Going down?
April 3, 2014 1:18 PM   Subscribe

A complete map, so far, of Krubera Cave, the current 1st place holder of the world's deepest cave award. It is, of course, where you would find the world's deepest insect.
posted by bswinburn (35 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

If you find this interesting, you might consider reading Blind Descent, which includes the story of the cavers exploring this cave and another huge one, Cheve, in Mexico.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:24 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]

I would officially like to request that Randall redo the cave in Click and Drag to match this map.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:34 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

So not this map then?
posted by atbash at 1:35 PM on April 3

This is really plumbing the depths of speleology.
posted by Kabanos at 1:45 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]

Desire to stock this as a D&D dungeon ... rising. The pit traps are a doozy.
posted by graymouser at 1:47 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

Is that the bug that makes air quotes with It's little forelegs when it says " Proust says: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new 'eyes'. However I prefer to say I perceive things through a different 'lens' "

Because frankly I find that guy to be more pretentious than deep.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:53 PM on April 3 [10 favorites]

Blind Descent is good. It's written by a journalist not an actual explorer (though he does go a small way down a few caves). It's mostly about William Stone, who is larger than life. His first person account is Beyond the Deep which seems have better reviews. Blind Descent is a decent and readable overview of deep caving and does talk about the Georgian cavers. It's hard to overestimate the balls these people have, among the most dangerous and difficult "sport" there is. They go underground for weeks at a time, including scuba diving. Any minor accident or equipment failure leads to death quickly.
posted by stbalbach at 1:53 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]

I'm shocked that they haven't found a Drow, Snirfneblin, Mindflayer, Derro, Duergar, or Aboleth city yet. That or dinosaurs, where are the dinosaurs!
posted by vuron at 1:57 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

stbalbach, Beyond the Deep is a decent book, but I found Stone somewhat grating in that book. It also only covers Cheve, alas.
posted by sonic meat machine at 2:00 PM on April 3

I would love to sit in on a conversation between the world's deepest insect and the Dalai Lama, because I think I would learn a lot from it.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:00 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

Well, the obvious solution is to just pour a lot of fire down there and solve the problem that way. Lots and lots and lots of fire.

...or maybe go a little deeper, and let the fire come up. Either way, the solution is fire.
posted by aramaic at 2:01 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

In my youth, I did a bit of caving and got myself into some pretty inaccessible places. But this thing...yikes.

Is there a way to embiggen the map? My old eyes are straining at it.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:12 PM on April 3

I found a larger version of the map. Mirror here. Thanks for the post, I had no idea about this cave.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:28 PM on April 3 [5 favorites]

Beautiful. The larger map (thanks BlackLeo) is awesome--notice all the tiny question marks where we don't know what lies beyond!

Also two questions of my own: first, if water is gathering at the bottom, it must be also escaping (or else the cave would fill up?) So where does it go? That might lead to my second question--how much of this cave is below sea level? I assume not too much, since the temperature would start to rise eventually; but that could vary a lot depending on the location I imagine. If there was very little seismic activity in the area (I sure hope this is the case, for the sake of cavers!) then maybe the crust is nice and thick without any magma nearby.
posted by TreeRooster at 2:40 PM on April 3

you might consider reading Blind Descent, which includes the story of the cavers exploring this cave and another huge one, Cheve, in Mexico.

Not to be confused with this Blind Descent, which is a 1998 mystery novel set in Lechuguilla, America's deepest cave.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:06 PM on April 3

my second question--how much of this cave is below sea level?

None of what they've found so far, since the entrance is at an altitude of 2256m, and they've got down to 2197m below that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:10 PM on April 3

That large map and lots more info are in this pdf, a report from an expedition in 2010. (found in the references on the wikipedia page). Page 15 shows the cave in relation to surrounding geography, it looks like the water at the bottom is the water table. The group that produced the report was installing equipment for monitoring the (apparently seasonal) flooding of the cave.
posted by stobor at 3:11 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

The "world's deepest insect" lives off of fungi and other decaying matter, apparently. What do the fungi live off of? Unless they're related to the ubiquitous glowing wall-fungus of D&D, I assume there's gotta be something else at the bottom of this trophic web. Do they survive on stuff that filters all the way down through 2km of shafts? On the bodies of decaying spelunkers, like those whale-skeleton ecosystems? Melanin-converted gamma radiation?
posted by hattifattener at 4:23 PM on April 3

This totally reminded me of Shibumi by Trevanian. A work of fiction, but still has some great cave bashing scenes. In that book, the hero skin dives through the terminal sump to the waters outfall in a river.

