The natural world is full of amazing things,\nand one of nature\u2019s most fascinating secrets are caves. Caves are everywhere,\nhidden under mountains and forests, along coastlines, inside frozen glaciers,\nand even sand-filled deserts. Many can\u2019t help but wonder, \u201cIf caves are found\nin all these places, are there different\ntypes of caves?\u201d\n\n\n\nAre there different types of caves? The answer is yes, there are many types of\ncaves in the world. Every landscape has its own type of cave and each type has\nits own fascinating science behind how it came to be. Melting ice, crashing\nwaves, and volcanic eruptions are just a few ways caves can be created. \n\n\n\nCaves are one of the last frontiers of exploration in developed countries and with good reason. Caves can be dangerous and the people brave enough to enter need to know exactly what kind of world they\u2019re about to get into.\n\n\n\nIf you're interested in caving, be sure to\u00a0read my Beginners Guide and recommended gear section.\n\n\n\nTypes Of Caves\n\n\n\nThere are a lot of different types of caves in\nthe world. Some giant and cavernous and others barely large enough to enter.\nWhat matters is how they\u2019re created. Cave types are determined by how they are\nformed. Using that information, scientists are able to separate caves into\nseveral categories and subcategories. \n\n\n\nIt\u2019s common for categories to overlap as caves\ncan be formed from multiple factors and changes in their structure over the\ncenturies they may exist. Caves are always changing and growing based on\nenvironmental factors both inside and outside the caves. The study of this is\nspeleology and it is a fascinating science to study.\n\n\n\nOf the many categories of caves, there are Solutional cave, Erosional caves, Sea caves, Glacier caves, Talus caves, Fracture caves, Anchialine caves, and Rock shelter caves.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHow Are Solutional Caves\nFormed?\n\n\n\nSolution or solutional caves are formed when\ngroundwater soaks through limestone, slowly absorbing carbon dioxide from the\nstone, and creating carbonic acid. This acid eats through the limestone\ncreating cracks that slowly grow into larger and larger openings in the rock until\nthey form caves.\n\n\n\nSolutional caves are often the most ornate\ntype of cave. Filled with mineral deposits called stalactites and stalagmites\nwhich dot the floors and ceilings with long tapered spikes of stone. \n\n\n\nOften, these mineral deposits will create intricate\nformations. \n\n\n\nHow Are Primary Caves\nFormed? \n\n\n\nMost often created from volcanic activity. Some forms of primary cave are Lava tubes which are made when the outer area of a lava flow cools while the center remains molten rock. Blister caves are another form of primary cave. They form when steam and carbon dioxide from erupting volcanoes create a bubble in a lava flow. \n\n\n\nLava tubes are long tunnels of black stone\nmade from cooled lava. These tunnels often have openings in the ceilings where\nsteam created from the lava escaped as it cooled. These openings are called skylights.\n\n\n\nBlister caves appear as shallow, domed caves\nwith partially collapsed openings. Due to their delicate nature, blister caves\nare rare and few are large enough to actually enter.\n\n\n\nPrimary caves are most common in volcanic areas such as Hawaii. Primary caves have also been documented on other planets. The earth\u2019s moon, mars, and venus have all been shown to have lava tubes.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHow Are Erosional Caves\nFormed?\n\n\n\nAlso called erosional caves, are caves formed\nby abrasive particles wearing away at the stone. Because of how these caves are\nformed there needs to be some sort of weakness in the stone that wind or water\ncarrying abrasive particles can start eroding away over an extremely long\nperiod of time. \n\n\n\nThe most common type of corrosion caves starts\nas solution caves. The key difference between the two is the presence of harder\ntypes of stones, like granite, forming the interior of the cave.\n\n\n\nCorrosion caves often have smooth interiors\ncreated from years of weathering. Different types of layered stone often give\nthe cave walls streaks of color.\n\n\n\nThese types of caves can be found all over the\nworld. Often, they begin life as a solutional cave.\n\n\n\nThe key difference is that solutional caves\nare lined with softer stone than corrosion caves.\n\n\n\nA subcategory of erosional caves is Eolian Caves. Eolian caves are caves\ncreated by wind blowing sand particles against a cliff face. Eolian caves often\ntake a bottle shape, being smaller at the front and wider at the back.