weekly No. 15, 1980
CHAMPIONS OF THE UNDERGROUND KINGDOM
| This photo was taken In the Snezhnaya
Cave. Standing (left to right): Ravil Khubbikhozhin, Alexander
Morozov and Vsevolod Yeshchenku. Sitting: Georg Lyudkovsky
and Bulat Mavlyudov.
The deepest known cave might no longer be in France but in
the USSR. Meanwhile a speleological party, recently returned
to Moscow, has broken the national record for the depth of
descent and duration of stay underground. Their scientific
findings are being analyzed.
Far below, the Black Sea sparkled in the rays of the sun,
jetting into the sea lay the Pitsunda cape with thousands
of holiday nakers basking on its famous beaches warmed by
the sun. Above them, at an altitude of 2,000 m, a group of
people stood facing a black hole. They were about to part
with sunlight and, for three months, go down to a depth greater
than any person in our country had ever ventured.
This cave was discovered in 1971 by a group of speleologists
from Moscow University led by Mikhail Zverev, and has since
been a steady attraction for explorers. The cave has so many
snow obstructions hindering the descent that it was named
Snezhnaya. The year it was discovered a group from Moscow
University went down to a depth of 690 m. Since 1973, the
group led by Alexander Morozov and Daniel Usikov has explored
the cave several times and has reached a greater depth. This
winter they made the most successful descent so far, establishing
a national record of 86 days underground, and a depth record
The preliminary data indicates that the cave is 1,280 m deep
and more then 9 km long, which makes II third in the world
in depth and size. The existence of unexplored galleries allows
us to suppose an even greater depth.
REACHING DOWN TO THE RECORD
There were seven in the group. For a number of reasons Ravil
Khubbikhozhin and Bulat Mavlyudov returned to the surface
from the 1,000 m mark;
Arkady Ivanov and Andrei Pilsky had returned even earlier.
All of them had done much in the initial stage for the success
of the group. Alexander Morozov (leader), Vsevolod Yeshchenko
(doctor) and Georg Lyudkovsky continued the exploration. The
descent was made difficult by
frequent stone obstructions and the unstable grey limestone,
ready to fall at the push of a hand. fhe temperature was steady
at 4 6°C; humidity was 100 per cent due to an underground
river and several waterfalls, the largest of which was named
the Olympian, Dropping from a" altitude of 32 m, water
turned into fine spray which was blown by the wind created
by (he water curent. In places they had to use waterfight
STALAKTITE XMAS TREE
Georg Lyudkovsky: We found the most beautiful hall in the
cave at the greatest depth and named it Penelope in tribute
to speleologist' wives who have a hard time waiting for their
husbands. What attracts me to speleology? The unknown, I suppose.
Vsevolod Yeshchenko (81 days underground): The air in the
cave is wonderfully clean. No microbes and none of the substances
that are largely responsible for man's fatigue on the surface.
Therefore, the speleologist's day underground lasts almost
60 hours - 30 hours of work with a break for a meal and approximately
the same for sleep, also with a break (or a meal. This is
the best schedule when underground. The purity of the air
has a negative factor, too: man's immunity drops so much after
a long stay underground that after surfacing, one has to pass
a very unpleasant spell.
Alexander Morozov (86 days underground without surfacing -
USSR record): To me the important thing in speleology it the
sharpness of sensations underground. You find joy in the most
ordinary things, like your socks being dry, like the meal
coming soon and that you will have porridge and meat.
The scientific aspects of the exploration that are now being
studied include a new species of pseudo-scorpion (presently
being investigated at Moscow University); the results of a
range of biological and psychological tests. In our exploration
of life in the depth of the cave, among other things, we found
mushrooms, small aquatic organisms like the freshwater shrimp
and numerous spiders.