A team of explorers say they have discovered the world’s deepest underwater cave, 404 meters (1,325 feet) down, near the eastern Czech town of Hranice.
Polish explorer Krzysztof Starnawski told The Associated Press Friday he felt like a “Columbus of the 21th century” to have made the discovery.
Starnawski, 48, found the cave Tuesday in the flooded limestone Hranice Abyss, which he has explored since 1998. He scuba dived to a narrow slot at 200 meters’ depth and let through a remotely-operated underwater robot, or ROV, that went to the depth of 404 meters.
In 2015, Starnawski himself passed through the slot and went to 265 meters’ depth, realizing that was still far from the bottom and that the cavity was widening.
Speaking on the phone from his home in Krakow, southern Poland, he said that the discovery Tuesday makes Hranice Abyss the world’s deepest known underwater cave, beating the previous record-holder, Italy’s Pozzo del Merro flooded sinkhole, by 12 meters (39 feet.)
Diving in the cave is a challenge because of muddy areas and cold water of some 7 degrees Celsius (44.6 F), as well as a mineral composition that damages the equipment and hurts any exposed skin, he said.
“But that is the only price to be paid for this discovery and it was worth paying,” he said.
On Saturday he will dive to 200 meters to bring back the robot though the narrow passage. The device was specially made for the expedition by a Polish firm, GRALmarine.
He said the National Geographic, which first reported the discovery , covered some 20,000 euros ($22,440) of the cost for the project.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.