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Explorers will ‘never forget the sound’ of water filling cave in manic escape
June 1, 2023
A group of cavers who got trapped in the world's deepest cave when water started filling it will 'never forget the sound' of it gushing in.
Eight cavers stationed at the bottom of the 2,212 metre deep Veryovkina Cave in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, received a warning call from two colleagues higher up saying that intense danger was incoming.
The group were on a September 2018 mission in the cave, to explore and photograph its unexplored crevices and potentially a new animal species languishing at the bottom. But after three days stationed at their 2,00 metre camp, danger struck.
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“It got louder and louder,” says Robbie Shone, a National Geographic cave photographer. “I will never forget that sound.”
Two of the group, Roman Zverev and Natalia Sizikova, encountered the flood pulse as they were higher up the cave. They were leaving to catch a flight.
The warned the others below. They were initially unworried, untill a gurgling sound near their tent grew.
Petr Lyubimov soon noticed water sloshing off the cave walls in the enclave they thought was safe.
“When Petr turned and looked at me, his face was white,” said Shone. “And 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,” he added.
National Geographic reported at the time that 'the freight-train of floodwaters continued to tear through the dark chasm.'
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“All hell broke loose," Shone said, and the team rushed to leave the cave.
They ditched gear, including tens of thousands of pounds worth of camera equipment, and started on the mile-long ascent.
The Russians and Americans became separated and were unceartain of the other's fate as the shaft completely filled with water.
At one point Shone was pummelled by the water from above. “It felt like my head was being squashed into my shoulders,” he said.
When the duo pushed through a narrow shaft with the punishing cascading water, they were safe. They still didn't know the rate of the Russians.
They climbed to a camp at 1,900 metres where there was a tent stocked with some food and medical supplies and within 20 minutes all of the Russians had joined them.
“I could not believe it,” Shone said “These guys are so strong and so capable. Kostia had even carried up a pack with sleeping bags, a stove, and a brew kit. Whereas I had almost selfishly only thought about my photos, Kostia had brought four sleeping bags.”
They stayed for 16 hours until the water in a siphon above subsided, and scaled to safety.
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