Among the more bizarre speleothems (cave formations) are helictites – thin sticks of calcite (calcium carbonate) that grow out from cave walls and ceilings. While it’s easy to understand the growth of stalagmites and stalactites, helictites appear to defy gravity by growing sideways (inset). It is not certain how they form. One theory is that on a small scale, capillary action (the attraction of tiny drops of water to the surface of the helictite) may be greater than the force of gravity, allowing it to grow sideways. These helictites are in Bulmer Cavern on Mt Owen.
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Department of Conservation
Reference: 10059859 (main); 10059857 (inset)
Photographs by Ian Millar
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