\n\n\n\nHow Are Sea Caves Formed?\n\n\n\nSea caves are created by waves wearing away\nweak points in cliffs that line shorelines in coastal areas. In time the weak\npoints become larger and larger creating tunnels and caverns into the\ncliffside.\n\n\n\nSea caves are often partially or fully\nsubmerged under the water making them difficult to access. Some caves may even\nhave an opening in the ceiling of the cave called a blowhole. Blowholes are created when the pressure from waves\nflooding the cave requires an outlet causing water to create holes up through\nthe ground above the cave. \n\n\n\nSea caves can be found along most coastlines and even some lakes. Some inland cave systems likely started as sea caves but became landlocked as oceans receded over time.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHow Are Glacier Caves\nFormed?\n\n\n\nGlacier Caves are made when sections of the glacier melt and seep into the cracks of the glacier. The outer layers of ice act as an insulator to the water, it will remain unfrozen and continue to melt a pathway through the glacier. Glacier caves often collapse due to the glacier\u2019s natural movement.\n\n\n\nGlacier caves are one of the most beautiful\ntypes of caves. Sunlight filtered through the ice gives a translucent blue\nshine to the inner passages.\n\n\n\nGlacier caves can form anywhere it gets warm enough for pools of water to form on the surface of the glacier. Iceland is famous for its glacier caves.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nHow Are Talus Caves Formed? \n\n\n\nTalus caves form when boulders fall together,\ncreating a space in between them. Also called skree caves, these structures are prone to collapse due to\nlandslides and rockfalls from surrounding cliffs.\n\n\n\nTalus caves are typically very small but\noccasionally will interconnect with other rock piles creating networks that can\nbe several kilometers long.\n\n\n\nThe largest talus caves known are found in the New York and New England areas of the United States.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWhat Are Fracture Caves?\n\n\n\nFracture caves are formed when layers of\nsofter stone are layered with a harder stone. When the softer stone is worn\naway the weight of the remaining stone layers collapse on top of each other,\ncreating an opening in the rock.\n\n\n\nHow Are Anchialine Caves\nFormed?\n\n\n\nAnchialine Caves are landlocked caves\nconnected to the ocean by underground rivers. The water found inside these\ncaves is generally a mixture of salt and freshwater. The ratios of salt and\nfresh waters can vary depending on how far away the cave is from the coastline.\n\n\n\nThese caves are most often filled with water\nand can only be accessed using scuba equipment. Because of the unique\nconditions inside these caves many creatures can be found that don't exist\nanywhere else in the world.\n\n\n\nThese caves are widespread and most common in\nareas with relatively young geology and aquifers. They can be found in Hawaii,\nChristmas island, and the Yucatan peninsula.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Rock Shelter Caves?\n\n\n\nRock shelter caves are shallow indentations at\nthe base of cliffs. These caves are formed when a cliff is composed of a harder\nstone type on top and a softer stone type on the bottom. These caves can be\ncreated in many ways depending on the environment they are in. In desert areas\nthese shelters can be carved out by harsh winds, while caves in more humid\nareas are formed from water freezing inside the stone, causing the stone to\nbreak.\n\n\n\nThe Different Types Of Cave\nNetworks\n\n\n\nAs caves form they can take many shapes and\nsometimes come together to form networks. Cave networks are made up of caverns\nconnected by tunnels and passageways. \nThese caverns and passageways can take many different shapes as they\nform. Some of the network shapes are Branch work networks, Pit caves, Ramiform\nnetworks, Spongework networks, Atostomatic networks, and Angular cave networks.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Branch Work Cave\nSystems?\n\n\n\nBranchwork caves are root-like cave systems\nwith many tributaries and passageways that come together to form the main\ncavern. \n\n\n\nWhat Are Pit Caves?\n\n\n\nPit caves are caves situated in a vertical shaft. Often starting as sinkholes these caves can be difficult to enter due to their vertical opening.\n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=zp66QXxcpug\n\n\n\n\nWhat Are Ramiform Cave\nSystems?\n\n\n\nRamiform caves are formed from large\nirregularly shaped chambers that are created from rising and lowering water\nlevels eroding away the interior. \n\n\n\nWhat Are Spongework Cave\nSystems?