Search for the Deepest Cave on Earth

Located in Oaxaca, Mexico is a cave called Cueva Chevé. At 4,868ft deep and 5.6 miles long its the 12th deepest cave in the world but has the potential to become the deepest. I spent two months and over 28 days camped underground photographing and exploring its depths on an international expedition sponsored by the Explorer's Club.

Carved by water over millions of years, the cave winds down through the limestone until it reaches the denser granite where it then traverses the base of the mountains above it. It takes 3 days to reach the deepest known point. Literal miles of rope and hundreds of bolts are necessary to rig the over 120 vertical drops one must navigate in order to get there. The amount of man-power required to rig Cueva Chevé for safe travel is monumental.

How far can you go?

The name of the game in caving is sniffing out every possible way onward to increase the length or depth of the cave. This means squeezing through the smallest fissure or aid climbing up and over an obstacle to find free passage. You simply dont know where the route forward might be. Like scaling a reverse Mt. Everest, but without seeing the peak.

Full Gallery

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At the deepest section of Chevé is what's known as a sump, where the river chokes the passage with water, making the only way forward over it, around it, or through it. Diver Nick V. prepares his scuba system that has been carefully transported the full length of the cave to Sump 1 to explore the underwater tunnels beyond.
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Stepping across the void.
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The Swim Gym" lives up to its name for a full body experience.
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The enormous entrance to Cueva Chevé
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Cave diving is one of, if not the most, dangerous sports on earth. The margin for error is so small, requiring nerves of steel to remain calm under pressure.
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Sump 1 ~ Equipment is shuttled by many teams from the surface downward, taking as long as 3 days to make it through 3 camps to this final collection point where inventory is taken and the hundreds of parts and supplies are organized.
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Camp 3 ~ Perched high on the side of a breakdown pile in an enormous room with the river incessantly running below at the bottom right of the frame.
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When you're constantly moving from objective to objective burning thousands of calories, everything starts to remind you of food. This section of the cave had me thinking of glazed donuts.
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My 67 year-old dad, Bill Stone, still leading expeditions and exploring the world with the youth-fullness of a 54 year old.
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What's for dinner? Dinner Mix™ ~ A carefully assembled combination of ramen noodles, powdered broccoli & cheese soup, bacon bits, nuts, and hunks of Kerrygold dubliner cheese thrown together to make a soup like concoction packed with calories. For breakfast? Breakfast Mix™
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Communication is crucial when coordinating multiple teams transporting supplies from camp to camp. We strung specially designed telephone wire throughout the entire cave to enable communication from each camp up to the surface.
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Looking back at basecamp from on top of the entrance to Chevé. The blue tarp at the top of the meadow is the kitchen tent with personal tents pitched out on the perimeter.

Read the New Yorker story here.