Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cave Chandeliers Explained

Have you ever walked into a cave and were amazed at what you saw?
Oh My!
Okay, maybe not this! More like this:

These things in caves that look like spikes or chandeliers (whether coming up from the ground or down from the ceiling) are called speleothems. Speleothems are found in two forms: stalactites and stalagmites.

You may wonder: "How are these even created?" Well, as usual, science has an answer for this!

These chandeliers first start because there is a cave or cavern in the ground, or a big open space where they can grow. Just like the crystals we talked about last time. When it rains the water travels through cracks in the rock. This water reacts with the rock (normally soluble limestone) and creates calcium bicarbonate or other chemical solutions. When the solution drips through that cracks and into the cave it comes into contact with the air in the cave and solidifies. This creates the stalactite.

Stalactites will often drip solution onto the ground creating a stalagmite. The best way to remember the difference is through their spelling.
C- Ceiling G- Ground
Sometimes stalactites and stalagmites grow close enough to touch. Stalactites are also sometime called "soda straws" because when they first form they are long thin formations that look like straws. When speleothems form they grow in layers. Each layer is slightly different than the others because the way water reacts with the minerals and contaminates in the rock.


  1. When the two touch do they ever break? What are they called when they converge? Do they ever grow so close they almost touch but never do?

  2. You asked a good question. Stalactite and stalagmites slowly almost touch as they continue to change. When the stalactite and stalagmite meet, they become a column. If someone were to bother the column or if there was a big earthquake, the column would break.


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