Explorers have discovered Australia’s deepest known cave – and named it after a variant of the Covid virus.
The cave, dubbed the Delta Variant, reaches 1,315 feet (401 meters) in the Junee Florentine Karst region of Tasmaniathe South Island of Australia.
Delta Variant is only slightly deeper than Australia’s previous record holder, Niggly Cave, which is 397 meters deep and is located in the same cave system.
However, none compare to the deepest known cave in the world – Veryovkina Cave in Abkhazia, Georgia, which reaches 7,257 feet (2,212 meters).
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An elite team of nine cave explorers from southern Tasmania have set a new record for Australia’s deepest cave in Tasmania’s Niggly and Growling Swallet cave system
‘A grueling expedition’: Explorers celebrate as they reach the bottom of the Delta Variant, Australia’s deepest known cave
Delta Variant is only slightly deeper than Australia’s former record holder, the Niggly Cave, which is 1,302 feet (397 meters) deep and is located in the same cave system
HOW TO GET IN SHAPE?
Caves form when flowing water slowly dissolves rock over a long period of time, says Gabriel C Rau, a senior lecturer at Newcastle University in New South Wales, Australia.
Specifically, they form within certain geological formations called “karst” – which include structures made of limestone, marble and dolomite.
“The karst is made up of tiny fossilized microorganisms, shell fragments and other debris that have accumulated over millions of years,” he said.
“Long after they die, small sea creatures leave behind their ‘calcareous’ shells made of calcium carbonate.
“This calcareous sediment accumulates in relatively soft geological structures. As water flows through crevices in the rock, it continually dissolves the rock to slowly form a cave system.
The so-called Delta Variant is connected to Tasmania’s Niggly and Growling Swallet cave system, northwest of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital.
At 1,315 feet, it’s the equivalent of three Sydney Harbor bridges or four London Elizabeth Towers on top of each other.
An elite team of cavers from the Southern Tasmanian Caverners discovered the cave after 14 hours underground and six months of preparation.
The team entered the cave around 11:00 a.m. local time last Saturday (July 30) and exited around 1:30 a.m. Sunday.
“I was definitely nervous, you feel conscious of your own mortality,” said team member Ciara Smart.
“Although you know you’re safe, it’s very intimidating and so is the sound – it’s a constant roar of the waterfall. You can’t hear anything above your own breath, it’s scary sometimes.
According to the explorers, the cave was named after a variant of Covid “to remind future cavers of contemporary events”.
Parts of the cave have even been named after different Covid-related terminologies, including “Test Station Queue”, “Super Spreader” and “Daily Cases”, the ABC reports
Explorers had to contend with harsh underground conditions, in part due to high water levels from recent Australian winter snowfall.
“The cave was exceptionally strenuous,” caver Ben Armstrong said.
The explorers faced harsh conditions underground, in part due to high water levels from recent Australian winter snowfall.
“It was extremely vertical, requiring hundreds of meters to climb and descend on ropes.”
The cave is a few meters from the entrance to the Niggly and Growling Swallow cave system.
It includes Niggly Cave, discovered in 1994, which was previously the deepest known cave in the country.
Gabriel C Rau, a senior lecturer in Newcastle University’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences, said the Delta variant is just an ‘appetizer into the wider world of caves’ .
“I’m sure there are small spaces, too narrow for us to explore, that open up to much longer or larger systems than we’ve ever discovered,” he wrote for The conversation.
Pictured is a cave explorer in Tasmania’s Niggly Cave, Australia’s previous record holding cave for depth
CAVER TRAPPED UNDERGROUND IS SAVED ALIVE AFTER THREE-DAY MISSION
A seriously injured caver who became stranded in a 900ft deep cave system below the Brecon Beacons after plunging from a 50ft ledge was dramatically rescued last November.
The man in his 40s was extracted from the caves of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu by a team of rescuers.
Working in 12-hour shifts, some 250 workers pulled the man out of the cave system on a stretcher.
After being brought to the surface, he was cheered and cheered on by rescuers before being helped into a Land Rover rescue cave ready to be transported to a waiting ambulance.
The operation, which took 57 hours and lasted three days, was the longest of its kind to be carried out in Wales.
Nearly 250 rescuers – including the team that rescued 12 young Thai footballers in 2018 – painstakingly carried the injured man on a stretcher through narrow caverns interspersed with gushing streams and waterfalls.