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Groundwater Deposits

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Groundwater Deposits

Stalactites

Stalactite and stalagmite. These features are really very interesting. When the water level is lowered to a level below cave, the water entering the cave from above drips down through holes in the roofs. The Carbon Dioxide of the water is freed and the calcium carbonate dissolved in the water is deposited on the inside of the roof. The deposition starts forming in the shape and size of a ring. The ring continues to lengthen gradually. When the material of the water continues to deposit, the ring elongates down from the ceiling and hangs from the latter. The deposited material hanging from the ceiling are called stalactites.



The drops which fall on the floors also deposit their calcium carbonate. The deposited material slowly develops upward. It has a small depression at its top. It is known as Stalagmite. Sometimes these two features meet each other thus forming a pillar. Such pillars are known as cavern pillars. Such pillars are numerous in the Carlsbad caves of New Mexico (U.S.A.). There is a stalagmite with a base of 60 meters and a height of 30 meters. In Virginia 40,100 stalactites can be seen from a single point in the Schenandoah Valley (Virginia). These stalactites are brilliantly coloured.



Each stalactite starts with one drop of water rich in minerals. When the water drops, it forms a thin layer of calcite. Each later drop leaves another calcite ring. At the end, these rings make a very narrow (0.5 mm), hollow tube commonly known as a soda straw stalactite. Soda straws can grow quite long, but are very fragile. If they become plugged by debris, water begins flowing over the outside, depositing more calcite and creating the more familiar cone-shaped stalactite.

The same water drops that fall from the tip of a stalactite deposit more calcite on the floor below, eventually resulting in a rounded or cone-shaped stalagmite. Unlike stalactites, stalagmites never start out as hollow soda straws.

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