Depth, danger, and desire are embodied in this planet's most harrowing chasms. Scientists and cavers alike are drawn for different reasons, either for data or stepping where no person has gone before. In regard to how these caves came to be, alkaline rocks dissolve under the pressure of water (which is naturally slightly acidic) over millions of years to create networks of passages. Geologic sculptures like stalactites, which hang delicately from cave ceilings, bear witness to the march of time as they form at an imperceptibly slow pace of millimeters per year, thanks to the drips of water that deposit minerals in their wake. For the record, although this list encompasses the most recent data, the unexplored sections of these caves leave room for dramatic change as new discoveries are made.
- Veryovkina Cave (2212 m / 7,257 ft deep, 10.9 mi long)
- Krubera-Voronja Cave (2199 m / 7,215 ft deep, 14.3 mi long)
- Sarma Cave (1830 m / 6,004 ft deep, 11.9 mi long)
- Snezhnaja Cave (1760 m / 5,774 ft deep, 25.4 mi long)
- Lamprechtsofen (1735 m / 5,692 ft deep, 38 mi long)
- Gouffre Mirolda (1733 m / 5,686 ft deep, 8.1 mi long)
- Gouffre Jean-Bernard (1617 m / 5,305 ft deep, 16.8 mi long)
- Sistema del Cerro del Cuevón (1589 m / 5,213 ft deep, 4.3 mi long)
- Hirlatzhöhle (1560 m / 5,118 ft deep, 70.2 mi long)
- Sistema Huautla (1560 m / 5,118 ft deep, 55 mi long)
1. Veryovkina Cave (2212 m / 7,257 ft deep, 10.9 mi long)
The Veryovkina Cave, marking its position in the contentious area of Abkhazia, Georgia, has the honor of being the deepest recorded cave worldwide. An intriguing history attaches itself to this remarkable landmark; it first came into light in 1968, thanks to the efforts of diligent Soviet speleologists. However, its extraordinary depth was only confirmed in the last six years, adding a fairly recent detail to its story. The cave's existence can be credited to its location within the Arabika Massif, an area known for its karst topology. Limestone, the primary constituent of this region, has given shape to this enormous cave. Within its vast depths, one finds vertical pits interwoven with horizontal galleries, while stalagmites and stalactites add a surreal touch to its interior. Yet, the Veryovkina Cave holds significant risks, with its frequent floods and vertical drops, making it a challenging domain for even the most seasoned explorers.
2. Krubera-Voronja Cave (2199 m / 7,215 ft deep, 14.3 mi long)
The Krubera-Voronja Cave, also positioned in Abkhazia, once held the title of the world's deepest cave in the early 20th century until it was usurped by Veryovkina. Its layout possesses distinct traits; two primary sections that diverge in the first few hundred meters, the Nekuybyshevskaya and Main, reach depths of 1,390 meters and 2,199 meters, respectively. Past 1,300 meters, the Main splinters into various branches. One key challenge for cavers is negotiating the water-filled passages or 'sumps,' requiring scuba gear for traversal. The deepest of these sumps has been braved up to a depth of 52 meters. Delving into its formation, the cave owes its depth to aggressive erosion by the subterranean rivers of the Gagra Range. However, the cave is not without hazards; hypothermia, falls, and flooding, obstructed entrances during snowy winters, pose serious threats. Nevertheless, the cave has lured numerous international adventurers, and this attention is likely to continue.
3. Sarma Cave (1830 m / 6,004 ft deep, 11.9 mi long)
Transitioning to third place, we unearth the Sarma Cave, which rests once again within the Arabika Massif of Abkhazia. Remarkably, it is characterized by its spacious, ghostly halls that stretch into abyssal depths and labyrinth-like channels that add to its mysterious appeal. The tremendous depth of this cave was not determined by chance; instead, meticulous exploration by professionals (who are the only ones permitted here), combined with precise topographic analysis, contributed to this estimation, although it remains partially uncharted due to the inhospitable conditions that persist within. A noteworthy facet of its geology is the theorized existence of further tunnels that may one day push its total depth to 2000 meters. However, its depth and beauty do not come without risk; the Sarma Cave presents grave dangers, primarily due to the swift, unforeseeable increase in water levels during periods of heavy rainfall, making it perilous for speleologists.
