Divers search hidden world of an immense cave near Drama for underground outlet

Members of the Greek Cave Exploration Society returned to the surface in early October after mapping a further 500 meters of one of the largest caves in the country. They had spent a number of days in underwater exploration, to depths of 30 meters, of the cave of Maara on Mount Falakron in the municipality of Prosotsani northwest of Drama. They brought back samples of fish, water and mud for the purpose of recording both the variety of life forms within the cave and also of checking possible pollution by pesticides and heavy metals from Bulgaria. What is most significant is that the mapping of one of the largest caves in Europe is going ahead at a rapid pace. The speleologists are seeking the underground outlet which joins the waters of the cave to those in the valley of Nevrokopi. The total known length of the Maara cave is 9.5 kilometers (6 miles). Those few who have had the good fortune to enter the cave have come face to face with wonders. Stalactites, stalagmites, geological formations, precipices and a variety of rock types form a unique natural environment, which unfortunately is still impassable for the public. Kathimerini spoke to the potholers who carried out the latest exploration. «The cave is full of stalactites and stalagmites of immense size, which may reach 10 meters at times,» they said. Colors vary, since the stalactites and stalagmites are formed on different types of rock – white, if growing on marble, red if formed on iron-bearing rock, gray if sprouting from limestone. «What takes even the most experienced cave explorer by surprise are the large chambers, that is, those caves formed… within a gallery after a large landslide, strong earthquake or a simple gap in the rock, caused by pressure the rock layers were unable to withstand,» the explorers remarked. The Maara chambers are unusually large, reaching a width of over 70 meters and a height of 100 meters. Chambers in other caves usually have a diameter of 15 meters and a height of 20 meters. The chambers vary in color. «Sometimes they’re black, sometimes they’re brown but the majority are white, because the mountain contains a good deal of marble. It is worth noting that the caverns were measured with laser distance meters, which enable cavers to gather essential data on cave size,» the explorers explained. Another important piece of information was the composition of the cave floor. «It consists of sand or clay soil and resembles a gigantic, hidden beach.» Currently, only the first 500 meters of the cave are open to visitors. One of the permanent demands of the Prosotsani municipality is for access to the cave to be extended to include the first 1,800 meters. At that point, it is possible to see the «Acropolis,» a large chamber full of impressively large stalactites and stalagmites in many hues – or it would be, were the State to fund the project.