Cave Formations: Stalagmites vs. Stalactites

Cave Formations Stalagmites vs StalactitesCaves are among the most interesting geological formations. Imagine a building-sized solid block of limestone rock that slowly dissolves over time into a formation resembling Swiss cheese. These formations house some of the most interesting geological features that you can see, but getting to them can be tricky. Often extending deep into the ground, caves are home for formation such as massive crystals, stalagmites and stalactites.

Stalagmites are formations that rise from the floor of the cave while stalactites are similar forms that hang from the ceiling. Both of these formations come from a buildup of minerals, usually calcium carbonate, derived from the limestone in the cave.

For Stalagmite formation, water that is rich in calcium carbonate (calcite or limestone) drips from the ceiling of the cave and lands on the floor. The mineral comes out of solution and creates a buildup of the mineral on the floor of the cave. As additional water drips from the ceiling to the floor, the stalagmite gets taller from the mineral accumulation over time.

Stalactites form in the opposite manner. Calcium carbonate is deposited and builds up on the ceiling of the cave as the water drips. As more water drips the stalactite grows in size and extends further and further toward the floor.

Stalagmites and stalactites often look like fingers within the cave. The image above is from Carlsbad Cavern shows a large collection of stalagmites and stalactites that create a spectacular display for visitors.

In the book, Blue John’s Cavern, Brody, Emma and Max find huge stalagmites and stalactities in the Blue John cave in England.  You can find beautiful examples of stalagmites and stalactities in many caves around the world.

If you have pictures from your own cave tours where you saw beautiful stalagmites an stalactites, we would love to see them in the comments here or you can post them on our Facebook page.

One Response to “Cave Formations: Stalagmites vs. Stalactites”

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