for National Geographic News
A massive cave recently uncovered in a remote Vietnamese jungle is the largest single cave passage yet found, a new survey shows.
At 262-by-262 feet (80-by-80 meters) in most places, the Son Doong cave beats out the previous world-record holder, Deer Cave in the Malaysian section of the island of Borneo.
Deer Cave is no less than 300-by-300 feet (91-by-91 meters), but it's only about a mile (1.6 kilometers) long.
By contrast, explorers walked 2.8 miles (4.5 kilometers) into Son Doong, in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, before being blocked by seasonal floodwaters—and they think that the passage is even longer.
In addition, for a couple of miles Son Doong reaches more than 460-by-460 feet (140-by-140 meters), said Adam Spillane, a member of the British Cave Research Association expedition that explored the massive cavern.
Spillane was in the first of two groups to enter the cave. His team followed the passage as far as a 46-foot-high (14-meter-high) wall.
"The second team that went in got flooded out," he said. "We're going back next year to climb that wall and explore the cave further."
A local farmer, who had found the entrance to the Son Doong cave several years ago, led the joint British-Vietnamese expedition team to the cavern in April.
The team found an underground river running through the first 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) of the limestone cavern, as well as giant stalagmites more than 230 feet (70 meters) high.
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