Did you know that caves maintain the same temperature year-round, no matter how cold or hot it is on the surface? Want more food for thought? You can find cave-made bacon and soda straws, as well as other curious formations in caverns scattered throughout the Chesapeake watershed. Here are the names of five such formations. See if you can match them to their definitions and photos on this page. Answers are on page 29.
To learn more about caves in the Chesapeake region, see Bay Journeys, tucked inside this issue.
1. This word comes from a Greek word that means “to drip.” Water traveling through the rock above the cave frequently dissolves minerals as it moves down. When it reaches the roof of the cave, the drip falls, but not before leaving behind a tiny ring of the dissolved minerals on the roof. This formation gets larger each time a new drip leaves another ring on top of previous rings. Over the years (sometimes thousands of years) the tip of this formation gets clogged and the drips roll down the sides, creating this skinny, cone-shaped structure.
2. This term describes the formation in #1 before the rings have gotten clogged. These hollow mineral tubes are very delicate and easily broken. On the rare occasions when they are left undisturbed, this cave feature can grow to be 30 feet long.
3. When water flows down the ledge or a wall of a cave, it leaves a deposit of calcium and other minerals. Over time, these deposits can form a delicate, sheetlike formation called cave drapery. These draperies vary in color depending on other minerals present in the water. When iron oxide is present, it produces reddish brown stripes that give this formation its name.
4. This formation is created when seep water that is rich in calcite is forced from tiny cracks in the cave — usually the side or ceiling, but sometimes the floor. When the seep water is exposed to air in the cave, it deposits two disc-like plates that are parallel to the cave’s wall and descend from each side of the crack. Continual seepage and deposits between these two plates causes them to grow.
5. When drops of water land on the bottom of the cave, they leave a mineral deposit. Over time, these deposits add up, forming a structure that rises from the floor. Sometimes, this formation grows high enough that it connects with the formation described in #1; the resulting formation is called a “column.”
Cave Bacon: 5 - C
Shield: 3 - E
Soda Straw: 2 - B
Stalactite: 1 - D
Stalagmite: 5 - A