Israeli divers map longest salt cave in the world near Dead Sea
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Israeli divers map longest salt cave in the world near Dead Sea

Team of more than 80 cavers from nine countries explore the six-mile-long Malham Cave

The Malham Cave is the largest salt cave in the World. (Credit: Anton Chikishev / Hebrew University)
The Malham Cave is the largest salt cave in the World. (Credit: Anton Chikishev / Hebrew University)

An international diving team has just finished mapping a giant salt cave near Israel’s Dead Sea and found that it is now the longest such cave in the world.

At more than six miles long, Malham Cave now beats the previous record held by caves on Qeshm, an Iranian island in the Straits of Hormuz.

More than 80 cavers from nine countries got involved in the international expedition led by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Cave Research Center (CRC), Israel Cave Explorers Club, and Bulgaria’s Sofia Speleo Club.

Salt caves form mostly in desert regions with salt outcrops, such as Chile’s Atacama Desert. When it rains, water rushes down cracks in the surface, dissolving salt and creating semi-horizontal channels along the way. After all the rainwater drains out, these dried out “river beds” remain and salt caves are formed.

One example is Israel’s Mount Sedom, a seven-mile long mountain made almost entirely of salt, sitting just below sea level at the southwestern tip of the Dead Sea.

Israeli divers map the Malham Cave
(Credit: Ruslan Paul / Hebrew University)

“The Malham Salt Cave is a river cave,” said CRC Professor Amos Frumkin. “Water from a surface stream flowed underground and dissolved the salt creating caves, a process that is still ongoing when there is strong rain over Mount Sedom about once a year. In this way, the Malham Salt Cave is ‘alive’ and continues to grow.”

The caving team said today’s technology of laser beams helped them map and measure such a long, deep cave. Experienced cavers said 30 years ago the same job would have to have been done using tape measures.

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