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Cavers Reach "Bottom of the World"

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In a newly released photograph from the May National Geographic magazine, caver Alan Cressler, shown last August, rappels into Krubera Cave in the Caucasus Mountains of Russiathe world's deepest. Cressler was part of first phase of the Call of the Abyss project. The project's second expedition, in October, became the first to descend more than 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) underground.

Working underground for nearly four weeks, the August expedition involved 56 cavers, 45 men and 11 women, representing seven countries. They hauled in five tons of gear, rigging nearly 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of rope and stringing a telephone wire to the bottom. Battling numerous vertical drops and freezing torrents of waterand blasting rubble from narrow passagesthe August team reached a depth of 1,840 meters (6,037 feet).

In October a nine-person Call of the Abyss team entered Krubera. Using the ropes and anchors left by the August group, the 17-day expedition reached a depth of 2,080 meters (6,824 feet).

"Like climbing an inverted Everest," is how one caver described descending into Krubera. But "there is an important difference," said Alexander Klimchouk, the project organizer. "When you explore a cave, you don't know where the final limit liesthe terrain is not known in advance. And even now, we don't know whether we've reached the limitor if it will go on. We're pretty sure we'll eventually go even lower."

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