Photography : Land & Sky: Colorful Caverns
Carlsbad Carverns are a natural limestone formation about a three hour drive from Las Cruces, but the sights are worth the drive. The caverns are an underground cave system formed by sulfuric acid dissolving the native limestone. Carlsbad isn't a crystal cave with faced quartz or calcite winking from every wall. It's more like an underground castle with carved pillars, ribbons and tapestries, fantastic chambers, and watery grottos. Also, I learned that digital cameras pick up more colors from the fluorescent lighting than human eyes, making my picutres much more colorful! I stole the following text from the official National Parks Service Carlsbad Caverns FAQ:
"The cave was dissolved along cracks and faults in the limestone rock by sulfuric acid. The limestone was laid down about two-hundred and fifty million years ago, as part of a reef complex along the edge of an inland sea. Seventeen to twenty million years ago, the ancient reef rocks that had been buried under thousands of feet of younger rocks began to lift upwards. Tectonic forces pushed the buried rock layers up and erosion wore away softer minerals to expose the ancient reef as the Guadalupe Mountains. Deep in the basin, a brine originating from oil and gas deposits and rich in hydrogen sulfide was forced into the limestone at the edge of the basin. When this brine encountered oxygen-rich rainwater moving down through the rock, it created sulfuric acid. This acid dissolved the limestone creating cave passages. As the Guadalupe Mountains continued to lift up, the water drained out of the cave allowing fresh water to percolate through and leave minerals on the ceiling, walls, and floors that we know as cave decorations."