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Caves by Marie and Michelle

We love to plan mysterious adventures in our home state of California, and what's more mysterious than a deep, dark, rocky cave? We explored the California Cavern to answer this DFTV question: how do cave formations change as we explore the deepest parts of the cavern?

What did we do?
From our earlier caving trips, we learned what to expect inside the cavern. Cave formations called speleothems are mineral deposits that build up on the ceiling, floors and walls. The two most common are the ones that grow from the ceiling down, called stalactites, and others that grow from the floor up, called stalagmites. We looked at the number of speleothems we found in three different locations to determine if there were more formations deeper down, or more near the cave's surface.

What did we find out?
Our first stop was a cave room 45 paces in. We laid down a string and counted the number of formations above or below the string. We found 19. We also noticed dripping water. At our second stop we were at least 260 paces in, and counted 24 formations. There was so much water there that it formed a small lake! Our final stop, which was more than 300 paces in, had 17 formations. We could tell from the muddy floor that this stop also had some water. We concluded that cave formations can happen anywhere, as long as water could seep through to that part of the cave.

What can you do?
  • Visit a tourist cave and do your own speleothem count on your tour. Make drawings of the kinds of speleothems you see. You might find things that look like soda straws, ribbons or even a carrot!
  • Are bats the only creatures that live in caves? Do some research to find out what kinds of animals are regular cave-dwellers. If you visit a tourist cave, keep an eye out for any critters that might call the place home!
  • Is there more than one kind of mineral in a cave? When you walk through a tourist cave, notice the color of the rocks in the walls, floor, and ceiling. Ask your guide for help in identifying the kinds of minerals present by the colors you see.
  • Use this cave investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on caverns.

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
How large is the average meteor?

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