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Ice Cave Lake, Krubera Cave

Krubera Cave - Journeying to the Depths of Georgia in One of the World’s Deepest Caves

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Krubera Cave was once thought to be the deepest cave on earth, although now it is generally regarded as the second deepest. This natural wonder, found in the Republic of Georgia , is renowned among cavers due to its arduous challenges and the subterranean depth.

The Geology and Layout of Krubera Cave

The cave is located in the Arabika Massif of the Gagra Range of the Western Caucasus and overlooks the Black Sea . It is not the only cave in the area, there are many others in the north-west of Georgia, and in fact Krubera is not far from the world’s deepest cave, the Voronya Cave system. It is a mere 80 feet (24 meters) or so deeper than the third deepest cave which is in the Austrian Alps .

The depth of the cave as measured from the entrance to the distance of the deepest explored point is approximately 7,200 feet (2,200 meters). The entrance is surprisingly narrow for such a large cavern and the bottom was only located in 2001.

Inside Krubera Cave, Georgia

Inside Krubera Cave, Georgia. ( Excitement N Net )

The geology of the cave is of limestone that dates from the Cretaceous and Jurassic ages. There are several underground springs and pools within it, and according to those who explored the system, it consists of a number of deep pits connected by passageways. The best known of these is the Cascade pit which is over 500 feet (152 meters) deep and the bottom has a pool of water. Many freezing sumps (water-filled pits) and water cascades have also been discovered.

Many freezing sumps and water cascades have also been discovered

Many freezing sumps and water cascades have also been discovered. ( Excitement N Net )

Speleological History of Krubera Cave

The cave was not explored until the 1960s. The local population was aware of the cave but did not have the means to explore it. The first experts to really study the Krubera Cave entrance were a group of Soviet speleologists who reported that they believed they had found an underground system that was unusually deep.

Soviet speleologists reported that they believed they had found an underground system that was unusually deep

Soviet speleologists reported that they believed they had found an underground system that was unusually deep. ( Excitement N Net )

This team named the underground system after a great Russian geographer, Alexander Kruber, who is regarded as one of the founders of speleology. He was one of the first to survey of the area and published several papers on the caves and their geology. An alternate name for the site is Crow's Cave ( Vronja), in recognition of all the crows who nest in its vicinity.

There were no further expeditions until the 1980s, when a group of Ukrainian speleologists conducted the first large-scale expedition into the caverns. They were able to push down into the narrow connecting chambers and through tight choke points to a depth of 900 feet (274 meters).

Due to the instability brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union , the cave was not explored for the next two decades. In 2001 an American expedition revived interest in the cave and on a series of Krubera cave expeditions they gradually managed to discover more pits, meanders, tunnels, and passages. Underground divers explored the many bodies of water of the cave system.

Underground divers explored the many bodies of water of the cave system

Underground divers explored the many bodies of water of the cave system. ( Excitement N Net )

In 2012, a Ukrainian diver reached the deepest point of Krubera at a depth of over 2,000 feet (600 meters), which at the time was a world record. In 2017 a team proved that the Veryovkina Cave, also in Abkhazia, was the world’s deepest.

The Everest of Caves

To explore this site is an ambition of many cavers and it is known as the Everest of Caves. Descending into the caves requires great planning and resources, including tents and breathing equipment. One recent expedition to Krubera took two weeks exploring the underground labyrinth. It is only now, after 20 years of near constant exploration, that we have a reliable map of Krubera Cave and some believe that more pits and passageways remain undiscovered.

Exploring Krubera Cave is Not for Everyone

Garga, Abkhazia, is a breakaway region and is currently under the control of the Russian Federation and its local allies. Because of this, the cave is difficult to access. It is not possible to enter the region via Georgia and permission is needed to enter Abkhazia from Russia. Only highly trained experts should enter Krubera Cave as it is incredibly dangerous. Amateurs and visitors with a yearning for adventure can explore the area around the entrance.

Only highly trained experts should enter Krubera Cave as it is incredibly dangerous

Only highly trained experts should enter Krubera Cave as it is incredibly dangerous. ( Excitement N Net )

Top Image: Ice Cave Lake, Krubera Cave. Source: Zelenov, A / CC BY 3.0

By Ed Whelan

References

Klimchouk, A. (2012). Krubera (Voronja) Cave. Encyclopedia of Caves . Elsevier, New York, 443, 450. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Alexander_Klimchouk/publication/220044220_Krubera_Voronja_Cave/links/5a0da7a14585153829b30daa/Krubera-Voronja-Cave.pdf

Sendra, A., & Reboleira, A. S. P. (2012). T he world’s deepest subterranean community-Krubera-Voronja Cave (Western Caucasus) . International Journal of Speleology, 41(2), 9. Available at:  https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1077&context=ijs

Williams, P. (2008). World heritage caves and karst . IUCN, Gland, 57. Available at:   https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/2008-037.pdf

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