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Formation of Caves

Welcome to the "Formation of Caves" web!  Please use the links on the left to explore the world of cave formations.

Cave Formations

What are caverns or caves? A cave is defined as a natural cavity that is formed underneath the Earth's surface that can range from a few meters to many kilometers in length and depth. A cavern is formed after billions of years underneath the Earth's surface due to all the  weather activity that occurs on the Earth. Formation of caverns is a continual process that occurs because of the continual movements of the Earth's surface. The weathering process causes erosion of rocks and minerals above and below the Earth's surface.

Billions of years ago during the early formation of the Earth, life first appeared on the Earth underneath the ocean's waters. Many of the early organisms were protected by shell coverings. When these organisms died, their shell deposits were left behind on the ocean floor. These shells left behind by the millions of organisms that lived on the floor of the oceans turned into sedimentary rock due to the tremendous pressure and gravitational force applied by many layers of build up over a period of billions of years.

After billions of years of sedimentary rock build up and Earth movements, the rocks beneath the ocean floor began to rise up above the water levels of the oceans. The rising land surfaces began to drain and became dry land and mountainous regions of present day. The new land surfaces formed were composed mainly of limestone which is a mineral that is formed from corals and shells
of preexisting organisms.

As time elapsed, the limestone sediment began to dissolve, crack, and break because limestone is a very permeable rock. The water cycle was the main cause of the wearing away of the limestone sediment that made up various land areas of the Earth. Carbonic acid in rain water reacting within limestone sediment erodes away the limestone as the water filters into the underlying depths of
sediments that compose the interior of the Earth's land areas. Large hollow cavities are carved within the limestone sediment deep within the interior of  the Earth after billions of years of the weathering process. There can be many rooms that occur at various depths because of continual seepage and water flow to these cave areas.

Entrances to caves are carved from the cave's underground water flow. The water flow is like an underground river that can eventually carve its way through a mountainside creating waterfalls on the outside surface areas. Another entrance that caves have are pit and depression areas that are located at the tops of caves. Many beautiful structures form inside caverns. All structures inside of a cavern require millions of years to develop which occur as carbonic acid carrying limestone drip through the cavern areas. Some of these structures inside a cavern include: speleothems, helictites, stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. All the listed structures are defined and illustrated in the following pages of the web site. There are at least one cavern in each state of the United States. For further information, contact or go by any tourist center in any state throughout the country.

Project Author: Jeff Stanley

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