After 10 months of intensive exploration, scientists in Mexico have discovered the world’s largest flooded cave system – and it’s truly an underwater wonderland.
Spanning an incredible 347 kilometres (216 miles) of subterranean caverns, this branching, sunken labyrinth isn’t just a natural spectacle – it’s also an important archaeological find that could reveal lost secrets of the ancient Maya civilisation.
“This immense cave represents the most important submerged archaeological site in the world,” says underwater archaeologist Guillermo de Anda from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.
“It has more than a hundred archaeological contexts, among which are evidence of the first settlers of America, as well as extinct fauna and, of course, the Maya culture.”
De Anda heads up the Great Maya Aquifer Project (GAM), a research effort which for decades has explored underwater caves in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, located on the Caribbean coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula.
The region hosts a stunning 358 submerged cave systems, representing some 1,400 kilometres (870 miles) of flooded freshwater tunnels hidden under the surface.