This week in Canada, news sources revealed that staff working for the Ministry of National Resources have found a very big cave. The cave is so big that its mouth alone measures 100 meters (328 feet) by 60 meters (197 feet). But most remarkably of all, experts believe that despite its gigantic size, it is the very first time the cave has been seen by human eyes.
In the most Canadian way possible, the cave was spotted during a routine caribou counting exercise. The team stumbled upon their unusual find while flying a helicopter above Wells Gray Provincial Park, British Columbia.
"My immediate reaction was that there can't be a cave there, it's impossible," Catherine Hickson, a geologist involved in the expedition of the cave in September, told Global News.
“At the moment [the cavers are] saying it certainly is one of the largest in Canada.”
"When you're standing on the edge looking down into it, your line of sight is nearly 600 feet [183 meters]. You don't get lines of sight of 600 feet in Canadian caves – it just doesn't happen," surveyor and speleologist John Pollack, who was also involved in the expedition, added, reports Canadian Geographic.
But even more extraordinary is the fact that until now, this cave has remained completely hidden. Researchers have not been able to find any reference to this as yet unnamed cave anywhere. They will consult with indigenous communities to check whether its existence is documented in their records. They are also appealing to the public, asking people to come forward if they have any knowledge of it and its history.
Hickson suspects that until very recently, the area would have been covered in snow all year round, which would have masked the mouth of the cave and kept it hidden. (Thanks, global warming.) Between the snow and its less than practical location, the cave has managed to remain free of humans – until this chance discovery.
So far, there has been just one descent into the cave, by caver Lee Hollis. He made it 80 meters (262 feet) down but was unable to explore any further due to the cave's waterfall, which could churn out as much as 5 to 15 cubic meters of water every second. Experts believe the waterfall leads to an underground river that emerges 500 meters (1,640 feet) below and 2.1 kilometers (1.3 miles) away from the cave mouth.
The location of the cave – temporarily nicknamed the "Sarlacc Pit" in reference to the nightmarishly gruesome pit monster from Star Wars – is being kept under wraps, at least for the time being. The researchers hope this will help protect the (as of now) untouched natural wonder and offer experts a chance to examine it closer.
According to Pallack, the discovery represents "a major new find in Western Canada, and promises a dramatic new chapter in the story of Canadian cave exploration".