Divers in Mexico have discovered the largest known underwater, flooded cave in the world. The discovery could reveal more about the pre-Hispanic, ancient community that existed in the region. The Yucatan Peninsula, where the cave is located, still holds treasures from the ancient Mayan community.
The cave is made of two massive underwater caverns that are connected. The cave stretches across 216 miles, according to the Gran Acuífero Maya (GAM), the team of explorers who discovered the cave.
The cave was discovered near the beach resort of Tulum, reported euters. The two caves, Sac Actun and Dos Ojos, measured at 163 miles and 52 miles, respectively. Until the discovery of the connection between the two caves, the largest underwater cave in the world was the Ox Bel Ha, which stretched 168 miles long, according to the National Speleological Society. But now, the Sac Actun cave system is the largest known underwater cave on Earth.
Finding a cave such as this one would have required “painstaking exploration,” according to Thomas Iliffe, marine biologist who studies marine life in underwater caves from the University of Texas A&M at Galveston. The complex tunnels branch off in different directions, there are lower and upper level passages and getting lost can be fatal. “These are really maze-like systems,” Iliffe, who was not involved with this discovery, told Newsweek.
To avoid getting lost, explorers create maps of the underwater passages. The divers often compare the maps of different caves by overlaying them in an attempt find locations where connections between caves might exist, according to Iliffe. They focus on exploring those areas to find passages where caves connect.