DM

Chongquing, China

Adventurers have stumbled across a cave so enormous that it has its own weather system, complete with wispy clouds and lingering fog inside vast caverns.

A team of expert cavers and photographers have been exploring the vast cave system in the Chongquing province of China and have taken the first-ever photographs of the natural wonder.

They were amazed to discover the entrance to the hidden Er Wang Dong cave system and were stunned when they managed to climb inside to see a space so large that it can contain a cloud.

Photographer and caver Robbie Shone, from Manchester, was part of a team of 15 explorers on a month-long expedition that discovered the hidden system. ‘A few of the caves had previously been used by nitrate miners, at the areas close to the entrance, but had never been properly explored before,’ he said. ‘All the major passageways were deep underground and had never seen light before.

‘It is always very special, knowing that you are the first to step foot into a cave or somewhere where nobody had previously seen, not knowing what you might find and discover. ‘Where else on Earth can still hold secrets and mysteries of discovery? That’s what I love so much about exploring.

Mr Shones was particularly excited about the cave network’s interior weather system. ‘I had never seen anything quite like the inside cloud ladder before,’ he said.

‘Thick cloud and fogs hangs in the upper half of the cave, where it gets trapped and unable to escape through the small passage in the roof, 250m above the ground. ‘It reminded me of being in an abandoned slate quarrying North Wales in bad weather.

The cave system discovered is not the only one with clouds inside, as humidity rises inside the caverns into colder air to form clouds inside the giant, enclosed spaces.

The network, includes ‘Cloud Ladder Hall’ which itself  measures around 51,000 metres squared, while there are rivers and vegetation on the floor of some of its huge caverns.