September 7, 2009

Giant Cave - World's Biggest Found in Vietnam

July 24, 2009--Cavers' headlamps light up the towering walls of Vietnam's Son Doong cave, the largest single cave passage yet found. First explored earlier this year by a joint British-Vietnamese team, the cave measures at least 262-by-262 feet (80-by-80 meters) in most places and is at least 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) long.

"For a couple of kilometers it is more than 140 meters [460 feet] wide and 140 meters [460 feet] high," said Adam Spillane, a member of the British Cave Research Association expedition that explored the massive cavern.

Son Doong beats out the previous world record holder, Deer Cave in the Malaysian section of the island of Borneo, conceded Andy Eavis, president of the International Union of Speleology and discoverer of the now demoted Deer Cave.

A caver gazes up at towering formations in Vietnam's Son Doong cave.

The joint British-Vietnamese team that explored the cave in April found an underground river running through the first 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) of the limestone cavern, as well as giant stalagmites more than 230 feet (70 meters) high.

The explorers surveyed Son Doong's overall size using laser-based measuring devices. Such modern technology allows caves to be measured to the nearest millimeter, said Andy Eavis, president of the International Union of Speleology, the world caving authority, based in France.

"With these laser-measuring devices, the cave sizes are dead accurate," he said.

A local farmer had found the mouth of Son Doong cave several years ago in the dense jungles of Vietnam's Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. He led the British expedition team to the cavern in April. The team was told that local people had known of the cave for some time but were too scared to delve inside.

"It has a very loud draft and you can hear the river from the cave entrance, so it is very noisy and intimidating," said caver Adam Spillane, a member of the British Cave Research Association expedition.

Andy Eavis, of the International Union of Speleology, added that there are almost certainly bigger cave passages awaiting discovery around the world.

"That's the fantastic thing about caving," he said.

Photograph :BARM/Fame Pictures