The centrally located province of Chongqing, China is primarily known for its urban capital of Chongqing City. Which not only sports stunning waterfront views of the Yangzi River, but hosts a population of 6 million people and the city has been growing rapidly over the past few years into an international hub in China. However, out in the mountainous rural country lies a cave named Er Wang Dong, meaning Second Royal Cave. However, many still refer to it as the Chongqing Cave. The Chinese people have known about the massive Chongqing Cave for years but it had remained unexplored until 2012.
Previously, the cave served as a nitrate mine, but only the entrance was mined before there was no more nitrate to be had and it was abandoned. Why didn't these miners or anyone else go in deeper? No one explored the cave because they simply could not. The cave is massive and it required quite a bit of equipment to get into the inner portions since the only entrance is through a small hole in the roof of the next cave chamber in which you have to use rope to get down. A lot of rope, actually, considering the chamber is 820 feet tall. However, all that rope is worth it for considering that first chamber is 544,500 square feet in size. To put that in perspective, it is essentially the size of 12 football field lain flat and as tall as three Statues of Liberty stacked toe to torch tip. This is just the first chamber of the cave, mind you. This first chamber was named Cloud Ladder Hall and has been officially named the largest single chamber in the world. Nobody imagined just how massive the rest of the cave actually was.
In 2012, for the first time ever, a team of 15 speleologists (people who study caves) from America and the United Kingdom launched a proper expedition of the cave where they found something spectacular. Luckily for them it was not a subterranean species of miners who have mutated into cannibalistic mutants, but rather is was something close to another world. The cave is so massive and has been secluded for so long that it has developed its own ecosystem of plants, streams, and even weather. Their exploration proved that the Er Wang Dong and it's neighbor San Wang Dong are the longest in China, but not in the world. The massive Mammoth Cave in Kentucky still holds that title for now.
In many of the chambers they were not able to see the ceiling because it was covered by clouds. These cloud were originally fog that had seeped into the entrance, tried to ascend, but got trapped. Since the clouds obscured the ceiling which was already high above them as it was, the explorers said it did not feel like they were in a closed room at all. The speleologists described some of the chambers akin to being in a canyon at night.
Much of the rest of the place was as cave-like as many would have expected: dark, dank and rocky. However, the network of this cave is so vast the floor is covered with plant life and flowing water. This doesn't mean a few bits of moss and a gentle stream of runoff water, instead there are sprawling gardens of plant life as well as a few trees. Some pictures that the explorers snapped looked just like a rainforest, rather than the inside of a cave. With beams of sunlight illuminating a lush forest, it is easy to confuse the two. The streams are more akin to raging rivers that are wide and deep enough to sweep one away and over a waterfall to their watery doom.
The cave was so massive that the explorers, all 15 of them, spent a solid month inside of it and still did not see everything in the cave. It is not that it is long, but rather the cave is wide with many smaller side paths that make it very difficult to chart everything. Now if only they had found some lizard people or maybe some mole people in there, but since much of the cave is still unexplored, hopes is still alive!
Now after the first formal investigation the Er Wang Dong faces the dangers that all newly explored caves face—tourism. The tourism is not so much bad for the cave as it is for the cavers. The Er Wang Dong has yet to be fully explored, yet will all the beautiful pictures that have been taken of it are attracting amateur spelunkers who are already flocking to try and sneak into Chongqing cave. Though Chongqing cave is in a rural portion of Chongqing Province, Chongqing City is an international hub and many visitors have no problem finding the it. The problem is, the team of explorers did not finish charting the cave meaning there is not set route for a tour. This means there are added dangers aside from the usual dangers of spelunking like slipping or falling from a great height, which in the Chongqing cave can be the greatest of heights. For those illegally exploring this cave, there is the danger that the entrance will be blocked in some way and what with there being no maps, finding another exit may be impossible. There is also the threat that since the water flows from the outside, the water source will flood and also flood portions of the cave without so much as a warning. This just goes to show that some people are more brave than smart.
Regardless, the speleologists do intend to return and finish mapping this massive underground behemoth. Once they have, this cave will surely become a hotspot for tour groups, making the Chongqing Province even more of an international hub. So if the Er Wang Dong cave has piqued the interest of you spelunkers out there, don't be stupid just wait for a little bit until the cave formally opens for tourism. After all, there are plenty of other caves out there to explore already.