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Caves Have A Reputation For Being Dark And Scary, But The Largest In The World Is Teeming With Life


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When Hồ Khanh, a 16-year-old in the Quảng Bình Province in Vietnam, was taking a walk in the lush forests of the Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park in 1991, he wasn't looking for anything in particular. He may have been seeking a little peace and quiet, perhaps, or some time for solitary reflection and relaxation in the heart of the forest. What he found was mind-blowing.


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As he walked, he took a misstep and, like something out of a fantastical movie, the jungle floor opened up under Khanh's feet. He jumped back as the earth fell away from his feet. 


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When he peered down into the chasm where he'd been standing just a moment before, he could see only a deep darkness.


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Khanh had just unwittingly discovered a secret entrance to a cave that had been hidden from mankind for literally millions of years.


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Not only that, but the cave turned out to be the largest cave on the whole planet.


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It was five times larger than the biggest known cave, Hölloch in Muotathal, Switzerland.


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The cave was named Sơn Đoòng Cave. Since most large caves contain some evidence of a shrine, living quarters, or ancient art, it's entirely possible that Khanh was the first human on the earth to lay eyes on this cave.


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The cave contains some of the earth's tallest stalagmites, up to 230 feet tall.


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Amazingly, researchers didn't fully explore the cave until 2009 when a group of scientists from the British Cave Research Association went in.


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The cave contains a fast-flowing river which served as Sơn Đoòng's namesake - it means "mountain river" in Vietnamese.


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The water's moving concentration of calcium salts created "cave pearls," round speleothem the size of baseballs, some of the largest in the world.


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On the other side of the cave pearls, Sơn Đoòng also contains a 200-foot high calcite wall which the spelunking researchers nicknamed "The Great Wall of Vietnam."


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The cave's first guided tours began in 2013. The guided tours cost $3,000 each and require a day and a half trek to reach the cave, a descent 500 feet down and a walk through all 5.5 miles of the Sơn Đoòng cave.


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Credit: Messy Nessy Chic

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