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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Scientists discover a massive underground cave network in Yucatán

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Divers have only been able to explore one kilometer of the cave system, as speleology is tremendously dangerous in unknown environments. Photo: Courtesy

One of the largest cave networks in Mexico was found in Yucatán, researchers said. 

The cave system extends from the Chuy Ha Cenote, in the municipality of Kaua, to the Aktun Kaab dry cave, in Santa Rita — which is roughly 85 kilometers away in a straight line. 

It is also the first time that researchers have been able to confirm the long-held belief that extensive connections exist between the caves and cenotes in the state. 

“This discovery is extremely important to our understanding of Yucatán’s cave systems,” said Sayda Rodríguez Gómez of Yucatán’s department for sustainable development.

Though this underground system is expected to be quite large, scientists still don’t have the data needed to determine its exact dimensions. 

Because of the dangers and difficulties associated with exploring unknown underground cave systems, especially when they are underwater, only one kilometer has been explored.

Earlier: More remains of the world’s largest shark found in the depths of a cenote in Yucatán

Despite only having explored one kilometer of this cave system, researchers are reporting that it contains a wide array of biodiversity. Among the species encountered are a critically endangered species of fish called dama blanca — or white lady. 

The researchers have also reported finding wall paintings near the entrance to the underground network in Kaua’s Aktun Kaab cave. Though not much information has been published about the nature of these wall paintings, it is likely that they will prove to be Maya in origin

“The Aktun Kaab cave is the largest cave reported in the state and belongs to the list of the 50 longest Mexican caves, as it is made up of 10.36 kilometers of underground passages,” said Rodríguez Gómez during a press briefing. 

State authorities have expressed interest in seeking a special designation from UNESCO for this yet-unnamed cave system. If approved, this newly discovered underground network would become Mexico’s third Geopark, with the other two being located in Oaxaca and Hidalgo.  

UNESCO’s Global Geopark Network was set up to conserve Earth’s geological heritage and promote sustainable research and development projects.

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