Block of the Week: Basalt

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There are those who play Minecraft for the mining and crafting, and those who play for the building. Every update we try to make both player groups happy. 

That’s why, in the Nether update, we’ve included a bunch of blocks that exist primarily for decorative reasons – alongside the new monsters to defeat and resources to collect. And one of the most interesting is our block of the week: Basalt.

Basalt can only be found naturally in the extreme conditions of the Nether, though it’s possible to make it in the Overworld too. It forms in pillars in Soul Sand Valleys, and it’s also possible to find entire Basalt Deltas, where the very ground you walk on is primarily made up of basalt.

It’s pretty easy to collect – hit it with a pickaxe and it’ll drop. You can also make it by flowing lava into a space above soul soil and next to blue ice. It’s pretty blast resistant, making it a good material for shelter building. 

Speaking of building, there are a couple of things you’ll need to know if you want to use basalt to its fullest. First is that it comes in two versions – raw and polished. You can convert the former into the latter in a stonecutter. Then the second is that they need to be placed carefully, like logs, so that the textures line up in the right direction.

Real-world basalt is one of the most common types of rock on Earth. You’ve almost certainly seen it in a photo, and you’ve possibly seen it in person too. The Giant’s Causeway, in Northern Ireland, is made of basalt. So is most of Hawai’i and Iceland. There are also impressive layers of basalt in the hills of Yellowstone National Park. It’s all over the place in volcanic regions. 

If nothing else, you’ve seen it on the Moon. The darker areas on the surface of the Moon are plains of basalt, formed in volcanic eruptions between about one and four billion years ago. Lunar basalts are slightly different from the ones on Earth – they have weird textures and minerals, mostly due to the lack of oxygen and water up there. 

Back on Earth, there are lots of different kinds of basalt rock that are created in different ways. If a volcano erupts in the air, the lava tends to form frothy-textured basalts, sometimes with lava tubes inside. If it flows more thickly, and cools fast, then fractures build up and split into polygons (like at the Giant’s Causeway). The faster it cools, the smaller the polygons.

Finally, if basalt erupts underwater or flows into the sea, then it’ll form distinctive “pillow” shapes that break apart sometimes to form a new pillow. This is pretty spectacular (and pretty dangerous) to watch! So when you’re exploring the new biomes coming in the Nether update, marvel at the basalt pillars and take a moment to wonder how they might have formed long ago.

Written By
Duncan Geere