A massive, previously unexplored cave discovered by accident in Canada has been named “Sarlacc’s Pit,” after the multi-tentacled alien beast that first made an appearance in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.
Officials from Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change first came across the huge cavern in Wells Gray Provincial Park in British Columbia while conducting a caribou count by helicopter in March.
The sinkhole was later discovered to be the entrance to a cave, and is 328 feet long, 196 feet broad and 600 feet deep. Officials believe it may be Canada’s largest cave.
“It was absolutely amazing,” geologist Catherine Hickson, who first went to the cave in September, told CBC News. “I immediately recognized that this was very significant.”
The ministry, which conducted an investigation and initial exploration of the opening, said it believes the cave was not known even to First Nations peoples who have lived in the area for millennia.
Hickson and fellow researchers, including cave expert John Pollack, spent months studying satellite imagery and rocks in the area before making the trip to massive cave, according to CBC.
“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.
Experts have said that the cave might lain undiscovered for thousands of years because the cave might have been covered with snow all year round, until as recently as the 1990s, according to The Independent.
The team of people who spotted the cave from the helicopter called it “Sarlacc’s Pit,” because of its resemblance to the lair of the sarlacc in Return of the Jedi, Hickson said, but a formal naming of the cave will happen after consultations with First Nations.
Researchers are keeping the exact location of the cave a secret to preserve the site. Hickson said exploration and research of the cave and its unique geography will likely be carried out in 2020 but would depend on funding.
When a team tried to climb down inside the huge sinkhole in September, they descended about 262 feet before encountering flow of an underground river.
“We think everything is known and everything has been discovered,” Hickson said. “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.”
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