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The World's Largest Cave Chamber Rises 1,000 Feet


Deep beneath the mountains of Guangxi, China lies the largest cave chamber in the world. The Miao Room was discovered in 1989 but laser mapping technology has only just determined how really big it is. The ceiling rises nearly a thousand feet high, the height of the Eiffel Tower.

Andy Eavis has been exploring caves for more than 50 years and helped map the Miao Room. He says you can't just walk right in.

ANDY EAVIS: At the entrance, there's actually a canal, a lake. So you either have to swim or use a small boat to get in the first couple of hundred of meters. But where you get out of the water is where the chamber begins to get large.

And when I say large, it gets absolutely enormous. So the only thing you see is the floor that you're standing on. Unless you have a particularly powerful light, you simply see the floor. You don't see the walls, and you don't see the ceiling.

SHAPIRO: I know you've been doing this for decades but there must be at least a little bit of fear involved, right?

EAVIS: Probably wrong.

SHAPIRO: Really?

EAVIS: If I'm doing something particularly exposed like a big drop or a big climb, yeah, there'll be an element of adrenaline.

But when you're just walking around in these big caves, no. It's pure pleasure. The scenery is something spectacular.

SHAPIRO: What is that underground scenery in the Miao Room? You describe this epic blackness so large your flashlight can't even pierce through to the other side of it. What is the scenery?

EAVIS: It's underground sculpture, often in beautiful white colors, whites and browns and blues and greens. And some of these formations are up to 150 feet high. And although we can't see the walls and the ceiling of the chamber, we can very often see beautiful calcite formations and big crystal flowers and big crystal fans and dams and fresh clean water dribbling through, cascading over beautiful white crystal formations. Stunning, beautiful stuff.

SHAPIRO: It sounds like something out of Lewis Carroll.

EAVIS: Yes, it is. Better. Better. Lewis Carroll never imagined anything as lovely as some of these.

SHAPIRO: That's underground explorer Andy Eavis speaking with us from Australia about the Miao Room in China, recently shown to be the largest underground chamber in the world. Thanks so much.

EAVIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.