We Just Found the World's Largest Underwater Cave in a Secret Mayan Tomb in Mexico
Explorers with the Great Maya Aquifer Project just discovered that two large underwater caverns on the Yucatan Peninsula are connected, forming a labyrinth of caves 215 miles long. This makes the caves the largest flooded cavern on Earth.
Many have traveled the caves' hundreds of kilometers for decades, discovering that the system has more wonders than just its length. Mayan archeological sites have provided documented evidence of the first settlers in America, along with extinct plant and animal species. In 2014, divers discovered the oldest human skeleton in the New World while exploring the cavern's system known as Sac Actun, which is located northeast of Tulum.
Until a couple of days ago, the Ox Bel Ha System, located south of Tulum, was the longest at 168 miles. The San Actun System absorbed the 52-mile-long Dos Ojos system, and as the rules of caving state that when two cave systems are connected, the largest cave absorbs the smallest, its name disappeared.
"This is an effort of more than 20 years, to travel hundreds of kilometers of caves submerged in Quintana Roo mainly, of which I dedicated 14 years to explore this monstrous Sac Actun System," said lead explorer Robert Schmittner. "[N]ow everyone's job is to keep it [going]."
Next up for the explorers- connecting San Actun with three other giant underwater systems, all close to each other and located in Tulum. The Quintana Roo Speleological Survey reports that there are 358 submerged cave systems in the northern part of the state, totaling almost 870 miles of flooded, freshwater passages.
Tulum has become a mecca to cave divers or obvious reasons. Among the first to explore the are was Bil Phillips, co-founder of the Quintana Roo Survey, who swam the depths up for over 40 years until his death last November.
In other ocean news, we still don't know what those "free oscillations" are humming on the ocean floor, but scientists are hoping we can use the hum to better map out the Earth's interior. And last year, oceanographers spotted double sea vortexes called modons that are powerful enough to swallow up sea life.
Last year, two engineers created a jetpack that allows the wearer to "fly" underwater, although the tech is certainly too dangerous for cramped, potentially dangerous situations like underwater spelunking. Besides, no one ought to go jetting around an archeological site with experimental tech.