"Splattermite" is the informal name that cavers use to describe a peculiar
type of stalagmite featuring platy, upright protusions. These protusions
arc around the central axis of a splattermite, fed by rings of drip splash that rebound from the formation's growing tip.
Splattermites tend to form within tall cave chambers, where ceiling drops build up lots of speed and "bounce potential." But bounce, alone, won't build a splattermite--the splash droplets must also precipitate calcite very rapidly, before streaming downward along the sides of the formation.
The striking splattermites of the upper photo decorate the lofty entrance chamber of France's l'Aven d'Orgnac. (Notice the climber in the rear bathed in daylight). Cool, dry air sinking through the pit entrance most likely aids evaporation, and hence, rapid calcite deposition on the "splatter plates."
Splattermites, however, are most frequently represented in the tropics, where densely vegetated soils charge cave drip waters with exceptionally high concentrations of carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide is rapidly released as drip water enters the cave atmosphere. Calcite deposition is, likewise, prompt. The "stone flower" of the lower photo, which lends its Mayan name to the Loltun Room of Belize's Chiquibul Cave, is the product of such rapid deposition beneath a tropical rainforest.
|Created: November 17, 1995|
Last Updated: Sept. 25,, 2006
Author: Djuna Bewley