Newly discovered BC cave could be largest ever found in Canada

Dec 4 2018, 7:05 am

A routine survey of mountain caribou and their migration pattern had a far-from expected result in the form of a cave discovery in Wells Gray Provincial Park recently.

And according to those who made the discovery, this is no ordinary cave.

“It’s potentially the largest cave in Canada,” said Geologist Catherine Hickson.

Hickson told Daily Hive that the discovery was made in an area that had been previously surveyed, but the feature had never been seen until this year – likely due to the remoteness of its location, as well as the fact that the cave is covered in snow in ice for large lengths of time during the year.

Courtesy Catherine Hickson.

It was first seen during a helicopter flyover of the area back in May, and Hickson said it was the helicopter’s pilot who first informed BC Parks of the cave, who in turn, contacted Hickson.

“My personal association with the park goes back several decades,” she explained. ” I did my PhD on the southern part of the park, so I know the park quite well.” Upon seeing what she described as “incredible” photos of the feature, Hickson said she “recognized immediately that this was a significant discovery.”

After obtaining the necessary and proper permits, Hickson and a team of researchers were able to fly into the area for the first time this past September, to see the geographical feature up close and in-person.

Courtesy Catherine Hickson.

“Standing on the ground next to the hole was incredible and the cave was bigger than we thought,” she recalled. “The opening itself is the size of a football field – 100 metres by 60 metres.”

Hickson said standing on the edge of the cave’s sheer walls is “like standing in the edge of a cliff looking down, but what you see is a big pit.”

How big, exactly?

“We were able to measure a 135-metre depth, but, you can tell that it goes much farther and deeper than that, and that’s what’s incredibly tantalizing,” she said.

One of the members did manage to rappel into the cave for about 80 metres, but couldn’t go too much farther because “the amount of water entering into the cave is so great that that is a far as he could go,” she said.

Courtesy Catherine Hickson.

However, the team was able to confirm where they believed the water to be rushing into the cave was coming out – some two kilometres away.

“It’s just incredible,” Hickson added.

Going forward, she said the research around this discovery will be primarily focused on why the cave is where it is, where it came from, and how it was formed.

“It’s still a bit of a mystery; it’s very large and caves are rare,” she added.

And those thinking about checking out for themselves might want to rethink their plans.

Courtesy Catherine Hickson.

“We’re not disclosing the location, but we’re also not concerned that anyone would just be able to not only just casually find it, but also get in there,” she said.

The cave, she said, is located in a “very rugged, remote area and if you were hiking there it would be a multi-day hike; if you’re going by helicopter, you can’t in fact land in the park without proper permission and permits.”

Still, a discovery of this nature is an exciting thing when it comes to BC’s geological landscape.

“It’s really neat that something this big and this significant is found today,” said Hickson. “Especially when we think everything’s explored and we know everything.”

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