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British divers in Tham Luang rescue to explore Son Doong Cave next month

Sunday, March 31, 2019, 13:25 GMT+7
British divers in Tham Luang rescue to explore Son Doong Cave next month
A river inside Son Doong Cave in the north-central Vietnamese province of Quang Binh. Photo: Oxalis

Three British diving experts have arrived in the north-central Vietnamese province of Quang Binh to prepare for the exploration of a river passage located inside the world-famous Son Doong Cave.

The three divers are Rick Stanton, Jason Mallinson, and Chris Jewell, who previously participated in the rescue of members of a junior football team in Tham Luang Cave in Thailand last year.

They arrived in Son Trach Commune, Bo Trach District, located in Quang Binh Province, on Saturday to get ready for the upcoming exploration of the Son Doong Cave.

The date of the dive has been confirmed for early April 2019, when river conditions are expected to be ideal.

While Son Doong is already the largest natural cave in size, it currently ranks second when it comes to the overall volume of the entire cave system, with Clearwater Cave in Malaysia being first with 39.5 million cubic meters in volume.

Inside the Son Doong Cave. Photo: Oxalis

Inside the Son Doong Cave. Photo: Oxalis

Researchers have developed a theory that Son Doong is connected with the nearby Thung Cave by a 600-meter underwater passage.

If this proposition is correct, Son Doong Cave will become the largest cave in the world by both its size and volume, said Nguyen Chau A, general director of Oxalis Adventure Tours, which organizes commercial tours to the cave.

The British Cave Research Association (BCRA) previously spent eight years figuring out the best approach to carry out the expedition, and diving was confirmed to be best way to explore this entire section of the cave as well as to create an accurate map.

Martin Holroyd, specialist instructor at Oxalis, said he had once dived into the section and was only able to go as deep as 25 meters due to limited equipment.

Inside the Son Doong Cave. Photo: Oxalis

Inside the Son Doong Cave. Photo: Oxalis

Following the high-profile Tham Luang rescue operation, Holroyd decided to asked all four divers who played critical roles in the effort, including Stanton, Mallinson, Jewell, and John Volanthen, to participate in the Son Doong expedition.

They all agreed, but Volanthen later confirmed he could not join.

Twelve schoolboys and their soccer coach were stuck for more than two weeks in Tham Luang Cave, located in the northern Thai province of Chiang Rai, in June 2018 before they were safely brought out by divers and experts.

According to the BCRA, the underwater passage inside the cave poses a challenge as it flows through a quite narrow space, thus the pressure can be really high.

The skills, experience, and specialized gear of the diving experts are certainly required to execute the plan.

During the dive, the experts will also have to handle any emergency situation completely underwater, the BCRA added.

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