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.

Just Posted

Vedder Rotary trail network in Chilliwack will be closed for five days on the south side

The upgrade will take until Friday so trail users asked to take alternate routes

Chilliwack encouraged to commemorate liberation of Holland

Planning already underway to mark the 75th anniversary of the event

UPDATE: RCMP confirm body of missing Chilliwack senior found

Ethel ‘Grace’ Baranyk had severe dementia

RCMP urge caution for back to school drivers

Police are asking drivers to slow down and watch for pedestrians

UPDATE: Police response on Cheam First Nation a ‘non-event’, RCMP say

More than two dozen RCMP and ERT vehicles were at the First Nation looking for a known fugitive

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Ethnic media aim to help maintain boost in voting by new Canadians

Statistics Canada says new Canadians made up about one-fifth of the voting population in 2016

Cross-examination begins for B.C. dad accused of killing young daughters

Andrew Berry is charged in the deaths of six-year-old Chloe and four-year-old Aubrey in 2017

Dog attacked by river otters, Penticton owner says

Marie Fletcher says her dog was pulled underwater by four river otters in the Penticton Channel

BC SPCA overwhelmed with cats, kittens needing homes

Large number of cruelty investigations, plus normal ‘kitten season’ to blame

Memorial to deceased teen stays in place through Labour Day

Hundreds of tributes have been left at the Walnut Grove skate park

Wife charged in husband’s death in Sechelt

Karin Fischer has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of her husband, Max

Most Read