I read in this article where they dived into the sump, but nothing about an outfall.
posted by valkane at 4:31 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Going to the bottom of this cave, and back out, is like climbing Mt. Everest, upside-down, twice, at night, in the rain, for 2-3 weeks. Summiting Everest is an amazing accomplishment, but the exit is downhill. What other activity that requires so much skill, strength, knowledge, fortitude, or balls?

Bill Stone gave a fascinating TED talk about caving and exploration.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:03 PM on April 3

I am impressed: Your map is triggering my fear of heights.
posted by Michele in California at 5:06 PM on April 3

Nope, nope, nope. (Nice to learn about it, though. Thanks for posting.)
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 5:15 PM on April 3

I work with Dr. Am Ende, the co-author of Beyond the Deep, and she is indeed a bad-ass.
posted by srt19170 at 5:36 PM on April 3

I'm pretty chuffed that I will probably never get to explore beneath the earth's crust.
posted by planetesimal at 5:42 PM on April 3

If there is any justice in the world, the Chamber of Soviet Speleologists is a bunch of old guys with beards and flowing white robes sitting around a glowing crystal table.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:14 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]

Hopefully they lit up the caves with torches -- otherwise there are gonna be a metric crap-ton of skeletons, zombies, and creepers waiting for them on the return trip.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:42 PM on April 3 [3 favorites]

I love looking at this kind of map, seeing cave pictures, and reading about speleology, but I freeze up solid at about twenty feet down.

Remember, if you're deep in a cave below the surface of the earth, when the lights go out, the map doesn't do you a bit of good.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:41 PM on April 3

ok, so "underground camp" is a thing. which is FUCKING AWESOME
posted by threeants at 8:55 PM on April 3 [2 favorites]

What other activity that requires so much skill, strength, knowledge, fortitude, or balls?

Satisfying Eccentrica Gallumbits?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:31 PM on April 3

Worth skimming to the end of that PDF linked by stobor, as it has some observations on equipment, planning, morale, and such, e.g. a digital camera with photos of the surface is surprisingly refreshing.
posted by dhartung at 12:08 AM on April 4 [1 favorite]

Also they have a phone cable that goes two kilometers underground. That's impressive.
posted by ymgve at 6:48 AM on April 4

One thing about the Georgia cave is it's not particularly interesting other than being really deep. It's very narrow, like crawling through duct work, and doesn't have the big galleries like in many other caves. The Cheve cave Bill Stone explored isn't quite as deep (close) but is tremendously more awesome as caves go.
posted by stbalbach at 10:16 AM on April 4

I always have to do a reset when i read names like 'journey to the center of the earth' and so forth for these kinds of explorations, because, in fact, the entrance to this cave is waaaaay up in the mountains, so the deepest cavers aren't any closer to the center of the earth than I am here at sea level.
it doesn't take anything away from my awe at the fortitude it takes to explore those complicated subterranian spaces (I've read blind descent), it's just more like, lets find the most porous mountain than lets find the deepest hole.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:38 AM on April 4

Do they survive on stuff that filters all the way down through 2km of shafts?

If the cave does flood seasonally, stuff from the surface will likely get washed in, even down to the bottom.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:27 PM on April 4

This entry in the cave's exploration history (from the PDF stobor linked to) is interesting...
• Slow progress through tight meanders requiring blasting; cave deepened to -340m.
Isn't blasting to open-up a cave cheating just a bit? It also makes one wonder how many amazing caves will never be seen by humans simply because they don't have an opening to the surface.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:55 AM on April 8

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