why does the author take the time to describe the crystals so precisely?
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Kitum Cave was surrounded by crystals that had grown out of the rock. They were like needles. The reason this is described so thoroughly is because later, in the section titled "Total Immersion," we learn that viruses can grow on crystals. In Chapter One, Monet wonders if he had pricked his finger on one of the needle like crystals near the cave.