Incredible exploration of the caves beneath

Over the weekend I had the chance to sit and watch the new film by James Cameron, Sanctum.

It’s the story of a group of cave explorers who get stranded deep in a cave system. The film follows the efforts of the team to escape the cave after a tropical storm causes surges of water to block their usual exit route.  The story is inspired by the true exploration of caves in Nullarbor Plain, Australia, and a near disaster which occurred when the team became trapped 80m underground by  a rock slide.

The leader of the original crew of this expedition in 1988, Andrew Wight produced the award-winning documentary of this expedition, “Nullabor Dreaming”, which somewhat represents the launch of  his film career. He then worked with James Cameron on the film Sanctum as a writer/producer for ‘Sanctum’. Wight is already recognised as a successful  underwater explorer and documentary film maker covering locations including: Australia, Alaska, Mexico, Canada, Florida, Cuba, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji, New Zealand, Guadeloupe Is, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Belize, Dry Tortugas, Navassa Is, Costa Rica, Cocos Island, Galapagos Islands, Lord Howe Is, Titanic, Bismarck, Hydrothermal vents in The Atlantic and pacific.

Andrew Wight recounts his experiences to National Geographic here:

This film, and a little exploration into the original expedition, sparked my interest again into the fantastic landscapes that have been created beneath the earths surface. Some of the biggest caves in the world include:

Son Doong caves, Vietnam discovered in January 2011 is the largest single cave passage found yet.  It is approximately 80mx80m in most places, up to 140mx140m in some areas and at least 2.8 miles long. The explorers think the caves is even longer, however their journey further was blocked due to seasonal floodwaters.

Deer Cave in the island of Borneo is 91mx91m but is is much shorter in length, around 1 mile long.

Cave systems cover vast spaces underground, and in many cases cover hundreds of miles. The five longest cave systems are:

Mammoth cave located in Kentucky USA is approximately 390 miles (627km) long.

Jewel Cave in South Dakota, USA, is approximately 150 miles (242km) long.

Optymistychna Cave in Korolivka, Ukraine is approximately 143 miles (233km) long.

Wind Cave in South Dakota, USA is approximately 143 miles (216km) long.

Lechuguilla cave located in New Mexico,USA is approximately 128 miles (207km) long.

There are a wide range of types of caves, formed in different geological surroundings across the globe. For me, some of the most magical caves are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occupy in New Zealand. The Waitomo Glowworm Caves were first discovered by a local  local Maori Chief accompanied by an English surveyor in 1887. The caves were full of stagmites and stalagtites, but what was more striking was that there were thousands of little lights shining off the formations and reflecting off the water.

These lights were from glow worms, Arachnocampa luminosa which are unique to New Zealand.

These are just a few examples of fantastic cave systems which have developed over millions of years.

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