Showing posts with label Spelunking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spelunking. Show all posts

Video: An Expedition to One of the Deepest Caves on Earth

Think cave diving simply involves showing up at the site, putting on your gear, and dropping in? Think again. In this video, we get a glimpse of the logistics involved in simply reaching the Dark Star cave system in Uzbekistan, which is believed to be one of the deepest on the planet. The team of explorers who recently went to the cave spent hours on a bus just to reach their starting point. They then trekked for two days to get to base camp, located above 12,000 feet (3657 meters). The cave itself has seven known entrances, each of which requires rock climbing skills to reach. In other words, this is no walk in the park. Check it out below.

Nat Geo Takes Us Deep into "Dark Star" – Potentially the Deepest Cave System in the World

Exploring deep caves is an activity that brings its own set of challenges not unlike scaling a high mountain. Sure, you don't have to worry about acclimatizing per se, but thin air can be an issue and carrying supplies and gear into vast underground chambers is not unlike establishing camps as you ascend a Himalayan peak. Add to the fact that you are always surrounded by darkness, and you start to get an idea of just how unique these experiences can be. Now, imagine you're exploring a cave system that may be the deepest on the planet, with a bottom that has yet to be discovered.

In a new article posted on the National Geographic website, we plumb the depths of just such a place. Dubbed "Dark Star," the cave is located in a remote region of Uzbekistan and has been dubbed the "Underground Everest." That's because eight expeditions have delved into its depths – mapping over 11 miles of passageways, caverns, and chambers – but have yet to find an end to the massive subterranean realm. So far, the deepest they have gone is 3000 feet (914 meters) below the surface, but the feeling is that Dark Star runs deeper. Much deeper.

The current record for the deepest cavern known to man is the Krubera Cave, located in the Eastern European country of Georgia. That cave drops an unbelievable 7208 feet (2196 meters), so Dark Star has a long way to go before it breaks that record. But after more than 20 years of mapping and exploration, there doesn't seem to be an end to be had just yet, and there are some indications that it goes far deeper than Krubera, its just that no one has gone down that far just yet.

The cave was first discovered back in 1984 by a team of Russians, but it wasn't explored at all until the 1990's when a group of British cavers first passed through its outer entryways. Most of Dark Star's mysteries have yet to be found, as most of the teams that have gone inside have ended up running out of rope before they've made much in the way of significant progress. Yet expeditions continue to come when they can, which isn't as often as serious cavers would like considering the remote nature of the entrance and the unstable political conditions of the surrounding region.

The Nat Geo story is a fascinating one, especially for those of us who don't know a lot about cave exploration. Author Mark Synnott takes us deep inside Dark Star, where a dedicated team of scientists, researchers, and explorers is examining the site, pushing deeper into its depths, and learning more about the underground spaces of our planet. It is an intriguing read that reminds us that not all of our adventures need to go up, nor remain on the surface of the Earth at all.

Check out the full story here or in the March issue of National Geographic magazine.

Take A Virtual Tour of One of the World's Largest Caves

Vietnam's Son Doong Cave stretches for more than 5 km (3.1 miles) in length, 200 meters (660 ft) in height, and is over 150 meters (490 ft) wide. Those dimensions are enough to put it amongst the larges caves in the entire world, although unless you make the journey to visit it yourself, it is hard to put those numbers into perspective. Fortunately, National Geographic is here to help.

Recently, Nat Geo posted an online project that allows us to explore Son Doong ourselves, without having to make the arduous journey to the remote section of the Vietnamese-Laos border. In fact, you don't even have to leave your comfortable chair.

The virtual cave expedition starts at the entrance to Son Doong, but soon drops under the Earth into the depths of its subterranean chambers. The experience comes complete with 360º panoramic views, ambient sounds, and a host of facts and information about the site. Visitors to the website can use their mouse, trackpad, or keyboard to pan around the room in all directions, viewing the cave chambers in detail, and even zooming in to examine the site more closely. The 500-megapixel photos offer stunning resolutions, making the experience that much more realistic.

All told, there are about 10 individual regions of the massive cave than can be explored in this manner, taking us to the depths of the Earth to give us a glimpse of this magnificent cave system. But, if exploring Son Doong virtually simply isn't enough for you, there are options to actually go into it yourself and spend some time trekking through, and camping in, its stone halls.

Most of us will probably have to be content with using Nat Geo's virtual Son Doong Cave to get our views of the place. It is a pretty compelling use of technology that gives us a chance to see what it is like there. While you're wandering through the online version of the cave, see if you can spot the base camp for the team that took these images. It can be found in one of the chambers, and it truly helps to give the place a sense of scale.

This is very cool stuff.

Video: Mountain Biking Through an Abandoned Mine

Ready for a dose of adrenaline? If you haven't been getting your daily allotted amount while I was away, this video will help you to catch up. It features pro rider Aaron Chase as he takes his mountain bike on a crazy ride through an abandoned mine in New Jersey. Don't try this at home kids. It is definitely not for the amateur mountain biker.

Video: A Journey into the World's Largest Cave

Located in Vietnam, the Hang Son Doong cave is one of the largest in the entire world. This video takes us on a journey inside that massive underground chamber, giving us a glimpse of he subterranean world that exists there. This short film was shot near the entrance to the cave, as well as at strategic points located at 2.5 km (1.5 miles) and 3.5 km (2.1 miles) inside. As you'll see, it is spectacular place for an adventure.

Hang Son Doong from Ryan Deboodt on Vimeo.

Largest Cave Chamber in the World Discovered in China

A team of cave explorers funded by the National Geographic Society has located the largest underground chamber in the world in a remote cave system in China. The group of spelunkers traveled to that country last year to measure the massive Miao Room, as the chamber is known in caving circles, using a sophisticated laser mapping system. The findings from that expedition were announced this past weekend, with some surprising results.

First discovered back in 1989, the Miao Room has long been considered the second largest chamber in the world, behind the Sarawak Chamber in Malaysia. Measured using standard methods, the massive room is 852 meters (2795 feet) in length, and 191 meters (627 feet) wide. But the new laser mapping system is able to take into account the full size of the room in three dimensions, and it revealed that Miao is larger than Sarawak in terms of total volume. In fact, the Chinese cave occupies about 10.79 million cubic meters (380.7 million cubic feet), which makes it approximately 10% larger than its Malaysian counter part. Sarawak does cover more surface area however, stretching out across an impressive 1.66 million meters.

Expedition co-leader Tim Allen told Nat Geo that finding out that Miao was bigger than Sarawak was akin to "discovering that K2 is larger than Everest!" It has long been believed that Sarawak held the title for the largest underground chamber, but Miao has now stolen its crown.

In order to reach the massive underground room, the explorers had to first descend more than 100 meters (325 feet) beneath the surface, then navigate an underground river. These obstacle were a hinderance to exploring the cave system in the past, which is why it has taken so long to get a more accurate measurement of Miao itself. In order to properly compare it to Sarawak, the same team used their 3D laser mapping system in the Malaysian cave as well.

It is important to point out that these caves are simply the single largest chambers. In terms of the longest overall cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave in the U.S. still holds that title. It stretches for more than 651.8 km (405 miles) with new chambers and passage still being discovered.