Climbers tackle the Gouffre Berger limestone cave in south-eastern France

Climbers tackle the Gouffre Berger limestone cave in south-eastern France, which was once thought to be the deepest cave in the world at 3,680-feet deep (about two-thirds of a mile). It is now ranked the 28th deepest cave in the world.+

A caver ascends Puit Garby in the entrance series in The Gouffre Berger

Named after the man who discovered it in 1953, Frenchman Joseph Berger, the cave was once feared as a killer cave where all but the most daring feared to tread.

An inlet pours in  and forms a  turquoise pool of water in The Gouffre Berger

British photographer Robbie Shone said: “This cave used to be considered dangerous but is now far more accessible to cavers. Because of how significant Gouffre Berger is in the history of caving reaching the bottom is a rite of passage for many inexperienced cavers. It’s possible to get to the bottom in a day but I camped for three days so I could spend time on my pictures.”

James Alker swims through the Pseodo Sithon after a very brief trip to the sump of The Gouffre Berger

“There are the initials of the original explorers in the last flooded cavern. That’s the end for dry cavers – those who don’t cave dive underwater. After that if you want to go further you have to pull on diving gear and explore the totally flooded tunnels.”

James Alker tackles Pool Traverse

The cave has a rich history of British achievement with the world record for the deepest cave dive going to British diver Peter Watkinson and his team in 1967. Watkinson and other team members received international acclaim for reaching the deepest point possible on foot and then completing a perilous 130-feet underwater dive.

Sarah Payne of the Wessex Caving Club descends Claudine Cascade

The cave is liable to flooding after heavy rainfall, which caused five deaths, including Briton Nicole Dollimore from Oxford in 1996.

Matthieu Thomas and Sophie Anne pose for their photograph in the  Hall of the Thirteen a few days after Matthieu proposed to her at  the bottom of the Gouffre Berger cave
Matthieu Thomas and Sophie Anne pose for their photograph in the Hall of the Thirteen a few days after Matthieu proposed to her at the bottom of the Gouffre Berger cave
A caver stands on The Great Rubble Heap close to camp 1 in The Gouffre Berger
A caver stands on The Great Rubble Heap close to Camp 1 in The Gouffre Berger
Cavers climb along a short ledge in The Great Gallery of The Gouffre Berger cave
Cavers climb along a short ledge in The Great Gallery of The Gouffre Berger cave
Martin Holroyd tackles a narrow section called the Meanders
Martin Holroyd tackles a narrow section called the Meanders
Cavers crawl through a 10-metre-long section of the cave
Cavers crawl through a 10-metre-long section of the cave
Sarah Payne tackles the rope traverse at the head of Puit Aldo
Sarah Payne tackles the rope traverse at the head of Puit Aldo
Beyond the black space lies Hurricane Pitch, a 40m deep drop into the bottom of The Gouffre Berger
Beyond the black space lies Hurricane Pitch, a 40m deep drop into the bottom of The Gouffre Berger
Belgian cavers traverse technical rope work at the head of the 40m Puit Aldos
Belgian cavers traverse technical rope work at the head of the 40m Puit Aldos
Sediment deposit in The Grand Canyon in the Gouffre Berger cave
Sediment deposit in The Grand Canyon in the Gouffre Berger cave
Chris Blakeley climbs Puit Aldos at the end of the entrance series of the Gouffre Berger cave
Chris Blakeley climbs Puit Aldos at the end of the entrance series of the Gouffre Berger cave
HMS Badger 1 crossing the entrance lake in the Grotte de Gournier of the Gouffre Berger cave
HMS Badger 1 crossing the entrance lake in the Grotte de Gournier of the Gouffre Berger cave
British cavers kit up on the Sornin Plateau on the limestone close to The Gouffre Berger cave entrance
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