4. Snezhnaja Cave (1760 m / 5,774 ft deep, 25.4 mi long)
Next is Snezhnaja Cave, considered to be one of the most difficult systems in the USSR and in the world, especially if attempting to navigate it without the use of siphons. A fascinating maze of tunnels and chambers, Snezhnaja captures the attention of experts due to its labyrinthine layout, a product of four distinct erosion levels that provide a glimpse into Earth's past. At the base of the cave lie the Throne Hall and Hall X, Abkhazia's largest underground chambers. With the Throne Hall extending 309 m by 109 m, with a 40 m high ceiling, and Hall X spanning 250 m by 70 m, with an even higher 50 m ceiling, their dimensions are truly imposing. The cave's first human footsteps belong to Soviet speleologists of the late 1960s, but it wasn't until the dawn of the 1990s that its astonishing depth was fully recognized. The cave boasts colossal speleothems (formations like stalactites), contributing to its status as not just one of the deepest but also one of the most visually impressive caves.
5. Lamprechtsofen (1735 m / 5,692 ft deep, 38 mi long)
Lamprechtsofen, a massive cave system, spans the Leogang Mountains of Austria. Its existence traces back to the Middle Ages, intriguing locals with tales of hidden treasures concealed by a knight named Lamprecht post-Crusades. In the 20th century, the cave's full extent was uncovered, revealing the truth of the centuries-old stories. Historically, the cave bore witness to treasure seekers' exploits, evidenced by the skeletal remains discovered in 1905, thought to be erstwhile adventurers. Although only portions of Lamprechtsofen are open to the public, the accessibility offers a captivating glimpse into the subterranean world. The cave, spectacular in its formation, captivates the onlooker with its hidden waterfalls, numerous dripstones, and spacious chambers, presenting a sight to behold.
6. Gouffre Mirolda (1733 m / 5,686 ft deep, 8.1 mi long)
Unveiling a world far beneath the surface, Gouffre Mirolda, positioned in the Samoëns Valley of the French Alps, continues to captivate cavers. Found initially in 1971, it wasn't until thirty years later when it was finally measured in 2003, that its reputation as one of the deepest caves was solidified. The cave's entrance soars at 2336 meters, while the deepest point, the grand siphon, descends to -1733 meters. Its gallery, branching off beyond the second siphon, expands horizontally and vertically, opening up to an ancient drainage system as well as further unexplored areas. Past the first siphon at -1733 meters, the gallery splits, with one path leading upward and the other reaching the fossil gallery 50 meters away. Gouffre Mirolda, adorned with countless stalactites adorning its ceiling, is an underground spectacle, a testament to the power and mystery of natural forces.
7. Gouffre Jean-Bernard (1617 m / 5,305 ft deep, 16.8 mi long)
Located in the heart of the French Alps, Gouffre Jean-Bernard reveals itself as another cavernous marvel in the Samoëns region. Its geological makeup, predominantly Jurassic limestone, shaped a labyrinth of interconnected shafts, galleries, and pitches, carved out by millennia of persistent underground water flow. Uncovered in 1963, this expansive network of subterranean passages held the distinction of being the world's deepest cave for an era after a blocked passage was uncovered in 1979. The cave itself speaks to the tight-knit community that often forms between contemporary teams of explorers, as it was named after a pair that died in a different expedition.
8. Sistema del Cerro del Cuevón (1589 m / 5,213 ft deep, 4.3 mi long)
Sistema del Cerro del Cuevón, reaching depths of 1589m and extending 4.3 miles in length, anchors itself in Picos de Europa, a mesmerizing mountain range in northern Spain. In 1998, Franco-Spanish speleologists first reached the bottom of these chasms, setting a Spanish record. The system includes two entrances, Torca del Cerro del Cuevón and Torca de las Saxifragas, the former being particularly challenging due to its depth of 1586 meters and requiring three days for descent. In 2015, four speleologists braved the Torca del Cerro with the assistance of 50 other professionals over a period of four days. The enterprise sought to understand the correlation between gas emissions and seismic movements. Ultimately, the Sistema's depth solidifies it as the deepest chasm in Spain and the eighth deepest in the world.
9. Hirlatzhöhle (1560 m / 5,118 ft deep, 70.2 mi long)
Hirlatzhöhle, situated in the Dachstein Mountains of Austria, stands out as one of the longest and deepest caves globally, reaching an astounding depth of 1560 meters (5,118 feet) with a length spanning 70.2 miles. The cave has six entrances, and divers are essential to use three of them. Moreover, the Dark Star vent inside the cave, reaching over 270 meters high and filled with loose rocks, poses a formidable barrier to further exploration, which requires equipment to be carried through tight passageways over a period of several days. In January 2005, Ulrich Meyer did just that and set a world record by diving 11,500 meters from one of those passageways. However, in a sad event in 2016, speleologist Stefan D. passed away during an expedition 2 kilometers from the cave entrance, and his body was recovered on the same day by Austrian rescuers. Even though Hirlatz is ninth in depth, it still demands respect and a healthy dose of caution.
