It’s in southern Alaska, British Columbia, that was discovered in 2018 the entrance to a cave so large that it could hold the Statue of Liberty without a problem.
An unexpected discovery
The discovery of this huge cave dates back to 2 years ago, when researchers were conducting a routine caribou-counting operation by helicopter. John Pollack, archaeologist and governor of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society explained to Canadian Geographic the enormity of his expedition’s discovery.
The aperture is 100 metres long and 60 metres wide, and when you stand on the edge and look down, your line of sight is almost 183 metres,” Pollack added. “You don’t have a 600-foot line of sight in Canadian caves – it just doesn’t happen. And that’s a well. It goes down pretty steep, a lot of water flows down there and it’s wide open until we get down there”.
The Sarlacc well – two years later.
Since its discovery in 2018, scientists have had very few opportunities to study the cave, which they have nicknamed the Sarlacc Well after the iconic creature from the Star Wars saga, because of the small window of time during which it can be safely explored. The snow must be gone and the water level of the river flowing into it must be low enough, which only happens in September and part of October.
At the entrance, the shaft is made of layers of marble and garnet mica schist, with some quartzite. In places, the marble has scattered quartz grains that stand out in relief on the calcite and sandy limestone. Scientists used a helicopter, a camera and later software to produce a spatially correct 3D model of the visible parts of the entrance.
The Disappearing River, near the Hare Indian River Plateau in western Canada, is one of the finest examples of a flowing river in Canada, but the flow of this Wells Gray Cave is much greater, with a vertical shaft of gigantic proportions and unique beauty.
So far, to ensure that the cave can be examined under proper conditions, authorities have imposed fines of over $1,000,000 for trespassing to deter climbers, looters and Instagram influencers. “We think it might be connected to a much older cave system,” Catherine Hickson, one of the scientists who discovered the cave, told CBC.
The global warming responsible for the discovery ?
Unfortunately, according to Hickson, global warming is certainly responsible for the discovery of the cave, the only shadow on the announcement of the discovery, which was otherwise sunny. “This collapse is probably related to climate change, as evidenced by the gradual retreat of glaciers in the immediate area,” says the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, published in February 2020.
But Hickson and other geologists admit that the melting snow has “opened up a tantalizing opportunity” to explore what may be the largest cave entrance of its kind in Canada. The cave has an unknown depth and circumference, but based on the suspected resurgence feature, it should be at least 460 metres deep and 2.16 km in circumference.