- the longest underwater cave of Russia -
Text and photo by Andrey Bizjukin.
Diving with SCUBA into caves is traditionally considered as very fascinating and most dangerous passion. Achievements in an exploration of underwater caves were always determined by the general level of development and availability of the best underwater equipment. The first cave exploration in Russian has been made only in 1964. Then a group of cave explorers - enthusiasts has passed the first sump of cave-source Ayan (in a southern part of the country on the peninsula Crimea ). They are without
fins on foot passed the sump on a bottom. The sump length was seventy meters, and the maximal depth – five meters. Date of this immersing is considered as the birthday of underwater speleology in the USSR today.
Years have passed since the events, inventors diving equipments have created more perfect and trouble-free u/w devices, but a cavediving in Russia and did not become a mass kind of a scuba diving. Today in Russia about fifty thousand certificated SCUBA divers, among
which no more than fifty persons (it is only 0,1 percent from diver's population) dive into underwater caves. The majority of cave divers here know each other by face. They are heroes and "derelicts (social outcast)* of diving community both in the one person. Their "vicious" passion – underwater speleology. Their idols - brave lone persons similar Sheck Exley and Jochen Hasenmayer.
Underwater cave explorations and achievements of Soviet, and Russian cave divers, were so insignificant on a global scale that very few people in general knew about existence of underwater caves in our country. Russian caves with difficult enhances, vertical pits, narrow passages and cold muddy water strikingly differed from the recreational warm-water Florida or Mexico there are only lazy does not dive into underwater caves and where recreational cave divers begin an immersing directly from a luggage carrier of the automobile.
That was till the moment, when near of road in a high left board of Kungur river (in eighty kilometers from Kungur city) there was happened a landslide, which has opened an entrance in an unfamiliar, an unknown hitherto cave. The first cave visitors - local people, had gone downwards on an inclined clay slope in searches of the cow, which have fallen down there, have seen the big cave halls, chambers and three underground lakes with crystal-clear water. The cave has named Ordinskaya in honour of Orda village nearest with it.
Igor Lavrov, the well known scientist-researcher of Ural caves, for the first time has visited the cave in 1993, has made topographical shooting of dry part the cave and he has invited Victor Komarov, cave diver from Ryazan city, for the first reconnaissance plunge in the one of it's underground lakes in April, 1994. It was a common surprise, when they saw, that the cave lakes were covered twenty cm. thick layer of ice. Persistent cave explorers have asked for local fishermen some special device for ice drilling and have made a small hole in the ice of lake with a size for one diver could has squeezed.
For the first dive under ice and into the cave Victor has taken one seven-liter cylinder. Igor insured him from the ice of the lake; he was giving out a safety rope to the diver. The diver hauled in about 30 meters of the guide line and he had plunged into a narrow crack to a depth of seven meters, the cave diver had fallen out in a ceiling of a wide underwater tunnel. Absolutely clear water, huge volumes and prospects of the future first exploration amazed the imagination. But to dive farther with one cylinder was too dangerously; therefore the diver returned back, took the second cylinder and started the dive repeatedly.
This time, he had moved much further in the underwater tunnel. Subways with snow-white walls were coming into different directions, carrying away the cave diver farther and farther, inside of the underground realm. Victor took in already seventy meters of the guide line, when it stuck deadly in the narrow entrance crack under water. He can't move farther and had to come back. He was taking up the rope and rolling it on the elbow, has untangled and pulled out the guide line from the crack and has successfully got out of the sump. To avoid an unnecessary agiotage, about results of this immersion, they have decided to speak nobody for the time is being.
Only three years late, in a snow winter 1997, twenty cave divers from different Russian cities have arrived in Orda village after Igor's invitation. The joint team of underwater cave explorers has organized immerses into all underground lakes of the cave at once. They dived with bodies few times for a day.
First explorations had sufficed for everybody. New underground labyrinths crossed huge halls, underwater passages and canyons dispersed into the different sides and seem endless.
For today it is known, that Ordinskaya cave represents from itself a horizontal gypsum labyrinth in the thickness of the mountain titled after Kazakova. The greatest part of the cave labyrinth was filled with very strong mineralized water. All dive gear was covered by a dense coating of gypsum salts, after each cave dive. Gypsum is very not solid and fragile mineral; therefore collapses are occurred quite frequently in dry land gypsum caves, especially after strong rains in the spring and in the autumn time. Underground halls of dry land gypsum caves exceed the sizes in 20- 30 meters very seldom. But in the underwater gypsum caves the water pushing out force compensates the gravity force of the Earth, that's why the sizes of underwater tunnels and halls are bigger here.
Collapses of vaults/vaulting in Ordinskaya cave happened every year. Huge gypsum gravestones get away from the ceiling and, lifting clouds of dregs up, fall on the bottom. It has happened once, when the five-ton plate (gravestone), which has collapsed from the ceiling, has slammed few meters of the main guide line, so cave divers were necessary for a long time and persistent searching of a new way to the entrance. At external simplicity, easiness and seeming safety of navigation in this underwater cave you, always, should be attentive; careful and ready to any natural unexpectedness under the ground.
The maximal depth on all an extent of known underwater passages does not exceed twenty meters, therefore even the longtime plunges during the exploration were non decompression. Cave divers from Krasnoyarsk , Chelyabinsk , Novokuznetsk , Ekaterinburg. Perm , Arkhangelsk , Chernomorsk, Alapaevsk and Moscow have found underwater passages, connecting all lakes of the cave, have passed all widest underground tunnels with many little branches and air chambers under the closed arch. They have unreeled few kilometers of guide lines: cords in a size from a cheap packing tape up to thick mountain's ropes; for the marking of each new passage. Now all of them look like the terrible net, putted by some new one species – “cave spider-monster”.
Dry chambers of the cave on other ends of sumps have been explored. The topographical shooting, the description and the map of the cave have made. The active speleological exploration have done Ordinskaya cave in the most famous underwater Russian cave only for two years. The total length of all underwater cave passages exceeded three and a half of kilometers. The distance between the entrance lake and the most removed underwater point in the cave are equal one kilometer and fifty meters. The biggest underwater chamber has a diameter about sixty meters, and water is so clear there, that two divers, swimming at the opposite ends of the chamber, can see each other.
Underwater explorations in Ordinskaya cave are so amazing and interesting, that many divers, having plunged here once, come back here again and again. The beauty of the cave and charming and attracting so strongly, that simply it would not be a wish to get out of water even, despite of a cold (+5 degrees C).
Duration of some dives, accomplished in Ordinskaya cave, exceeded two hours.
Successful researches of the longest underwater cave of Russia have done the huge influence on a development and a popularization of cave diving in our country. Enthusiastic stories about an availability of the entrance into the cave, simplicity and an easiness of aesthetically pleasant plunge in clear water, huge underground volumes and prospects for new explorations so strongly excite minds even usual recreational Open water divers, that many of them have believed in the miracle and have forgotten about Red Sea and Maldives, moved to dive into the famous cave.
Local people started to equip the cave and now take money for its visiting. But the future of Ordinskaya cave looks not so optimistically. Ecological problems start to threaten the cave very seriously. For many years the big limestone sinkhole, located above one of the cave chambers, was used as a huge rubbish pit- garbage bin. Now the sinkhole (washed away from within by cave water) has caused to collapse/cave down, so, that now all decaying, carrion sewages start to filter and poison once faultlessly pure water of the cave.