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Geo answer

For our Geo Quiz today we're searching for a country that's a caver's delight. The mountains along this country's Adriatic coast are full of sinkholes, deep caverns, and underground streams.

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A view of Mt. VelebitA view of Mt. Velebit

Some of the world's deepest and steepest caves are found here. There are at least 3 caves that extend down more than half a mile. One of those caves, Velebita, also has another claim to fame:

"That cave has the biggest vertical, underground drop in the world, that drop is one piece, single drop. 1683 feet." (Darko Bak?ić)

So what central-south European country is home to this extraordinary subterranean chamber?

We were looking for a central European country known for its deep caves in today's Geo Quiz.

If you haven't guessed it already, The World's David Leveille has the answer:

Its 3,600 miles of rocky Adriatic coastline and thousands of sun splashed islands have attracted visitors for centuries. But it's the deep and dark limestone caves, that make this part of Croatia (the answer to our Geo Quiz) a caver's delight.

?My name is Darko Bak?ić I am from Croatian mountaineering and caving club Velebit from Zagreb.?

Darko Bak?ić has explored many Croatian caves, some reaching down more than half a mile, but one really stands out.

That cave is on one very beautiful mountain near the Adriatic coast, the name of that mountain is Mt. Velebit. So on the northern part of that mountain Velebit an area of natural park named hydrochki Rozanski kukovi is the cave named Velebita.

Mt. Velebit set against the Adriatic
Mt. Velebit set against the Adriatic

Until recently Velebita wasn't even on a map. Bak?ić helped discover it during a club outing in 2004. He and his fellow climbers found a gaping crack behind some large boulders. A whoosh of dank air from the opening hinted at the possibility of a deep underground vent.

Velebita entrance is not too bigVelebita entrance is not too big

Velebita entrance is not too big. Bak?ić squeezed in and rappelled down into the cave a ways then tossed a rock into the darkness.

?It was unbelievable! The rock just fall, fall, fall, very long fall it was alike a train very very noisy..what do you mean?...you toss the rock and it hits the wall once and after that stronger and stronger like you hear the train coming.? (plays audio)

Dropping that rock and subsequent measurements led to a discovery. Velebita has the deepest single vertical drop of any known cave in the world. 1,683 feet.

Now try to imagine what venturing for the first time into such an abyss is like:

?When we go in first time the feeling is very strange. It's quite huge and very deep so you feel a little bit scary. It's very, very exciting. You can hear your heart quite good, lot of darkness, very quiet, and at the same time exciting.?

?On the bottom is some big chamber with very big rocks some water and in this water we found some endemic leeches.?

That's Darko's wife Ana Bak?ić. She's also a veteran caver. And she says exploring Velebita was one of the most exciting things she's ever done. Never mind the tight squeezes, the risk of falling rocks, or even encounters with leeches:

?Yes small leeches. Its not a problem ... (laughs) This is normal for cavers. We like this wet darkness.?

Ana and Darko devote most weekends to exploring and mapping caves near Zagreb. These dedicated spelunkers may not be as famous as mountain climbers but they say they've been in places where no one else has ever set foot...and there's not a lot of places left on earth where that's possible.

"Just like (mountain) climbers want to reach Mt Everest, we want to go to the deepest cave...but we hope that we find it in our country the deepest in the world so we'll try to explore next year to find something."

Darko and Ana Bak?ić plan to return to Velebita to explore its farthest reaches --- by the way the couple even tried to get married in a cave, but they couldn't find a priest willing to take that plunge with them. So they married in a church in Zagreb and then went caving afterwards.

More information: Velebita

** Velebita is located in the Rozanski Kukovi area of the National park North Velebit in the rocky Velebit mountain range in central Croatia.

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