‘Everest of Caves’ explorers return from record-breaking mission

Daily Brew

A team of cavers has just returned to the surface after a record-breaking exploration of the Krubera-Voronya Cave — called the "Everest of Caves" because it is the deepest known cave on the planet. Ukrainian cave-diver Gennady Samokhin reached a depth of 2,197 meters below the surface, breaking his 2009 record by 6 meters.

For a little perspective, the deepest cave in Canada — called 'The Heavy Breather System" — is 653 meters deep, and is located in Mount Doupe, a 2,667-metre peak near the Alberta border, southeast of Fernie, B.C.

The Krubera-Voronya Cave lies underneath the Arabika Massif, an area of the Western Caucasus mountain range, in Southern Russia. Although the area was explored as early as 1909, by Russian scientist Alexander Kruber, the cave was not discovered until 1960. Initial explorations went as deep as 310 meters, and it wasn't until more systematic methods were adopted in the '80s that explorations made it to over a kilometer below the surface. Further missions in the '90s and into 2001 pushed the record depth to 1,710 meters, and teams have steadily pushed that limit over the past 11 years to Samokhin's recent record.

[ Related: Hook-legged spider found in Oregon cave ]

Just thinking of the tight spaces these explorers were crawling through, not to mention the millions of tons of rock hovering above them, gives me the creeps. It's not only a matter of claustrophobia. It's also the inherent danger of their surroundings, such as the sudden flash flood that left the team stranded and isolated for nearly 30 hours. One slip up could mean getting stuck somewhere, or seriously injured while in an area that is very remote from any help.

"The preparations for expeditions such as this are extensive and involve a lot of mental preparation. I have tried for some years to join this exploration effort, and I am glad I finally succeeded." says Israeli caver Boaz Langford, who is part of a research unit from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, according to Science Daily.

In addition to breaking the previous depth record, the team also discovered is a strange species of transparent fish that lives in water only a couple of degrees above freezing and over 2 kilometers below the Earth's surface, showing just how resilient life really is!

Regardless of scientific discovery, there is no way that you would get me to go on an expedition like this, but Professor Amos Frumkin, of Hebrew University's Department of Geography does make a good point: "One has to remember that caves are the last place in the world where it is still possible to be the first human to tread on unexplored territory."

Personally, I'll continue to look up and out, and leave that kind of exploration for others.