\n\n\n\nSpongework caves are a three-dimensional cave system that is formed when solution caves intersect creating a random pattern.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Atostomatic Cave\nSystems?\n\n\n\nAtostomatic caves are braided passages that\nintersect and separate as it travels down a form or structure. Rarely they will\ncross into upper and lower passages.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Angular Network\nCave Systems?\n\n\n\nAngular network caves are fissures of carbonate rock that have been chemically eroded. The erosion causes high, narrow passageways to form.\n\n\n\nThe creation of every cave is a unique set of circumstances.\nJust as these circumstances form the cave, they also form the interior\nlandscape of the cave.\n\n\n\nHow The Interior Of Caves Are\nFormed.\n\n\n\nAs caves form it is common for them to develop secondary mineral deposits called Speleothems. Speleothems can be formed from many types of minerals but are most often made from calcium carbonate, which is found in limestone. Water that has been saturated with calcium carbonate will pool and drip in different parts of the caves. This water will leave a small amount of calcium carbonate behind as it dries. Over time the calcium carbonate deposits will build up creating delicate and unique structures inside of a cave.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Dripstone\nFormations?\n\n\n\nDripstones are a category of formations that\nare created from dripping water saturated with calcium carbonate. Formations\nthat form on the ceiling fall into the category of Stalactites which hang from the ceiling, and Stalagmites which form on the ground. Stalactites and stalagmites\ncan also come in many different shapes and sizes and be broken down into\nsubcategories based on their shape. \n\n\n\nThe Varieties Of\nStalactites.\n\n\n\nThe typical shape of a stalactite is a long,\ntapered point hanging from the ceiling or wall of a cave. Stalactites grow\ncontinuously and can take several different shapes as they grow.\n\n\n\nSoda\nStraw formations are long, thin, cylinders that lack\nthe typical tapered end of a stalactite. The ends of these formations most\noften end in a flat or rounded tip.\n\n\n\nHelictites are stalactites with offshoots that don\u2019t point downward. Instead, the\noffshoots will twist and turn to create abstract shapes of stone.\n\n\n\nChandeliers are intricate clusters of stalactites hanging from the ceiling. These\nformations tend to be quite large and particularly impressive.\n\n\n\nRibbons are stalactites that are flat and look like stone streamers hanging\nfrom the cave ceilings. \n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe Varieties Of\nStalagmites.\n\n\n\nStalagmites are formed from the excess water\nthat drips off stalactites. Like they\u2019re counterparts, these can also take on\nmany interesting shapes as they grow.\n\n\n\nBroomstick stalagmites are tall\nand thin formations found on the cave floor. They can reach several feet in\nheight and are very fragile.\n\n\n\nTotem Pole stalagmites are thick\nand burled looking formations showing different sections of mineral deposit.\n\n\n\nFried Egg Stalagmites take the\nform of a smooth rounded mound surrounded by a \u201cbubbly\u201d looking edge extending\noutward.\n\n\n\nStalagmites and stalactites are forever\ngrowing. Over centuries of time, they can often meet one another in the middle\nforming a Column formation.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Flowstone Formations?\n\n\n\nAnother form of mineral deposits in caves is Flowstone Formations. Flowstone\nformations are mineral deposits left by water flowing down in sheets along the\nwalls and floors of a cave structure. \n\n\n\nDraperies are thin wavy sheets of calcite. Similar to ribbon stalactites, these\nformations tend to be much wider. These formations can sometimes have multiple\nlayers of color running through it. These examples are called Bacon draperies.\n\n\n\nRimstone\nDams or Gours\nare created from the edges of water pools rippling outward similar to waves\nhitting a beach. \n\n\n\nStone Waterfalls are mineral deposits that look like water going over a ledge within the cave. These formations are typically very large and take millennia to form.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Cave Crystals?\n\n\n\nAnother type of formation you may see inside\ncaves are Cave Crystals. These\nformations tend to be rarer and more delicate than other formations. These\ncrystals can be made from calcite or aragonite and are categorized by shape.