Caves are cool – in every sense of the word. Not only are caves fascinating, but some caves have temperatures so chilling they could rival any fridge freezer.
The lure of caves
Caves are so intriguing because they’re so unique, intricate and mysterious. When we hear how caves are formed over thousands of years, it can be mind-boggling. Yet, caves also represent something primeval. They’re full of secrets and undiscovered worlds, often out of reach of humans. With their fascinating history, caves are a great source of inspiration to many people.
What makes caves even more alluring is that most are formed from a single drop of water. Typically, a tiny drop of water mixes with carbon dioxide to form an acid. When this weak acid makes contact with a small crack in a rock it dissolves the crack. Fast forward thousands, if not millions of years, and this hollow crack becomes enlarged to form a cave – mineral deposits left by drops of water form into stalactites and stalagmites.
Caves can also form when waves erode cliff rock, or when a gas made by bacteria forms an acid that dissolves rock, as well as when lava forms into tubes.
Temperature also affects cave structure and formation, and inevitably, many caves are very cold as they’re deprived of sunlight. Just how cold a cave might get will often depend on where it’s located, but cave temperatures tend to remain consistent throughout the year, even with the changing seasons.
Caves can be found under glaciers, and as you’d expect, these are made up of solid blocks of ice.
The largest ice cave in the world, Eisriesenwelt, can be found deep under the Austrian Alps near Salzburg. This cave measures over 30 miles long and was discovered in 1879. With its beguiling ice structures of varying shades, this cave has become a popular tourist attraction.
Iceland’s Skaftafell ice cave, located in Skaftafell National Park, is also one of the world’s most famous frozen caves. If you visit after heavy rain, the ice takes on a blue hue, while the tiniest movement of the glacier can result in a cacophony of sounds.
Another renowned ice cave, Dobšinská, resides in Slovakia. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, this ice cave boasts huge structures, with some ice formations measuring 26.5 metres thick.
On the other hand, at Kamchatka’s ice cave in Russia, the ice is so thin that when the sun strikes its surface, it creates dazzling multi-coloured lights.
Heat and humidity
Cave structures aren’t just influenced by freezing cold temperatures. In fact, intense heat and humidity have shaped a cave at Chihuahua in Mexico. Located under silver and lead mines, this cave boasts 99% humidity, with temperatures topping 112 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2000, it was discovered that this fierce heat has enabled unique crystals to form inside the cave.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to climb Mount Everest, but going below ground instead of above it, then the Krubera Cave in Abkhazia Territory (Georgia) is as close as you’ll get. As the deepest cave on the planet, dropping a record-breaking 2,191 metres into the Arabika Massif, brave explorers will notice the temperature dramatically plunge the further they go down.
So deep is this cave, that trekkers need to make base camps at different depths before they reach the bottom, typically after about two weeks.
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