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Watch National Geographic explorers investigate what could be the world's deepest underwater cave.
Explorers in the Czech Republic may soon announce a new record for the worlda€™s deepest underwater cave.
Starnawski has been exploring Hranická Propast since 1999, and last year, after reaching what he thought was the bottom, 656 feet down (200 meters), he managed to push past a tiny gap called a a€?squeeze passagea€? where he discovered another deep shaft.
In early July Starnawski descended with a longer cable in hopes of making a new, deeper measurement, but since his last dive there in February, the squeeze passage had collapsed and fallen into the second shaft. The team took a break when a member of their team was lost in diving accident in the Baltic Sea, but Starnawski has not given up and recently returned to the cave. Speaking via Skype, Starnawski recently checked in from the team's base near the cave to discuss the challenges of this expedition and extreme diving. I heard that your expedition was postponed when a diver from your team, Maciej Wielowski, went missing while exploring a deep shipwreck in the Baltic Sea. Caving experts officially recognize Italya€™s Pozzo del Merro as the worlda€™s deepest flooded cave, at 1,286 feet, but a Polish team led by legendary diver Krzysztof Starnawski is hoping to prove that HranickA? Propast, a flooded cave in the eastern Czech Republic, is deeper. Maciej was a friend, a student, and one of the support divers on the Hranická Propast project.
What is it about Hranická Propast that makes you think it may be the deepest flooded cave in the world? This cave is very unique because ita€™s like a volcano, formed from hot mineral water bubbling from the bottom up, rather than rain coming from the top down like most caves. We have replaced the original lead line with a special electronic probe that consists of a 656-foot (200 meter) cable with pressure sensors on its end. Record-setting diver Krzysztof Starnawski leads a Polish team currently exploring a flooded cave in the Czech Republic that may be the worlda€™s deepest. HPNS is another problem that occurs when you reach about 500 feet (150 meters) below the surface.
I am exploring the unknown, pushing into territory where no one knows what the limits are, so I have to figure everything out on my own and even design and build my own equipment. This cave is a big part of my life because I have been exploring it for 15 years, and it keeps going deeper. From impossibly fuzzy chicks to superfast divers, see some of our favorite National Geographic pictures of penguins in action.
In honor of Penguin Awareness Day, we decided to dive into the National Geographic photo archive to look at the bird with the iconic tuxedo coat and characteristic waddle. Flightless and comically awkward on land, they spend the majority of their time in the water, and their bodies are streamlined for swimming. The vivid colors of a king penguin on South Georgia Island (map) are evident in this tight shot.King penguins are often confused with emperor penguins. In this photo, bubbles are released from their feathers as emperor penguins swim quickly beneath the sea ice in Ross Sea, Antarctica. This photo of a gentoo penguin peering under the water in Port Lockroy, Antarctica, appeared in November 2006 international editions of National Geographic.Gentoo penguins are the fastest of the penguin species, swimming up to 22 miles (35 kilometers) an hour, three times speedier than most other penguins.
Three king penguin chicks relax in the Falkland Islands during molting season in 2006.Unlike most bird species, which molt a few feathers at a time, penguins undergo a giant molt once a year, shedding all their feathers to make way for new ones. A rookery of chinstrap penguins roam about during summer breeding season in Baily Head, on Antarctica's Palmer Peninsula.Most penguin species breed in large colonies for protection, and rookeries range in size from 200 penguins to hundreds of thousands. Extinct in Stockholm less than a century ago, the rebounding rodent is damaging the city's treesa€”and at the same time charming locals. Harmless snakes can strike their prey just as quickly as venomous vipersa€”putting a legendary Wild West tale to rest. Before Chicxulub, people had some odd theories about what caused the demise of the dinos, including low libido and caterpillars run amok.
Two National Geographic explorers teamed up to solve a tricky problem in remote sample collection. To study deep-sea corals, scientists have to collect small samples in order to examine DNA and other characteristics.

