A newly discovered cave in a remote valley in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park just might be the country’s largest such feature. The entrance to the cave, nicknamed “Sarlacc’s Pit” by the helicopter crew who discovered it, is seen in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine Hickson

Newly discovered cave in B.C. park might be the largest in Canada

The cave was spotted in Wells Gray Provincial Park back in March

A newly discovered cave in a remote valley in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Provincial Park might just be the country’s largest.

The feature was spotted by a helicopter crew from the province’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in March, when they were conducting a caribou census through the northeastern part of the park.

Geologist Catherine Hickson, who first went to the cave in September, said the discovery promises a dramatic new chapter in the story of Canadian cave exploration.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said. “I immediately recognized that this was very significant.”

Before making the trip, Hickson and fellow researchers including John Pollack, a cave expert, spent months studying satellite imagery and rocks in the area, she said.

The entrance pit to the cave is about 100 metres long and 60 metres wide, and while its depth is hard to measure because of the mist from a waterfall, initial examinations show it is at least 135 metres deep.

“It’s about the size of a soccer field,” Hickson said. “So, if you think of a soccer field and you put that soccer field on its end so you have this pit going down. Think about this giant circular or oval hole that just goes down and down and down. It is truly amazing.”

RELATED: Police confirm death of woman at Wells Gray Park

The cave is the largest known of its type, a variety of “striped karst,” which is marble interspersed with other types of ancient ocean rock, she said.

“It’s in an area where this size of a cave is unusual,” she said. “It’s an important landmark — an important feature for Canadians to be proud about.”

The people who first spotted the cave from the helicopter named it Sarlacc’s Pit, because of its similarity to the lair of Sarlacc, a creature from “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.”

But a formal naming of the cave will happen after consultations with First Nations, she said.

The feature was formed underneath glaciers for potentially tens of thousands of years, so there is no way of knowing the real age of the cave right away, Hickson said.

“Right now, because of the recession of the glaciers, it is open to the sky,” she said, adding that as ice retreats from the landscape due to climate change, more such features might be discovered.

Caves support a very unique ecosystem because they are dark so the flora and fauna living in such areas are acclimatized to those conditions, Hickson said.

With this cave, the flowing water is at such a rapid rate that it may not allow many creatures to call the area home but further research is needed, she said.

Although the cave is in a remote, rugged valley covered with snow and ice for a greater part of the year, Hickson said researchers are keeping the exact location a secret so as to preserve the unique area.

RELATED: Canadian astronaut lifts off on Russian rocket to International Space Station

Hickson said further investigations and research of the cave and its unique geography will likely be carried out in 2020, depending on funding.

“We think everything is known and everything has been discovered, but here’s a major discovery that is made in today’s world and likely has never been seen before and certainly not explored before,” she said.

“It’s just a message that there is still stuff out there yet to do and yet to be discovered.”

Hina Alam, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Over 5 million of funding announced for Nuxalk Big House and CCRD parks project

The funding is joint federal, provincial and municipal and will support 24 infrastructure projects

DFO Monitors keeping watch as commercial fishery opens up

Volunteer DFO Monitors have been onsite to ensure requirements are met

Cariboo waterways swell as special weather statement, rain continues Thursday July 2

Quesnel River at Likely and Quesnel Lake seeing 20 to 50 year events

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Commercial fishery closed tonight due to local concerns

The fishery was supposed to open tonight

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Liberal party finished 2019 having spent $43 million, raised $42 million

All political parties had until midnight June 30 to submit their financial reports for last year

Most Read