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Distribution and Records
Caves are found throughout the world, but only a portion of them have been explored and documented by cavers. The distribution of documented cave systems is widely skewed toward countries where caving has been popular for many years (such as the United States, France, Italy, the UK etc.). As a result, explored caves are found widely in Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania but are sparse in South America, Africa, and Antarctica. This is a great generalization, as large expanses of North America and Asia contain no documented caves, whereas areas such as the Madagascar dry deciduous forests and parts of Brazil contain many documented caves. As the world’s expanses of soluble bedrock are researched by cavers, the distribution of documented caves is likely to shift. For example China, despite containing around half the world's exposed limestone - more than 1,000,000 km² - has relatively few documented caves.
Canyon passage in Mammoth Cave, world's longest
The system with the greatest total length of passage is Mammoth Cave (Kentucky, USA) at 579 km in length. This record is unlikely to be surpassed in the near future as the next most extensive known cave is the Optymistychna system in Ukraine, at 214 km.
As of 2005, the deepest known cave (measured from its highest entrance to its lowest point) is Voronya Cave (Abkhazia, Georgia), with a depth of 2,140 m. This was the first cave to be explored to a depth of more than 2 km. (The first cave to be descended below 1 km was the famous Gouffre Berger in France). The Gouffre Mirolda - Lucien Bouclier cave in France (1733 m) and the Lamprechtsofen Vogelschacht Weg Schacht in Austria (1632 m) are the current second and third deepest caves. This particular record has changed several times in recent years.
The deepest individual pitch (vertical drop) within a cave is 603 m in the Vrtoglavica cave in Slovenia, followed by Patkov Gušt (553 m) in the Velebit mountain, Croatia.
The largest individual cavern ever discovered is the Sarawak Chamber, in the Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak, Borneo, Malaysia), a sloping, boulder strewn chamber with an area of approximately 600 m by 400 m and a height of 80 m.
Since new caves are continually being explored, the various records of cave dimensions need to be updated fairly frequently.
For information on a specific cave, see list of caves.資料來源： National Geographic. James Shreeve. "The Greatest Journey". March 2006