Mon Jan 3, 2:23 pm ET

Explorers discover spectacular caves in Vietnam

By Brett Michael Dykes

For decades, geologists have known that Vietnam is home to some of the world's most spectacular caves, many of them largely unexplored. Now husband-and-wife cavers have documented perhaps the world's largest: Hang Son Doong, big enough in places to accommodate a New York City block of skyscrapers.

The cave in the Annamite Mountains contains a river and jungle (its name translates to "mountain river cave") and even its own thin clouds, and its end remains out of sight. It's part of a network of about 150 caves in central Vietnam near the Laotian border.

Click image to see more photos of the giant cave

Howard and Deb Limbert of England led the first expedition to enter Hang Son Doong in 2009, but they were stopped a couple of miles in by a huge calcite wall. The team returned recently to climb the wall, take measurements and try to find the cavern's end.

[Related: National Geographic's award-winning amateur photos]

Many more photographs taken in Hang San Doong and other newly explored caves have been published in the January issue of National Geographic and on its website, where you can view larger images. The site also has an interactive graphic of the river cave's path

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2,876 Comments

  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Chuah 15 hours ago Report Abuse
    Must visit one day
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 1 users disliked this comment
    Mad Dog Wed Jan 05, 2011 10:19 am PST Report Abuse
    Chop Chop my Boom-Boom Stick. Numbah Hucking One.
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Monster Forum Wed Jan 05, 2011 09:21 am PST Report Abuse
    You gotta learn to Chill out Ms. Breastits or maybe get a clue
  • 1 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Vita Brevis Wed Jan 05, 2011 08:45 am PST Report Abuse
    lol
  • 1 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Torque Gir Smacky Wed Jan 05, 2011 08:28 am PST Report Abuse
    Aliens carved the caves out for sure.
  • 4 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 2 users disliked this comment
    Charlton Heston Wed Jan 05, 2011 08:27 am PST Report Abuse
    For those highly educated individuals who posted and who are so eagerly to go there for a cave visit, here is a word of advice. Take it or not that's your opinion and your darn luck. During the war, the U.S. dropped countless cluster bombs in this area and elsewhere around the country. Quote: "Because cluster bombs release many small bomblets over a wide area they pose risks to civilians both during attacks and afterwards. During attacks the weapons are prone to indiscriminate effects, especially in populated areas. Unexploded bomblets can kill or maim civilians long after a conflict has ended. Unexploded submunitions are costly to locate and remove". How do you locate cluster bombs that have been buried for almost 4 decades under soil and leaves and how do you find the labor and money to do that? Since the U.S. left VN some 38 years ago, the killing effects continue to this day. Now since people seemed to be going haywire with this news, there will be countless tour guides advertising for business lead by new generation of "kids" who knew nothing about the "safe trails" which was known to only a handful of the veterans VC whose only job was to guide a massive number of North communist troops through this area during the war. Yes, even the moving of troops had to be relied on these local guides or they would suffer one casualty after another. If you were separated from your group that meant certain death. Still unconvinced? Before going off, why not do yourself or your family a favor and Yahoo or Google search using these key words: "Unexploded, cluster bombs, air bombs, mines, shells, Vietnam" and you will see that even the current Vietnamese government is struggling with the casualties and injuries and said Vietnam needs 300 years to clear itself with unexploded bombs. Go ahead. Search for yourself. By the way, prosthetic limbs is a growing industry in VN now that people are expanding into remote areas, whether they are adventurers or settlers, they step on bombs and lose their limbs. Search for those key words also.
    One last word of advice, STAY ON THE TRAIL! NEVER WANDER OFF EVEN IF YOU HAD TO P!
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 2 users disliked this comment
    Vita Brevis Wed Jan 05, 2011 08:26 am PST Report Abuse
    This directed at "Monster Forum", your imagination is equivalent to that of a half filled glass of water. whoever said anyone wanted to build a skyscraper in a cave? it's just a comparison isn't it?. I'm sorry but i think it's an exceptionally brilliant find. I wonder if I'm the only one who instantly thought of Jules Verne on Seeing these photos.....
  • 3 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Phil Layshe'O Wed Jan 05, 2011 08:25 am PST Report Abuse
    I love to see Asian holes
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Amy Wed Jan 05, 2011 08:19 am PST Report Abuse
    Westerners are so hilariously arrogant. Yeah, we "discovered" it alright! (cough cough, bull@#$%!) You *really* don't think that maybe the Vietnamese knew about this cave... and maybe.... idk... left it be.. you know, because its the right thing to do....

    To think that the caves we have here are turned into tourist attractions :P
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    Charlton Heston Wed Jan 05, 2011 08:12 am PST Report Abuse
    The locals knew about the caves for years and years, much longer than we all thought. National Geographic now portrays it like it's a new discovery. The communist government definitely paid the so-called "couple" money to advertise since the whole country is being turned into a tourist industry. Remote islands one after another are being turned into resorts, restaurants, and sand dunes untouched by humans are being driven over by rich kids in Jeeps. Go ahead, go and enjoy before all natural wonders are ruined & polluted.

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