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weekly No. 15, 1980


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 too.
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.


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 suits.


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.


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