\n\n\n\nDogtooth\nSpar are calcite crystals often found near pools of\nwater. Made up of tiny spikes they often give the rocks they cling to a fuzzy\nappearance.\n\n\n\nFrostwork crystals are needle-like growths that resemble ice crystals made up of\naragonite or calcite.\n\n\n\nAnthodites are long thin aragonite crystals clustered together like the top of a\nthistle flower.\n\n\n\nCryogenic\ncalcite crystals are loose grains of calcite formed\nwhen water freezes and the minerals in the water separate. \n\n\n\nSpeleothem are formations created when minerals are deposited within existing cave structures. The inverse of this is Speleogen. Speleogen is when minerals and bedrock are removed from a cave through natural erosion.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWhat Are Speleogens?\n\n\n\nSpeleogens are formations that are created\nfrom the removal of stone inside caves. Appearing as indentions and reliefs\nlining the interior of caves. Speleogens are generally not categorized the same\nway other formations are though they may be referred to as \u201cscallops\u201d.\n\n\n\nWhere Are Caves Found?\n\n\n\nStone based caves are most commonly associated\nwith a type of terrain called Karsts.\nKarsts are areas of exposed soft stone (like limestone) with very little plant\nlife with an absence of moving water above ground. Karst areas often have\nunderground springs and rivers running through the area. The presence of\nunderground water means these areas are extremely prone to sinkholes and\nlandslides.\n\n\n\nKarsts play an important role in the\necosystem. The porous stone allows water to quickly seep underground and\ndeposits it in underground aquifers. These aquifers are crucial to the ecosystem\nas they are where rainwater collects and is dispersed by rivers and plants back\ninto the water cycle.\n\n\n\nBecause karsts tend to be so porous, water is\nnot filtered thoroughly before entering the aquifers. This means pollutants can\nbe easily absorbed by the underground water stores and dispersed throughout the\nsurrounding area causing damage to all of the plants, and animals that rely on\nthe plants for food, water, and shelter.\n\n\n\nDoes Anything Live In Caves?\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nAnother unique attribute of caves is their\necosystems. Because light does not penetrate a majority of cave systems,\norganisms have had to adapt to life without it. This has resulted in the\nevolution of some extremely unique creatures which inhabit cave systems.\n\n\n\nThere are several categories of these\nspecialized organisms.\n\n\n\nTrogloxenes are animals who take shelter in caves but do not inhabit them full time. Some examples of trogloxenes are bats, mice, and humans. These animals use caves but are not totally reliant on them. Trogloxenes are also responsible for a majority of nutrients that enter a caves ecosystem. \n\n\n\nTroglophiles\nare creatures that are able to live their full life\ncycle inside caves but don't necessarily have to. Organisms like crickets,\nsalamanders, and crayfish are all capable of living inside or outside of cave\ntype environments.\n\n\n\nTroglobites\nare the most adapted caves dwellers. These organisms\nlive their full life cycle within the cave ecosystem. Often troglobite\norganisms aren\u2019t able to live outside of caves and may only be native to a\nsingle cave system. Troglobites are so specially adapted to their dark cave\nenvironment that many of them no longer have eyes or pigment in their skin for\ncamouflage. Instead, they have enhanced senses of smell and touch to allow them\nto find food in their subterranean environment.\n\n\n\nThe Science Of Caves.\n\n\n\nBecause of their mysterious nature, it only\nmakes sense that there would be a science of studying caves. Speleology is just\nthat, the science of studying caves. \n\n\n\nSpeleology was first experimented with by John\nBeaumont, who was the first to write detailed descriptions of some caves in the\nMendip hills of England in the 1680s. Speleology was later refined and\npopularized by Edouard-Alfred Martel, whose well-documented cave explorations\nbrought the concept of speleology forward as its own genre of study. Before\nMartel\u2019s work in the subject, speleology was only considered a contributor to\nother branches of science and not its own subject worth study. \n\n\n\nMartel founded the Societe de Speleologie in 1895. This was the first organization\nentirely devoted to the study of the caves themselves and not just what was\ninside them.\n\n\n\nSince then many organizations and clubs\ndedicated to caving have been created. These clubs are a great resource for\nlearning about cave conservation and for finding out where local cave networks\nare.