Soda Straws and Helictites

March 15, 2002

Strawshelictites

Provided by: Tim Martin, Greensboro Day School
Summary authors & editors: Tim Martin

Soda straws and helictites dominate this small corner of Scott Hollow Cave near Sinks Grove, WV. Soda straws and helictites are among the smaller depositional spleothems that can be found in a solution cave.

Soda straws are typically small young stalactites. As water slowly drips from the ceiling of a cave, dissolved calcium carbonate will crystallize around the edges of a drop of water producing a long narrow tube. This will continue until calcite deposits block the water flow through the center of the tube. If water continues to flow over the external surface of the formation, a larger tapered stalactite will form.

Helictites derive their name from the Greek prefix helix that implies twisted or curled. Seeming to defy gravity, helictites may grow in all directions. If calcium carbonate rich water emerges from a cave wall or ceiling at a very slow rate, (such that a drop of water will not form,) the speed of mineral crystallization, and force of capillary action may be stronger than the force of gravity. Weak air currents and other evaporative processes may affect the crystallization of calcite causing these unique and delicate formations.

On the topographical map linked below, note the depression contours and the lack of streams. The streams that are in this region are predominantly underground. Map is centered on the entrance to the cave.

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