several tons.

The crystal cavern was discovered within the same limestone body that hosts the silver-zinc-lead ore bodies exploited by the mine. The cavern was probably dissolved by the same hydrothermal fluids that deposited the metals with the gypsum being crystallized during the waning stages of mineralization. The crystals probably grew relatively quickly to their immense size within a completely liquid-filled cavern.

As a professional photographer who specializes in environmentally difficult, narrow and wet canyons worldwide, it was almost impossible to obtain clear photographs even using every trick and technique I know, because of the extreme ambient environment. These crystals are probably stable, as the temperature in the cave is over 150 degrees Fahrenheit with 100% humidity. In other words, these structures are enveloped in steam. As a photographer used to working in dark and dangerous environments, this experience was unique. A human can only function in this environment for six to ten minutes before severe loss of mental functions occurs. I was so excited while photographing the crystals that I really had to focus and concentrate intensely on getting back out the door, which was perhaps only thirty to forty feet away.

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. The origin in the Tarahumara language seems to mean “a shady place”. Perhaps here in the small canyon there was a grove of trees tucked away by a small canyon spring.

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.

During the Mexican Revolution the mine was producing a great deal of wealth. Revolutionary troops entered the town and demanded money from the owners. One of them was assassinated when he refused to pay, causing the mine to shut down from 1911 to 1922.

Just before the mine was closed, 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.

In April 2000, brothers Juan and Pedro Sanchez were drilling a new tunnel when they made a truly spectacular discovery. 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. Ing. 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. Later, one of the workers, with the intention of stealing crystals, managed to get in through a narrow hole. He tried to take some plastic bags filled with fresh air inside, but the strategy didn’t work. He lost consciousness and later was found thoroughly baked.

When entering the cave our group is issued helmets, lanterns, rubber boots, and gloves. We are then driven by truck into the main mining tunnel called Rampa Sn. Francisco. While the vertical drop is approximately 1000 feet, the drive is almost a half mile long. The heat steadily increases and the ladies could be observed to begin “glowing”. The truck stops in front of a concrete wall with a steel door. I start working frantically to put the final touches on my pre-prepared camera outfit. I usually have four separate camera units, but they must be padded for the trip and then receive a last minute detail check. Every single item is preset before entering the cavern, as every moment inside is precious and concentration must be focused strictly on the crystals and people. The photographic machinery must work perfectly as the heat almost immediately begins to impair brain function.

At the end of the tunnel there are three or four steps into the aperture of the cavern itself. It is in this short tunnel that I move very quickly and concentrate on focusing my mind and that of my group on the task of photography. In this short distance the temperature and humidity goes from being uncomfortably warm to literally a blast furnace. Almost immediately our clothing is so soaked in sweat that it becomes heavy and starts to slide off our bodies. On my first trip it was really hard to keep my pants up, which was a new and unexpected experience.

Momentarily, the penetrating heat is forgotten as the crystals pop into view on the other side of the newly named “Eye of the Queen”. The entire panorama is now lighted and the cavern has a depth and impressive cathedral-like appearance that was not visible on earlier trips with just our headlamps.

When inside the great cathedral of crystals, the pressure of intense heat makes my feelings run up and down the emotional scale from shear religious awe to outright panic. The ladies are no longer “glowing” and indeed are “red hot”. When I’m done working after three trips into the great cavern, my friends almost have to carry me out. We want to see more, but physically cannot. When the experience is over there is a great relief, but all we can think about is when can we go back in.

Cave of the Giants

When I talk to professional geologists about crystals they tell me that these natural forms are incredibly complex, yet so simple. They have a magical or metaphysical personality independent of their chemical structures. These geologists have explained to me that there is a magma chamber two to three miles below the mountain and that heat from this compressed lava travels through the faults up into the area of the mine. Super heated fluids carry the minerals the miners are seeking as well as form the crystals. The mine is ventilated; otherwise, it could not be worked. Some parts, however, are not air-conditioned, such as the Cave of the Crystals, and there you feel the heat from the magma deep below.

When describing the crystal formation the geologists’ eyes light up with a special emotional fascination. They tell how the fluids travel along the Naica fault, enter voids in the bedrock, and then form entirely natural structures that are not easily explained by science.

I have been told that the mining company was afraid to tunnel through the Naica fault for fear of flooding the entire mine. In April 2000, the company became confident that the water table on the other side of the fault had been lowered sufficiently to drill. When they did this, it is almost as if a magical veil of reality was breached and an entirely new world was discovered. Two caverns filled with the Earth’s largest crystals were immediately revealed. More discoveries are expected to be made in this magical kingdom of intense natural beauty.

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. It is unquestionably magical that the cool white rays of moonlight can originate deep underground in a black chamber that is, at least in my perception, white hot.

I thank Ing. Roberto Gonzales and Ing. Roberto Villasuso, of the Pe°Ëoles Mining Company and Sonia Estrada and Carlos Lazcano for contributions to this text and photographs.

2007 German horror tale

By Paul Belien – The Washington Times – www.washingtontimes.com

Earlier this month, a German teen-ager was forcibly taken from her parents and imprisoned in a psychiatric ward. Her crime? She is being home-schooled.

On Feb. 1, 15 German police officers forced their way into the home of the Busekros family in the Bavarian town of Erlangen. They hauled off 16-year-old Melissa, the eldest of the six Busekros children, to a psychiatric ward in nearby Nuremberg. Last week, a court affirmed that Melissa has to remain in the Child Psychiatry Unit because she is suffering from “school phobia.”

