A team of cave explorers from across Canada have achieved a new record for the deepest cave exploration in the country.
The cave, named Bisaro Anima, is now 5.3 kilometres in length and 670 metres deep, making it the deepest cave in both Canada the continental U.S.
Located on a remote mountain plateau north of Fernie, B.C., the team accessed the area by helicopter.
The record depth was achieved by expedition leader Kathleen Graham after she descended into a sump – a channel in the cave flooded with water – using scuba diving equipment.
Cave explorers taking part in the seven-day effort included Graham, Jeremy Bruns, Colin Massey, Christian Stenner, Jason Lavigne, and Vlad Paulik from Calgary, Alta., Jared Habiak from Water Valley, Alta., Mehdi Boukhal from Vancouver, B.C., and Jérôme Genairon from Montreal, Que.
“When we found the sump a couple of months ago we were surprised and disappointed. I've been imagining what lay beneath the water ever since. Actually, I've been fixated,” said Graham.
Explorers endured harsh conditions to navigate the cave. The longest shaft that the team had to descend was 105 metres, which is the equivalent of a 35-storey office tower.
The cave passages are characterized by deep canyons, waterfalls, crawl-ways, uneven floors, loose rock, and difficult squeezes. Throughout the cave, temperatures hover just above 2 C.
Christian Stenner, a member of the expedition and provincial coordinator of the Alberta and BC Cave Rescue Service, describes what it was like to explore the dark depths of the cave, saying “You are constantly cold, damp, and covered in mud, with no reprieve.”
“The consequences of an injury in this environment are tremendous due to the hazardous conditions and exceptional remoteness,” he adds.
Graham says that this is not the end of the exploration, but is a huge milestone in exploring Bisaro Anima.