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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Skyline Caverns -- A look at the rare anthodites



A couple of months ago I did a post about Skyline Caverns -- it is located in Front Royal, Virginia, about 90 minutes from downtown D.C. It's a great trip at any given time of the year due to the constant 54-degree temperatures in the cavern.

Over the years I've visited a few different cavern sites and each one is unique in its own way. There are a few things that are special and unique about Skyline Caverns, probably the most being it possesses anthodites, a rare formation that occurs in caves. Anthodites are also referred to as the "Orchids of the Mineral Kingdom."

Defined, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), states, "Aragonite, a calcium carbonate mineral similar to calcite but not as common, often occurs in intricate needles known as anthodites."

Discovered in the 1930s by Dr. Walter Amos and his crew, the anthodites at Skyline Caverns were totally accidental. On the tour visitors learn one of the workers had gotten a shovel stuck in the mud and it took many men to help pull it out. As the men loosened the shovel, an explosion-like force occurred. What they found was astonishing.

Rare Anthodites at Skyline Caverns
Rare Anthodites in various growth stages

Anthodites at Skyline Caverns

Remarkably, the crew had stumbled upon an air vacuum. By yanking the shovel out, that seal had been broken. While common in outer space, it is a rare occurrence on Earth. However, breaking the seal did prevent the anthodites from growing any further. The ones found by Amos and his crew are now eternally preserved in four stages of growth. Really neat to see, especially if you are fascinated by this kind of thing.

rare anthodites
These anthodites are preserved and no longer growing
Truly exquisite in nature, for the most part scientists are puzzled as to how they form. Although, the mystery is said to add to their beauty. Skyline is one of the few places in the world where the public can see them. Seeing the beautiful handiwork of Mother Nature up close and realizing the secrets she holds up is a memorable experience.

The largest of the anthodites at Skyline

For information about tour times, admission and other relevant information, you can also visit Skyline's website.

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