A gigantic sinkhole in China has led a team of cavers to discover a ‘world class’ cave hall complex hidden beneath.
The sinkhole opened up this week in a range of limestone mountains in the Guangxi region of China.
After the giant opening, which measures 656 ft long, 328 ft broad and 387 ft deep, opened up, the team descended into the caves via a single rope and then explored the complex using 3D scanners.
They were able to map the 236 million cubic feet hidden beneath the earth, making this one of the biggest sinkholes on earth.
British Caving Association chairman Andy Eavis was among the leaders of the 19-strong team who explored the ‘tiankeng’ or sinkhole.
The joint British-Chinese expedition found everything from underground rivers to stone pillars.
Zhang Yuanhai of the Institute of Karst Geology of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences said: “This giant cave hall was actually discovered by the Hong Kong expedition last year, so it was named Hong Kong·Haiting Hall.
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“This time we mainly determined its volume and world-class status through three-dimensional scanning.”
The sinkhole formed due to erosion of the limestone by water, causing the roof of one of the subterranean caves to collapse in on itself.
This particular type of underground network of caverns is thought to take over a million years to form.