Home-schooling has been illegal in Germany since Adolf Hitler outlawed it in 1938 and ordered all children to be sent to state schools. The home-schooling community in Germany is tiny. As Hitler knew, Germans tend to obey orders unquestioningly. Only some 500 children are being home-schooled in a country of 80 million. Home-schooling families are prosecuted without mercy.

Last March, a judge in Hamburg sentenced a home-schooling father of six to a week in prison and a fine of $2,000. Last September, a Paderborn mother of 12 was locked up in jail for two weeks. The family belongs to a group of seven ethnic German families who immigrated to Paderborn from the former Soviet Union. The Soviets persecuted them because they were Baptists. An initiative of the Paderborn Baptists to establish their own private school was rejected by the German authorities. A court ruled that the Baptists showed “a stubborn contempt both for the state’s educational duty as well as the right of their children to develop their personalities by attending school.”

All German political parties, including the Christian Democrats of Chancellor Angela Merkel, are opposed to home-schooling. They say that “the obligation to attend school is a civil obligation, that cannot be tampered with.” The home-schoolers receive no support from the official (state funded) churches, either. These maintain that home-schoolers “isolate themselves from the world” and that “freedom of religion does not justify opposition against the obligation to attend school.” Six decades after Hitler, German politicians and church leaders still do not understand true freedom: that raising children is a prerogative of their fathers and mothers and not of the state, which is never a benevolent parent and often an enemy.

Hermann Stucher, a pedagogue who called upon Christians to withdraw their children from the state schools which, he says, have fallen into the hands of “neo-Marxist activists,” has been threatened with prosecution for “Hochverrat und Volksverhetzung” (high treason and incitement of the people against the authorities). The fierceness of the authorities’ reaction is telling. The dispute is about the hearts and minds of the children. In Germany, schools have become vehicles of indoctrination, where children are brought up to unquestioningly accept the authority of the state in all areas of life. It is no coincidence that people who have escaped Soviet indoctrination discern what the government is doing in the schools and are sufficiently concerned to want to protect their children from it.

What is worrying is that most “free-born” Germans accept this assault on their freedom as normal and eye parents who opt out of the state system with suspicion.

The situation is hardly better at the European level. Last September, the European Court of Human Rights supported Hitler’s 1938 schooling bill. The Strasburg-based court, whose verdicts apply in the entire European Union, ruled that the right to education “by its very nature calls for regulation by the State.” It upheld the finding of German courts: “Schools represent society, and it is in the children’s interest to become part of that society. The parents’ right to educate does not go so far as to deprive their children of that experience.”

While it is disquieting that Europeans have not learned the lessons from their dictatorial past — upholding Nazi laws and sending dissidents, including children, to psychiatric wards, as the Soviets used to do — there is reason for Americans to worry, too. The United Nations is also restricting the rights of parents. Article 29 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates that it is the goal of the state to direct the education of children. In Belgium, the U.N. Convention is currently being used to limit the constitutional right to home-school. In 1995 Britain was told that it violated the U.N. Convention by allowing parents to remove their children from public school sex-education classes.

Last year, the American Home School Legal Defense Association warned that the U.N. Convention could make home-schooling illegal in America, even though the Senate has never ratified it. Some lawyers and liberal politicians in the states claim that U.N. conventions are “customary international law” and should be considered part of American jurisprudence.

At present, young Melissa Busekros’ ordeal is a German horror story. Could it soon be an American one?

Paul Belien is editor of the Brussels Journal and an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute.

Copyright © 2007 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Blood moon delights star gazers

The lunar eclipse, as seen from Amman, Jordan

Photo: Reuters
blood moon

Thousands of people in Britain have witnessed the most spectacular lunar eclipse in more than a decade.

The first total eclipse of the moon in three years was clearly visible across much of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland thanks to clear skies and crisp weather.

The surface of the full Moon first went dark before turning a coppery red to the delight of thousands of people who stayed up to watch the display.

The moon appeared red because light scattering through the Earth’s atmosphere was reduced to predominantly-red wavelengths, which reflect off the lunar surface.

In ancient times a “blood Moon” was viewed with dread and seen as an omen of disaster or great change.

This year’s lunar eclipse could be seen most clearly from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

The event is regarded by astronomers as one of the most memorable in more than 15 years.

After the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1992, so much volcanic ash was released into the atmosphere that the eclipsed Moon that year was nearly invisible.

Since the Earth has not had a major eruption for some years, this eclipse was a more impressive sight.

Robin Scagell, from the Society for Popular Astronomy, said: “This is one of the best lunar eclipses from Britain for years. “It was fascinating to watch the Moon’s graceful movement through the shadow of the Earth and check its coppery glow.”

Dr Ian Morison, from the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory, said: “If the Earth had no atmosphere the Moon would become invisible when it fully enters the Earth’s shadow. However, light refracted and scattered through the atmosphere can still illuminate the Moon, though with far reduced brightness.

“As blue light is scattered by the atmosphere more than red light – which is why our skies are blue – the light that remains is predominantly red and orange, the colour of the Sun when close to the horizon.

“If there were astronauts on the surface of the Moon looking towards the Earth during a total lunar eclipse, they would see a black disc surrounded by a bright red ring. It is the light from this ring that we see reflected by the Moon’s surface.”

The reason an eclipse does not happen every time there is a full Moon is that the Moon’s orbit is inclined at five degrees to the Earth’s orbital path around the Sun.

As a result, the Earth’s shadow usually passes above or below the Moon.