How deep is the deepest cave in the world

Underground tidal wave: cave explorers climb for their lives

Then I heard a very angry voice behind me. Jeff yelled to slow down. I was so relieved to hear his voice! Finally we reached a makeshift bivouac in a side corridor, where we could wait safely, dry and sheltered from the wind. The first of the Russian cave explorers appeared. We asked him if he had seen anyone else. He said no. Without saying so openly, we assumed the others were dead. We went to the nearest camp and waited. But then the others appeared. They even took equipment with them. All survived, but Petr was badly injured in his knee.

Captured 16 hours

At first we couldn't climb any further, because after the next waterfall there was a narrow horizontal corridor that had to be completely flooded. We waited 16 hours, trapped between the flood below and the waterfall above. The Russian cave explorers felt relatively safe and laughed in their tent. Jeff and I, on the other hand, walked restlessly and watched the water. Did it rise again? We kept all of our gear on. If something happened, we wanted to be ready. Eventually the tide subsided. Jeff and I climbed to the nearest camp with the injured Petr. The others went back down to save what could be saved. They returned with my camera and tripod. One of my watertight containers got wedged into the ceiling of the cave, they told me. It took us four days to get to the surface.

Changed normalcy

Usually my senses are sharpened after such a cave tour. This time everything seemed strangely subdued, I felt like a ghost. At the same time, I've never been so relieved. A year later, Pawel and a colleague from his team visited me at home in Innsbruck. They put two bottles of vodka in the freezer and asked me to close my eyes. When I opened it again, some of the equipment I had left behind was lying on my kitchen table.

Robbie Shone has been exploring and photographing caves for 20 years. His first report for NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC in March 2017 was about the Dark Star Cave in Uzbekistan.

Translated from the English by Susanne Schmidt-Wussow

The article was originally published in the August 2020 issue of Germany's National Geographic magazine. Never miss an issue again and now oneTake out a subscription!