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Calgarian explorers among team that discovered Canada’s deepest cave near Fernie, BC

Cave explorers say they’ve found largest cave in Canada
WATCH: A team of cave explorers say they've found the deepest cave in Canada and the continental U.S. near Fernie, B.C.

Most times, when a person travels down more than 30 storeys, it’s in an elevator. But a group of Calgary explorers used helicopter rides, helmets, headlamps and scuba gear to reach extreme depths.

During two expeditions between Thanksgiving 2017 and New Year’s 2018, a team of cave explorers worked tirelessly to explore, study and map out what is now being called Canada’s deepest cave, Bisaro Anima.

Travelling to the Mt. Bisaro plateau just north of Fernie, B.C., the team was carrying on the work of the Alberta Speleogical Society, which began in 2012. At the time, caver Jeremy Bruns was the first person to rappel into the cave’s entrance, according to a release from the Bisaro Plateau Caves Project.

WATCH BELOW: A group of cavers has explored the nooks and crannies in the deepest recorded cave in Canada. As Lauren Pullen reports, the cavers still haven’t reached the bottom.

Calgary cavers help discover Canada’s deepest cave
Calgary cavers help discover Canada’s deepest cave

In the six years since, more than 30 cavers have explored its depths.

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READ MORE: 15,000-year-old caves discovered under Saint-Leonard park

Most recently, expedition leader Kathleen Graham reached the cave’s record depth of 670 metres after scuba diving into a “sump” — which is described as a channel in the cave that’s flooded with water.

“When we found the sump a couple of months ago we were surprised and disappointed. I’ve been imagining what lay beneath the water ever since,” Graham said in a release. “Actually, I’ve been fixated.”

Explorer Katie Graham wears scuba gear while exploring new depths of the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018)
Explorer Katie Graham wears scuba gear while exploring new depths of the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project

It’s expected the cave could be more than 1,000 metres deep in total. Explorers have so far measured 5.3 kilometres of its length.

“I expect with the ongoing effort that this cave system could also become one of the longest in Canada,” Bruns said.

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So just how deep is 670 metres into a cave?

According to the Speleogical Society, the longest shaft in the cave is 105 metres — that’s about as deep as the height of 35 storeys of an office tower.

By comparison, Calgary’s Nexen office tower is 153 metres tall, or 37 storeys. If you multiply the height of the Nexen building by 4.5 times, it would be 688.5 metres.

Calgary’s iconic Bow skyscraper is 57 storeys, peaking at 236 metres.

The world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is 828 metres tall.

The CN Tower in Toronto is 553 metres tall.

How do you measure the depth of a cave?

Exploring and mapping a cave isn’t easy or glamourous work. The cavers occupied three underground camps for five to seven days during the first 2017 expedition.

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In the second, the cavers spent their nights in the deepest slumber party spot north of Mexico — a 520-metres-deep camp that sleeps three people.

The underground camp inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018)
The underground camp inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project

“This cave has only one known entrance, where many deep caves have multiple. At the bottom, you could not be further from the outside world,” Bruns said.

Inside the cave, it’s not warm and toasty — the temperature hovered just above 2 C as the explorers navigated the dark, close quarters.

“The cave passages are characterized by deep canyons, waterfalls, crawlways, uneven floors, loose rock and difficult squeezes,” the society said.

“The consequences of an injury in this environment are tremendous, due to the hazardous conditions and exceptional remoteness,” expedition member and provincial coordinator of the Alberta/BC Cave Rescue Service Christian Stenner said in a release.

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The "Black Watch" passage in the Bisaro Anima cave. (2015).
The "Black Watch" passage in the Bisaro Anima cave. (2015). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project
New Year's Eve at camp inside the Bisaro Anima cave. .
New Year's Eve at camp inside the Bisaro Anima cave. . Bisaro Plateau Caves Project
Crews explore the "Black Watch" passage inside the Basiro Anima cave. (2018).
Crews explore the "Black Watch" passage inside the Basiro Anima cave. (2018). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project
Rigging a traverse inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018).
Rigging a traverse inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project
Investigating a tight spot inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018).
Investigating a tight spot inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2018). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project
The sump, named "Dieppe," inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2017).
The sump, named "Dieppe," inside the Bisaro Anima cave. (2017). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project
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Bisaro Plateau near Fernie, B.C. (2012).
Bisaro Plateau near Fernie, B.C. (2012). Bisaro Plateau Caves Project

 

The cave was found near Mt. Bisaro, which is named after Canadian infantryman Torindo Bisaro. Bisaro was from Fernie and fought in the Second World War. The Bisaro Plateau Caves Project said because of this, features of the cave were given war-themed names, including passages dubbed “the Trenches,” “Dieppe” and “The Black Watch.”

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READ MORE: California diver dies in underwater New Mexico cave

So far, more than a dozen cavers from all across Canada have been involved in the cave’s exploration and mapping project.

In 2018, the group included Kathleen Graham, Jeremy Burns, Colin Massey, Christian Stenner, Jason Lavigne, and Vlad Paulik from Calgary, Alta., Jared Habiak from Water Valley, Alta., Mehdi Boukhal from Vancouver, B.C., and Jérôme Genairon from Montreal, QC.

Also exploring in 2017 were; Claire Gougeon and Braden Kudel of Calgary, Alta., Stuart de Haas of Edmonton, Alta., and Luke Nelson of Fernie, B.C.

“This isn’t the end of exploration, but a huge milestone along the way,” Graham said.