'World's longest' salt cave discovered by Israeli researchers

Explorers inside Malham Cave near the Dead Sea

Explorers inside Malham Cave near the Dead Sea

Salt stalactites are seen inside the Malham Cave, which Israeli researchers say is the world's longest salt cave, in Mount Sodom near the Dead Sea, Israel on March 27.

The previous record holder, was the the Cave of the Three Nudes (Namakdan), a 6,850 metre (4 mile)-long salt cave in Iran.

Salt caves are formed mainly in desert areas by salt outcrops, with the help of rainwater.

Every winter, rainstorms dissolve more salt and create new passages. "Returning to survey Malham Cave allowed us to reveal its full dimensions and rank Israel as first among the world's longest salt caves".

According to the researchers, the mapping was done with laser technology that broadcasts directly to the tablets and smartphones instead of measuring tapes, compasses and clinometers that were used in the past.

The Malham cave consists of several sections, each of which has levels and floors, including vertical shafts, the report said.

The discovery was made by an expedition led by the Hebrew University Cave Research Centre, Israel Cave Explorers Club, and Bulgaria's Sofia Speleo Club, along with 80 cavers from nine countries.

"Soon we had a 50-member delegation-half worldwide, half Israeli", said Yoav Negev, the project leader of the Malham Cave Mapping Expedition. As Professor Amos Frumkin, director of the CRC at HU's Institute of Earth Sciences, explained, "The Malham Salt Cave is a river cave".

Cavers at the Malham cave in Mount Sedom. By comparison, Iran's Qeshm Island salt cave, now the world's second largest salt cave, measures only 6,580 meters.

Looking out of Malham Cave in Israel the world’s longest salt cave
Looking out of Malham Cave in Israel the world’s longest salt cave

Now, the research team is processing the final data from the expedition to create an electronic map of the cave and to publish its findings.

Additional CRC expeditions over the years found more than 100 salt different caves inside the mountain, the longest of which measured 5,685 meters and was dated to approximately 7,000 years ago. In addition to its length, the Malham Cave contains a stunning array of salt stalactites and salt crystals within its chambers.

And Efraim Cohen, a cave explorer from the Hebrew University, said: "All the stalagmites and stalactites, their beauty, their colour-they're really white, they're shining, they're fantastic".

Negev, founder of the Israel Cave Explorers Club, joined forces with Boaz Landford, a researcher at the university's research centre, to organise a delegation of eight European spelunkers and another 20 locals. My colleagues around the world are always amazed at what we find here. Soon we had a 50-member delegation-half worldwide, half Israeli. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

Pale salt stalactites hang from the ceilings, and some of the walls sparkle with salt crystals.

The claim was made on Thursday after a fresh exploration of the cave system led by the Hebrew University (HU) of Jerusalem as well as Israeli, Bulgarian and other global volunteers who have been mapping the site for decades.

"Down there it felt like another planet", Cohen told the outlet.

"There are some more parts, especially upper levels, which have not been surveyed yet because they are hard to reach", Frumkin said.

"When we're all done, it's likely we'll add a few hundred meters to Malham's impressive 10 kilometre length, " he added.

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