Their squishy robotic hands can gather coral samples more delicately than robots, and in places humans can't reach. We spoke with Wood, who also founded the Microrobotics Lab at Harvard University, about the innovation, which is also described in a new paper in the journal Soft Robotics. It's a composite, made mostly of silicone rubber, with some fiberglass and Kevlar fibers for reinforcement. It has to be robust because the consequences for failure are worse, since you have to bring the whole thing up and start over if you have a problem.
There are other underwater applications, such as archaeology, in which it's important to be gentle, perhaps even more so.
National Geographic Innovation Challenge Grants are given to two or more explorers who collaborate on a project. The same expedition established the jumbo squida€”one of which shattered two Kevlar bite plates with its beaka€”as having among the world's strongest bites.
Known to prey on their own kind, jumbo squida€”also called Humboldt squida€”can travel to depths of about 4,900 feet (1,500 meters), though most of the filming occurred at depths of less than 330 feet (100 meters). To get the video, scientists first had to lure several seven-foot-long (two-meter-long) squida€”to the surface with bait. On three occasions Barr and colleagues got into the water and wrestled different rubbery squid into a synthetic sleeve outfitted with a Crittercam, a National Geographic Society-patented research tool for collecting video, audio, and environmental data. For the second deployment, the team attached a camera without lights to another jumbo squid. It's known that squid and related species of octopus can change their body colors quicklya€”often to camouflage themselves.
That's because no one knows how artificial lighting can skew a squid's natural behavior, said Gilly, of Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, California. Gilly noted that other squid didn't seem to treat the Crittercam squid unusuallya€”other than the first, light-equipped squida€”and that all the camera-equipped squid seemed to swim naturally.
The footage strengthens the idea that squid are communicating via flashing and flaringa€”though it's hard to say what those mean, Gilly said. For instance, a squid that opens its arms and flashes red-to-white may be trying to look big and impressive. Flashing in jumbo squid is already well known to scientists, said Roger Hanlon, senior scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. There aren't many observations published about squid behavior in the wild, added Lou Zeidberg, a squid researcher who works in Gilly's lab but wasn't involved in the project. For instance, Zeidberg has seena€”via remotely operated vehiclea€”an interaction between a small and a big squid off Monterey, California.
While the small squid hovered in front of the ROV displaying white coloration, a larger squid came into view. Though seen as one of the oceans' top predators, the jumbo squid remains little understood, expedition leader Barr said. For instance, at the center of their array of eight sucker-lined arms, there's a parrotlike beak powered by a mass of muscles. To measure the strength of a jumbo squid's bite, the team caught a squid at the surface and inserted a Kevlar pressure plate into its moutha€”which the squid promptly bit in half.
The preliminary reading indicated the jumbo squid had a bite force of more than a thousand pounds (more than 455 kilograms)a€”stronger than the killer jaws of the hyena, though not quite as strong as a crocodile, according to Barr, who specializes in animal bite forces.
That squid later disappeared with the Crittercam, providing no useful data on how squid hunt and live in oxygen-free depthsa€”Gilly's next areas of study. Come September, Gilly plans to outfit more jumbo squid with Crittercamsa€”and maybe even find the one that got away. Create a free ShareTV account to make a personalized schedule of your favorite TV shows, keep track of what you've watched, earn points and more. Enter the email address you used to create the account and your password will be emailed to you. Since July a team of cave divers from Poland has been probing the contours of Hranická Propast, located in eastern Czech Republic, currently acknowledged as the worlda€™s second-deepest flooded cave.

He lowered a line which reached 1,260 feet (384 meters) before running out of corda€”only 26 feet (8 meters) short of Italya€™s Pozzo del Merro cave, which currently holds the title of worlda€™s deepest underwater cave. The squeeze passage had become an open gallery, but when he lowered the cable into the second shaft, it touched down at 1,214 feet (370 meters), likely having landed on the debris from the cave-in. On August 21st he descended to a depth of 869 feet (265 meters) to look for new passages to launch the probe.
On July 5, 2015, Starnawski found that a gallery had opened after the passage's ceiling caved in. The pressure from the water is actually squeezing the axons in your brain (nerve fibers that conduct impulses to other cells). If I tried to go straight to the surface, my blood would boil, and Ia€™d be dead in five minutes. Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island.Although their preferred habitat is warmer than that of emperor penguins, king penguins have four layers of feathers and huddle together for warmth. Developed with support from a National Geographic Innovation Challenge Grant, the hands were first tested in tanks in March 2015 and then taken to the Red Sea in May. We pressurize it with seawater to turn it on and off and so we can get it to close like fingers or curl like a snake.
There are also above-water applications, such as agriculture and biological sampling, in which you need to handle delicate materials but you don't want to spend a lot of time setting something up. When this Crittercam squid entered a jumbo squid swarm at around 140 feet (42 meters), the Crittercam squid began alternately flashing red and white and flaring its tentacles.
Hanlon specializes in the study of chromatophore displays in other species of cephalopods, the class of animals that includes squid, octopus, and cuttlefish. The small squid immediately turned red and circled the larger squid while maintaining eye contact, he said. Kevlar is 20 times stronger than steel, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A captive squid bit the Stanford scientist's arm in June while he was fitting it with a Crittercama€”requiring 15 stitches. Peschak describes the unexpected inspiration for a larger-than-life photo of a coconut crab in the Seychelles.
The team is sponsored in part by National Geographic and is led by Krzysztof Starnawski, 47, who holds the record for the deepest dive with a closed circuit rebreathera€”928 feet (283 meters)a€”which he set off the coast of Egypt in 2011.
In the coming weeks he hopes to finally prove what he has long suspected: that Hranicka Propast is the deepest underwater cave system on earth. The first decompression stop is around 425 feet (130 meters) where I meet a support diver who has extra air in case I have a problem.
If I succeed, I will be fulfilled for a few minutesa€¦then I will need to find a new project. A remotely operated vehicle could dive that deep, but most robotic arms are too powerful and awkward to handle the delicate coral without damaging it. After a successful expedition, Wood and Gruber hope the technology may have even broader applications.
Previously, we had tested the fingers down past 800 meters (2,600 feet) and that was no problem. Human beings can't really scuba dive past 100 meters (330 feet), so we wanted to push it beyond what people are capable of on their own.
The majority of the decompression takes place in the habitat, so Ia€™m in there for several hours. Unfortunately, because the water in the cave is saturated with CO2, the air in the habitat is poisonous and I still have to use the rebreather.

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