Speleothem Identification

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Speleothem Identification

Postby trogman » Apr 5, 2010 10:00 am

I am hoping I can get some help from my fellow cavers out there who may have a bit more expertise in the field of identifying speleothems. Here is my primary question: When is a flowstone mound classified as a stalagmite, or vice-versa? I have been exploring a new cave here in AL, and this past weekend I entered a new chamber in this cave which had a 70’ high ceiling. On one side of this room there was a huge flowstone mound / stalagmite that was 30-35’ high and about 15’ in diameter. I am including some photos: This first one is me at the base of it.
Image

This next one is near the top of it.

Image

The last one is the very top. Here it looks more like a flowstone cascade.

Image

The main reason I want to know is so I can label it on my map.

While I am on the subject, I noticed a cave mapping symbol in my mapping book for something called a “stalagmiflat.” I assume that this is a stalagmite with a flattened top, but I could not find a definition for it. This same cave has some formations that I originally marked on my sketch as “pedestals.” They are about 1’ high, 1’ in diameter, and flat on the top.They are not conical at all-the diameter is about the same at the top as it is at the bottom. They are not really not circular either, but more of a sort of random shape, like an amoeba. I was wondering if they would be classified as "stalagmiflats." I have no photos of these. I know the NSS has a book with some of this info, but right now my budget will not allow another expenditure of that size. If anyone can help with this, I would appreciate it.

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Re: Speleothem Identification

Postby wyandottecaver » Apr 5, 2010 6:47 pm

trog,

I'm NOT an expert, but generally I consider a stagmite/tite to be free from the wall for at least a major portion of its length and not continuous floor-ceiling. If your mass is totally against the wall on its backside and continuous to the passage/alcove above I would lean more towards a flowstone mass rather than a stalagmite/column but thats me.
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Re: Speleothem Identification

Postby Rodney Tennyson » Aug 8, 2010 7:18 pm

The top photo shows what looks like, the flowstone pouring over a ledge, in which case it would make this a column. Is it separate from the wall or supported? Impressive, whatever the definition.
"Stalactiflat" is a term that indicates a former column that was deposited on sediment or breakdown that has subsequiently been washed or shifted out from under the formation, leaving it hanging from the ceiling. To my understanding it was first coined and used at several Missouri commerical caves. One of the few things 'cavers' have adopted from commercial enterprises.
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Re: Speleothem Identification

Postby trogman » Aug 11, 2010 2:50 pm

Thanks for that enlightenment about the stalactiflats, Rodney. I think I have seen a few of those, but not in this particular cave.
The large flowstone formation is supported by the wall, sort of. It actually fills up the passage to a large degree. I later found a second entrance with an upper passage, which circled around to the top of the flowstone! I really need to get back and survey the rest of it soon. So far it is about 500' in length, with a 73' pit (E1) and a 78' pit (E2).

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Re: Speleothem Identification

Postby Larry E. Matthews » Aug 17, 2010 10:00 pm

Yes, I think to be a stalagmite, it would need to be free-standing and away from the wall. But common sense dictates that these formations tend to grade from one to the other, because each one is unique.

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