An elite team of Australian cavers on the island of Tasmania have linked a recently discovered cave with an already known cave system - setting a new depth record Down Under.
The group of nine spent more than 14 hours on Sunday establishing the connection between the cave, which was named "Delta Variant", and the Niggly/Growling Swallet system, according to a statement by the Southern Tasmanian Caverneers on Monday. Now there is a continuous connection down to a depth of 401 meters. It is the deepest known cave on the fifth continent.
The height of a cave is measured from the highest entry point to the lowest known point. Team member Ciara Smart spoke of a "significant achievement for the caving community" that is contributing to a better scientific understanding of the vastness of Australia's karst systems.
The group had been preparing for their attempt to connect the caves for six months. During this time, numerous ropes were installed and side passages explored. Project organizer Stephen Fordyce christened the cave he discovered "Delta Variant" in view of the corona pandemic to remind future cavers of contemporary events.
The cave is "very challenging," Fordyce said. Among other things, the water level was sometimes very high. The team spent the 14 hours "rappelling, crawling, squeezing and climbing" on muddy ropes. The longest continuous abseil point was 163 meters high. "That's the height of a 53-story building."
Message from the Southern Tasmanian Caverneers team Instagram post