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Caves, Karst, Speleology - Australia

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For those new to the world of caves and caving, following is a glossary of some cave related terminology.

To see a more detailed glossary, visit any one of the dedicated caving sites such as the Australian Speleological Federation. Other sites can be found on our links page.
 

calcite
• A common mineral consisting of crystallised calcium carbonate, the main constituent of limestone.
cave coral
• Also called ‘coralloids’, they are small speleothems that consist of short stalks or branching stems with bulbous ends. They usually occur in patches and can be formed submersed in a pool or found growing on a cave wall or ceiling.
cave pearl
• A concentrically-banded concretion found in shallow hollows into which water drips. A cave pearl is made up of concentric layers around a nucleus and can be spherical, cylindrical, irregular or even cubic in shape. They range in size from being as small as a grain of sand, up to about 15 cm. A single cave pearl can be found sitting in it’s own ‘cup’ or as a group of pearls in a ‘nest’.
karst
• An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns. “Karst” is a Slovene/German word used to describe landscapes that are developed principally by chemical processes rather than physical processes. Such chemical processes usually consist of the erosion of limestone rock by acidic water. Water can become acidic as it moves through vegetation matter on the Earth’s surface. While caves and caverns are characteristic features of karst areas, not all karst areas have caves.
speleology
• The scientific study of caves. Exploration of caves.
speleothem
• A secondary mineral deposit formed in caves, most commonly calcite.
stalactite
• A stalactite hangs downwards from a roof or wall.
stalagmite
• A stalagmite projects vertically upwards from a cave floor.

Another way to remember the difference between stalactite and stalagmite - a stalactite has to hang on ‘tight’ and a stalagmite ‘might’ grow up to the ceiling.
 

Cave Pearl, Baldocks Cave, Mole Creek, Tasmania
Cave Pearl, Baldocks Cave, Mole Creek, Tasmania

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