10. Sistema Huautla (1560 m / 5,118 ft deep, 55 mi long)
The intriguing Sistema Huautla, situated in Oaxaca, Mexico, holds the record for being the deepest cave in the Western Hemisphere. This natural wonder was shaped in limestone, creating a maze of interconnected caverns, tunnels, and pits, all meticulously carved by the relentless action of water over countless millennia. Originally discovered by cavers from Austin, Texas, in 1965, the deepest point was found 12 years later after multiple underground camps were utilized by a determined team. In 2013, another team utilized diving tech like rebreathers to explore Huatla's mysterious and calm lake, located at the very bottom and measuring 100 feet wide, to reveal a total depth of 1560 m. Historically, the cave systems of this region hold a revered place in the hearts of the indigenous Mazatec people, and many myths about powerful human-like creatures are still believed today.
These ten deepest caves each present unique elements, from the captivating stalactites and stalagmites of Veryovkina Cave to the labyrinthine chambers of the Snezhnaja Cave. However, these chasms are not simply geological oddities; they have often demanded sacrifice and loss in their discovery and exploration. Navigating their treacherous depths has presented daunting challenges, and on occasion, a profound human cost. Unexplored sections still exist within each of these caves, and as cavers and scientists press on, the profiles of these caves continue to evolve. Ultimately, the ongoing exploration of these subterranean realms reaffirms the truth that our understanding of the Earth is not static, but continually shifting and expanding, just as these caves have done over millennia.
30 Deepest Caves In The World
|1||Veryovkina Cave||2212||17.5 km (10.9 mi)||Abkhazia / Georgia|
|2||Krubera-Voronja Cave||2199||23.0 km (14.3 mi)||Abkhazia / Georgia|
|3||Sarma cave||1830||19.2 km (11.9 mi)||Abkhazia / Georgia|
|4||Snezhnaja cave||1760||40.8 km (25.4 mi)||Abkhazia / Georgia|
|5||Lamprechtsofen||1735||61 km (38 mi)||Austria|
|6||Gouffre Mirolda||1733||13 km (8.1 mi)||France|
|7||Gouffre Jean-Bernard||1617||27.1 km (16.8 mi)||France|
|8||Sistema del Cerro del Cuevón||1589||7 km (4.3 mi)||Spain|
|9||Hirlatzhöhle||1560||113.5 km (70.5 mi)||Austria|
|10||Sistema Huautla||1560||89 km (55 mi)||Mexico|
|11||Chevé Cave||1536||77.0 km (47.8 mi)||Mexico|
|12||Pantjuhinskaja Cave||1508||7.9 km (4.9 mi)||Abkhazia / Georgia|
|13||Sima de la Cornisa||1507||6.4 km (4.0 mi)||Spain|
|14||Čehi 2||1505||5.5 km (3.4 mi)||Slovenia|
|15||Sistema del Trave||1441||9.1 km (5.7 mi)||Spain|
|16||Velebit caves||1431||3.7 km (2.3 mi)||Croatia|
|17||Boybuloq||1430||15.2 km (9.4 mi)||Uzbekistan|
|18||Egma Sinkhole||1429||3.1 km (10,000 ft)||Turkey|
|19||Gouffre de La Pierre Saint-Martin||1410||87.3 km (54.2 mi)||France, Spain|
|20||Kuzgun Cave||1400||3.1 km (1.9 mi)||Turkey|
|21||Hochscharten-Höhlensystem||1394||14.6 km (9.1 mi)||Austria|
|22||Črnelsko brezno||1393||20 km (12 mi)||Slovenia|
|23||Abisso Paolo Roversi||1360||4.2 km (2.6 mi)||Italy|
|24||Sistema Arañonera-Tendenera||1349||45.2 km (28.1 mi)||Spain|
|25||BU 56||1340||32.6 km (20.3 mi)||Spain|
|26||Siebenhengste-Hohgant-Höhle||1340||164.5 km (102.2 mi)||Switzerland|
|27||Nedam (jama)||1335||3.3 km (2.1 mi)||Croatia|
|28||Sima del Sabbat||1327||3 km (1.9 mi)||Spain|
|29||Slovačka jama||1324||6.4 km (4.0 mi)||Croatia|
|30||Renetovo brezno||1322||12.3 km (7.6 mi)||Slovenia|