Or, rather, one of the world’s largest caves. Debatable descriptors aside, this is one of those awe-inspiring experiences in which nature and technology coexist in this amazingly additive harmony. Basically, a National Geographic team including photojournalist Martin Edström set out on documenting the 2.5-mile-or-so-long cave. To put that into perspective, individual chambers of said cave are able to “comfortably fit a 747 airplane,” or “an entire New York City block full of 40-story buildings.” Passageways are 300 feet wide and 600 feet high. It has even been dubbed an “infinite cave.”
Why now? Since a handful of explorers led by locals “discovered” the cave (in central Vietnam’s Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park) back in 2009, it has experienced an outsized popularity. And while this initial popularity was at first a boon, it has now attracted much of that less desirable attention that tends to lead to plans to increase foot traffic — now they plan to undergo construction to do just that.
So before its relatively untouched state is adulterated by ramps and stairwells and railings and whatever else they deem necessary increase accessibility, Edström wanted to map it out as much as possible and, in turn, offer a comprehensive digital tour with 360° panoramas of the cave and its chambers.
“The best thing for this cave would probably have been to not be discovered,” he told National Geographic. “But of course, that doesn’t do any good either. We want scientists to be able to study it, and we want people to go enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean we have to do it irresponsibly.
“Of course we should make it easier for people to go see it. That would help local communities because they will get more tourism business, which is important. But it can’t be done in a way where we suddenly go from zero visitors to a hundred thousand a year. We have to make sure the cave is preserved as much as possible.”
Makes sense to me.
We have already seen glimpses of Hang Son Doong by drone, but to be able to explore the worldly wonder with relative freedom to really look around is a whole other level. Here is another video of the crew setting up their shots, lighting otherwise dark corners for maximum experience.