What would you do if you had no way out? What if, buried deep below the Earth or sea on a cave exploration, the next corner you turned led to nowhere? You might remain calm at first, telling yourself to breath and concentrate, vowing to find your way back to the surface, but what if the next corner you turned didn’t lead anywhere either? Nor the next? For Adrenalists of the cave diving persuasion, this scenario is a daunting reality, the life-threatening downside of a fervent passion. No matter how skilled you are at cave diving, you must remain wary of the risk of getting stranded or trapped.
Here are five of the world’s most dangerous caves.
Eagle’s Nest – Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, Florida
If you were to take a trip to Florida’s Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area, you probably wouldn’t think that the Eagle’s Nest looks like much more than a scummy pond. You would be mistaken, however, as this site is actually a notoriously compartmentalized cave system that has claimed the lives of numerous divers. Those brave enough to take the dive hundreds of feet down are rewarded with mammoth chambers of crystal clear splendor and access to a large cavern called “The Main Ballroom.” Once that far, a complex system of tunnels leads divers to further discoveries. Making it back the way you came is the tough part and the reason this trip is recommended for expert divers only.
Gufr-Berger – Vercors, French Alps
Though the French Alps’ 4,340 foot-deep Gufr-Berger cave is no longer regarded as the world’s deepest, it’s fall from ranking’s grace is no reason to underestimate it. Not only does Berger descend so far beneath the earth that it takes explorers between 15 and 30 hours to reach the cave’s surface from its lowest point (and that’s without breaks), but its Pavodkoopasna chamber is also notorious for flash floods that have killed as many as five in recent years. The only thing worse than being trapped in a cave is being trapped in a cave under water.
Krubera Cave – Western Caucuses, Abkhazia
Located in the eastern European region of Abkhazia in the Western Caucuses, the Krubera Cave is currently regarded as the world’s deepest at 7,021 feet, or about 1.3 miles. Even as Ukranian speleogolists (cave researchers) traversed down to Krubera Cave’s lowest point, they continued to discover various species of animal life, including spiders and scorpions – both of which scientists had ample time to study during the 14 days it took them to find daylight. If the prospect of getting lost or trapped in the world’s deepest cave doesn’t get your blood pumping, the thought of spending two weeks trapped in the dark with scorpions and spiders surely must.
Orda Cave System - Perm Region, Russia
When diving deep below the surface of Russian waters in the region’s Orda Cave system, one need not be worried about finding scorpions. In fact, one need not be worried about finding much of anything, because few species can survive in water temperatures just a notch above freezing. Those who’ve explored the region praise its wonder and majesty. Beauty aside, any expedition to Orda is inherently one of the world’s riskiest and intended only for veteran divers. As underwater photographer, journalist and Orda journeyman, Victor Lyagushkin, told the DailyMail, ”we do control our risks – before each dive we discuss each moment, to find a solution to any situation we are faced with. If it is too risky, we do not dive. We must be aware of each step, or you will die.”
The Blood Grotto - Port of Palinuro, Italy
With a name like The Blood Grotto, one might think Italy’s submerged cave system in the tourist port of Palinuro is another spot intended for cave diving experts. It’s actually a popular amateur locale where beginners are encouraged to try their hand at the sport. That doesn’t sound too extreme, so why include it on our list? Because in July 2012, four divers got lost in the Grotto’s underwater caverns and drowned. One survivor told CNN, “we suddenly found ourselves in a blind tunnel. We couldn’t see anything. At that point it was panic. The agitation of the least experienced took hold. Mud and sand came up from the bottom of the cave and visibility was gone.” Pro-grade or not, any cave dive can go from recreational to deadly in a matter of seconds. It all comes down to which way you turn.
Cover Photo Credit: DiveKarma / Flickr.com