The year in caves: 2018 revealed some jawdropping underground worlds
Science Alert: The world’s caves are easily forgotten. Missing from most maps and hidden from the surface, these underground kingdoms are often cloaked by darkness and shrouded in mystery.
It’s the sort of thing that makes headlines around the world, and in 2018, we were fortunate enough to discover several incredible new caverns. But that wasn’t where the cave news ended. Here are some of the most gripping narratives from underground from the past year.
1. The Sac Actun System
In January, after 10 months of intensive exploration, scientists in Mexico finally managed to locate what would turn out to be the world’s largest flooded cave system.
2. La Cueva de los Verdes lava tube
That was just the beginning. A couple months later one of the world’s largest volcanic cave complexes – the La Cueva de los Verdes lava tube in Spain – was mapped by researchers in the greatest detail ever, covering every corner and crevice of this volcanic wormhole.
3. The Thai soccer team
As brilliant and impressive as cave systems are, their complexity is also what makes them dangerous. The story about the Thai soccer team trapped in a cave by rising floodwaters was an 18-day ordeal that could have ended in tragedy if it wasn’t for the quick and smart response from rescuers.
4. Blombos Cave etchings.
When they aren’t busy trying to kill us, caves can also be a canvas for our thoughts. A piece of cave art, discovered in 2011 in Cape Town’s Blombos Cave, was this year revealed as the oldest known drawing in human history.
5. China’s Massive inkhole. The world’s caves have a way of giving us the slip, even when they are right underfoot. But sometimes, when we least expect it, we are fortunate enough to catch them.
6. The ‘Sarlacc Pit’
In many ways, 2018 left the best for the last. Just last month, a huge, gaping cave was discovered in the remote Canadian wilderness – one that may have never been seen by human eyes before.