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The biggest cave in the world

VietNamNet Bridge reports on what some subterranean scientists are calling "the find of the century."

Khanh agreed to guide the team to find the legendary cave, but after three days in the jungle, Khanh and the team were still at a loss.

"I just couldn’t remember where it was," he said.

There were some perks. On their expedition, the group did find 11 previously unrecorded caves. The British team even named one of them after the farmer.

"One of my favourite caves that we found on our trip had a lake and many beautiful stalactites that sparkled in the light. We called it Thai Hoa, after my daughter."

The team returned to the park for two more expeditions, but each time were beaten by the density of the jungle. Finally the cavers gave in and left, asking Khanh to contact them if he found it again.

In a final effort to recover his memory, Khanh headed to the jungle one cold winter’s morning in 2009.

"I stopped by a big boulder. There was the same strong wind, the sound of water running — I knew I’d found the cave at long last. I can’t describe my feelings at the time, I was so overjoyed."

The team immediately came back to Vietnam and followed Khanh on a six-hour treck deep into the jungle. On April 14 they found what they were looking for.

Measuring 650 feet high and 500 feet wide, the new cave, named Son Doong (Mountain River Cave) by Khanh, is believed to be almost twice the size of the current record holder, Deer Cave in Sarawak Malaysia.

The cave is in Phong Nha-Ke Bang grotto system, which belongs to the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. It is a limestone region of 800 square miles and borders another limestone area in Hin Nammo in Laos.

According to Adam Spillane, a member of the team, the cave is more than 13 feet long at present but the end of the main passage continues on. The team was unable to go farther because of a calcite wall more than 150 feet high halted their progress.

"Khanh has been a guide for the team for many expeditions in the jungle to explore caves. This year he took the team to a cave which had never been explored before, not even by local people," Spillane said.

The cave was a thing of overwhelming beauty and grandeur, said team spokesman, Haward Limbirt.

"We plan to return to Vietnam later to complete our expedition of the cave and conduct a full survey," he said.

The cave is believed to be almost twice the size of the current record holder, Deer Cave in Sarawak Malaysia. After the team returned to Britain, Khanh settled back into his everyday routine.

"I just think about how I’m going to earn enough money to feed my family. I only earn VND800,000 (US$50) per month."

His discovery has yet to reap financial gains, Khanh said.

"We are still as poor as we were before. Actually, I still haven’t paid off the VND10 million ($550) loan I borrowed 10 years ago to develop our farm and animal husbandry."

Khanh’s obsession with the cave has been hard on his nearest and dearest, his wife Le Thi Nghia said.

"Sometimes I get angry because he just wants to go to the jungle and look at caves, but I understand he is very passionate about it. After all of this, I’m proud of him."

Nghia says the only thing she asks for is recognition from the government and the media for what her husband has done for the country.

Source: VietNamNet/VNS