Pictures: Israeli Researchers say Sodom Salt Cave is World’s Longest
MOUNT SODOM, ISRAEL (AP) — Israeli researchers said Thursday they have surveyed what they now believe to be the world’s longest salt cave, a network of twisting passageways at the southern tip of the Dead Sea.
A recently completed survey of the Malham Cave determined the labyrinthine cavern stretches more than 10 kilometers (6 miles) in length. That puts it well ahead of Iran’s Namakdan Cave, previously thought to be the longest salt cave.
The survey was conducted by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a collection of Israeli, Bulgarian and international volunteers.
Boaz Langford, a researcher at the university’s Caves Research Center, and Antoniya Vlaykova, a Bulgarian cave explorer from the European Speleological Federation, headed the expedition.
“What’s unique about this cave, as opposed to other salt caves in the world, is that it’s the longest in the world,” Langford said, resting in a chamber of the cave dubbed the “Wedding Hall” for its salt stalactites.
Langford and Vlaykova said they plan to publish the complete map of the cave in a professional publication in the coming months.
This picture taken on March 27, 2019 shows a drop of water dripping from a salt stalactite in the Malham cave inside Mount Sodom, located at the southern part of the Dead Sea in Israel. – Israeli spelunkers announced on March 27 that a salt cave near the Dead Sea was over ten kilometres long, beating Iran’s N3 cave in Qeshm to make it the world’s largest. The cave, named Malham, is a series of canyons running through Mount Sodom, Israel’s largest mountain, and spilling out to the southwest corner of the adjacent Dead Sea. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
The Malham Cave’s main outlet yawns not far from a salt pillar named “Lot’s wife,” after the biblical character who was petrified for looking back at the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. On the mountainside above, Langford, Vlaykova and their colleagues have identified at least 19 openings where seasonal floods have percolated through Mount Sodom’s rock salt to form the cave.
Yoav Negev, founder of the Israeli Cave Explorers Club, said that over two years, his group and a total of 80 volunteers from nine countries spent around 1,500 workdays measuring and mapping the cavern’s recesses.
“It’s above and beyond what we expected,” he said.
Efraim Cohen, one of the Hebrew University cave explorers, described the process of locating the cave’s entrances from the surface, rappelling down into surface shafts, squeezing through tight passages, and measuring each of the cavern’s serpentine branches with lasers.
Despite the difficult environment, he said the cave’s splendor makes it worth it.
“All the stalagmites and stalactites, their beauty, their color — they’re really white, they’re shining, they’re amazing,” Cohen said.