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Home > Earth > Earth Records > Deepest Cave Tour > How Lechuguilla Cave was Formed

The Formation of Lechugilla Cave

Not only is Lechuguilla a gem amongst caves for its unusual beauty and depth, but also for the rare way in which it was formed. Most caves are formed in a type of rock called limestone, which is made up of millions of tiny fossilized marine animals that piled up on an ancient sea floor. The shells of these creatures were made of calcium carbonate, a mineral which dissolves very easily in even the weakest acids. When water that is naturally acidic trickles down into cracks in the ground, making its way to the layers of limestone, it dissolves it - leaving caves underground where layers of limestone used to be.

Lechuguilla happened when hydrogen sulfide gas bubbled up from nearby oil reservoirs deep in the ground. What caused the hydrogen sulfide to be released was the uplifting of the surrounding mountains, which created deep cracks in the earth over the oil reservoirs. A chemical reaction between the hydrogen sulfide gas and the oxygen molecules in the groundwater created a very powerful acid - sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid ate through the layers of limestone underground, leaving a maze of open cracks and caves. Unlike most caves that were formed from the top down, Lechuguilla was created from the bottom up.

Meet a caver who's been inside of Lechuguilla Cave ->

See the incredible crystal formations in Lechguilla Cave - >

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