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article imageHuge cave discovered while counting caribou in British Columbia

By Karen Graham     Dec 7, 2018 in Science
While doing an aerial caribou count in east-central British Columbia in April, officials from Canada’s ministry of national resources, quite by accident, came across a massive cave never seen by humans before — possibly the largest in Canada.
The cave was found in April in an alpine valley in Wells Gray Provincial Park in east-central British Columbia. The cave's mouth gapes 328 feet (100 meters) across, so big that if the Statue of Liberty were to be tipped on its side, it just might span the opening.
The width of the cave is similarly impressive, measuring 197 feet (60 meters), and the cave extends at least 443 feet (135 meters) straight down, reports Live Science. John Pollack, an archaeological surveyor who has visited the site, said it was a “nationally significant” find.
"The scale of this thing is just huge and about as big as they come in Canada. I’ve been in some of the biggest caves in the world, and this thing has an entrance that is truly immense, and not just by Canadian standards,” he told Canadian Geographic.
Clearwater Valley in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Clearwater Valley in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Uli Harder
The exact location of the monstrous cavern is not being revealed in order to protect the undisturbed site while officials prepare for a formal exploration and survey in 2020. But even if someone wanted to visit the location, it would be extremely difficult.
The cave looks like Sarlacc's Pit
The cave has not been officially named by government officials, pending consultation with local First Nations groups, but that has not stopped it acquiring a nickname.
A biologist with the helicopter crew that spotted the sizable opening dubbed it "Sarlacc's Pit," after the lair that housed the predatory sarlacc in the "Star Wars" movie "Return of the Jedi," according to the CBC.
Geologist Catherine Hickson, who was on the team which found the cave, said, “It’s this vertical huge hole and you can imagine a space monster like the Sarlacc occupying this pit. It is huge. It is enormous. When you first see it, you just gasp because it’s just this huge hole in the ground.”
You would think that someone, a hiker, surveyor or even a previous helicopter crew would have come across this giant cave sometime before this, but no - this is the first time humans have set their eyes upon the cave.
The deep and wide cave was probably hollowed out by glaciers over tens of thousands of years, and it gradually became exposed to the sky after the glaciers receded. The cave could have been covered with snow all year round, until as recently as the 1990s, and thus lain undiscovered for thousands of years say geologists.
Rising temperatures caused by climate change could be to blame for its eventual emergence.
A river runs beneath it
Take a moment to look at the video that accompanies this story. The footage was captured by geologist Catherine Hickson, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.
Seen from the air, reports Fox News, the cave resembles a giant bite taken out of the hillside. Steep, rocky walls plunge downward, and a waterfall cascades more than 525 feet over the edge.
In September, a team tried to climb down inside the huge chamber, They descended 80 meters (263 feet) before being stopped by the flow of an underground river. Pollack told Canadian Geographic: "After rushing water tumbles over the precipice into the cave's depths, it likely flows into a subterranean river that emerges above ground 6,890 feet away, at an elevation that's about 1,640 feet lower than the water's entry point. This hints at the length of the underground chambers in the cave."
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