We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are Some Common Cave Features?

Michael Anissimov
By
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The world’s caves contain numerous beautiful and mysterious formations for anyone brave enough to venture into them. There are the obvious ones – stalactites and stalagmites – but also soda straws, flowstone, columns, curtains, helictites, ringstone dams, cave corals, and many others. These formations are called speleothems, from the Greek spelaion for cave and thema for deposit. Cave formations grow slowly, about a centimeter per year or less, requiring centuries or millennia to create the amazing forms we can see today.

The most familiar cave formations are the stalactite and the stalagmite. Stalactites form from soda straws, hollow, elongated tubes of calcite (calcium carbonate) formed as water drips down from a hole or crack in the ceiling. Each drop of water deposits a tiny bit of calcite, and over time it gets built up. The material is called dripstone. When a soda straw gets large enough, it becomes a stalactite. A stalagmite is a complementary cave feature that forms on the ground underneath a stalactite. It is formed by the calcite-laden drops dripping from the ceiling. An easy way to remember the difference between the two is that stalactites hold tight to the ceiling, whereas stalagmites might reach the ceiling. When a stalactite and stalagmite meet, they become a column. Columns can become quite impressive, with the largest 10 m or greater in height.

Many cave formations are all based on the same principle of slowly dripping water depositing calcite, or sometimes gypsum, which is calcium sulfate, into complex shapes over long time periods. You can observe this effect yourself by mixing water with sand, cupping it in your hands, and letting the water drip down. Quickly the sand will build up, creating a small tower.

Another variation of the classic stalactite is the helictite, a stalactite that forms so slowly that subtle chemical or physical changes caused an alteration of the crystal structure of the deposited calcite, slowly twisting it around. Helictites appear as spiraling cylinders or needles.

When water drips through an elongated crack or flows down an incline on the ceiling as it falls, it can create curtains and draperies, delicately folding cave formations which look like their namesakes.

When calcite-rich water flows down a wall, it is called flowstone. Sometimes this water flows down a vertical drop in a cave, and is called flowstone falls. Sometimes instead of flowing, water under hydrostatic pressure is slowly extruded from a crack in the wall or floor, creating a structure called a shield.

There are many other beautiful cave formations: cave pearls, clouds, rafts and raft cones, rimstone, shelfstone, bottlebrush, canopies, and more. To look at images of these features, find them using your favorite image search.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Anissimov
By Michael Anissimov , Writer
Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, and futurism to his articles. An avid blogger, Michael is deeply passionate about stem cell research, regenerative medicine, and life extension therapies. His professional experience includes work with the Methuselah Foundation, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Lifeboat Foundation, further showcasing his commitment to scientific advancement.

Discussion Comments

Michael Anissimov

Michael Anissimov

Writer

Michael Anissimov is a dedicated All The Science contributor and brings his expertise in paleontology, physics, biology...
Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.