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

Homemade snow

An RCMP officer in Fraser Lake tossed a cup of boiling water… Continue reading

Government warns of polluted Bulkley Valley air

Recent air quality alerts in the Bulkley Vally - including Burns Lake… Continue reading

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

‘Our entire municipality is heartbroken’: Seven children die in Halifax house fire

A man and woman remained in hospital Tuesday afternoon, the man with life-threatening injuries

Okanagan ski resort officials displeased with Family Day roll-out

From one peak of the Okanagan to the other, resort officials have raised concerns

B.C. high school robotics team ranked first in the world for programming

The Surrey team was also named tournament finalists at VEX Robotics Competition on Feb. 1

Man shot dead in front of Kamloops hotel may be case of mistaken identity: RCMP

Rex Gill, 44, was not previously known to Kamloops police unlike second shooting victim

New trial ordered over banning whales, dolphins at Vancouver aquarium

Park board’s appeal reverses previous decision that found it had no right to implement a ban

Payless to close 248 Canadian stores, saying it’s ‘ill-equipped’ for market

The company will begin closing stores at the end of March

Make sure measles shots up to date, Public Health Agency says

Measles causes high fever, coughing, sneezing and a widespread painful rash

Super snow moon set to rise across B.C.

It is the biggest and brightest moon of the year

Minister says plans to fight poverty, climate change, focus of B.C. budget

The NDP said in its throne speech last week that affordability will be the hallmark of its initiatives

Most Read