Caves hold a great fascination with humans and are often popular attractions for tourists. A cave is a natural cavity created by geological processes in a rock formation that is large enough that people can enter it. Primary caves such as lava caves arise at the same time as the surrounding rock, secondary caves arise later in the rock, among other things through erosion. What are the 10 largest caves in the world?
Mammoths in the underwater world
The longest known cave in the world is the Mammoth Cave in the national park of the same name in Kentucky in the USA. It is an impressive 627 kilometers long and was first explored by the slave Steven Bishop in 1840, before it was professionally measured in 1908. The cave system of the mammoth cave is partially traversed by the river Styx, named after the river of the underworld in Greek mythology.
The longest underwater cave system is the “Sistema Sac Actun” in Mexico on the Yucatán Peninsula, which has a total length of 311 kilometers. “Sac Actun” – in the Mayan language “white cave” – has turquoise-blue water in a system of limestone with stalactites and can be explored by ambitious divers.
Optimistic caves made of plaster of paris
The longest underwater gypsum cave in the world, the Ordinskaya, is located in the Russian region of Perm, near the Kungur River. The mineral-rich rock filters the ice-cold water of the cave and the white gypsum makes the crystal-clear water shine in an unreally beautiful blue. Over 4000 meters of cave system have been discovered by cave divers so far.
At 236 kilometers, the “Optymistytschna Petschera”, the “Optimist Cave”, located in western Ukraine, is the third longest cave in the world, the longest gypsum cave in the world and the longest cave in Europe, making it one of the 10 largest caves in the world. Various cavities with gypsum crystals can be found in a rock layer made up of marine deposits. The cave, discovered in 1965, has not yet been opened up for tourism.
Fire and Ice
The longest and deepest lava cave in the world, the “Kazumura Cave” in Hawaii, also called “Kilauea Caverns of Fire”, is of volcanic origin. At the foot of the Kilauea volcano, the cave leads 65 kilometers long and 1101 meters deep into the lava rock that was formed only 300 to 500 years ago. There are more than 100 entrances and the option to book a guided tour of parts of the cave.
The largest ice cave in the world is located in Austria. The “Eisriesenwelt” in Werfen in the Salzburger Land is impressive with a total length of 42 kilometers and is a popular excursion destination. Fantastic ice formations are created by freezing meltwater and impress the visitors.
Fascinating ups and downs
Speleologists have to abseil 2191 meters in the Voronya Cave in Georgia to get to the bottom of the deepest cave in the world. The high alpine limestone cave near the Black Sea is extremely steep in large parts and also houses special invertebrates at a depth of 2 kilometers. The deepest direct shaft in a cave on earth is Vrtoglavica Cave in Slovenia. A shaft cave leads straight down for 603 meters.
In a remote part of Vietnam in the middle of the jungle, the 250 meter high and 150 meter wide “Hang Son Doong” cave, which translates as mountain river cave, was discovered by British researchers in 2009. So far a total length of 56 kilometers has been explored, the largest cave space would offer space for a skyscraper or a jet plane. The Sawarak Chamber in the Good Luck Cave on the Malaysian island of Borneo also has enormous dimensions with a height of around 70 meters, a length of 700 meters and a width of 400 meters. Both caves are clearly among the 10 largest caves in the world.
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