APR 06, 2017 07:33 AM PDT

Everest Underground: the world's deepest cave

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The Dark Star cave system has been called the Everest of the underground world. The only difference is that its depths have yet to be fully discovered, despite the eight missions that have tackled its mystery. Nestled in the almost unreachable mountains of Uzbekistan, Russian cavers found an entrance in 1984, but British cavers were the first to explore it in 1990. The cave system has seven entrances, all of which to reach require hard-core climbing skills.

The cave's characteristics are a template of extremes: outside the cave, temperatures reach 100°F. Inside, temperatures range from 30°F to 37°F-a small variance with a big impact on the scenery; as you go deeper blue ice turns into barren rock. To date, almost 11 miles of Dark Star's passageways have been mapped, the deepest of which is approximately 3,000 feet below the surface.

Other than the sheer thrill that comes from exploring the unknown, the missions to Dark Star also may hold important scientific clues about the planet's climate history. Analyzing chemical components from the cores of speleothems-mineral deposits that form stalagmites and stalactites - the cavers/scientists hope to understand better how the cave system was formed and in what conditions.

Source: National Geographic
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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