\n\n\n\nThe Sport Of Caving\n\n\n\nAs speleology grew in popularity so did the\nact of caving. Caving, also called\nspelunking or potholing, is the sport of exploring previously unknown cave\nsystems. The sport of caving often overlaps with the science of speleology.\nMany caving enthusiasts are proficient in cave mapping and surveying.\n\n\n\nCaving can be an extremely dangerous sport.\nCaves can often be filled with water, sudden drops, tight spaces, and suffocating\nnatural gas. The most dangerous sub-category of caving is underwater caving.\nUnderwater caving requires great technical skills in scuba diving as well as\nexperience in cave exploration. \n\n\n\nCaving is sometimes called the individualist\u2019s\nteam sport because it is recommended to explore caves with the safety of a\ngroup but still requires an individual to rely on their own skills to traverse\nthe cave system.\n\n\n\nCaves are often considered one of the last\nfrontiers for exploration in developed countries. Because of this caves are\noften popular tourist attractions. Referred to as show caves, these attractions can be found all over the world. Show\ncaves often have easy access pathways and lights installed to highlight the\nbeauty of the cave and make it easier for people to travel through the system.\n\n\n\nThe contrast to show caves are virgin caves. Virgin cave systems are caves that have had little or no exploration done inside. \n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=nYXDQNV6Rno\n\n\n\n\nCave Conservation\n\n\n\nBecause of the unique nature of caves\u2019\necosystems, they are extremely sensitive to outside contamination. Even\nsomething as small as human breath can potentially cause damage to cave\nsystems. Scientists have found high levels of carbon dioxide created from human\npresence in caves can cause an increase in the cave\u2019s average temperature\ncausing dissolution of cave features.\n\n\n\nCaves also provide a completely unique\necosystem for species, unlike any others. Many species of cave animals don't\nhave functional eyes or pigment in their skin. Some examples of these animals\nare the blind cavefish, shrimp, and some species of salamander.\n\n\n\nThe isolated nature of caves can also give\nrise to species that exist only within that single cave. Any damage to that\ncave's environment could potentially cause the extinction of an entire species.\n\n\n\nSome caves may have areas blocked off by tape\ndue to particularly sensitive areas. These areas often have biological,\narchaeological, or aesthetical importance unlike any other caves explored by\nscience.\n\n\n\nIn 1988 the United States government enacted the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act in order to expand the authority of land management agencies to aid in cave conservation on public land.\n\n\n\n\nhttps:\/\/www.youtube.com\/watch?v=b76xemWicdo\n\n\n\n\nHow To Prevent Damage To\nCaves.\n\n\n\nAs amazing as caves are they are also very\ndelicate. When exploring caves, a person should always be mindful of what\nthey\u2019re doing and any damage they may accidentally cause. \n\n\n\nSpeleothem formations take centuries to form\nand they\u2019ll continue to grow unless they are disturbed. If a person were to\ntouch a formation there would be a risk of leaving dirt or oils on the\nformations and these foreign contaminants could potentially cause permanent\nmarks or damage to the stone. \n\n\n\nAnimals inside the cave should also be left\nundisturbed. The cave is their home and should be treated as such. Do nothing\nthat may disturb them or disrupt their natural behavior. \n\n\n\nAnything brought into the cave must also be\nbrought out. Any garbage or waste must be brought out of the cave to be\ndisposed of properly.\n\n\n\nLeave the cave exactly how it was found. Never\ntake anything you find inside a cave unless it\u2019s something another caver may\nhave left behind.\n\n\n\nStick to a trail when entering a cave. Even\nthe cave floors can be delicate and can be damaged easily. Walk lightly and try\nto keep on a trail if possible.\n\n\n\nCaves are truly a beautiful, fascinating part of nature and the science behind them is also awe-inspiring in just how much can go into the creation of a cave. With so many different types of caves to explore, it only makes sense that people would be so drawn to them. Caves have been a part of human history since the beginning and they will continue to be a part of history as more and more is discovered about them and their inhabitants.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nIf you're interested in caving, be sure to\u00a0read my Beginners Guide and recommended gear section.