The trail of Palawan Underground River winds through one of the world’s most interesting cave systems. Hidden beneath St. Paul Mountain, these geologic formations form are components that makes the park worthy to be part of the list of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders. Most caves share common characteristics. Others have their own attributes that stand out.Here’s what makes the caves of the subterranean waterway fascinating.
Stalactites and Stalagmites-Which is Which?
Stalagmites and stalactites are often confusing to most people, perhaps because of the way they’re named. You’ll find many stalactite and stalagmite formations at the Palawan Underground River. It’s not difficult to distinguish between these two kinds of formations. Stalagmites jut from ground, whereas stalactites hang from above.
Here’s a good way to avoid getting them mixed up. If it hangs on “tite,” it’s a stalac-TITE. If it crawls on the floor like a “mite,” it must be a stalag-MITE. You can also get them straight by remembering the “C” and “G” in their spellings. The “G” in stalaGmites means that the “ground” yields them. The “C” in stalaCtites means they form from the “ceiling.”
How Did They Get There?
Now that you’re aware what makes stalactites and stalagmites different from each other, you’re probably asking where they came from.
All it takes to form a stalactite is a drop of water from the ceiling. Every drop has dissolved calcite that’s collected as water seeps through the joints and cracks of the bedrock.
Caves in the Palawan Underground River have karst formations, having landscapes composed mainly of limestone. As rain falls, it combines with the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide and mixes with gas when it flows into the soil. The result is a slightly acidic solution that dissolves the karst rock mineral called calcite. Stalagmites form as water with dissolved calcites drip from stalactites and fall on the cave floor. This explains why people see the two in pairs or even join together to make one column. A column forms after thousands of years of joint stalagmite and stalactite formation.
Cave formations, also called speleothems, are like snowflakes. Each speleothem is irreplaceable, as no two types of cave formations are the same. There are draperies, or stalactites with curtain-like appearances. Other formations have colorations that lend them a striped or bacon-like semblance.
The cave of the Palawan Underground River shows many huge drapery and striped formations from cave ceilings and on walls. Some stalactites are flowstones, which are sheet-like formations on cave floors or walls. There are also cave crystals (frostwork) and popcorn speleothems (cave corals).
Discover the beauty of the Palawan Underground River and learn more about its different cave formations.