The first thing you need to know about Krubera Voronya, it no longer holds the title of the deepest cave. BUMMER! Now I have to change all the titles of my stories. It lost the title to its neighboring cave Veryovkina cave when team Perovo-speleo (led by Pavel Demidov and Ilya Turbanov) managed to finish its exploration reaching a depth of –2,212m, only 16 meters deeper. Can you believe that!!! But Krubera’s exploration is not over yet, so there is a big possibility it will win the title back.
The second most important thing you need to know, the picture below (taken from a website) is NOT Kubera Voronya. It is a cave in the USA, and for whatever reason was linked and tagged with Krubera Voronya. It sickens [dramatic] me when people share it with Krubera caption. It makes me realize how easy it is to manipulate the mass, and how dumb the internet can be, especially those who are cavers. I mean, do your homework! We are explorers after all. In addition to this point, Son Doong cave in Vietnam is the largest and NOT the deepest cave.
Krubera Voronya is situated in the Arabika Massif range in Abkhazia, a self-declared sovereign. Where the heck is Abkhazia! I could be shot for saying Abkhazia and not Georgia. Being from the middle east, I learned never to take sides when it comes to politics, but try to be diplomatic instead. So I will put it this way, Abkhazia used to be part of Georgia the country, and had a bad break up and now are in conflict. It is one of those complicated relations, in which Jack wants Rose but Rose chose the door over Jack though she loved him… you get what I mean: “Facebook Complicated”.
Krubera Voronya was first explored in 1960 by Alexander Kruber… and it only became the deepest cave in 2001 by the Ukrainian Speleological Association lead by Jurij Kasjan. Jurij then broke that record again in 2004, and be the first person to explore a cave more than 2,000m deep. Wait, it gets better, in 2007, a famous cave diver from Crimea called Gennady Samokhin (a VERY BRAVE cave diver), managed to dive a Siphon and add 48m depth to the cave… (check point 7.1 for more details).
Krubera Voronya is -2,198m deep, 17km long, very humid, and temperatures are between 5 and 7 degrees centigrade.
I don’t remember quite well, (that’s why I should have probably started a daily diary) but one of the expedition organizers Olga told us a story of how Krubera Voronya used to be only around 100m deep, and during expeditions to adjacent caves, parents would leave their kids to “play”, aka descend in Kubera and explore. And one of the little kids managed to squeeze their butts in a tiny hole that only a kid could fit in, only to find out the cave continues. Hence they resumed the exploration and found, what used to hold the deepest cave title for a long period. Whether or not this story is true, in the underground world, this is totally believable.
As mentioned, Krubera Voronya is not fully explored yet. There are 3 main ongoing projects:
- The siphon: the “dry” cave section ends at -2,146m when a diving section begins. This diving section is so far around 200m long & narrow tube and it is 50m deep. The last reached depth is almost at sea-level. I say “so far” because the explorations continue to lead Gennady Samokhin. They haven’t explored much in their previous pushes, because of how challenging this section is. To give you perspective, [story told] Gennady Samokhin lost one of his tank valves on the dive in. but the section he was in is so narrow that he could not simply u-turn nor go back. His only option was to continue further in hopes to find a wider place to turn back. A risky decision, and in my opinion a torturing decision that had to be made in no time. To make things worst, he knew his other tank might not last for the journey. If you are wondering whether he made it, yes he did!
- The cave splits into 2 sections at around -250m, the section that leads to the deepest point of the cave, and another section that is not yet fully explored and it is a huge chunk of the cave.
- Another cave, Berchilskaya, sits a couple of kilometers away and on higher grounds. Its entrance is around 200m higher than Krubera Voronya’s. For the past few years, Jurij has been the lead explorer and believes the two caves are connected. He has been pushing deeper and deeper every year, and I was lucky to be there in 2016 when they managed to do the biggest breakthrough after many years, digging their ways in through small tiny tunnels, discovering a huge chamber and pushing the cave to [currently] -770 m.
It is not by any means an easy cave, it is very challenging, active, and will fight back if you resist. There are many narrow meanders, tight tunnels, and siphons.
There are few siphons in the cave, and the one I went through is called “Bermuda Sump”. It is about 1.5m deep, and I thought at that time it was 4m long, but it is slightly shorter. There is no supplemental oxygen support, so you have to hold your breath when diving through. The water is freezing and murky. Hold your breath, don’t let go of the handline and push your way through and out. Ah, I wish it was that easy! Scary as f*.
There are 6 underground camps. They sit at, -700m, -1,200m, -1,400m, -1,640m, -1,790m, and -1,960m.
- -700m sits at the end of a big pit. It is the smallest camp of the ones I stayed in.
- -1,200m is the mud cave!!! Mud is everywhere. Try not to slip and fall after cleaning yourself off.
- -1,400m is a cozy camp, biggest tent in there, and a nice big area around it to move around. But dare not go out of the tent, it smells of shit!
- -1,640 is the camp past the siphon, the camp you want to dry off. But it should be named: the wet camp for obvious reasons, the tent leaks, and there is no way of drying off. Often cavers skip this camp and opt-in for a longer day to “Game Over” point and back to -1,400m. My team and I didn’t have that luxury as we were on a mission that in its nature requires us to stop periodically.
- We passed by -1,790m camp, it is used for storing gear and emergencies.
- The last camp is only used for the cave diving support mission, and it is in a section of the cave that we didn’t go through.