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World’s Longest Cave Passage Found in Vietnam

Charles Simmins – Tue Jan 4, 4:42 pm ET

The discovery and further exploration of a cave system in Vietnam has resulted in the discovery of the world’s longest cave. The region has long been known to contain caves and the locals knew of this one. The Son Doong cave has just received international attention after an expedition spent some time in and around it.

British Cave Research Association sponsored the expedition to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. It is a World Heritage Site and home to one of the world’s largest karst formations. This type of rock is perfect for caves created by water flow.

The first expedition took place in April 2009 and another returned in 2010. Explorers were able to walk 2.8 miles into the Son Doong cave, along a river for part of the way. They were stymied by a slick wall but in 2010 succeeded in climbing the hundreds of feet to the top. Near the end of their long trek through the passage they discovered a pool containing monstrous cave pearls, a water and rock creation usually marble sized. These were the size of baseballs.

Giant stalagmites that reach 230 feet high are only one of the exciting finds. Several skylights, or breaks in the roof of the cave, allow light to enter in portions of the passage, resulting in a lush growth of jungle vegetation. Monkeys could be seen going in and out of the cave to feed on snails. Poisonous centipedes were a threat to the explorers.

The Son Doong cave takes the title of “largest single cave passage” away from a cave in Malaysian Borneo. That cave, the Deer Cave, is about half the length though its passages may be larger in size. Cave measurement is now done with lasers, ensuring accurate dimensions.

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky holds the record for the world’s longest known cave system. Its many passages total over 392 miles of interconnected passages. The largest cave chamber is in Borneo, the Sarawak Chamber in the Gua Nasib Bagus. It is reputed to be able to hold forty 747 airliners.

Two websites devoted to the caves of Vietnam are: Caving Expeditions in Vietnam and Vietnam Caves.

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