THE deepest-known cave on Earth extends seven times the length of The Shard and has come close to killing many intrepid explorers.
Located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, the 7,293ft-deep Veryovkina Cave is truly something to behold.
It took 50 years and 30 expeditions for Russian cavers to reach its record depth in 2018 – but they think there is more to be discovered.
Veryovkina is buried in the Arabika Massif in Abkhazia – a breakaway region from Georgia – in the Gagra mountain range of the Western Caucasus.
It is believed the four deepest caves on the planet exist in the area.
The cave’s entrance has a cross section of 9.8ft by 13.1ft and an entrance shaft depth of 105ft.
Although a stunning underground chamber, Veryovkina also has a dark history of caver deaths and close calls.
In September 2018, a group of cavers entered the cave with hopes of documenting new crevices and perhaps discovering new species of animal – but disaster struck just three days into their expedition.
Two of the explorers issued a warning call to the rest of their crew who were behind them, alerting them to the fact they were approaching the risk of gushing water.
The team believed they were safe and did not worry – until a trickling sound near their tent became “louder and louder”.
One of the cavers, a photographer named Robbie Shone, recounted the moment he knew he was in peril.
He said: “I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness. We have to leave right now. We cannot wait. If we just hang around, we’re all going to die.’
“The most enormous torrent of white water appeared out of this hole, and I just stood opened-mouthed at the sight of this huge white wall of water entering our little home.
“It got louder and louder. I will never forget that sound,” Ladbible reports.
Mr Shone said a force of water hit him so hard it felt as though his head was “squashed into my shoulders”.
He added that “all hell broke loose” as his group scrambled to leave the dangerous cave and begin their mile-long ascent to safety.
They were separated but managed to climb through a narrow shaft to a camp stocked with food and medical supplies to replenish and recuperate before making their way to the surface.
Others have not been so lucky.
The body of one climber who fell to his death in the cave was recovered nine months after he disappeared in November 2020.
The Russian man, named by local media as Sergei Kozeev, was discovered dead in August 2021.
Cavers found a rope at the entrance to Veryovkina, as well as some of Mr Kozeev’s belongings, before they spotted the unlucky man; his body hung from a rope more than 3,000ft deep.
Photographs on a phone discovered by his body helped‘s organisation Lisa Alert to identify him.
Mr Kozeev is thought by some, including Union of Cavers member Evgeny Snetkov, to have been a tourist unprepared for the challenges of the world’s deepest cave.
He told Radio Sputnik: “The deceased was a so-called multitourist, who are involved in different sports.
“So he decided to take up speleology [the study or exploration of caves], but, unfortunately, he chose a difficult cave, which ruined him.”
Mr Kozeev of Sochi spent about a week at a permanent camp some 2,000ft deep before continuing his descent to more challenging parts about 3,600ft deep, where it is said he got stuck.
He reportedly died of hypothermia, as the temperature in the cave can drop to almost freezing levels.
The explorer’s body was recovered on August 17, 2021 after a complex retrieval operation – two weeks after cavers found him.