Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I've mentioned this cave a number of times, but I think this is the first time I've seen video of the stunning crystals. I can't post it here, but it's available in an article at BBC.
Mexico's Cave of Crystals stunned geologists when it was first discovered in 2000. The underground chamber contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found - some of the selenite structures have grown to more than 10m long. Professor Iain Stewart got a rare glimpse of the subterranean spectacle while filming for the new BBC series How the Earth Made Us.
Another quote that particularly got my attention was this one:
We kept on being told how difficult it was going to be to film in the Naica Cave, but nothing really prepares you for the extremes of that cavern.

It's about 50C in there, but it's the virtually 100% humidity added on top that makes it a potential killer.

That combination means that when you breathe air into your body, the surface of your lungs is actually the coolest surface the air encounters. That means the fluid starts to condense inside your lungs - and that's really not good news.
50C is about 122F. This is probably not a place in which I would survive even a brief visit.

It also caused to to wonder, as I have many times before, why we humans perceive beauty in the places, things and forms we do. Another post I'm planning on getting up later has an easy explanation: the first shoots of spring, in the middle of winter, I perceive as beautiful because they offer a promise of an end to cold, wet weather. Biologically, winter is the most difficult season to survive. Food is scarce, and not all that long ago, so were dependable sources of warmth. So psychologically, it makes sense that, even though it's still winter, I would feel an attraction to a symbol of better times to come.

But giant crystals? Galaxies? Nebulae? What is it in prehistoric human experience that has predisposed me to find beauty in these things?

1 comment:

Oregon Expat said...

I would say that we're predisposed to find beauty in things that are much greater than we are; that make us feel small. But then I think about how much beauty I find in electron scanning microscope photographs of crystals and fly eyeballs and butterfly wing scales, so there goes that theory. It's an interesting point to ponder.